Our Travel Inspiration, Oct. 21

Asia Transpacific Journeys is excited to announce our new weekly blog feature, Our Travel Inspiration. Designed to inspire our fellow travelers, each Monday we will be posting a travel quote that speaks to us followed by a carefully-curated selection of current Asia and travel-related news stories that we are excited to share. We hope you will follow along with us each week!

india quote

Asia in the news—these stories caught our eye:

Stay in the know with these trends in travel:

We’d love to hear your feedback—please comment below. And please come back next Monday for more of Our Travel Inspiration!

Postcard From Our Traveler: The Journey Continues in India

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…

Follow along on the Journey…..

Postcard From Our Traveler: Our Passage to India

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

A Staff Postcard from the Field: Wild Eyes in India’s Jungle

The huge, penetrating eyes, staring into mine through the low brush of the jungle remain my most powerful memory.  Perfectly set in the striped-moon of a face, the tiger’s eyes froze on me.  Simultaneously astonished and paralyzed by fear, my mind raced.

Could the cat clear the short distance between us in a single bound?  Would it want to?  Could the unarmed rangers protect me from harm?  But, by the next instant all thoughts were pushed aside as I was captivated by those giant golden eyes.

We had been looking for game for a couple of hours in a national park in India not known for tiger sightings.  With only 10 tigers in a 500 square kilometer conservation area, there is rarely human contact.  It was not among our expectations to even catch a glimpse.  We had seen forest and savanna landscapes, Indian gazelles, antelope, sambar deer, langur, macaque and an astonishing array of early morning birdlife.  We were heading in for the day, satisfied that we had seen what the park had to offer.

Then, from a quick whisk of a tail, our guide spotted the big cat crossing ahead of us.  We sped up and caught the large female as she was stopped dead in her tracks to have a look at us.  As humans rarely see tigers, tigers rarely see humans and we were both equally riveted.

Wilderness and India are two words rarely found in the same sentence.  However, those in the know recognize India as one of the world’s leaders in conservation of  wildlife and in successfully integrating human and animal communities.

Panna Tiger Reserve is one such place. Deep in the heart of the monsoon forest of the Deccan Plateau, this huge area has been set aside for the preservation of wildlife populations.  To experience one of these parks is to experience an India far from the teeming crowds – an India of bird songs, clear skies, crystal rivers and starry nights.  And, to just possibly have the moment of a lifetime staring deep into the eyes of a creature both mesmerizing and profoundly terrifying.  An unforgettable moment, indeed.

– Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President, Asia Transpacific Journeys

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Marilyn stayed at the Taj Safaris Wildlife Lodge, where she was able to experience luxury and extraordinary wildlife at the same time. If you want to see tigers for yourself, join our India – A Jungle Book Journey Small Group Trip, or customize your own India trip by speaking with an Asia Travel Specialist, 800-642-2742.

Postcard from Our Traveler: “Gold Standard” in Tour Leadership in South India

My daughter, Anna, and I are back from your most wonderful trip to Southern India. It was superb in all respects and I would recommend it highly to anyone.

Our guide, Jairaj, was one of the main reasons that the trip was so memorable, and I wanted to make sure you knew what a truly superior person he is in representing your organization.

Travel to South India with Asia Transpacific Journeys

My wife started out as a travel agent and she and I, and later our whole family, have traveled throughout the world for over 30 years. We have been in groups large and small and have been led by innumerable guides. In all this experience we have never had a finer experience than the one we had with Jairaj.

Some guides are good with logistics, others excel in their lectures. Rarely, if ever, are they so strong in both as was Jairaj. He was meticulous in handling all the details of travel. There wasn’t a single hitch that we knew of. He set the right tone immediately upon arrival by telling us to contact him any time, about any thing. And when anyone did so, he readily and with good grace handled the situation. We heard no grumbling from anyone, and as you know this is not always the case.

As we bounced along on our journey, Jairaj lectured with great knowledge about the sights we saw. In the individual cities where we had local guides it was quite apparent that he often knew more than these specialists. Moreover, he was happy to discuss any subject whatsoever – whether culture, art, politics, society, etc. – that came to the mind of us travelers. In doing so he was always frank, incisive and extremely knowledgeable.

Through it all we were struck by Jairaj’s total commitment to the group and its well-being. He was amazingly upbeat, and we never detected any annoyance with anyone or anything. He rolled with all the ups and downs of travel, and was constantly focused on assuring that the tour members were well taken care of. Wherever we went he sought to enhance the experience, and even arranged for us to meet his charming family.

