And the Winner Is…

Our congratulations go out to Willy Vanaudenaerde, who has won our recent India Travel Photo Contest. His stunning photo of two women taken at the Amber Fort in Jaipur captured the most votes, and earned him first prize: a 16 MB WiFi enabled iPad!

Willy Vanaudenaerde

We had 101 gorgeous submissions and 37 outstanding semi-finalists. Our thanks go out to the many travelers and photographers who participated in our contest—your images are a joy to behold, each one a delight.

India Photo Contest Semi Finalists Announced

We asked to see your best India travel photos—and the response was impressive! We received over a hundred stunning entries, accompanied by stories about the moments that touched you during your travel.

We’ve chosen our semi-finalists. Check out the online album and tell us who are your favorites.

It’s going to be hard to pick only one, but we will announce the winner of the contest on August 31 who will receive an iPad to take on their next journey!

Photo of the Week :: Asia Transpacific Journeys’ India Travel Contest

This week’s photo was taken by Sudipto Das.

A camel seller leaves the fair ground with unsold camels after the biggest camel fair is over at Pushkar, Rajasthan in India. Camel sellers from remote villages in Rajasthan gather at the fair ground yearly to trade camels which continue for seven days.” — Sudipto Das

Sudipto Das © Asia Transpacific Journeys

If you’ve captured that one-in-a-million shot on a recent trip to India then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contest” and you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

See all the other wonderful India travel photos that have been submitted on our Online Photo Contest Album.

Deadline for submission is July 31, 2010. Winners will be announced by August 31, 2010.

Photo of the Week :: Asia Transpacific Journeys’ India Travel Contest

This week’s photo was taken by Willy Vanaudenaerde.

“I call this photo ‘Working Woman.’ This was a very interesting place. As our guide was explaining the history, I noticed this scene to one side as the ladies where waking to the gate of the [Amber] Fort. I was only able to take a couple of pictures. We were amazed as these ladies were actually working in construction, moving dirt.” — Willy Vanaudenaerde

Willy Vanaudenaerde © Asia Transpacific Journeys

If you’ve captured that one-in-a-million shot on a recent trip to India then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contest” and you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

See all the other wonderful India travel photos that have been submitted on our Online Photo Contest Album.

Deadline for submission is July 31, 2010. Winners will be announced by August 31, 2010.

“Eat, Pray, Love” in India and Bali

Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love can embark on their own quest for worldly pleasure, spiritual enlightenment and meaning in life by traveling to India and Bali, two of the three lands featured in Gilbert’s candid memoir of self-discovery. We at Asia Transpacific Journeys are experts on everything from ashrams to art in both India and Bali, where we’ve been organizing travel for individuals on their own journeys of discovery for nearly 25 years.

The book, which is scheduled to emerge as a movie starring Julia Roberts on August 13, 2010, paints shimmering pictures that stay with the reader. India is intense and chaotic, yet deeply absorbing and for Gilbert life-changing. One of the world’s most ancient cultures, it indeed seems to possess a special wisdom that Gilbert is not alone in seeking.

Bali is altogether different, a soft-spoken, gentle, lush, green and tranquil island of great natural beauty. It was in Bali that love came the author’s way, and whether romance lies in store or not, the island casts a spell on all visitors with its quiet spirituality.

Asia Transpacific Journeys offers a 16-day journey called India: In the Realm of the Spirit that focuses on the contrasting spiritual traditions in the region. Travelers visit sacred temples, join pilgrims at holy sites, and practice yoga at a world-renowned retreat in the Himalayas.

On Bali and Beyond travelers discover hidden gems on an incredible 17-day exploration of this magical land. The journey features sailing, snorkeling, dance and the arts, wildlife, ancient cultural traditions and UNESCO temples sites.

We can also create private Custom Journeys to India and Bali for individual travelers, their family and friends. These depart on your timeframe and incorporate special features completely tailored to each traveler’s unique interests.

