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Wanderlust Blog

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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We Show You the World and You Mean the World to Us

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

by Michele

Vacations That Change Your Life, originally, a tagline when created, was with the thought that the travel experience alone would be what changed your life.  What we have come to understand and have witnessed for decades, is that in addition to that, our journeys are changing your personal life here at home as well.


As we are now spending time at home and riding this wave together, we have felt the strength of our Amazing Journeys family.  Since we first received the “shelter in place” orders, one of our top priorities was to continue to share the power of positivity and what better way than to continue our time together even if for now it is virtually. Trivia, Lunch and Learn, Ice Cream Social, Happy Hour, Art Gallery Crawl, Shabbat and the list goes on.  We have even seen new faces online who we can virtually welcome into our AJ family until we can welcome them in person somewhere in the world.

I know from hundreds of calls I have had over the years, no one ever truly expects how their life will change when traveling with a group of AJers. Oftentimes, I find myself telling the first-time caller that I am personally still in touch and friends with several from our very first trip in 1993. We form special bonds and they have changed my life and I know have impacted many others.

After speaking with one of our newer AJ friends recently, he said something very poignant as before he traveled with us, he really didn’t know what to expect.  His personal observation was there have been some wonderful “unintended consequences”!  He thought he was just signing up for a tour but what he came back with was new friends that enhanced his world.  Looking back on many conversations from the last 20+ years, we hear all of the time:
…I met my best friend on my trip.
…All of my fellow Broadway goers I met through AJ.
…So many that celebrated my milestone birthday were my friends from AJ
…Going through a challenging time, when I looked around, I realized most
were my travel friends from AJ.


As we navigate these uncharted waters, I have learned now more than ever, there is so much to be thankful for.  Although we show you the world, we want you to know that you mean the world to us and also to each other.


Please feel free to share with us one moment or friendship that has changed your life as we would love to hear from you and be thankful together!

The Wandering Jew

Friday, August 28th, 2020

by Malori

Traveling around the world, I’m so fortunate that I get to see a plethora of amazing sights. And the experience that I hold close to my heart is sharing our Jewish heritage with our travelers in faraway lands throughout the world. Whether joining a local community for Shabbat services, creating our own community for holiday observances or bringing back prayer to a synagogue that hasn’t seen Jewish life for years, or sharing the Hora with those who may not have ever experienced it, these are the moments treasured by myself and our groups alike.

We have had the good fortune to see many of Europe’s Synagogues. The largest and most magnificent I’ve experienced is Budapest’s Dohany Street Synagogue. Built in the mid-19th century, the architectural style is Moorish Revival and is truly remarkable.  With seating for 3,000 participants in its main sanctuary, it also houses a museum, a graveyard, and sits on the site of Theodore Herzl’s home. But in addition to the glorious interior, it’s the experiences one has that is the most memorable,  Being brought up to the bima and away from the crowds of visitors, we pre-arranged the opportunity of having their world famous Cantor lead us in prayers, together as an Amazing Journeys community.  Our voices rang to the top rafters of this massive interior structure.  Just outside the doors to the most beautiful synagogue in the world, we were taken to the site where thousands of Jews were murdered during the 1930’s and 40’s.  Anyone who has been to Budapest will have vivid memories of the stories of the atrocities that happened along the river dividing Buda and Pest and elsewhere in the city.

While most of our Jewish experiences are pre-planned by our Amazing Journeys team, some are bashert or, just happens because they are meant to be. When headed to the Azores, a remote group of islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 930 miles off the coast of Portugal and 2400 miles off the US coast, I received a call from a would-be traveler.  She said her dad was on a business trip a few years prior, along with a business associate, a Catholic woman who was born in the Azores. They asked about a run-down building they saw while walking down the street and were told it was a hidden synagogue from the 1800’s.  For over 30 years, the two had decided to raise money to restore the synagogue, and took trips to Ponta Delagada on the island of San Miguel until they had restored the Sahar Hassamain Synagogue into its original look.  They also created a museum and included details of Jewish life in Ponte Delgada. Upon hearing the story, we wanted to take our group to visit as well as have Shabbat services there.  In advance of our Amazing Journeys visit, we asked employees at the museum, those running the fundraising organizations and were told it was a museum and was not used as a synagogue for nearly 60 years. We asked different times and in different ways, and still the answer was no.  We arrived in the Azores, visited the museum as part of our tour and later, at the end of our day of touring, I mentioned to the guide we had been hoping to have our Shabbat services inside the synagogue.  She said, “why not?”  I told her we had already had a long line of “no’s” from everyone we spoke to and she said, “I work for the Mayor… I can make it happen.  Give me until tomorrow (Friday)… I am certain I can get this approved.”  Sure enough, she did and we kept our secret from the group.  Later that evening, I asked everyone to meet in the hotel lobby so we could have Shabbat services together, followed by dinner.  We walked the 4 blocks to the synagogue and had a private service in this 130 year old space.  We all realized the specialness of this experience, and that we were bringing voices of prayer to these walls that had not heard songs for decades.  Many of us cried.

