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.

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

This week’s photo was taken by Claude Renault.

“A picture of a kid having a great time diving in Amber. Water is very important in Rajasthan, where water is scarce. So it is hardly surprising that wells and tanks or ‘sagar‘ (lakes) were decorated. Water table was found very low and step wells (locally known as ‘baodi‘) leading to the water table are beautiful examples of architecture.” — Claude Renault

Claude Renault © 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.

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!

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

This week’s photo was taken by Jay Dorfman.

“Shot during recent journey to Kumbh Mela. As the largest religious gathering of people in the world it is a feast for the camera lens. – Jay Dorfman

Jay Dorman Image

Jay Dorfman © All rights reserved

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.

Photography Tips for Your Trip to India

Pushkar Camel Fair © Stacey Schultz / Asia Transpacific Journeys

By Stacey Schultz, Marketing Director and Travel Enthusiast with Asia Transpacific Journeys

Aside from the obvious (i.e. your camera) here is my list of the top 5 invaluable extras you may not have thought to bring with you while traveling in India. I hope they help you capture great images, but most importantly, I hope they help you make more meaningful connections with the people you meet.

Villager in Udaipur © Stacey Schultz / Asia Transpacific Journeys

#5 Speak the Language. Most recently one of our clients used the Lonely Planet Mobile Phrasebook app for their iPhone on a trip to Japan, using it to have the phone ask questions to locals. Not only was everyone mesmerized by this talking gadget, it also allowed people he met along the way to type in their questions in Japanese and have it translated in English. You can be sure this will be on my list for my next trip to India, once they come out with the app in Hindi! Short of this, learning a few phrases such as “Hello” and “Thank you” in the local language goes a long way in making a connection.

#4 Get in Front of the Camera. I’ve always found that when I give something first, I get a lot in return. On my last trip to India, I gave several trustworthy looking children my camera, securing it safely around their neck with the strap. Of course, do this with caution, as they could run off with your camera. However, I’m a trusting individual and found they had so much fun photographing me smiling and being funny, that when I got my camera back they were more than willing to be models for me. Who knows, I may also be inspiring future photographers!

Children in Udaipur © Stacey Schultz / Asia Transpacific Journeys

#3 Share Faces from Your Travels. On a recent trip to India I made a photo book from my other travels. This featured my favorite faces from travels as far flung as Laos and Vanuatu. The reason I chose faces is that I feel everyone relates to a smile or a kind expression. You can have very professional looking books made using iPhoto or many other online services such as kodakgallery.com. As I met locals I wanted to photograph, I first shared this book with them, then asked if I could take a photo of them to include in my next book. My experience was that they were very flattered to be part of my personal project.

#2 Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture. This is a bit time consuming when you are on the go, but bringing a portable printer is the 21st century version of the Polaroid photo, minus the shaking. You can now get very small, battery-operated printers that plug into the USB port of your camera. Printing a photo you just took pays big dividends when you are able to give the memento to your new friend. It’s so hard when traveling in India to make promises to send photos you take back to a local, even given the best of intentions. Now you can share your photos on the go.

Boy in Samode © Stacey Schultz / Asia Transpacific Journeys

#1 An Extraverted Travel Companion. While traveling in India with a friend, she naturally engaged with everyone we met. In one instance we came upon a woman bringing well water back to her village in a pot carried on top of her head. My friend, gesturing her intent, asked if she could help carry the water for this woman. Soon a crowd had gathered, she entertained, and I took photos. I usually start shooting everyone, including my friend, to capture the scene and get everyone used to the presence of the camera. Then I’ll start zooming in on the subject I’m most interested in, for instance, the colorful woman in her sari or the young child in a fit of giggles. The result is I’ve captured a candid moment and a great memory of my trip to India. I once traveled with a professional magician, true story, and he was priceless. As he did magic tricks, I took photos, and they remain some of my favorites in my personal collection!

The most important thing, however, is to walk away from your trip to India with wonderful memories of your time there, whether recorded on your camera or simply in your memories. I know photography helps many travelers (like myself) form a deeper connection with the people they meet, and we see this daily through the many photos our clients share with us upon returning from their trips to India. If you’d like to share your own photos of travel in India, we’d love to see them! http://www.asiatranspacific.com/atj/india.photos.aspx

Photo of the Week :: India Travel Photo Contest

This week’s photo was taken by Andrea Perullo.

“I had just walked out of the Taj Mahal and was greeted by these women in their colorful saris.  I think the colors of the saris with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop is absolutely breathaking.  It actually brought tears to my eyes!” – Andrea Perullo

Photo: Andrea Perullo (c) All rights reserved

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.