Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘India’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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India Recap

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Let me just take a minute to tell you about my favorite day of the trip.  We hopped on the bus in the morning to make the drive from Udaipur to Jaipur.  Along the way, we were looking out the window and all of a sudden, we came along a parade on the side of the road.  Turns out, a baby was born in the village and they were having a parade (complete with a DJ bus) and were dancing from one village to another.  So what did we do?  We jumped out of the bus and joined the party!20161208_104859

Once we made new friends and danced beside the blaring music truck, we hopped back onboard and made the rest of our ride, still dancing in our seats.  That night, we dressed up in sari’s and had henna done so we really looked local and were ready for dinner.  Back on the bus and on our way, we came upon a wedding procession, complete with a band, lights and the groom riding an elephant.  And who are we to miss a party, so we hopped out and joined the next parade!  The groom’s family invited us into the procession so we danced and jumped around, looking flashy and wearing our sari’s well.

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With the dancing of the day complete, we arrived at our home hosted dinner at the home of the descendants of royalty.  We were given the opportunity to ask questions of their life, have a tour of their gorgeous multi-generational family home and then have a homemade dinner with the family members themselves.  It was a truly unique experience, not to mention a delicious meal!

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This trip was amazing and with a great group, every day was one to remember.

 

Bridging Gaps

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

by Malori

The other night, we went to our synagogue to enjoy the Simchat Torah celebration. In the midst of the celebration, I noticed a visitor who I had not seen before. The guest was visiting from Punjab, a province in India. He was wearing a turban and looked unlike anybody else present. Towards the end of the evening, one of the children asked him, “are you a Genie?” He told the little girl, “yes I am. Do you have a wish you want me to grant?” She said, “Can I have some pennies?” He smiled and walked away. Ten minutes later he returned with several pennies. The little girl now believes there are Genies in the world who grant wishes!

It is a true diplomat who can bridge cultural gaps instead of destroy them. If every traveler can bring a bit of their country to share with others, imagine what we could learn. Sometimes we are the teachers. Sometimes we are the students. Keeping our eyes and our hearts open to new experiences can present opportunities we never thought possible.

malori in india

Welcome home from India

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

by Stacey

Wow, what an amazing experience we had in India!  From spectacular sunrises to crazy tuktuk rides through traffic and dining with royalty to a spiritual boatride on the Ganges, I can’t say enough good things about this once in a lifetime trip.  Our group had an insider-look at India – we got to see things that tourists never ever get to see and eat at some very local restaurants and road-side samosa carts.

India saris

Here is the poem I wrote at our Farewell Event highlighting the amazing, silly, memorable, exotic two weeks we spent in India.

Are you ready for an adventure?
It’s off to India we go
for a once in a lifetime journey,
and an escape from the snow.

After a long day of travel,
it’s time for rest and relaxing.
Just kidding – grab your bag and some pani,
it’s time to hit the ground running!

Say “Namaste” to your rickshaw driver
And hang on for your ride.
For once you’re on the road,
There’s nowhere to hide.

Take a look around you and you’ll see14
Lace, rhinestones and saris,
Tobacco, snacks and cloth,
Wires and even monkeys.

Lime soda during lunch/
No, lemons.  Limes.  Oh I don’t know.
Honey balls for dessert
And lunch with spice level zero.

Get ready to shake those hips,
Throw your arms out and strike a post.
Our Bollywood dancing now
Must be finer than the pros.

It’s time for our first flight,
Some of you went to get a snack.
What you learned there was that apparently
You should put your unused ketchup back.

Our approach to the Leela Palace
Was truly one of a kind.
A boat, an escort with a ‘stache,
Musicians and bindis – what a find!

And wait, what is this?
Rose pedals falling from the sky?
Look up, you’ll see a specific
Rose pedal falling guy!

Exploring this stunning city,27
The “city of lakes” as it is known.
But first we must have breakfast,
Don’t eat alone.