Sometimes synagogues appear in the most random of places, nevertheless, they are houses of prayer.  Cochin, India was once known as ‘Jew Town’ because they were located along the Spice Route and had many Jewish families who settled there.  Cochin is filled with many synagogues, some being currently brought to their original beauty as houses of worship by congregations in the US and other countries who want our Jewish history not to be lost forever. We visited several synagogues in the once bustling area.  My favorite was one synagogue visit where we had to pass alongside of several aquariums filled with fish to reach the entrance of the synagogue.  Not very fitting for a house of worship, it reminded me that having a defined prayer space is a gift.  People in different parts of the world will make sacrifices so that they can pray as Jews.  While in Cochin, we met Sarah Cohen, the last Jew in Jew Town.  We spoke to Sarah, then in her 90’s, who still produced handmade challah covers.  Sarah recently passed away at the age of 95, leaving the former Jew Town devoid of Jews.

We have celebrated Shabbat in synagogues in Cuba where in Havana there are still two shuls, and as always, there is the one you “don’t go to.”   We have prayed with 400 visitors and Jewish business people living in the area in Shanghai, China and said prayers in a tiny underground hidden shul at Auschwitz in Poland.

 

One of the most sobering was in Linz, Austria where we had Shabbat services at The Linz Synagogue.  This meaningful symbol of our Jewish religion and our heritage sits just one block away from the balcony where Hitler gave one of his earlier hate speeches.  On the tiny balcony in front of the Rathaus in the main square in Linz, Hitler proclaimed the Greater German Reich on May 12, 1938.  He called Linz “my home.”  It was so important that here, we came together to pray as one.  This reconstructed Synagogue was both architecturally meaningful and hauntingly spiritual. Our voices during services were loud and proud as we aimed them to reach the heavens.

Whether one is Jewish or not, most likely a Jewish wedding is associated with dancing the Hora to Hava Negela.  On our travels, we have created the fun and fervor of the hora in many spaces and places on earth, including the most remote spots imaginable. We taught a local dance troupe in Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal in an archipelago comprising four islands off the northwest coast of Africa, to dance the hora.  Even more remote, our Amazing Journeys travelers to Antarctica did an impromptu singing of Hava Negila around an Israeli flag, after doing the Shehecheyanu blessing, a common Jewish prayer to celebrate special occasions. On a recent trip to Tanzania, we met the Hadzabe people, an isolated tribe who still hunt for their meals with poison arrows and spears. They live under bushes and move about Tanzania, following the game. Here, after this tribe taught us their dance, we showed them ours!  Although we couldn’t communicate through verbal language as they still use the “click language,” the language of dance was our connection. Although we weren’t 100% sure our movements would translate favorably, we’re still here to talk about it!

In India, just outside of Varanasi, the holiest city in all of India, we celebrated Tu’ BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees.  I asked our guide to provide me with a space under a tree, so that we could say some prayers and experience this holiday. He was proud to bring us to the Bodhi tree where Buddha was enlightened. Nearby, we found a tree we could sit under as a group and celebrate Tu’ BiShvat.

Sometimes it’s the remoteness and serenity of nature that connects us most to God. In my favorite spot on the planet, our heli-hiking lodge in the Bugaboo Mountains in eastern British Columbia, Canada, our group celebrated Shabbat with a setting filled with glaciers, mountains and granite spires. It’s the most majestic backdrop to a memorable Shabbat.  Equally so, perhaps my favorite Shabbat ever was facing Uluru, formally known as Ayers Rock, in the Outback of Australia.  Here, we perched ourselves on a large, red rock, indicative of the landscape of this desert area, complete with challah, wine and candles as I led the group through Shabbat services. As the sun set and the colors of Uluru changed with the changing sunlight, surrounded by our Amazing Journeys community in song and prayer, it brought us to tears.

