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

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…

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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 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.

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).

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.