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

Did You Know?—Musings on India

Photo: Mark Downey © All rights reserved | Taj Mahal at dawn

A Look at India’s Place in Intellectual Advancement

By Jane Klein, Asia Transpacific Journeys‘ Writer/Publications Manager

India has been an intellectual epicenter for over two millennia. This was recently underscored when physicists created a fourth state of matter, the Bose-Einstein Condensate, named for Satyendra Nath Bose, and his more famous German counterpart. In 1924 the Indian physicist Bose made calculations on light particles, and collaborated with Einstein who extended the theory, predicting a fourth state of matter. Utilizing their calculations, Boulder-based Americans shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 2001 for making atoms “sing in unison” to form a state of matter that was neither solid, liquid nor gas.

Bose was too far ahead of his time even for the Nobel committee to recognize, but they have honored other Indian intellectual contributions in the fields of physics, medicine, economics and poetry.

Mohandas (also Mahatma, “Great Soul”) Gandhi founded a new type of politics called Satyagraha, literally “persuasion through truth.” He is thus one of the chief architects of modern nonviolent resistance. This social force not only brought the British Empire to its knees, it formed the philosophical basis for the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and dismantled apartheid in South Africa.

The most influential Indian in history is Siddhartha Gautama, who founded Buddhism in the 5th century B.C. In the two-and-a-half millennia since, Buddhism has spread throughout Asia, Eastern Europe, and most recently to small pockets in North America. Whether termed religion or philosophy, Buddhism has exercised an intellectual, philosophical, social and political influence of the most profound order throughout world history.

The brilliance of India is perhaps most conspicuously apparent in the magnificent architecture found throughout the country. From the world famous Taj Mahal and the sublime temples of Ranakpur, to the innumerable fortresses and palaces that comprise a brilliant legacy, its clear to even the uninitiated that one is beholding masterpieces of the building arts.

Its well known that Indians have been excelling in the high tech industries in recent years. This is due to a world-class education system that emphasizes math, engineering and the sciences. Indians are recruited around the world for their ability to innovate and invent.

From music and dance to ayurveda and yoga, India’s achievements in many fields of human endeavor are tremendous. But if you really want to wrap your mind around its contributions to world culture, try lunch at your favorite local Indian restaurant. One bite of palak paneer scooped up with an onion paratha, and youll be an awed worshipper at the altar of her genius.

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).

A Postcard from the Field: Mumbai Through New Eyes

India travel notes from Jarrod Hobson, one of Asia Transpacific Journeys’ Travel Specialists

Last month I returned from an interesting trip to India. Despite the exceptionally hot weather I once again fell in love with this country and its one billion residents.

A colleague and I were invited on the maiden voyage of the Maharaja’s Express. The train journey began in Delhi and ended in Mumbai (Bombay). Along the way we saw the Taj Mahal, opulent forts and palaces, took jeep safaris to remote villages and rode camels in the desert to a catered dinner. Oh yeah, I also mastered elephant polo!

Jarrod Hobson with a new found friend

Asia Transpacific Journeys‘ motto is “Journey Beyond the Ordinary™,” and I had the opportunity to check out an area few get to witness. Visiting the Dharavi slums of Mumbai—where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed—may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the day ended up being a highlight of my travels to India.

Once in the slums you realize what India was like before mass tourism. For example,one thing many people will notice when traveling in India is that there is constant begging. It’s a nuisance because many people want to help the poor but know it’s impossible to do by giving in to this practice. In the Dharavi slums the people have no concept of begging. The people here are from all walks of life and all religions. They live in harmony despite their religious outlooks and views. Indeed, this tour felt like a breath of fresh air because of the peaceful harmony.

The overall cleanliness was what stuck out the most. The residents support themselves by recycling everything in sight. Therefore it is very clean once you get inside the slums. From the outside it looks like a place you would really want to steer clear of. Once inside you cannot take pictures because the people would not know what to think of it. These people live in an area that has narrow lanes that cannot accommodate vehicles or motorcycles. Therefore, you also have relief from the continuous fear of being run over by a Bombay cab driver. The lanes are clean and well maintained. Children play and the people are industrious and happy.

The real estate where these slums are is very good property. Investors are buying up the land and starting to develop the land for the emerging Indian middle class. It’s a shame knowing that the experience I had will not be possible in the near future. National Geographic has also recently published a great article about the slums I visited.

I walked away from the experience thinking, “this is the type of tour that really makes me feel I’m taking a ‘journey beyond the ordinary™.’” There is a section of the slums where they produce pottery. It’s amazing quality that can be bought for a song. I ended up buying a couple of clay pots and unfinished candle holders. This weekend I’m going to help my 2-year-old son, Tucker, paint them with his little paint set. It’ll be nice to have a token from this experience. And all for about 5 cents!

We’d love to hear about your travel to India. Enter our photo contest—your photos of India could win an Apple iPad!