Our Travel Inspiration, Jan. 13

Welcome back to 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!

Our Travel Inspiration, Jan. 6

Happy New Year! Welcome back for the firsrt 2014 edition 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!

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

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.

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.

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!

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.