Peter Bohler
Travel + Leisure
August 10, 2017

The A-List is Travel + Leisure's annual selection of the world's best travel agents and destination specialists, as chosen by the editors. Rely on these industry experts to plan the perfect trip to Asia. For more about our methodology and how to apply, read How We Choose the Travel Agents for T+L’s A-List.

Cambodia and Laos

Andy Booth

The Siem Reap–based operator and author of The Angkor Guidebook is a true expert on Cambodia—and now Laos. Queen Elizabeth II recently recognized Booth for his efforts in supporting local communities in Cambodia, and he represents the British government in Siem Reap as the honorary consul.

Best for: culture buffs, multigenerational families, adventurers

Extras: Lean on Booth for such detailed advice as which roads are drivable and what times you should visit popular temples to avoid the crowds.

Other expertise: Vietnam

Minimum daily spend: $200

855-63-760-190; advisor@aboutasiatravel.com; aboutasiatravel.com


China

Stan Godwyn

Godwyn, who speaks Mandarin and once lived in Shanxi province, has a master’s degree in archaeology with a focus on China. That extensive knowledge comes in handy when he’s planning history-loaded itineraries along the Silk Road or through Beijing.

Best for: adventurers, last-minute travel, solo travelers

Extras: Godwyn is particularly nimble when helping clients cope with travel hiccups, such as the last-minute flight changes that are common in China.

Other expertise: Southeast Asia

Minimum daily spend: None

916-830-5511; stan.g@travel​store.com; travelstore.com

Guy Rubin

A Beijing resident since 1997, Rubin has cultivated resources and relationships that allow him to offer unparalleled experiences to discerning travelers.

Best for: culture buffs, foodies/epicurean travelers, families

Extras: Rubin is an expert on hotels in China, a full-time job in itself, as luxury properties continue to open at a rapid pace.

Minimum daily spend: None

86-10-8440-7162; guy@imperialtours.net; imperialtours.net


China and Tibet

Mei Zhang

The Beijing- and California-based Zhang is as skilled at planning a first-rate classic trip to China as she is at introducing travelers to off-the-beaten-path destinations around the country. She’s especially passionate about her native Yunnan.

Best for: culture buffs, foodies/epicurean travelers, multigenerational families

Extras: Zhang is adept at navigating less-traveled routes to formerly inaccessible regions, including a weeklong driving tour from Shangri-La to Tibet, crossing the eastern Himalayas.

Minimum daily spend: $400

888-902-8808; mei.zhang@wildchina.com; wildchina.com


Hong Kong

Laura Woo

Raised in Hong Kong, Woo knows the ever-changing city inside and out. She’ll guide you to the latest hot spots and provide bargaining tips for art- and antiques-hunting on the old streets of the Western District’s Sheung Wan. Her network of friends and professional connections can help make the seemingly impossible a reality.

Best for: culture buffs, multigenerational families, business trips

Extras: Woo can secure after-hours visits to galleries or, if shopping is on the itinerary, appointments with the owners of jewelry boutiques along the Golden Mile of Nathan Road.

Other expertise: Hawaii and Macao

Minimum daily spend: $500

281-497-8820; woo@hal-pc.org; westuniversitytravel.com


Family Travel

Pat O'Connell

O’Connell travels to Asia twice a year to personally vet the best family-friendly experiences. He has a go-to list of well-priced villas—hard to find in Asia—and hotels with adjoining rooms and pools. He also knows which activities will engage kids and teens (anime-studio tours, elephant treks) and can arrange volunteering at local schools in Laos or orphanages in Myanmar.

Best for: multigenerational families, luxury seekers, culture buffs

Extras: O’Connell can create photography-focused tours and connect clients with savvy guides who find unique places for memorable photo-ops, such a colorful religious events most tourist don’t get to see.

Minimum daily spend: $300

720-881-5563; pat@atj.com; atj.com


India

Jonny Bealby

This former travel journalist is a pro at pairing India’s most popular destinations—Agra, Jaipur, Delhi, and Mumbai—with less-frequented rural areas. Bealby has unrivaled knowledge of northern Indian locales such as Leh, in the Indus Valley, and the Nubra Valley, which is dotted with ruined palaces.

Best for: luxury seekers, culture buffs, adventurers

Extras: Bealby’s expertise extends to less-known accommodations: while he can recommend specific rooms and suites at grand palace hotels, he just as easily opens doors to private-house hotels and tented camps in the countryside.

Other expertise: South Asia

Minimum daily spend: $250

884-867-4928; jonny@wildfrontiers.co.uk; wild​frontierstravel.com

Ashish Sanghrajka

Having grown up visiting family in India every year, Sanghrajka loves introducing clients to parts of the country that travelers don’t often see, so much so that he’s turned down business when a client is only interested in following overcrowded tourist circuits.

Best for: families, adventurers, luxury seekers

Extras: Call Sanghrajka if you want to attend an off-the-beaten-path festival. Recent clients traveled to Gujarat, in northwestern India, to attend Navratri, a multiday Hindu festival where you can watch—and learn—traditional dances like raas.

Other expertise: Kenya

Minimum daily spend: $1,800

800-244-3483; ashish@bigfive.com; bigfive.com


The Indian Subcontinent

Carole A. Cambata

While most of Cambata’s clients are luxury-focused, she enjoys creating bespoke journeys for travelers with more moderate budgets. She doesn’t do cut-and-paste itineraries, instead carefully crafting individualized experiences that give clients a deeper look at Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Best for: families, couples/honeymooners, luxury seekers.

Minimum daily spend: $350

800-318-7801; ccambata@greavestvl.com; greaves​india.com


Indonesia

Jarrod Hobson

Known as “the Indonesia guy,” Hobson is the go-to advisor for trips to Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Lombok, and beyond. He’s just as capable of planning an unforgettable Bali honeymoon as he is a remote-island-hopping trip by private yacht.

Best for: families, culture buffs, luxury seekers

Extras: If you’re traveling with kids, look to Hobson to set up experiences such as village school visits, horseback rides among rice fields, and ranger-guided tours of Komodo National Park.

Other expertise: Southeast Asia

Minimum daily spend: $300

720-881-5575; jarrod@atj.com; atj.com


Japan

Mark Lakin

Lakin, whose mother was born and raised in Japan, creates trips that focus on the country’s distinctive and sophisticated culture and history. He’s fascinated by the arts and culture of the Edo period, when Japan cut itself off from the rest of the world for 250-plus years.

Best for: culture buffs, adventurers, luxury seekers

Extras: Among other insider experiences, Lakin has arranged a private early morning trip to a sumo stable to watch wrestlers train and a hands-on visit with a 24th-generation master sword maker in his workshop.

Other expertise: Eastern and southern Africa

Minimum daily spend: $300

646-580-3026; ml@epic​road.com; epicroad.com

Duff Trimble

Whether he’s scouting out new experiences in popular destinations such as Tokyo and Kyoto or exploring less-visited places in the country’s interior, Trimble invests considerable time and resources finding new ways to help clients discover what he considers the “lost Japan.”

Best for: luxury travelers, adventurers

Extras: Trimble and his staff at Wabi-Sabi Japan pride themselves on having the connections to arrange any special request, whether sampling spirits with a 14th-generation sake producer or making tableware with a potter.

Minimum daily spend: $1,200

647-477-1711; duff@wabi-sabijapan.com; wabi-sabijapan.com


The Maldives

Justin Parkinson

Which of the 100-plus Maldivian resorts is Best for: you? Parkinson has stayed in dozens, evaluating each property against a checklist of scores of attributes—from the quality of the spa therapists to the number of steps to the water—so he can perfectly match each couple or family with their dream island experience.

Best for: multigenerational families, couples/honeymooners, luxury seekers

Extras: Linara Travel is the exclusive tour operator for a handful of high-end properties, and Parkinson has negotiated special rates at all of the luxury Maldives resorts.

Other expertise: The Indian Ocean and United Arab Emirates

Minimum daily spend: $500 per couple

818-292-8738; justin@linaratravel.com; linara​travel.com


Mongolia

Jalsa Urubshurow

This Kalmyk Mongolian–American, who is the founder of Nomadic Expeditions, has spent the past 25 years developing adventure-filled trips to Mongolia that range from whitewater rafting to tracking snow leopards. Thanks to family and friends in tourism and political circles, his Mongolian connections are unrivaled.

Best for: adventurers, culture buffs, families

Other expertise: Bhutan, China, Russia

Minimum daily spend: $650

800-998-6634; jalsa@nomadicexpeditions.com; nomadic​expeditions.com


Myanmar

Rebecca Mazzaro

With Mazzaro, you'll go beyond the usual sights and attractions of Bagan and Yangon with activities like a hot-air-balloon ride over Inle Lake or a guided trek through scenic jungles and secluded villages between Inle and the interior town of Kalaw.

Best for: adventure, culture buffs, luxury seekers

Other expertise: Japan

Minimum daily spend: $300

720-881-5568; rebecca@atj.com; atj.com


Southeast Asia

Andrea Ross

The Khmer-speaking Ross lived in Siem Reap for 12 years and now travels to Southeast Asia multiple times a year to meet guides, evaluate hotels, and vet new cultural experiences.

Best for: families, culture buffs, foodies/epicurean travelers

Extras: If you’re interested in volunteer activities—whether a daylong project or an entire trip—or you simply want immersive experiences with local communities, Ross can set it all up, including connecting you with hotels and tour companies owned and run by locals.

Other expertise: Bali and Borneo

Minimum daily spend: $250 per couple

877-454-3672; andrea@journeys-within.com; journeys-within.com

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