Pancakes, French toast, fudge rolls,
Muffins and passion fruit.
Fresh juice, lychees, cheeses,
And amazing dosas to boot.

An early morn at sunrise,
Yoga far from home
At an ashram with our very own guru.
Ommmmmmmmmm…

The Palace tour of Udaipur,
You can see yourself as royal.
Chef Robin making naan
In the kitchen with chefs a-full.

It’s cocktail party time,
Let’s all get up and schmooze!
But wait, it’s formal at the Palace,
We must sit and sip our booze.

Challo everyone,
It’s time to hit the road.
Put on your sports bra and warm up your horn,
It’s off to Pushkar we go!

Went through the town and to the lake,
With chatchkee shops galore.
At our hotel we were greeted by fire breathing,
Balancing acts, spinning skirts and more.

An early rise with camels
To see a meh sunrise.
Jodi left with a gift – on her shoes and jeans.
From the camel.  It was a surprise.

Off to the Pink City.
Jaipur – what a treat.
We toured the City Palace and
Near a snake charmer we took a seat.

The world’s largest sun dial,100
The size it was absurd.
While browsing ‘round our horoscopes,
Ellen got it from a bird.

Back at the hotel,
We blessed the wine, candles and challah
For our first of two very special
Shabbats in India.

After dinner we were taking
A lovely stroll back to the bus.
When – hark!  What is that sound
We hear in front of us?

A wedding!  Through the bright tents
We did advance.  What a bash!
With food and guests and saris,
What a wedding we did crash.

We boarded our next mode of transport –
An elephant to the Amber Fort!
Wobbling back and forth,
We now had pictures to sort.

500 rupees for a picture!
Okay, 200 for one.
300 for the whole album?
Isn’t bargaining oh so fun?

Our next surprise was sure to last
It must be some sort of trick.
We got hennaed by a pro.
It’s beautiful, and boy is she quick!

We had some free time in the market –108
Bracelets, scarves, saris for any weather.
We even saw a goat standing on a tire.
Yes, he was wearing a sweater.

When asked “why, kind sir, is your goat wearing that?”
The man, he didn’t splinter.
He simply looked at us and replied
“It’s because it’s winter”.

It’s time to dine with royalty,
But first another treat.
We’ll don saris as we dine –
This surprise can’t be beat!

In our hotel we primped and prodded
And tucked and folded and pinned.
We’re ready for our special night.
Just top it off with a bind-i.

From dining with the royals,
We’ll head to Ranthambore now.
Weaving and hinking on our drive,
We hit a sacred cow.

Bus games made it better and
Encouraged watching “India TV.
Looking outside the window
And snap, snap, snap your camera with glee.

Stuffed rickshaws, trucks, goats, dogs,
Trash, cow pies and cow butts,
Traffic jams, produce stands,
Bikes, monkeys and men getting haircuts.

We awoke all bright and early110
For our safari drive near the quarry.
We were so lucky, we saw the tiger
In all her stripy glory.

A tour of downtown Ranthambore,
Tasting candy – the chickpea was the best.
passing the train station to see the sight
of two feisty pigs making piglets.

A campfire by the pool with friends,
Bottles of wine and a game.
We learned what cartoon you’d like to be
And in which creative medium you’d have fame.

Back on the bus to Agra,
A pilgrimage on its own
To see the Taj  Mahal in person,
This site is world renown.

The marble glower at sunset,
The perfect Golden Hour.
This monstrous work of architecture
Holds a spiritual power.

Rise and shine, let’s board the bus
It’s off to Delhi we go.
Take a schluff, snap some pics
And look out the window.

Hurry, hurry, don’t be late,
We have to catch our flight!
But first we’ll make a quick pit stop
(despite protesting will all my might).

Robin went to the hospital for some wax
With our Doc, guide and Stace in tow.
The other ladies took a stroll
Right down Embassy Row.

We made it just in time13
For a chai tea at terminal 3
To arrive in Varanasi –
Ravi’s home when he was wee.

Through the Old City of twists and turns
And folks to whom we were so foreign.
This once in a lifetime adventure
Was anything but borin’.

A boat ride down the Ganges,
Past the crematorium and then
Floating even further down
To see bells and candles danced by men.

Just this morning, back on a boat
With music just for us
To experience sunrise in the City of Light
And dipping in for those whom if was a must.

In this peaceful time
As we readied to step off,
We heard “Hi!  Hi!” from a boat
Of people who were from down souff.

We took pics of them and them of us,
Then a surprising round of kisses.
Then hugs, then pleasantries then more kisses,
I think they’ll really miss us.

Our final surprise, a visit to someone
Who Ravi holds so dear.
His brother and his wife welcomed us
As friends from very near.

Double-wide silks, table runners,india flowers
Marble, rugs, paintings and a lovely top.
Boy this group surprised me –
You guys can really shop!

We’ve seen pigs, dogs, goats and elephants,
Camels, cows and monkeys in the streets.
Tigers, peacocks, deer, boars snakes,
Elk, alligators, owls and green parakeets.

We’ve been in busses, tuk tuks, tongas,
Elephants, cruises, and planes.
Rickshaws, boats and camel carts,
Electric vans and even trains.

We’ve covered the north of India
In two weeks, jetting from event to event.
As exhausted as you are,
I’m sure you loved India 200%.

With full hearts and heavy suitcases,
From Ravi, the AJ team and me,
We hope to see you soon
On your next Amazing Journey.

Sights and Sounds of a Spice Route

Monday, May 13th, 2013

One thinks of a “route” as a means to get from one point to another.  In ancient times throughout history, spices have been as valuable as gold and silver. According to a 15th century saying: “No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”

Think about that the next time you sprinkle a little bit of this sweetness into your coffee or tea.

The spice trade was a commercial activity of ancient origin which involved the merchandising of spices, incense, herbs, and other drugs between historic civilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe. What oil, agriculture, stocks and free markets are today….is what spices, medicine, herbs and other aromatic pleasures were of yesterday.

As our group of Amazing Journeys passengers return home to their normal routines, what they just experienced in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India was quite the contrary.  Life in these parts are not just figuratively worlds apart.  Life is a different order here. The value system is vastly different from the western world in so many ways.  Rich people live in homes with dirt floors. Poor people have satellite dishes and cell phones.  Washing your clothes at a river is commonplace.  Creamating the dead along a river is custom.  A road is means to get where you’re going, but it doesn’t matter how you get there or by which means.  Camels, rickshaws, trucks piled high with a hundred laborers, tuk tuks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_rickshaw), bicycles, motorscooters, cars, busses and anything that moves, moves on these roads. And in any direction where there is an open space.  Western folk tend to cringe at every turn on the roadways, while the locals are just navigating their way through another day in the life.

Men wear turbans, women wear saris.  Kids play cricket on the side of the road like we shoot hoops in our driveway.  Laundry hangs out to dry; sometimes in a window, sometimes along the median in the road….sometimes as an full-fledged business along the highway.  Goats and cows roam freely, but they are all owned by someone; someone who just let them out for the day.  At the end of the day…yes, the cows do come home.  You have something to sell? Just bring a table and set it all down on the sidewalk and start selling.  Or, just hawk the tourists when they come by. Need to pray?  The nearest mosque, shrine or temple is closer to you than the nearest Starbucks in Seattle.   Want to see some wildlife (beyond the cows)?  Just look up – monkeys abound like unsupervised children.

And food!  Oh, the food.  How about Pani Puri (a crisp doughy cracker dipped in spicey water)…or Aloo Tikki patties made up of mashed potatoes and masala deep fried in oil?  You can buy that off the side of the road.  Nan that is freshly made in a fire pit is about the closest one can come to heaven of the tastebuds.  Thirsty?  Have a freshly squeezed sugar cane to drink–literally right off the cane, pressed between two rotating metal wheels. Want to spice up that meal? India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia have thousands of spice variations that can diversify and intensify a diet more than most easterns would care to dare.  But its there!  Spices and herbs and aromas are an essential part of the culture and of immense important to commerce.

