Our Travel Inspiration, Dec. 30

After a wonderful week off for the holidays, we’re glad to be back for another week of Our Travel Inspiration. Please follow along with us each Monday for our carefully-curated selection of current Asia and travel-related news stories.

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Share-worthy pieces on Asia this week:

Travel tidbits that caught our fancy:

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

Asia Transpacific Journeys Explores Sacred Himalayan Kingdoms and Wildlife in India and Sri Lanka

Asia Transpacific Journeys  has introduced three new Asia tour packages, offering exotic winter getaways. These new packages offer travelers unprecedented access to sacred sites and centuries-old rituals, face-to-face meetings with formerly endangered wildlife and Asia’s secret island hotspot.

Indian Tiger

India: A Jungle Book Journey

India is famous for its dazzling cultural treasures. What is less well-known of the subcontinent is that it is home to some of Asia’s greatest wildlife. This extraordinary, 17-day journey departs December 3, 2011 and March 3, 2012. It features naturalist-guided travel by foot, elephant back and 4WD to three of India’s most important preserves; havens for the once nearly extinct, magnificent Bengal tiger as well as species as varied as one-horned Indian rhino, clouded leopard,  wild Indian elephant, jackal, fox, bison and myriad bird species. Additional features of India travel itinerary include:

  • Gorgeous eco-lodges and upscale hotels
  • Excellent chance of a wild tiger sighting
  • Elephant-back rhino safari
  • Access to remote areas of national parks
  • Special meetings and discussions with conservationists
  • Rickshaw ride through Old Delhi
  • Magnificent fortresses, mosques and UNESCO sites
  • Witness cultural performance within temple grounds

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Sri Lanka: A Journey with the World Wildlife Fund 

In its new adventure to Sri Lanka, Asia Transpacific Journeys teams up with the World Wildlife Fund to offer a wildlife tour to Sri Lanka, a seldom-explored spot that is considered one of South Asia’s best-kept wildlife secrets.

Few destinations as geographically small as this island nation offer so many cultural treasures and such great wildlife biodiversity. Sri Lanka is considered a “super hotspot” for endemism and contains many unique plants, birds, reptiles and mammals. In fact, new species are still being discovered here. With a focus on the central and southern highlands, this March 2012 journey takes you to several national parks, and onto the calm seas off the southern coast.

This 14-day itinerary with departures beginning March 10, 2012 features the following components for a well-crafted wildlife tour of Sri Lanka:

  • Explorations of four national parks, including an in-depth visit to Yala National Park to search for the elusive leopard.
  • Several opportunities to see wild elephants.
  • Whale-watching expeditions to look for blue and sperm whales, which congregate in high concentrations along the Sri Lankan coast at this time of year.
  • Visits to important cultural spots, including the Rock Fortress at Sigiriya and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

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Sacred Mountain Kingdoms: Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan

The mountain kingdoms of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, thousands of feet above sea-level, hidden amidst the world’s highest peaks, stand literally and figuratively above the rest. A trip highlighting three UNESCO world heritage sites is ideal for those seeking adventure and spiritual perspective.

Departures for this 20-day excursion begin April 5, 2012 and travelers will enjoy an itinerary that includes:

  • Tour leadership by an expert on Asian culture.
  • Meet monks in remote monasteries.
  • Sacred lake amid spectacular Himalayan vistas.
  • Drive along the Friendship Highway, border crossing from Tibet to Nepal.
  • Witness Hindu ablution ceremony at sacred river.
  • Medieval towns housing preserved temples.
  • Visit fertility temple where hopeful couples make offerings.

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Learn more about once-in-a-lifetime trip to Asia by speaking with an Asia travel specialist today at 800-642-2742.

New Things: Eastern Bhutan Opens to Trekkers

At long last, Bhutan’s far east is taking visitors. For years the kingdom’s remote Merak and Sakten valleys have been largely off limits to outsiders, but the government is easing restrictions – somewhat. Starting next month, a handful of new operators will be permitted to lead small groups into Bhutan’s easternmost reaches.

If you ask us, Asia Transpacific Journeys is the way to go. The Colorado-based outfitter’s custom treks will take you deep into the stupa-specked land of the Brokpa people — one of the last remaining traditional Himalayan cultures — with a guide, cook, and horseman. For seven days, you’ll hike through pristine alpine valleys and forests, visiting with yak herders and farmers along the way.

“Virtually everything in their lives is handmade of their own indigenous materials,” says ATJ Founder Marilyn Downing Staff, who scouted the area in May and is pictured above with the Brokpa. “It’s very rare to find a culture like that in this day and age.” (From $395/day.)