In short, you have a wonderful asset in Jairaj. He epitomizes the “gold standard” in tour leadership. You are fortunate to have him associated with Asia Transpacific, and we were blessed to have him as our guide through India.

Sincerely,

Griffith Garwood
Jefferson, MD

Griffith and his daughter traveled on our ‘South India: Of Temples, Tea and Spice’ Small Group Trip which departs yearly in February. You can also create a custom, private trip to South India and requests Jairaj. This trip was arranged by Travel Specialist, Rebecca Mazzaro.

Postcard from Our Traveler: A FANTASTIC Guide on Trip to India

Hi Pat!

Just wanted to let you know we’re back from the South India trip. We enjoyed it very much (although the poverty in Mumbai was very troubling). It was an excellent itinerary. We particularly enjoyed the elephant festival (Uthrallikkavu Pooram Festival in Wadakkancherry). We were the only foreigners amongst thousands of Indians. It was quite an experience!

Our tour guide, Jairaj was FANTASTIC. He is truly an asset to your company. There wasn’t a question that he couldn’t answer. And he is incredibly thoughtful – went well above and beyond to make everyone as happy as possible. Richard and I would be most interested in being informed if he ever guides a trip in another part of India. We’d love to tour with him again!

Thanks for all of your assistance!

Cheryl Hillery
Sagamore Beach, MA

Note from Asia Transpacific Journeys: The elephant festival Cheryl visited was the Uthrallikkavu Pooram festivities in Wadakkancherry. Almost totally untouristed, this exuberant celebration features processions of lavishly decorated, caparisoned elephants in headwear of plated gold. Riders carrying white silken parasols ride in rhythm with traditional music, and local crowds gather to watch ritual folk art performances. Surrounding villages vie to outperform the others and dazzle the crowd. Celebrating this little-known local festival affords travelers an authentic, delightful and memorable experience.

Guest Post: Serenity in Chaos – an India Tour by Bernard Cohen

I’ve been fortunate to have had amazing opportunities to travel the world. I am fascinated and curious about the things man builds and the reasons he builds them.

I have seen and marveled at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the great pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and finally the Taj Mahal in India.

The Taj is said to have been built as a monument to love.  But when we arrived at the site it was quite crowded and  difficult to ponder without hundreds of people in my line of sight.  So, I looked down, in the reflecting pool, and there was the vision of serenity that I shot.

The Taj Mahal by Bernard Cohen

Bernard in Bhutan

Bernard Cohen is a wealth management advisor in Palm Beach, Florida.  He enjoys traveling with his wife Susan and spending time with his grown children and grandchildren.

We’ve been honored to have Bernard and Susan travel with us on two luxury group tours to Asia: Treasures of India and Bhutan: Inside the Dragon Kingdom, and hope to have them travel with us again soon!

National Geographic: India’s Grassland Kingdom

 

© Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic

 

100 tigers, 2,000 one-horned rhinos, 1,800 wild buffalo … Kaziranga National Park is India’s Grassland Kingdom

By Douglas Chadwick
Photograph by Steve Winter

Fewer than 200 were left in the north Indian state of Assam a century ago. Agriculture had taken over most of the fertile river valleys that the species depends on, and the survivors were under relentless assault by trophy hunters and poachers. Kaziranga was set aside in 1908 primarily to save the rhinos. It held maybe a dozen. But the reserve was expanded over the years, given national park status in 1974, and named a World Heritage site in 1985. During the late 1990s it grew again, doubling in size (although legal issues remain to be settled). Now Asia’s premier rhino sanctuary and a reservoir for seeding other reserves, Kaziranga is the key to R. unicornis’s future.

A thundering conservation success story, the park also harbors almost 1,300 wild elephants; 1,800 Asiatic wild water buffalo, the largest remaining population anywhere; perhaps 9,000 hog deer; 800 barasinghs, or swamp deer (it’s a main enclave of this vanishing species); scores of elk-like sambars; and hundreds of wild hogs. Read more…

Continue reading

Guest Post: Travel in Colour by Claude Renault

 

Neeja sitting in front of her home in Neemrana, Rajasthan. Claude Renault © All rights reserved

 

My first trip to India was in 1984, to the north. In 1999, I returned for three months to South India, which turned out to be quite different from what I had seen during my earlier visit. I fell in love with India while in Hampi, where I was drawn to the more traditional way of life. Hampi’s rural setting reminded me of aspects of my upbringing. I grew up in a village in Brittany, France and can still remember the easygoing pace of life there. It was similar in Hampi.