Spices are used in different forms – whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sauteed, fried and as topping. Locals blend food to extract the nutrients and bind them in a palatable form. Some spices are added at the end as a flavouring and are typically heated in a pan with ghee or cooking oil before being added to a dish. Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavor should be added first. Curry is not a spice, but a term used by western people and refers to any dish in Indian cuisine that contains several spices blended together and could be with a gravy base or a dry item. A curry in Indian cuisine typically consists of whey cooked with gram flour, chopped onions, turmeric powder, and several spices blended together and some that are fried and added in the end as flavoring.

Spices and herbs are used for medicinal purposes too.  Any ailment or hygenic enhancement can supposedly be aided or cured with an herbal concoction.  Your’s truely had a hair removal treatment on my leg, at no extra charge. Or pain for that matter.  You can ease digestive challenges….smooth your skin….get rid of hemmeroids….cease balding….increase your metabolism…build muscle tone….and look 20 years younger, just by taking a few natural herbs.  We saw the garden of eden…and the man who would say so.   And yes, my hairy legs were smooth as a butter.  It must work.

Its not easy to get there, but it is so worth the trip.  It puts life into prespective and opens your eyes to a whole new world (and sometimes it opens your nostrils too…and makes your eyes water with all that spice). If  you live in a developed country, be grateful.  Its all relative, but I’m happy to have what I have here in the good ol’ USA.  Life along the Indian Ocean isn’t necessarily a bad life; its just a life that I am glad to have visited.  But with well over a billion people all vying for space its a bit overcrowded for me.    Its so interesting in so many ways…and so different in even more ways.  I’ll go again.  Will you?

What Exactly Is The Spice Route?

Friday, April 12th, 2013

“He who controls the spice, controls the universe.”

Such were the words uttered by the main character of the movie Dune.In the story, the spice was the lifeblood of a vast empire. For the leaders of this empire, it was essential that at all times ‘the spice must flow.’ The spice trade of the Dune movie was inspired by the historical trade in aromatics from ancient times to the present. At various periods in history, spices have been as valuable as gold and silver. According to a 15th century saying: “No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”

The spice trade was a commercial activity of ancient origin which involved the merchandising of spices, incense, herbs, and other drugs between historic civilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe. These aromatic substances became even more mysterious over time as they were connected in many cultures with the idea of a faraway paradise — Eden

In a few short days, Amazing Journeys will be sailing along the same waters as the traders from the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, ancient Egyptians and even Colonial Spain. We will be traveling a bit differently, though, as we embark upon a luxury cruise ship for 14 days of ultimate relaxation and unique exploration.  Beginning in Singapore, we’ll make stops in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and various ports throughout southern India before heading home.  A few lucky souls have also taken advantage of an added 4 night tour into Northern India to see the Taj Mahal.

What oil, agriculture, stocks and free markets are today….is what spices, medicine, herbs and other aromatic pleasures were of yesterday.  The next time you sprinkle a little cinnamon on your oatmeal or spice up your kung pao chicken, take pause for a moment to realize that these everyday enhancements were once a means of livlihood and survival for many civilizations.

“Amazing Journeys”….or “Azamara’s Journey”; no matter how you slice it, its a match made in the ocean.

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The new buzz word in the world of cruising is “Azamara”.  A two-ship cruise line and part of the Royal/Celebrity family of ships these vessels are  a special brand unto itself.

Azamara states that they are “out to change the world…or at least how you get there”…and Amazing Journeys is becoming a regular partner.  Over the past two years, we have taken about 100 passengers on Azamara, much to their exceptional delight.  This year, you too can partake in the experience. 

What makes Azamara different? 

