From Delhi, we have been whisked away to the magical kingdom of Rajasthan, worlds removed from the urban hustle bustle of India’s capital. If Delhi still retains images of a colonial empire, Rajasthan sweeps you back in time to a land honed by its harsh desert conditions—an agrarian landscape painted in shades of gold and ochre and dusky red sandstone. Veiled women drift past, gracefully balancing water bowls on their heads, small children tucked protectively under their arms. At long last, I gaze upon the sacred cows of India, omnipresent, unattended and uninterested in anything or anyone around them. They can be found wandering into homes or shops or splayed out asleep on busy streets as cars swerve to avoid them and pedestrians politely sidestep them. What can possibly be going on in their bovine brains? “Hey, let’s check out the action at the local wadi. Omar the ox is pulling that wooden wheel around and around in a circle!.” “Nahh, think I’ll take a nap.” If there was ever a lucky gene pool for animals, the sacred cows of India have scored big-time. Chickens? Not so lucky…
We arrived in Delhi from Singapore, where we had been for a few days, and so we awoke our first morning un-jet lagged, fired up and ready to go! We had prepared ourselves, somewhat trepidatiously, for what we had been told by one and all would be an “assault on the senses”. We were girded for the crowds, the cows, the abject poverty, the dazzling sights and sounds, the smells of tumeric and cumin wafting in the air: exotic and overwhelming Delhi in all its past glory and present chaos of humanity swarming in all directions.
What always makes a trip special is the unexpected, the unplanned that burnishes the memory and stays with you years after when the visit is but a distant memory. For us, it was something both whimsical and endearing, followed by something powerful and life affirming.
Read more of Molly’s story here: Our Passage to India Journey
Want to take that perfect photo on your next trip? Renowned photographer Michele Westmorland shares her tips for capturing those memorable images.
1. Ask permission when photographing people.
Respect will get you a long way when photographing people in foreign lands. Engaging a person and getting their approval is the cornerstone of cultural photography. Of course, with large crowds, that is not always possible, but when singling one person out, just ask or move on.
2. Pack light and review equipment needs.
Review all your equipment needs and make a list. Not only will this ensure you don’t forget any important gadgets but it will also help you to be selective and abide by airline weight restrictions.
I tend to select my lenses based on weight and needs. A wide-angle zoom lens such as a Canon 16-35 will provide the capability of photographing landscapes and large groups of people. A medium zoom, such as a 24–70mm, will give you nice portrait photos or detail shots. Then to finish, a telephoto zoom will provide the best results for wildlife, such as birds.
It’s easy to just focus on capturing the “big picture” but don’t forget to get the details. When taking portraits, focusing on interesting elements such as the hands, an interesting piece of clothing or jewelry or a musical instrument being played.
5. Circular Polarizer
I never leave home without mine. A polarizer allows those rich forest images or puffy clouds to really pop.
6. Back-Up Those Images
Don’t rely on just your laptop or viewing device—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about people losing their precious images from device failure. Small portable drives are inexpensive and can give you peace of mind that you will get all of your images home safely.
7. Why RAW
If your camera has the ability to shoot in RAW format—use it! RAW format this is like having a negative of your image—it allows you to post-process the images the way you saw the scene through the lens. JPEGs take up less space but they compress the image, limiting your post-processing options.
8. Know Your Camera
Make sure you understand your camera. I am always happy to help sort out cameras but with so many cameras on the market it’s impossible to know the details of all of them. If you do not know the ins and outs of your camera, bring or download the manual—it will come in handy.
Experience Papua New Guinea with Michele this June on our “Through The Lens” small group trip. Michele Westmorland, a veteran of dozens of trips to Papua New Guinea with deep local connections, will facilitate wonderful cultural interactions and provide expert technical advice.This is travel as artistic endeavor, a deep immersion in the sound, shape and color of the world’s most kaleidoscopic land.
First, your itinerary was well-crafted to allow us to see as much as possible in the available time. We could tell that you had given considerate thought to maximizing our experience in Myanmar. I realize that there is always more one can see and that there were important sites that time and weather precluded our visiting. Nevertheless, we felt that we had a varied and comprehensive experience.
Secondly, we want to let you know that our guide, May, was wonderful. We have been on many trips and have had a number of good guides and others over the years. May is the best we’ve had in part because we didn’t feel as if we were just another pair of tourists to squire around. She made an effort to determine what we were interested in accomplishing (seeing the country, talking to and learning about the people and understanding the culture as well as using all the available time productively) and then working hard to make this happen. For example, she took us to umbrella factories, boat yards, tiny villages, school visits, medical clinics, orphanages, gold pounders, silver smiths, paper makers, palm sugar/moonshine factories, lotus thread weavers, private homes to name just a few extras. She even bought a decorated birthday cake for Adele. Most days we included several events which weren’t on the official itinerary. This was precisely the type of trip for which I was looking. We had many laughs with her and our drivers and were made to feel like part of the family.
Thanks again, Bill & Family
Bill and Adele embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering Myanmar. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Just wanted to let you know we are having a fabulous time so far in Laos. Our national guide is absolutely delightful, knowledgeable, and a real pleasure to travel with. Our local guide today was also outstanding. It was fascinating to walk through the different ethnic villages and talk with local people.
We loved La Residence Phou Vao. It is spectacular. And we are enjoying Muang La Resort.
But I mostly wanted to thank you for arranging the command performance at the National Ballet Theater. Wow!!! We so enjoyed the production which ran 90 minutes. The main ballet was a representation of a Lao story that we happened to discuss at length the day before with Pon, as it was captured in a mural on a wall at Wat Xieng Thong.
Suffice to say that your careful attention to detail have been most
Susan and Lawrence embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Eric Kareus. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Our trip has been incredible! We are in Hong Kong now until 3/3, but we are
done with the whole part you helped plan. And I want to tell you that
everything you said was true. :-)
Having you/your company take care of all the arrangements was a major plus
factor, and as you had said, if we could afford it, it was well worth the
money. This type of travel, flying from point to point with passport
controls, hotels, languages, etc. is very wearying, and we feel that the
reason it was less so was because we were met in each country. This took
some of the foreignness out of the experience.
For us, having the cruise to break up the being on the move format was
delightful. Of course, the sightseeing was superficial being in each place
such a short time, but we mostly like the ship life of having everything
there and easy. We would have done better to have had you arrange for land
tours for us from the ship, as you suggested. Many of them were silly
stopping at different factories, etc.
Here is a little feedback, which I think you would want, but honestly you
are hearing from some EXTREMELY satisfied clients.
The guides were excellent; they were all such nice people, friendly, and
eager to please. The one in Myanmar, her name is Toe Khin Khin, was far and
away the best. And having her fly with us to Bagan (our favorite place)
made things so easy. She had lots of information, laughing and so much
fun to be with, sensitive about what her clients like to do, and the most
rare quality she has is fitting in with the exact mood that is called for.
For example, when we were in a temple and feeling spiritually connected or
watching a sunset, she laid back and just enjoyed that feeling with us. She
pointed out special opportunities that we just lucked into: seeing the
children’s novitiate procession in Bagan and also attending her coworker’s
Hotels were beautiful. One thing that amazes me is that none of them had
more than 2 dresser drawers for clothing. We sometimes had an additional
little cabinet brought to the room. Of course a cruise ship spoils us all,
since every nook and cranny is outfitted with more drawers and closets than
you could use. The pool in Siem Reap was fabulous – gorgeous, huge, warm –
although the room was quite tiny. The pool in Laos was not heated, and with
the 30 degree drop in temperature at night, it was unusable. The charming
manager Eddie said they have a plan to heat the pool in the future.
Tom, the choice of places to go, how much time to spend in each place, the
sequence of when to go where — was just about perfect. We appreciated your
info book encouraging clients to speak up and tell their guides what they
like to do best. When Toe told us that our second day in Bagan was going to
be spent on a 3-hour drive each way to Mt. Popa, we said NO WAY. We could
not tear ourselves away from the spiritual other-worldly experience of just
being amidst these pagodas. So we stayed in the area and found marvelous
things to do.
Thank you so much for the work you put into making this a trip of a lifetime
for us. We will never forget it and hope we have a chance to recommend you
to others in the future.
Lenore & Peter,
New York, NY
Lenore and Peter embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
While in Vietnam we had an unexpected and amazing experience. Remember I am an ol’ hippie and draft dodger of the Vietnam War era. The famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a little girl running naked through the streets of her village after being showered with napalm has haunted me for decades, as it has many others. I’m sure you know the picture. She is called simply the “Girl in the Picture”. Well we got to spend the afternoon at her home with her family and learned all about what happened to her after that tragedy. Everyone in the house (me, MJ, and our guide) were in tears as we looked at albums and watched videos. Her name is Kim Phuc and she now lives in Toronto, after defecting there in the early 90’s. If you happen to be interested you can google her. There are info and you tube videos there on her site. My guide had never been there. I just asked her to take me to Kim’s village of Trang Bang after our Cao Dai temple visit (Trang Bang was about an hour out of our way, an advantage of custom travel) and we just ended up in Kim’s home talking to her brother’s wife and children. Her brother is in the photo in front of Kim. He was not burned.
She was burned over 50 percent of her body which has near a hundred percent mortality. The photographer who took the photo grabbed her and doused her with water then took her to the local clinic. The next day he went back to check on her and she was in the morgue. He promptly discovered that she was not dead and took her to a regional hospital where she was transferred to Saigon. She subsequently spent 18 months in the hospital and had 17 surgeries, many of them by a burn specialist from the Univ of Chicago. Many people took an interest in her and contributed to her ultimate survival and this is all chronicled on the video and how she has kept up with them over the years and vice versa.
After all this Kim decided she wanted to be a doctor but Vietnam had other ideas. The govt jerked her out of school to send her all over the country and world to talk about the American imperialists who did this to her. She obviously did not want to do this. In the early 90’s she landed in Toronto on one of these propaganda tours. She got off the plane and asked for asylum and was granted it. It took several years but eventually her mom was allowed to move to Canada and Kim met a Vietnamese gentleman and they were married and had 2 children. She went to the Univ of Chicago to lecture at the request of the burn surgeon and was the keynote speaker at a huge Veterans Day celebration in Wash DC at the Vietnam Memorial. It was here that she met the American pilot who had ordered the mission that dropped the bomb. The pilot who actually flew the mission dropped the bomb on the Cao Dai temple (where the children were hiding) by mistake. He was a South Vietnamese. Over the years she has met all of these people and made a lot of peace for herself and them. She is now a UNESCO spokesperson and is extremely gracious, lovely and articulate. The video showed a lot of this happening and you can imagine how moving it was.
You can google Kim Phuc if you are interested and see some You Tube videos about all this. They are short and not nearly as good as the one I saw which is black market. I would love to get a copy but I doubt that will ever happen. There is a book about all this called “The Girl In the Picture” which I bought and intend to read soon.
As you can imagine I have left much of the story out but this was one of those very special days which occasionally break up the monotony of life and really give it meaning. Kim’s story in complicated ways has helped me to deal with my own demons about the Vietnam War.
– Danny K.
This was Danny’s fourth trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys. On this trip, planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick, Danny explored Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Bhutan. To learn more about planning your trip to Asia, call 800-642-02742
An amazing extension you planned for us…we loved it.. Huot was a really good , sensitive and knowledgeable guide…he mother henned us and informed us and was open to talking abt Khmer Rouge days ..He was understanding of our need for rest and cooling down !!! Do submit our recommendation for him.
The Koh Ker Beng Melia extesion was a fantastic wonderful surprise…to feel like Henri Mouhot with no one , virtually there…. FANTASTIC !!!!
Connected with Thuzar tho all too briefly as the hotel botched up room numbers and left her sitting in the lobby. Alas. but got to see her wedding pix and cute crawler baby pix.
Our Cambodia time felt like a whole other trip …wonderful.
Many thanks for all your planning. We enjoyed the other couples as well though being younger they had a whole lot more energy.
Took in the Angkor theater also… very nicely done in air conditioned comfort.
Many thanks once more,
Sandra is an Asia Transpacific Journeys travel veteran. This was her eight small group trip, arranged by Asia Travel Specialist, Rebecca Mazzaro. We continue to look forward to helping her plan her next big journeys!
To learn more about travel to Asia, or to begin planning your journey with a Travel Specialist, please call 800-642-2742.
John H. of Wisconsin recounts his experience with one of our group trips to Vietnam:
Linda and I returned home this afternoon after a great trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Bali.
We had a fascinating time and all the arrangements couldn’t have been better. Thanks to you and your Asia Transpacific Journeys colleagues for helping make this such an interesting and memorable trip.
The guides and drivers in each country were all helpful and informative and went out of their way to help make our visits outstanding. The hotels were excellent, and the detailed itineraries interesting and very well geared to our interests.
In short, we had a terrific time, and more than once turned to each other and said “Asia Transpacific really has done a great job!”
Thanks for making this a trip we’ll treasure.
Mineral Point, WI
Learn more about custom or small group trips to Southeast Asia by speaking with a Travel Specialist today, 800-642-2742.
I’m in Maldives. Reluctant to say it with a day to go, but barring any unforeseen injury or incident… this is the best trip I’ve ever taken. Not just with you guys but overall… and I’ve been a lot of places at this point. It’s been truly extraordinary on every level. Thanks again for all of your help.
I’ll check in with you later in the week from NY.
Mark traveled through Sri Lanka and Dubai on a custom trip arranged by Asia Travel Specialist Eric Kareus. This was his third trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys. We look forward to helping Mark plan his next trip to Asia.