In all our years of travel, we’ve never experienced a more transforming and magical journey than the one Toni planned for us. Her meticulous planning ensured that there would be no surprises during our month in Myanmar, Cambodia, Bali, and Java, and what surprises we experienced were the serendipitous ones that happen when you allow yourself to seize the moment when it happens. Our guides, excellent English-speaking people and very knowledgeable, quickly got to know us and would make adjustments that would allow us to experience an unscripted moment with the wonderful people in each country. It was those unexpected moments that left us feeling like we left each country having stood in the shoes of the people for one brief moment. That perspective made us come back to our own country with new eyes and appreciation for what we have and what we don’t have.
The resorts were all remarkable, each unique, staffed by the kindest people, each attending to our needs, some of them so happy to test their English skills with us, leading to remarkable conversations about their lives. Restaurants were chosen to give us an overview of the food in the country, and the food was always delicious. Ancient temples, historic buildings in cities, beautiful rides in the country, food markets, candlelit dinner at a Burmese village home, boat rides on magical Inle Lake in early morning, watching the fisherman at work, floating gardens and villages, harvesting in the rice fields, 4 wheeling on a volcano, being surrounded by students practicing their English on Borobudur, the list goes on and the memories will never end.
But what set this trip apart was that Toni wanted to make sure we truly understood the people. Juxtaposed to the beauty was a trip to the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields in Cambodia, a heart-rending visit that we initially didnt want to make but realized afterwards that we had to make. It opened our hearts to the horror of what these people had endured and the wonder at the hope they all showed in spite of losing so many family members. Growing up in America, we’d read the stories in the newspapers, but it was only in being there that they became real to us. We’ll never forget the hour we spent on a boat with our Cambodian guide, anchored in the middle of Tonle Sap Lake, listening to his story. We felt such a connection to him and were so moved by his hopefulness and his vision of what his country would be for his children. It was this same young man who managed to make us feel like early French explorers discovering the ancient temples of Cambodia for the first time. We felt like we were truly in an Indiana Jones movie on an adventure of a lifetime. Words can’t describe those four days of discovering the temples of Cambodia. It was hard to believe the vision the Cambodian Kings had, the tenacity and ingenuity of the builders and that these temples are still standing, thanks, in part to the restoration of them by so many countries in the world.
Leaving Cambodia was difficult but Bali called to us and we were unprepared for the natural beauty ahead of us. Not only did we enjoy some beach time, but we quickly headed to the Ubud region and were stunned by the arts there, the countryside, and the people. We took a walk through the rice fields on Christmas day but before the walk we met a family in their home. There was a little 4 year old boy, shy, unable talk to us, but being a musician, I decided to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to him. I made it through 6 notes and he ran to his bedroom and returned with a little keyboard and played a perfect Twinkle on it. I was reminded that music is universal and in that moment we “spoke” to each other through music. That was our common language, as it also was in Burma when we sang nursery rhyme songs with children in a village, or took gamelan lessons in Bali. What we also took away from this trip was an understanding of world religions, since we had a Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic guide in three different countries. We listened to their devotion to their beliefs, heard their family stories of faith, witnessed their reverence of their holy temples, heard Islamic prayers 5 times a day, were blessed by Hindu priests, even had a healing ceremony on Christmas Day in Bali with a man who couldn’t speak English. We began to understand what made each nation tick, what kept them believing in a hopeful future when politics intervened in their lives. We witnessed their smiles, saw their tears when we were in the temples being blessed, and were so moved by their faith. So, if you want to experience a trip of a lifetime, go to Toni. You won’t be disappointed.
Toni listened very carefully to our needs and wants helped by the two previous trips we have done with her. She designed the trip to meet our needs and made sure we had an excellent guide. We had a number of experiences which were clearly not shared by people going round the regular Myanmar itineraries
Ann Thiel, family of 5 – Our trip to Bhutan in July was beautifully planned and executed as we travelled across much of the country. Both our tour guide, Kinley, and his driver, were very professional, knowledgeable, and personable. We had many very unique and memorable experiences, especially interacting with the Bhutanese in their temples and homes. I would definitely use Toni and her staff again as they are clearly very knowledgeable and effective at creating unique and unforgettable experiences.
Toni was very prompt in getting back to me. I spoke to her on the phone a couple of times, discussing what we wanted in this trip. While in Nepal we always felt well cared for, somebody was always helping us & checking the details, during every part of our trip. We are seasoned travelers and know how things just don’t always go according to plan. Having said that, in my opinion, this trip really did go quite flawlessly! We had a wonderful trip!
Our trip to Bhutan, organized by Toni and her team, was wonderful. The pre-trip planning was thorough, and they were able to expedite our visas. Our Bhutanese guide, a long-time Myths and Mountains guide, was extremely knowledgeable and professional, and jumped on the opportunity to take in a spontaneous festival, which we appreciated. The itinerary was comprehensive, and the hotels excellent (Toni even upgraded us for 2 nights). I would recommend Toni with Myths and Mountains to anyone planning a trip to Bhutan.