Of all the exploration we do on our Amazing Journeys, it’s our visits to explore our Jewish heritage, see synagogues and visiting Jewish communities throughout the world, and  it’s the Jewish celebrations in which we participate that are always the most memorable part of the trip and our travelers remember for years to come.

What Happens When Tourism Stops

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

by Malori


Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and is included on any list of the Top 10 Employers globally.  It’s hard to fathom just how large this industry is until you begin to break down the numbers.  In 2019, travel and tourism directly contributed nearly 3 trillion dollars to the GDP.  And in the US, it was the largest contributor to the GDP with a total of over 580 billion US dollars last year. Tourism employs 330 million worldwide.  Sometimes these numbers can be difficult to understand until we break it down further.

Tourism is on the brink of disaster.  Tour guides we have been working with for years in India, Africa, China and Vietnam and have developed friendships with are looking outside of tourism for other work.  Imagine, when we visit Tanzania and hire a Masai Mara guide, the ones we love to jump with and who takes us into their dung huts to show us life on the Mara– this one-day guided experience will feed 10 others in his community with this one encounter.  We recently visited Thailand.  The absence of visitors can change the life of vendors who are on the streets with their food carts, t-shirt sellers, elephant sanctuary workers and tuk-tuk drivers who cannot see their way to bringing home payment so their family can survive another day.  The Moroccan carpet sellers, the mustache-festooned doormen at our hotels in India, our Jewish tour guides in Rome, the jovial bartenders on your last cruise, the ferry captain in the fjords of New Zealand, hiking guides, olive oil tastings in Greece… it all shuts down.  Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the Vice President of a major worldwide hotel chain who told me 50% of his hotels will shut down in Europe next month… and they currently have occupancy rates in the single digits. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of people will be out of work in that scenario? Only a handful of cruise ships are sailing.  That’s another 1.1 million out of work employees from around the world. Add to that, it is expected that 50% of the more than 60,000 travel agencies just in the US will be out of business by September.  When tourism stops in its tracks, the ability of millions of people to put food in their mouths stops, too.

As the Chief Amazement Officer at Amazing Journeys, I take my job very seriously.  Because I know that not only am I crafting tours that include highlights within each destination we visit, I am also taking care of the locals… small business owners who can provide experiential memories, sure to make your trip that much more enjoyable, while feeding their local community at the same time.  Whether it’s a surprise tuk-tuk ride to see the sun set over the Taj Mahal, a food tasting tour, shopping at the local market before attending our cooking school in Vietnam, wine tasting in Israel, tasting whiskey in Ireland and scotch in Scotland… it’s all part of putting money into the local economies and more specifically, the individuals who are feeding several members of their community.

At Amazing Journeys, not only do we take great pride in creating a tour that you will remember for the rest of your life, we also take seriously our responsibility to take care of those who take care of us.  And we do this by generating opportunities for local populations.  We know that tourism is a force for good. Those of us working in tourism and those who travel… we are all in this together – we are one community.

Travel and Animal Welfare

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Our Bucket List

Monday, March 11th, 2019

We are lucky to have the opportunity to go to amazing destinations as part of our job, but get asked all the time, “where do you want to go next”?  Just like you, we each have our own personal bucket list that we keep adding to.  So what is at the top of each of our lists?

Malori: Antelope Canyon, Arizona. Those who know me know I love to be outdoors and I love to hike.  I get inspired by nature and the visual beauty of Antelope Canyon makes me want to jump right in and explore!

Courtesy of the Arizona Office of Tourism

Erin:  There are so many places I want to go, but I really want to go to Peru.  I would love to push myself to do the Inca Trail, ending the 4 day hike with the incredible views of Machu Picchu!


Michele:
I can’t wait to go to the Canadian Rockies.  I love the majestic beauty and being able to be surrounded by nature. The colors are just amazing and you get different scenery at every turn.

Stacey: I’d love to spend more time in Thailand. I can’t get over all of the gorgeous wats (temples)!  Combine that with green countryside, a plethora of beautiful Buddhas and delicious food, I’d love to immerse myself into the culture and country of Thailand.

We want to know what’s at the top of your bucket list, too!  We may already be planning a trip there for you to get excited about and we are always open to your suggestions to plan upcoming adventures!