Since 1999, I have been back to India every year, sometimes twice a year, and it’s becoming very difficult to go elsewhere. The country has become part of me. Not a day passes without me reading something about it or listening to Indian music. It’s almost an obsession, albeit a gentle one.

As I studied painting and sculpture at art school, I drew more inspiration from painters than photographers. In my photographs, color fills the background whenever possible.

Each time I return to India, I experiment with something new. It can be meeting Indians on the ghats (sandstone steps leading to the river) in Varanasi, spending time with sadhus (Hindu holy men), sharing days with hijras (people belonging to a traditional transgender subculture) or attending a colorful festival like the Sonepur Mela in Bihar. I love photographing daily life, but never wanted to indulge in the sordid—a trap you can easily fall into in India. I deliberately choose to show the brighter side of the country. What I want to capture is a moment of intense emotion, the movement and the color, without being abstract.

 

 

Asia Transpacific Journeys India Photo Contest Semifinalist, Claude Renault © All rights reserved

 

It seems like everybody in India has some kind of knowledge on how to mix colors together—it can be a hut, a tiny shop or a wall. I started shooting in black and white, but nowadays I wouldn’t dream of going back to that. Life is color, and India is full of it. It has an energy you don’t find elsewhere in the world.

Traveling and shooting in India each year gives me strength to live in Europe the rest of the time. I believe I would have real problems if, for one reason or another, I couldn’t go back to India. I must say, I have thought about settling permanently in India a few times. I would love to.

Although Claude Renault obtained a degree in sculpture from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, France, his interest in photography flourished after graduating. A self-taught photographer, Renault began his career working as a corporate photographer before going freelance in 1994. In recent years, traveling to India has been his greatest inspiration. His passion for documenting the soul and color of India through his lens is evident in every photo. Renault was a semi-finalist in our 2010 India Photo Contest.

Postcard from Our Traveler: Travel Through the Lens by Susan Cohen

I come from a family of travelers.  My dad hitchhiked across the United States (for fun) in the late 1920s.  My brother B explored the Amazon when trading in plastic containers was a monumental event!  My sister H rode horseback across Kenya and my brother J loves back roads in his 4WD vehicle.  I choose to take my camera to colorful places and explore exciting new cultures with an open mind and a smile.

Travel in India—just saying the name puts all five senses into overdrive!  But, my story is more about the people I saw, met, smiled with, and felt the bonds of our common humanity.

Varanasi, on the Ganges river, is the holiest of Holy cities.  Multitudes come to bathe in the sacred waters.  But, [above] is my photo of a young boy sullenly rolling a large green leaf for his family’s betel business.  Does he wish he were playing soccer with his friends?  Did he pray earlier that morning?  Does he question what his adult life will be like?  Is he there day after day?  What if I were his mother?  How I wish I had the ability to sit with him and share our stories.


Pushkar This portrait of a camel trader is one of my favorites.  Look at his eyes! Can’t you just see his pride and strength?  I imagine him as a leader in his tribe, the husband of a beautiful wife with a jeweled nose ring and a father to strong sons.  He later turned, smiled and invited us to share a smoke.


Deogarth Village
We spent a wonderful night in a palace converted for guests and had sundowners with the Maharani, a beautiful, gracious woman with perfect English.  She was so welcoming and eager to discuss motherhood across our cultures and the choices her daughters now have.  The next morning I strolled through the village by myself, greeting everyone who was up and about as early as I was.  I happened upon an elderly woman sitting against a turquoise door.  She saw my camera and shyly lifted her sari and smiled so I could capture her photo.  Her only wish was to see my LCD display.  I wanted to hug her and tell her how beautiful she was to me in her age and wisdom.

India is priceless!  You must go!

When Susan Cohen retired from early childhood education in 2001, her gift was a 1 megapixel camera. She has since plunged into photography, taking several years of Fine Art Photography classes to refine her craft. Her dedication has paid off—she was published in National Geographic Traveler in April, 2009; made the cover of Shutterbug magazine in July, 2009; and several of her pictures are displayed on Schmap.com. Susan also took 2nd Place in the Asia Transpacific Journeys Client Photo Contest 2009. Whether it’s spending time with her six grandchildren or traveling the globe, Susan and her camera are ready for the next adventure!

We’ve been honored to have Susan travel with us on two trips, Treasures of India and Bhutan: Inside the Dragon Kingdom, and hope to have her (and her camera) travel with us again soon!