  • A smaller ship experience. 
  • Upscale attentiveness and service.
  • More inclusions including all non-alcoholic beverages, specialty coffees, bottled water and even wine with meals
  • An almost 1:1 ratio of guest and staff
  • Late night and overnight ports of call in unique out-of-the-ordinary locales
  • Half price shore excursion and substantial air fare specials
  • And much much more!

 

In the news, Journey emerged last week from an eight-day makeover in dry dock.  The 694-passenger cruise ship has been spruced up with new carpets and upholstery in public spaces; new mattresses and upgraded balcony furniture for cabins; a resurfaced pool; and new sun loungers and pool towels on the outer decks. Among areas getting the most significant upgrades was the Journey’s Casino Bar, which was expanded and enhanced with new furniture. Also getting a notable overhaul was the ship’s spa and fitness center, which received a new steam room, showers and Life Fitness cardio equipment.

On the culinary front, a new caviar and champagne bar was added to Aqualina, one of the ships’ two specialty dining venues. The makeover also brings a new Chef’s Table concept that will feature three wine degustation menus serving Italian, French and California cuisine, respectively.

Amazing Journeys clients demand excellence and Azamara is the one to provide it. The Journey  is currently sailing on a 13-night Indonesia voyage round-trip from Singapore….but come April 17th she will begin a journey of stellar proportions. First and foremost, the Journey will become “Amazing” in more ways than one.  AMAZING JOURNEYS will join the Azmara Journey in Singapore for a unique one-time-only voyage through the jewels of the Indian Ocean.  After an overnight in Singapore, we’ll be sailing to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and 3 cities in southern India before disembarking for an optional 3 night extension into India’s northern geography for a chance to visit Delhi, Agra and The Taj Mahal.

This 14-night cruise will be one for the ages.  We still have limited space available; if you’d like to learn more call Amazing Journeys at 412-571-0220, email us info@amazingjourneys.net or visit http://amazingjourneys.net/trip/spice-route-cruise.  See more about this awesome ship: http://www.azamaraclubcruises.com/plan-your-voyage/booking/explore-our-ships/azamara-journey

An Unofficial List of Amazing Journeys’ Top 10 Lifetime Experiences

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
Having traveled to all 7 continents with thousands of travelers over the course of 20 years in the biz, we have been privy to so many amazing life experiences for so many amazing people. While some prefer adventure to fulfill their bucket lists (jumping off the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand), other prefer seeing famous landmarks (The Sydney Opera House). While some are in search of elusive wildlife (spotting a cheetah in Tanzania) others are thrilled to simply experience a paradise (snorkeling in French Polynesia).
Whatever the destination, we live in a world chock full of so many incredible, sometimes life-changing places to see, do and experience. Its why we do what we do–giving folks an opportunity to experience places once only read about in books or seen on television is something we are passionate about.
As a group of “wandering” Jews, we not only crave the next adventurous pursuit…we have strong opinions about how we do it. Feedback is an important component for Amazing Journeys in meeting the needs and understanding the interests of our clients. Through this feedback, we not only learn how to better meet these needs, we learn just how our jobs change lives of people. As our tagline says “Vacations That Change Your Life”.
In light of this premise, check out our Top Ten List of Lifetime Experiences that so many our passengers have shared with us; that have changed their lives. And ours too!
10. Zip Lining above the treetops in a cloud forest…in Costa Rica!
9. Witnessing the birth of a baby buffalo on safari…in Botswana!
8. After a day of waddling with thousands of penguins, having a whale swim so close to our ship that we could almost reach out and pet her…in Antarctica!
7. Cuddling a koala in our arms the same day we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef…in Australia!
6. Traveling about as far from home as humanly possible and finally arriving at the Taj Mahal….in India!
5. Actually standing on and seeing the endless structure (over 4000 miles long) of The Great Wall….in China!
4. Watching all the pageantry culminated by seating at the famous Samba Parade during Carnaval….in Rio de Janeiro!
3. Physically exploring the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels – a labyrinth of underground survival strategies used by the Viet Cong during the war….in Vietnam!
2. Arriving atop the ancient, hard-to-truly-grasp preserved landscape of Machu Piccu….in Peru!
1. Mushing on a dog sled atop a glacier after the most scenic helicopter ride imaginable….in Alaska!
Now this is by no means a complete and final list. Some honorable AJ-Mentions include visiting The Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia, climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, cruising around Cape Horn-the southern tip of South America, living in scenery that looks like a painted picture in the Canadian Rockies, and hiking in the US national parks. There are so many other life experiences shared by our passengers and you too can experience a few yourself. Check out what AJ has in store for 2012 by visiting our website www.amazingjourneys.net or calling us at 412-571-0220.