Antonia Neubauer and her staff at Myths and Mountains worked with us to design a near perfect trip. We’re very experienced and picky travelers — used to doing almost all of our trip planning on our own. But we were advised by friends, correctly, that Myanmar had limited and challenging infrastructure. Toni listened to our ideas, quickly came up with a preliminary draft, then worked closely and personally with us to tailor everything to our preferences. We were working on a somewhat short timeline (our procrastination) and Toni and her staff were responsive, fast, and we always had a sense of personal interaction. If you’re not picky and just want to defer all the decisions — they’ll design a great trip. If, like us, you want to put your personal stamp on the experience, they’ll accommodate that as well. The only thing we would have liked would have been a more detailed breakdown of expenses. This would have been critical if we had been looking at options to shave 5 or 10% off the final cost (i.e. cut half a day for car/driver/guide versus down scaling hotel choice). But that said, we strongly recommend Toni and the folks at Myth and Mountains.
Five weeks ago, my daughter and I returned from a fabulous trip to India and Nepal designed and organized by Myths and Mountains in Incline Village, Nevada. I typically make all my own travel plans and arrangements and having never used a professional for a customized trip, I was very pleased. Toni Neubauer was outstanding in helping me think through what I wanted to see and accomplish and in designing our itinerary.
It was a busy 12 days of cultural and spiritual sensory input. We arrived in Delhi and when taken to our hotel, we were presented with a Kata that was blessed by the Dalai Lama. What an unexpected and wonderful start to our trip!
Having trekked in Nepal 2 years earlier, I was excited to see the Himalayas again. The setting for Dharamsala is magical. The day after we arrived, we rose early to get seated for a public teaching by the Dalai Lama. We stayed in Dharamsala for two full days and saw several different monasteries, Men-Tsee-Khang ( a traditional Tibetan school of medicine where my daughter consulted a doctor!) and Norbulingka. Norbulingka is a very special place that is dedicated to handing down tradition and restoring standards by providing training, education and employment for Tibetans. We enjoyed a delightful lunch outside and participated in a Tanka workshop.
We left Dharamsala and drove down to Amritsar. The drive gave us a good perspective of what the country side and smaller towns were like. Arriving in Amritsar, we were taken to the Golden Temple. Our Sikh guide escorted us around one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen. Walking through the kitchen area that serves 60,000 meals a day was a once in a lifetime experience.
Varanasi. Wow. Everything I expected and then some; the noise, the dust, the colors, the smells. Our hotel was in the perfect setting, on the banks the Ganges with our room on the top floor and windows overlooking the river. That night, we actually participated in the evening Aarti ceremony on the very first step of the ghat with the Hindu priests, making offerings to the river while listening to the chanting and pilgrims all around us. The next morning before sunrise, we went down to the river to hop on a boat and experience all that goes on along the ghats each morning. Our guide was very knowledgeable with both the Hindu and Buddhist religions and gave us great lessons.
I wanted to show my daughter Nepal, so we flew to Kathmandu and spent the night in a traditional guest house in Patan. The next morning came early and we were off to Swayambunath, the lotus temple, to have the early morning experience with the local people. After breakfast we stopped at the READ office of Nepal that does such fabulous work for the people of that country.
This trip was something my daughter and I will never forget. I wanted to make sure that Myths and Mountains was recognized for the professional job that they did. I will use them again when possible.
My wife and I checked into Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal, less than four hours before the earthquake that devastated this wonderful country struck. As you might imagine, our plans to explore this intriguing valley ended that morning.
Within minutes of the initial shock, the entire staff of Dwarika’s, from owner to housekeeper, sprang into action. We immediately knew that while we were in a foreign land, we were safe; that we had people who would protect us.
Ambika Shrestha, the 85-year-old matriarch of the Shrestha family who own the hotel, calmly sat in the midst of her guests throughout the entire ordeal as her daughter, Sangita, demonstrated unparalleled leadership as she directed her dedicated staff with absolutely stunning poise, grace, and competence. Sangita’s performance under pressure was flawless. Never once did she raise her voice. Her presence conveyed a confidence that allowed us all to take a deep breath, and realize that we were going to be fine because she and her mother were not going to let anything prevent that from happening.
The hotel staff, cooks, housekeepers, and groundsmen, all of whom were personally touched by this catastrophe, subordinated their personal interests and provided us with comfort and protection from the elements. After spending our first night under a cloudy, and sometimes wet Kathmandu sky, we awoke to a prepared breakfast, along with toothbrushes and toothpaste. Housekeepers made our outdoor beds. Generators kept cell phones charged. And it was all done with a matter-of-fact precision that made it clear that yes, we were going to be all right even as our stay extended another 36 hours.
I cannot possibly express our appreciation to all at the Dwarika’s for their concern, support, comfort, and kindness as they balanced the losses that they, their families and country undoubtedly experienced with a collective commitment to their guests. We were blessed to have been in their company during this tragedy, and can only hope that better days remain ahead for them and all whom we left behind in Nepal.