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.

 

Top Reasons to Visit China

Friday, November 6th, 2015

 

China is one of the world’s most fascinating travel destinations, both for a look into its past and for a chance to ponder its future. China’s evolution from the oppressive Mao years to the current rampant consumerism may be one of the most amazing transitions in human history. This country is changing faster than any place on earth, so it’s important to go now before any more of its history disappears.

Here are the top reasons to visit China now:

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Beijing

Beijing is the historic heart of China where courtyard homes still line old, narrow alleyways called hutongs and a traditional way of life continues despite the constant threat of redevelopment. The capital city also contains many sites essential to understanding this sometimes baffling country.

Begin at the Forbidden City, an impressive palace complex built in the early 1400’s where twenty-four emperors ruled for 500 years. Hidden from view behind imposing walls and a deep moat lies a totally different world of marble bridges, tranquil gardens, and thousands of rooms once used to house the emperors and their households. The Forbidden City was designed according to feng shui principles with red buildings (for luck) topped with yellow roofs (for power). Common people were not permitted to enter, and many of the royals rarely ventured out. Why would they have any desire to leave? After all, of the 10,000 people who once lived here, 3,000 were concubines.

Tiananmen Square fulfilled Chairman Mao’s dream of creating the largest and most spectacular square in the world. Designed to hold 500,000 people, it’s easy to envision the intimidating military displays regularly performed here during the days of the Cultural Revolution. The site also evokes memories of the hundreds killed by government troops during the 1989 student protests. But today, the most common sight is the street vendors hawking cheap Mao wristwatches, with the Chairman pounding out the seconds with his fist. If you want one, be sure to bargain hard!

The Summer Palace is a gorgeous spot outside the city where the royals went to escape the summer heat. While The Forbidden City was all about power and impressing visitors, this summer retreat was a pure pleasure palace. Don’t miss the Marble Boat down by the lake. This “boat” that looks more like a boat-shaped marble pier, was built by the crazy Empress Cixi with funds supposed to be used to modernize the Navy.

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The Great Wall

Reputedly 5500 miles long, The Great Wall is considered one of the wonders of the world and is China’s number one tourist attraction. The Chinese have a saying, “You are not a real man until you have climbed the Great Wall.”

The Great Wall is simply awesome, a truly unbelievable engineering feat. The 12-foot wide wall has crenellated sides like the edges of a huge castle, a height that varies between 20 to 30 feet depending on the terrain, with scenic watchtowers strategically placed all along the route. The wall itself is impressive enough, but to build it in this unforgiving terrain seems insane. At least one million slaves and prisoners of war worked on the project. Walking from watchtower to watchtower is an incredible way to see the beauty of the country while participating in an activity that you can brag to your friends about for years!

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Xi’an

Discovered in 1974 by Chinese farmers drilling for a well, The Terracotta Warriors are one of the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century and the highlight of any visit to Xi’an. Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, was obsessed with the hereafter. To ensure that he would continue the sweet life of commander-in-chief even after his death, he had his minions create a terracotta army made from local clay baked in a kiln. This effort resulted in thousands of warlike, life-sized soldiers with weapons in hand, decked out in full battle armor, and positioned in military formation.

The Warriors are housed in 3 separate buildings (“creatively” named Pits #1, # 2, and #3). Each pit is an unfinished archeological work in progress, with many of the soldiers and other artifacts still in the process of being discovered. It is estimated that 6,000 soldiers will be unearthed in Pit #1 alone. Walk around the periphery of the excavations to observe the details of each soldier and horse. Remarkably, no two soldiers are alike – you’ll see different faces, heights, and statures along with a variety of mustaches and hairstyles. Each soldier’s head is actually a separately molded piece that fits together with the body, like inserting a peg into a hole. The idea was to provide the soldiers with a wider range of motion so they could turn their heads during battles in the afterlife.

Xi’an offers more than just clay warriors, and even if you are not usually into song and dance, you should check out the Tang Dynasty Show. This extravaganza features wildly colorful stage sets and elaborate costumes. Plus a fascinating musical mix of unusual Chinese instruments and dancing that is the definition of graceful, especially when the female dancers wave their long, drooping sleeves like ribbons in the wind.

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Food fit for an emperor

If your knowledge of Chinese food is limited to your neighborhood take-out place, you haven’t begun to appreciate this complex cuisine. Chinese dishes are varied, healthy, always a treat for the senses, and each region glories in its own specialties.