Top Ten list of things we learned while in India

Thursday, February 16th, 2012


It’s hard to believe that our India 1 group recently returned from their Journey to India, and our India 2 group begins their long journey home in just a few short hours. What an amazing journey we all had! From the beautiful palaces in Rajasthan, to one of the world’s most loved landmark, the Taj Mahal ….to the Kama Sutra temples of Khajuraho to some of us spotting a tiger in Rathambore….from seeing cows in the street, dancing at a wedding procession, and our visit to Varanasi and the River Ganges, where the heart of India beats and where it all came together for us…the cities we visited, the culture we embraced, the history we learned will not soon be forgotten. Our two groups of travelers experienced so much in just two short weeks.

Our Top Ten list of things we learned while in India:

10. Any country with 1.2 billion people can have its own way of doing things. Some things we’ll never understand, and that’s OK

9. Traffic in India is crazy! The lines on the roads in India are merely for decoration, and the “rules of the road” are simply suggestions. Honking one’s horn as one moves through traffic is expected.

8. Organized chaos is a way of life. To the outsider it may look wild, but that’s just how it is.

7. We’ll miss livestock wandering through city streets.

6. There is a lot of curry used in Indian cooking.

5. Sunrise is a beautiful time of the day. Things look so much clearer at sunrise. The world is at peace.

4. A wedding celebration lasts 5 – 7 days and includes a parade. Being one that loves a great party, I think this is a fantastic way to celebrate wedded bliss.

3. The Taj Mahal is everything it’s cracked up to be. One cannot appreciate its beauty in a photo. You have to see it to believe it.

2. Strong family ties and traditions that are centuries old make for a people who have a value system that is unwavering.

1. The people of India are some of the most hospitable in the world!

Enjoying our first week in India!

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Well, its already been a week since our first group arrived in India and they have been having an amazing time!  Check out some of the pictures below or follow us on Facebook to see a lot more pictures of our adventures!

Landmarks of the World

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Are you ready for a trip around the world?  Are you?  Really??

Sadly, the majority of Americans will rarely see any geography beyond their own borders.  The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries published a finding that only about 10% of of US residents have ever traveled to overseas destinations (Canada and Mexico excluded – they’re not overseas. )  Leisure travel is more than a vacation. Its an activity that makes you more worldly, knowledgeable and tolerant of the differences in cultures that make our planet so special.  Its an adventure.  Its a means to experience “Life” with a capital “L” – a chance to break from the routine…the norm…the grind…the familiararity…the common.  Its a purpose, not just an experience.  Humans are born to travel; we’ve been given the mobility and dexterity to do so and as Americans we’ve also been given the “land of opportunity’; a means to earn, spend and have plentiful of what most other nations around the world don’t.

Get Out There, America! Whether you’re single or married…Jewish or Christian….in your 30s or in your 60s; don’t do what the regretful elderly do when they say for decades “I’ll travel when I retire” or “I’ll get there someday”.  Go now, while you’re able-bodied, healthy and capable! You never know when you might not be, and denying yourself the greatest of life’s givings is a regret of unfathomable proportions.  Trust me, the world is an incredible place.  America is wonderful…but the world is, well, an Amazing Journey for all to see.

IF NOT NOW….WHEN?