By: Catharine Livingston, August 2010

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Click here to read the full article. To find out more about creating a custom trip to Bhutan, call Asia Transpacific Journeys to speak to a travel specialist at 800-642-2742.

Recipe: Bhutanese Dumplings

During our trips to Bhutan, we have developed a craving for momos. Momos, or dumplings, are a Bhutanese staple that originated in Tibet.  Momos are usually stuffed with meat or cheese. Several of our favorite Thimphu restaurants are known for their cheese and veggie momos, which inspired this recipe.

Buckwheat Dumplings with Bok Choy

Ingredients
Filling

•     1 large head bok choy stem removed and quartered
•     3 tablespoons poppy seeds
•     1/4 teaspoon Chinese Szechuan peppercorns
•     2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
•     Fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
•     1 small red onion peeled and chopped
•     1/2 cup crumbled farmer cheese (Monterey Jack may be substituted)
•     1 teaspoon chili powder
•     1/4 teaspoon salt
•     1 stick unsalted butter
Dough
•     2 cups all-purpose flour
•     1 cup buckwheat flour
•     1 cup water
•     Flour for dusting

Directions
To make the filling, steam the bok choy for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.

Pulverize the poppy seeds and peppercorns with a spice or coffee grinder.

Add the onion and chop finely, about 10 seconds. Chop and mix the bok choy, poppy seed mixture, garlic and ginger, cheese, chili powder, and salt until combined. This may be done for about 10 seconds in a food processor.

Brown the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, about 4 minutes. Cool and strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Add to the filling and mix well, (or process until combined, about 15 seconds.)

To make the dough, combine the flours and water and work until the dough forms a ball. Dust the ball with flour.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces, dust with flour, and wrap 7 pieces in plastic wrap to prevent drying out. With a rolling pin or pasta machine, roll out the pieces into sheets, dusting with flour occasionally to prevent sticking. Place the dough sheet between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner.

Cut the sheets, 1 at a time, into 4-by-2 inch rectangles. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each rectangle. Brush the edges lightly with water and fold the rectangles over to make squares, pressing the edges to seal them well.

Cook the dumplings in batches in a saucepan of simmering water until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Or fry the dumplings in very hot peanut oil. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Marilyn Downing Staff

Join company founder, Marilyn Downing Staff, at Boulder’s City Club on June 17th for an evening of Bhutanese inspired food and a slideshow presentation. RSVP required. Click here for details.

Marilyn just returned from 3-weeks of travel to Bhutan, trekking through the most remote areas. To read more about her experience, check out our posting on May 19, 2010.

Asia Travel Photography Contest

Asia travel photography contest judged by National Geographic Traveler photographer Bob Krist

Asia travel photography contest judged by National Geographic Traveler photographer Bob Krist

Our travelers crossed time zones, date lines, and oceans to experience an Asia tour or South Pacific Asia vacation— where they may have found a fabulous photo opportunity around every corner. We asked previous travelers with Asia Transpacific Journeys to submit photos of their travels with us. We started with 109 beautiful entries, our staff narrowed it down to 20 semi-finalists, and then we asked National Geographic Traveler photographer Bob Krist to select the winners.

He noted that “Great color, story telling, and strong compositions made it very hard for me to pick only three. Obviously, your travelers are exploring their destinations with an appreciative eye and a knack for going beyond the postcard views.”

Here are the winning entries and Bob’s commentary on the photos. Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated. These photos truly define a journey beyond the ordinary™.

1st place, boy riding camel at sunset in Pushkar, India (Annie Katz )

1st place, boy riding camel at sunset in Pushkar, India (© Annie Katz )

“This is a wonderful moment, and very carefully composed. Notice that the low angle the photographer chose fully silhouettes the camel and rider against the sky. The moment is captured perfectly, and the position of the camel and rider is just right. The setting sun behind this great silhouette just adds that extra sense of ‘moment’ to an already strong photograph.”

2nd place, women on a wall in India (Susan I. Cohen)

2nd place, women on a wall in India (© Susan I. Cohen)

“Another great job of ‘seeing.’ The repeating patterns of the women sitting in a row, plus the great light and color, makes this a very strong graphic and story-telling picture. It’s carefully composed—there are no distracting backgrounds. The photographer has done an excellent job of eliminating all extraneous elements, and distilling the composition to a powerful, simple graphic.”

 

3rd place, two boys watch a ceremony in Bhutan (Scott Carroll)

3rd place, two boys watch a ceremony in Bhutan (© Scott Carroll)

“A wonderful ‘storytelling’ shot. The photographer looked beyond the obvious shot (that of the ceremony, whatever it was) and looked around the “edges” of the event to see how it was affecting the onlookers. Beautiful light, two very different expressions, and subjects who are totally into the moment. A great moment and a careful composition.”