Last month California Native’s founder and president, Lee Klein, flew to Vietnam to participate in ITE HCMC, the International Travel Expo in Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon), where he met with representatives from the many nations in the Southeast Asian tourist industry. Included in the conference were representatives from the government tourist boards, tour operators, and transportation companies in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Taiwan, Malaysia Indonesia and the Philippines.
|Chauffeured by their parents, kids
patrol the streets with buckets and
water guns, soaking all in range.
While our year begins on January 1, in Southeast Asia the year begins on April 13. This is the first day of Songkran, also known as the “Water Festival” and the celebrations last for three days. Songkran celebrates the vernal equinox and is a favorite holiday in Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Cambodia.
It’s a time for fun, especially if you’re a kid, and in the villages and towns, people in pickup trucks slowly cruise the streets, their truck beds loaded with kids equipped with buckets of water and “Super Soaker” water guns. Water is constantly flying and everyone is wet, but nobody minds, since this is the hottest time of the year. In one city I watched the local kids and police fighting it out with squirt guns.
|Soaking wet California Native
founder, Lee Klein, pedals his
rickshaw back into the melee of
Songkran’s Water Festival.
During the time of Songkran, many community events and parades are held, both secular and religious, including the Miss Songkran beauty pageant. It also is a traditional time for family gatherings.
As a tourist, it is a wet but great time to visit.
This is the second in our series of Images of the World taken over the course of the last twenty-five years since the founding of The California Native.
|In Mexico’s Copper Canyon, a Tarahumara girl carries her baby sister on her back.|
|In Chilean Patagonia youngsters demonstrate traditional dances.|
|In a remote Laotian village, near the Mekong River, villagers wear traditonal clothing.|
|Young monks eating their once-a-day meal in a monastery in Myanmar (Burma).|
|Boys from a small Laotian village have fun swimming in a tributary of the Mekong River.|
|A mother selling produce in a market stall keeps her baby safe in a cardboard box, in China’s Yunan Province.|
|In Laos, a boy carries his little brother while his friend balances a ball.|
|Three young boys, in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, pose for us on their way home from school.|
Launched in June 1983, our company is celebrating its 25th year leading wonderful trips to unique destinations. This silver anniversary comes as a proud moment for our company’s founder, Lee Klein, who continues to scout new locations world-wide in search of new destinations for the active traveler. Klein, a graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a MBA in Management spent more than two decades as a corporate manager and college professor until, while climbing Ayer’s Rock in the Australian Outback, he decided to venture into the adventure travel business. As he did, he took to heart the lessons he taught his students on how to succeed in business: “keep it simple, and learn to do it right before adding new products and services.”
The initial offering from The California Native was a tour billed as “The Other Los Angeles.” This day-long excursion traced the route of the San Andreas Fault from the Mojave Desert to the San Gabriel Mountains without ever leaving Los Angeles County. The tour became so popular that colleges in three California counties offered them as part of their community-education programs. From this, the company expanded its offerings to include tours to the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Wine Country, Death Valley, and other uniquely California destinations, as well as white-water rafting, ballooning, spelunking (caving), sailplane gliding, and other outdoor adventures. “My family has lived in Los Angeles for generations,” writes Klein in the company newsletter, “hence the name The California Native.”
Satisfying the growing client base led across the border to the development of The California Native’s most popular destination—escorted and independent tours of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These tours feature the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad (labeled as one of the most spectacular train rides in the western hemisphere) and highlight one of the most primitive indigenous cultures still subsisting in North America—the Tarahumara Indians. The California Native has become a major source of information on this remote area of Mexico, and it’s guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara.
Today, The California Native offers a wide selection of tours to Costa Rica, Mexico, Patagonia, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Ireland, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, and Laos, and more destinations are in the planning stages.