Photo of the Week :: Asia Transpacific Journeys’ India Travel Contest

This week’s photo was taken by Briana Williams.

“This was the most incredible experience, I had never ridden a camel before and the desert was just beautiful. We rode the camels to the desert and watched the sunset and then went back to the camp and had a traditional desert meal. One of the most beautiful sights I have seen.” — Briana Williams

Briana Williams © Asia Transpacific Journeys

If you’ve captured that one-in-a-million shot on a recent trip to India then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contest” and you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

See all the other wonderful India travel photos that have been submitted on our Online Photo Contest Album.

Deadline for submission is July 31, 2010. Winners will be announced by August 31, 2010.

Photo of the Week :: Asia Transpacific Journeys’ India Travel Contest

This week’s photo was taken by Lindy Mendelson.

“This female tiger walked within 30 feet of our vehicle during our morning safari [at Bandhavgarh National Park] right after we saw her two cubs playing together.” — Lindy Mendelson

Lindy Mendelson © Asia Transpacific Journeys

If you’ve captured that one-in-a-million shot on a recent trip to India then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contest” and you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

See all the other wonderful India travel photos that have been submitted on our Online Photo Contest Album.

Deadline for submission is July 31, 2010. Winners will be announced by August 31, 2010.

Recipe: Murg Awadhi Korma

Murg = Chicken

Awadhi = North Indian Region

Korma = Braised Meat in Thick Gravy

Korma traces it’s ancestry back to the Mughals. Although there are many variations, it is normally braised meat or veggies with yogurt and a mixture of spices incorporated to make a savory sauce.

Chef Sanjay Agarwal of the Taj Residency in Lucknow, India makes one of our favorite kormas in the world. If a trip to India isn’t in the cards for you right now, try his recipe at home:

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) chicken
  • 100 gm (4 oz) ghee or clarified butter
  • 32 fl oz (4 cups) chicken broth
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 4-5 black cardamoms
  • 4-5 green cardamoms
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbs coriander powder
  • 1.5 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz yogurt)
  • 100 gm (4 oz) cashews
  • 100 gm (4 oz) onions, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper powder
  • 2 sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped finely
  • 4 tsp cream for garnish
  • 4-5 almonds
  • salt to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut chicken into 8 pieces. Do not debone or skin the chicken.

Grind ginger and garlic into a fine paste.

In a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven, heat ghee, add whole garam masala (cloves, green and black cardamom, cinnamon), and until they crackle.

Add coriander powder, red chili powder, ginger-garlic paste and white pepper powder. Stir well.

Add chicken and sear at medium-high heat. When the chicken is seared, add 1 cup of chicken stock and deglace the pan (scrape any pieces of meat and spices that are stuck to the bottom of the pan and stir). Add the remaining chicken stock (chicken should be 1/2 submerged in stock). Cover and place in pan in the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Cook until tender.

While chicken is cooking, fry onions and roast cashews in a little ghee until golden brown and grind into a fine paste.

Blanch almonds in hot water, remove skin, slice and toast them.

When the chicken is tender, remove from oven and skim the liquid to get rid of excess floating fat. Add the onion-cashew paste and yogurt. Be sure to let the chicken and cooking liquid cool slightly to keep yogurt from curdling.

Season and garnish with cream, chopped coriander leaves and roasted almond flakes.

Love more than Indian food? Perhaps you captured that one-in-a-million shot on your recent trip to India? Do your friends and family ooh and aah when you show them your best India travel photos? Then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contestand you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

A Staff Postcard: Riding the Rails in India

India travel notes from Tom Lastick, Asia Transpacific Journeys’ Travel Specialist

Travel is my life and livelihood and my most recent trip to India was an adventure of a lifetime. I traveled on the maiden voyage of a new luxury train called the Maharajah’s Express. This is India’s first truly five-star train product and is comparable to rivals elsewhere such as the Eastern and Orient Express. They have a classic program linking Delhi and Bombay with stops at Agra for the Taj Mahal, the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and famous forts and outposts of Rajasthan like Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. Their other program is a first-of-its-kind journey through the plains of central and eastern India linking Delhi and Calcutta with stops at Gwailor, Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and ancient Varanasi.

