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

___________________________________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________________________________

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.

__________________________________________________________________

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

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.