Behind the scenes, Toni Neubauer of Myths and Mountains worked tirelessly to coordinate our hasty departure. We were able to reach out to her several hours after the quake. She immediately sprang into action, and somehow through her extensive network of contacts in the region, booked us a flight the following afternoon. Booking the flight was miraculous, but it would have been meaningless but for Toni’s people on the ground, as we needed transport from Dwarika’s.
Toni’s (and our) guide, Ananta Gubhaju, and his colleagues were there whenever we needed them. They safely transported us through the chaos at the airport, and then waited there for more than 8 hours, having promised not to leave until our flight departed. When the flight was cancelled, they promptly returned us to the Dwarika’s, which welcomed us with open arms.
All the while Toni continued to work behind the scenes, anticipating that the flight might not work. She confirmed the original flight for the next day and booked a back-up. She maintained constant contact with our relatives stateside. It was unequivocally clear that she had established a reliable, professional network of wonderful people as a result of her years of travel to the region.
Her efforts, and those of her network, did not end when we safely arrived in Varanasi. Somehow, she marshaled people who met us at the gate, and whisked us through customs as we ran to make a connection to Delhi. When we arrived at the gate after the flight’s departure, there no cause for concern. Within minutes, we were booked on the next flight out, giving us an hour or so to decompress before we travelled to Delhi, where, once again, Toni’s people were patiently waiting for us when we arrived.
It was apparent from my first contact with Toni that Myths and Mountains is much, much more than a travel agent. Her organization knows the region, and has an incredible appreciation of the needs of its clients, and the idiosyncrasies of travel to the region’s special places. Her understanding of the area reflects her decades of travel, and commitment to the region, as evidenced by her support of READ Global.
I will not allow our trip to the foothills of the Himalayas to be defined solely by the catastrophe that struck Nepal because Toni made it so much more. We spent 8 captivating days in Bhutan where her contacts were absolutely fabulous. Her colleagues in Delhi and Agra made our short time in India a truly great experience that forever changed my perception of that country. And when we return to Nepal, and return we will, Toni will be the person who will get us there, and who will get us back.
I have taken two marvelous trips arranged by Toni—to Bhutan and to Mongolia. She is the absolute best. I would not consider anyone else. When I’m ready for my next trip, I’ll call Toni.
Myths and Mountains concocted a first trip to Nepal for me in October 2013. As a solo female traveler, I was so impressed with the guide and driver they arranged for me: absolutely trustworthy, very knowledgeable, always on time, and always willing to “go with my flow”. The itinerary M and M created was just perfect for what I wanted – an overview of the country, its culture, people, and famous sights. The guide was so knowledgeable that I could not stump him, despite peppering him with questions 8 hours a day. Every lodging arranged for me was accurately described by M and M and virtually all exceeded my expectations. When lodgings might not be up to what a Westerner would expect, M and M let me know that ahead of time so I was never surprised. The guides they arranged even went the extra mile: I had tacked on a self-arranged trip to Tibet at the end of my stay in Nepal and when I returned to Kathmandu from Lhasa and had a 10 hour layover before catching my flight back home, they collected me at the airport and then dropped me off back at the airport later, keeping my luggage with them, so I could spend that last bit of time in Kathmandu rather than sitting in the airport. In sum, M and M’s vast experience in Nepal gives you access to the very best tour guides and experiences available. I remember this trip like it happened yesterday, and I will for many, many years to come.
This was the best trip my wife and I have taken since our 1979 three month journey across Asia – on a shoe string budget with no internet or cell phones or guides or Myths and Mountains.
Bhutan hits the ball out of the park in so many categories – one of the best guides ever, gorgeous landscape, absolutely incredible architecture at the individual house and village/district temple level. Beautiful peaceful sweet people. I’ve never been so relaxed and let my guard down so much any place on earth. Most eco friendly country on the planet bar none. Best King. Smart, thoughtful, effective, follows thru, and gets stuff done. Never saw a stream I couldn’t see the bottom of. Virgin forests unlike anything else on earth. Selfless people who’s first reactions to most questions or problems – is simply laughter. The people are absolutely amazing.
The dinner with the Mayor of Thimphu was amazing too. He was so nice and humble and smart and authentic and caring and competent. Where do they find such people? Thank you so much for arranging that meeting.
The hotels were perfect at every stage (two couldn’t deliver hot water but no big deal – we’ll bathe at any temperature.) I loved dining with the hotel owners and shooting the breeze about global politics, how to protect Bhutan from the swarms of greedy tourists coming their way in increasing numbers, etc. I especially liked the progression of the quality of hotels in the final third of the trip. The sorer and the more tired I got, the better the hotels got. It was like a drug treatment program that gradually stepped you up from 3 star to 4 star and then back to the Trident in Delhi which I think was pushing 6 stars – so our re-entry to the US would not be so abrupt.
Just wanted you to know that you guys are the best in your business and we will remember this trip with joy and fondness for the rest of our lives.