Travel Specialists

Absolute Asia

For a travel experience that's both richly rewarding and finely tuned to your needs, contact Absolute Asia. The reasons: deep expertise in the region, a vast web of contacts, and a policy of no standard itineraries or group tours, so each trip they arrange is unique. "Before we begin, we ask a lot of questions," explains Ken Fish, who worked on Wall Street, then booked customized travel to Australia for years before founding the company in 1989. "Once we figure out what kind of experiences clients want to have, we present a plan, trying to make each day comfortable and fulfilling."

Fish's forte is providing special services, such as arranging a visit to Angkor Wat when no one else is there or a private riverboat to take clients through the Mekong Delta from Saigon to Phnom Penh rather than flying them there; knowing the top places to buy Vietnamese art in Hanoi, and not just the best hotels but the best rooms in them. Or satisfying specific travel needs, like flying a case of Diet Coke to Laos for a woman who wouldn't drink anything but in a country where it didn't exist, or arranging for a larger seat to be put on a Tokyo-to-Kyoto bullet train for a client who couldn't fit into the Japanese size.

The company's range spans all of Asia (and now extends into Africa and the South Pacific), but the core strength is Indochina: Absolute Asia was onsite organizing travel for Americans into Vietnam and Cambodia in 1990, two years ahead of competitors. Prices vary. For example, 17 days in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar, $6,070 per person (not including airfare); 14 days in the Japanese countryside, $15,425. Call 800-736-8187;