Tom Lastick

I was impressed with the train and the overall experience provided. There is also a romantic and nostalgic quality to India travel by rail. That said, I still prefer travel at a more leisurely pace and with more time to enjoy the destinations visited and the unique hotels and accommodation choices that abound in India. I feel the train is an excellent option for train buffs of course and also those that desire to cover a lot of ground and see a great deal in a relatively short amount of time. Both journeys on the Maharajah’s Express are one-week programs.

While in India I also had the chance to explore “off the rails” and search for the kind of new experiences we continually seek out as part of our mantra to provide “Journeys Beyond the Ordinary”. One such experience was an opportunity to wander the Dharavi Slum of Bombay, one of the largest slums in the world. This area was made famous as a filming site in the critically acclaimed “Slumdog Millionaire” and was also recently chronicled in National Geographic magazine. Wandering a slum might not sound so appealing, however the experience was one I will remember for a lifetime. In the company of my eager and friendly student guide who grew up in Dharavi, a new world was opened up to me. Looking in from outside at this sprawling shanty town, one may be off-put by the disheveled appearance and potential fear of venturing within. Inside is another world of thriving industry and sustainability. Everything imaginable is recycled and resold in these hidden alleys; cardboard, plastic, cable and wiring, basically anything that is disposed of and can possibly be salvaged for profit. Talk about eco-tourism! Another section of the slum is a thriving pottery production center while another handles wrapping and packaging foodstuffs that are re-labeled and sold in India’s most up-market shops and department stores. Dharavi is a world of industry and opportunity with a diverse makeup of residents from all over India.

One of the more difficult aspects of any trip to India is the sometimes intense poverty, and particularly the beggars that are so commonly found at sites affluent tourists are likely to frequent. In spite of perceptions and appearance, this is not the case in Dharavi where everyone works hard, has a purpose, and where they are not yet accustomed to seeing visitors from the outside world. I was warmly welcomed everywhere I went in the company of my resident guide and what was supposed to be a short one-hour visit quickly turned into five as I was absolutely enthralled and not ready to leave. When finally it was time to go I came away knowing this was something special and something to be shared.

It is unfortunately inevitable that this experience will not be possible for much longer. Bombay is a city of 20 million and India’s financial capital. Real estate is at a premium and already apartment blocks and office high-rises blot out the sun in every direction you look. The land occupied by Dharavi is under the eye of developers and sadly this true economic heart of the city will eventually be lost. India generally is poised on the brink of an economic explosion, much like China has already seen and I urge any of you that have been considering travel to India, or maybe have already been and yearn to return for more, do so before the landscape irrevocably changes for good. I am blessed I was still able experience the unique chaos, color and panorama that is India today and the India I know and love.

Did you capture that one-in-a-million shot on your recent trip to India? Do your friends and family ooh and aah when you show them your best India travel photos? Then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contestand you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

Photo of the Week :: Asia Transpacific Journeys’ India Travel Contest

This week’s photo was taken by Bernard Cohen.

“Varanasi is a place of intense stimuli. Yet, here is an ascetic sitting as calmly as can be. He calmly prays and seems to be oblivious to his surroundings.” — Bernard Cohen

Bernard Cohen © Asia Transpacific Journeys

If you’ve captured that one-in-a-million shot on a recent trip to India then enter your photos in our “Share Your Experience – India Travel Photo Contest” and you could win an Apple iPad! (16 GB with Wi-Fi).

See all the other wonderful India travel photos that have been submitted on our Online Photo Contest Album.

Deadline for submission is July 31, 2010. Winners will be announced by August 31, 2010.