Ancient chestnut trees still grow near The Great Wall, and these wonderfully chewy nuts are the star of savory dishes. Xi’an has a longstanding dumpling tradition and eating a “dumpling dinner” ranks right up there with seeing the Terracotta Warriors as a Xi’an must-do. Wooden steamer bowls are spread out on your table, each one holding several beautifully presented dumplings. The paper-thin wrappings conceal ingredients such as chicken, vegetables, fish, and even walnuts. One of the most loved foods in China, dumplings are delicate works of art often shaped to look like animals or flowers – a delight to the eye and the tummy.  And don’t forget to sample the fragrant Chinese teas. Some of the more elaborate teas even open up like a flower unfolding in your glass.

Beijing is renowned for Peking Duck, a roasted duck dish that was a favorite in the Imperial Court. The lean and crispy duck arrives at your table intact where it is expertly sliced in front of you. Then, you go to work creating the equivalent of a Chinese taco: spread some plum sauce on a steamed pancake and add succulent slices of duck, some scallions, and cucumber slices. Now down it all with a cold Tsingtao beer. Hao chi! (Delicious!)

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Shanghai

Shanghai is a city of contrasts where east meets west, and an historic waterfront faces off with a modern, neon skyline. Shanghai is at its most romantic along The Bund, a sublime riverside walkway and people-watching paradise. This part of Shanghai feels almost European with many buildings unchanged since the 1930’s when Shanghai and The Bund became the chief shipping, trading, and financial district for the colonial powers (Great Britain, France and the U.S.). In those days, Shanghai was considered the Wall Street of Asia. A walk along the 1-mile promenade reveals why The Bund has been called a “museum of international architecture” with a mix of architectural styles including a number of exceptional Art Deco structures.

The architectural delights of The Bund compete with the marvelous modern structures of the area called Pudong, directly across the Huangpu River. While The Bund holds on to its colonial heritage, Pudong is bright and brassy, clearly demonstrating the power and financial might of the new Shanghai. At night , the Pudong skyline is a neon fantasyland from the crystalline rooftop of the Jin Mao Tower to the Chinese Oriental Pearl Tower that looks like it swallowed two giant Christmas balls.

The people of Shanghai are as shockingly modern as the skyscrapers of Pudong. Designer clothes are de rigueur, and shopping seems to be the principal pastime. The tranquil Yu Yuan Gardens provides a peaceful respite from the bustle of the city. And the pearl shops nearby offer an astounding selection of these lustrous gems.

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An unexpected welcome

The best reason to visit China now is because foreigners are still a novelty. At first, you may feel uncomfortable with the way that the Chinese stare at you — like you are the most exotic animal in the zoo. But you need to understand that many Chinese tourists are traveling from their homes in the provinces for the first time, and some have never seen a western face before.

You may find yourself surprisingly popular. When visiting China, you may be amazed when Chinese tourists at breathtaking sites like the Temple of Heaven or The Great Wall want to take pictures of you. Some of your favorite memories of China may be these fun picture-taking interactions.

It is hard to believe that the Cultural Revolution ended just two generations ago. Throughout China, young people seek out foreigners to show-off their fluent English, and little school children jump up and down yelling, “Hallo! Hallo!” whenever they see western tourists. In general, China is much friendlier than you would expect. As new generations emerge, the old antagonism towards the West seems long forgotten, and the deep suspicion of foreigners that Mao encouraged is nowhere in sight.

 

edited from BootsnAll

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?

“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 https://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

One Night in Bangkok

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

More than One Night in Bangkok….it was “Slingin’ it in Singapore” and “Gooooooooood Morrrrrrrrning Vietnaaaaaam”.

What an amazing journey, on so many fronts!  Its been just a few days since AJ returned from the far east, having visited some truly remarkable, interesting and memorable places.  From visiting extravagant Buddhas and riding elephants in Thailand to chillin’ like the locals overnight in Saigon ….from the opulence of a Grand Palace to the chaos of motorbikes-gone-wild in Vietnam….from a New Year’s Eve Party on the pool deck to riding the “Flyer” in Singapore, the thousands of miles traveled,  the places we visited,and the scores of friendships made will not soon be forgotten.

A picture’s worth a thousand words so enjoy this story of 3 weeks in Asia, and a Happy New Year like no place on earth: