Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Taste of India Part II

It is apparent that I love to eat! I could eat my way right through India, if not for the wonderful sights I have to stop and see along the way. As a matter of fact, the factors used to choose any of my vacation destinations are heavily based on the delectable cuisine of the country I want to visit. India was no exception. It sounded quite yummy. Well before our plans to visit India, I started a love affair with Indian food. With a vegetarian husband, Indian fare is a welcomed departure from gluten and soy based meat analogs. Besides the store bought and restaurant renditions of Indian food that I indulge in, I also have a few recipes up my sleeves. One such recipe is a hit at my house. Whether it is a dinner party or just our family, this dish brings a spicy smile to everyone’s lips (except Jeda’s; she supplies her own quota of spice, therefore prefers not to partake).

I named this dish Cauliflower & Curry; maybe the Indians would call it Gobi Masala. Whatever you decide to entitle it when you jot it into your recipe book, one thing you will surely call it once you taste it is DARN GOOD!
Simple Easy Recipe:
1.      1 head of cauliflower
2.      2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (get a good brand it will affect the flavor)
3.      1 can of tomato paste
4.      2 Golden Curry cubes
5.      Protein optional (I sometimes add veggie meat to make dish more hearty)
6.      1 table spoon of minced garlic (jar is fine if you don’t want to cut yourself and smell like garlic all day)
7.      ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (also optional, Golden Curry will add spice)
8.      ½ cup coconut milk (optional)
9.      Brown rice (make life easy, get the par-boiled variety or better yet the microwavable kind)
·         In a non-stick skillet bring two cups of broth to a simmer
·         Add coconut milk, tomato paste, minced garlic and golden curry cubes to simmering broth
·         If using a protein, add once above ingredients are thoroughly combined
·        Add cauliflower once protein is heated. If not using protein add cauliflower right after combining coconut milk, tomato paste garlic and cubes
·         Cook whatever protein until it is completely done through out
·         Sprinkle in cayenne pepper and mix until well combined
·         Serve on a bed of brown rice
               Ap ka khana svadista ho! बोन अप्पेतित


You can find the above product in the international aisle of your grocery store

I am aware that the sodium content is high, so partake sparingly if you have health issues that could be aggrivated by salt, such as highblood pressure.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "Red Dot"

By now it’s clear, that my research on India has taken me from geography lessons to dinner recipes.  Now, my investigation has gone down yet another interesting path. I am researching some of the more obvious characteristics of Indian culture that I did not previously know before.
Ever wonder what that “red dot” in the middle of some Indians’ foreheads mean? Yep, I wondered too. To the untrained eye, it looks like a striking accent to their cultural garb. It appears, to the unknowing on-looker, to be nothing more than a bright addition to exquisite makeup placed with meticulous precision. It is, however, a traditional and religious marking that holds deep significance to those who dawn it.
The tilaka, also called tika in Hindi, is translated “freckle” or “spot”. The plain red spot is typically worn by lay people, but there are many more intricate markings that are distinguishable by their shape, indicating the wearer’s religious preferences.  It can be worn daily or only for religious special occasions. It also can distinguish the position of prominence a person may hold in the faith. The mark can differentiate if a person is a priest or not a clergy member.

Worn at the Ajna Chakra (the space between the eyes), the tilaka can be made of sandalwood past, ashes, vibhuti, kumkum, sindhoor, clay or other substance. It is often applied simply by hand for ceremonies. During certain religious rituals the priest will apply it to an attendee's forehead.

Shaiva Tilaka

Vaishnava Tilaka

The Shaiva Tilaka is horizontal. According to my studies it is not as prevalent as the Vaishnava markings which are vertically placed on the forehead.  The position of the tilaka is customarily the center of the forehead. It represents a third, inner eye. Hindu tradition states that all people have three eyes, the two outer ones used for seeing the outside world, the third one focusing inward toward their "god". As such, the red dot signifies piety as well as serving as a constant reminder to keep "god" in the front of a believer's thoughts. Be clear that all Indian people do not apply a dot to their foreheads.  Only Hindus who worship as a part of the Hindu religion apply this distinctive dot.

Note: Modern day, non-Hindu Indian women, unmarried Indian women, and people of different denominations, have begun to wear this traditional marking as a mode of expression. Some dawn it just for fashion’s sake and some even do it as rebellion against the stark, strict convention of yesteryear, modifying its color to make it ever more outstanding and striking.

To fully grasp the significance of the mystical "red dot" would require a deep dive into the beliefs of the Hindu religion. The Hindu faith as well as many aspects of Indian culture are vast. Understanding all the nuances will take lots of time and research, but every day I discover new keys to unlock the doors to this awe inspiring culture. Can’t wait to see what will be revealed next.  

Vibhuti- is sacred ash.
Kumkum-red powder distributed down the parted hair of a married Hindu women; powder used in Hindu rituals to worship goddesses, especially Shakti.
Sindhoor-red orange cosmetic powder; worn by married women; the main component, vermilion, is a naturally occurring mineral rock, with mercuric properties. More recently the powder is produced artificially.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beautiful Indian Women

This entry is a little quirky to say the least, but I ran across it in my research and thought it would be an intriguing nugget to share. Apparently, as in the African American culture, “color” and “beauty” sterotypes are an issue in the Indian culture as well. I thought this You Tube video was beautifully compiled and artfully exhibits the beauty of Indian women in all of their splendor. This video highlights the fact that beauty comes in many different mediums and all of them are spectacular.
Disclaimer: View without the kiddies. The man who assembled this reel was artistic, but a man nonetheless. Discretion is advised.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grocery Store Adventure

Going to the grocery store can be quite an international adventure. If you live near a Kroger grocery store then you understand the cornucopia of variety that exists there. My shopping trip took me to the international foods section and I discovered some Indian food short cuts. If you are unable to make it to your friendly neighborhood Indian Restaurant or you are unwilling or unable to create fantastic exotic dishes at your leisure, there is a third option. Try pre-packaged entrees that can be prepared in your microwave quickly and conveniently. They don’t taste too bad. I will admit, they don’t taste as authentic or fresh as restaurant quality, but if you are craving curry these dishes just might hit the spot.

-Kitchens of India, Palak Paneer (spinach, cottage cheese) is found in the international section of the store by the Chinese, Mexican and Mediterranean foods.
-Pataks, Potato, Spinach Curry and Rice is found in the international section of the store by the Chinese, Mexican and Mediterranean foods.
-Ethnic Gourmet, Tikka Marsala is found in the frozen section by the vegan, holistic or natural foods.

A Taste of India: Newbie Style

I admit it, I was once a little skeptical when it came to exploring authentic ethnic cuisine. Pizza, lasagna and Chinese food don’t really count as departures for they have become domestic staples. The “Westernized” adaptations, such as those found at some fast food chains are not sufficient examples of fare you would experience in the actual country. By and by, as I open my mind and broaden my horizon I am discovering that there is a whole world of unique, not to mention delicious foods out there waiting to be tasted if I am only willing to “think outside the box” or the “bun” whichever one comes first.
I am growing to enjoy all types of food from many different cultures. I like Thai food, Mediterranean food and Ethiopian food (one of my sis-in-laws is Ethiopian). Currently I am honing in on Indian cuisine, as I try to soak in all things Indian prior to our trip. It has been a scrumptious exploration so far.
Investigation has led me to discover just how many different regions influence or have been influenced by the cuisine that falls under the umbrella of “Indian food”. Chinese, Japanese, West Indian and surprisingly British foods are all connected to Indian food. At first I thought to take readers on a culinary escapade through each colorful expanse describing succulent ingredients, lively spices and the cultural influences that supply India with that unmistakable flavor. Upon further consideration, I decided to scale back, realizing that we cannot cover the full scope of Indian cuisine in one fell swoop. This subject requires delicate consideration and deliberate meting out to be able to truly appreciate it.  With that in mind, the expansive discoveries of Indian food and its distinct cultures will most definitely lead to a Taste of India Part II.
Since knowing is half the battle, let me give you a little advice to make your new experience with Indian food less intimidating.  If you are like me, when you go into an Indian restaurant you gaze at the menu with excitement and dread. Head spinning, you pick an item from the listing that “sounds” good only to discover it was “not quite” what you expected. Be confused no more. Following are a few terms that will surely come in handy. When in doubt, don’t try to “act” savvy, ask. You will end up having a much more pleasant experience and truly enjoy your meal.
rajma-kidney beans
ghee-clarified butter
onion- pyaj
okra – bhindi
The region of Punjab produces dishes that we are pretty familiar with here in the U.S. For that reason Punjabi cuisine is a good place to start our culinary Indian exploration. Punjabi dishes can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diverse range. Home cooked and restaurant Punjabi cuisine can vary significantly. Restaurant style uses a large amount of clarified butter, known locally as ghee, with liberal amounts of cream as well. Home cooking concentrates mainly upon preparations with whole wheat, rice and other ingredients flavored with masalas (spices). Tandoori food is a Punjabi speciality, especially for non-veggie dishes. Many of the most popular elements of Anglo-Indian cuisine is Tandoor, Naan, Pakoras and vegetable dishes with paneer, all finding origins in Punjab. Wikipedia.org/wiki/indiancuisine
Restaurants are a good place to start your Indian cuisine exploration. Want to get even more out of your quest? Try your hand at cooking, Indian style.

Punjabi Rajma:

2 cups rajma (Red kidney beans)
salt to taste
1 pinch turmeric powder
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 green chillies, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp Oil
handful coriander leaves
*       Soak rajma overnight. Wash and pressure cook the rajma. Keep aside.
*       Heat oil in a pan; add ginger, garlic and chillies. Fry until they turn brown.
*       Add onions and tomatoes. Cook until masala separates from oil.
*       Add salt, turmeric powder and mix well. Add the boiled rajma, red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and stir.
*       Simmer the flame and cook until a thick gravy is formed.
*       Remove from fire. Garnish rajma with coriander leaves and serve hot with chapatis or rice.  http://www.indianfoodrecipes.net/easy-indian-recipes
Chana Masala (spicy chick peas):
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 cup onion chopped
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup tomatoes chopped
salt to taste
2 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp chana masala
2 tsp tea leaves
2 green chillies slit
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp red chili powder
1 cup chick peas


*       Soak kabuli chana overnight.
*       Mix in a little water to the soaked chana, tie tea leaves in a piece of cloth and put it in water and then boil the chana until soft and dark in color, strain and keep aside.
*       Heat up oil mix in bay leaf and cut onion; stir fry until golden brown in color.
*       Mix in ginger, garlic paste and slit green chillies, stir for some time, then mix in cut tomatoes, red chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, chana masala and cumin powder, stir fry for some time.
*       Mix in boiled chana and approximately 1 cup of water and stir fry till chana gets coated with the thick masala. Sprinkle garam masala and salt mix well and serve hot. http://www.indianfoodrecipes.net/easy-indian-recipes
  Now, head for the kitchen and get your taste buds warmed up for a fabulous Indian dinner!
Ap ka khana svadista ho! (Enjoy your meal!)
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Count Down To INDIA: The Four Year Old Traveler

Count Down To INDIA: The Four Year Old Traveler: "I read an article where Jada Pinkett Smith stated that ‘the world is best the classroom’. She was referring to the many excursions her young..."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

…the bad and the ugly about travel

India is located in South Asia. Unfortunately, many regions still carry communicable diseases that have long since been eradicated in the United States. Polio, Whooping Cough and Malaria are just a few such diseases. Malaria is one infection that is still quite prevalent in some areas in India. For this reason visitors are advised to take precaution and receive the appropriate vaccinations before entering the country. The following excerpt was taken directly from the CDC website. The safety measures listed apply to many regions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Travelling to these exotic destinations can be exciting but could turn to disaster if one is not properly safeguarded against easily preventable calamity. Do your homework and travel safely.

Preparing for Your Trip to India

Before visiting India, you may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: (Note: Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.)
To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect and to start taking medicine to prevent malaria, if you need it.
Even if you have less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see a health-care provider for needed vaccines, anti-malaria drugs and other medications and information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.
CDC recommends that you see a health-care provider who specializes in Travel Medicine.  Find a travel medicine clinic near you. If you have a medical condition, you should also share your travel plans with any doctors you are currently seeing for other medical reasons.
If your travel plans will take you to more than one country during a single trip, be sure to let your health-care provider know so that you can receive the appropriate vaccinations and information for all of your destinations. Long-term travelers, such as those who plan to work or study abroad, may also need additional vaccinations as required by their employer or school.
Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in India, the government requires travelers arriving from countries where yellow fever is present to present proof of yellow fever vaccination. If you will be traveling to one of these countries where yellow fever is present before arriving in India, this requirement must be taken into consideration. See Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements and Information on Malaria Risk and Prophylaxis, by Country for more information.
Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Check the links below to see which vaccinations adults and children should get.
Routine vaccines, as they are often called, such as for influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) are given at all stages of life; see the childhood and adolescent immunization schedule and routine adult immunization schedule.
Routine vaccines are recommended even if you do not travel. Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the United States, they are still common in many parts of the world. A traveler who is not vaccinated would be at risk for infection.

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Vaccine recommendations are based on the best available risk information. Please note that the level of risk for vaccine-preventable diseases can change at any time.

Vaccination or DiseaseRecommendations or Requirements for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Routine Recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection (see map) where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with "standard" tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.
Hepatitis B Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission (see map), especially those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment (e.g., for an accident).
Typhoid Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in South Asia, especially if staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.
Polio Recommended for adult travelers who have received a primary series with either inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or oral polio vaccine (OPV). They should receive another dose of IPV before departure. For adults, available data do not indicate the need for more than a single lifetime booster dose with IPV.
Japanese encephalitis Recommended if you plan to visit rural farming areas and under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, see country-specific information.
Rabies Recommended for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural areas, involved in activities such as bicycling, camping, or hiking. Also recommended for travelers with significant occupational risks (such as veterinarians), for long-term travelers and expatriates living in areas with a significant risk of exposure, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores, and other mammals. Children are considered at higher risk because they tend to play with animals, may receive more severe bites, or may not report bites.

Source: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/india.htm

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Four Year Old Traveler

I read an article where Jada Pinkett Smith stated that ‘the world is best the classroom’. She was referring to the many excursions her young ones have experienced as the result of the occupations of their famous parents. She was defending her stance that her children were all the better for their exposure and that the class room could never teach them what travel has taught them. I agree and I venture to inject that the uncomplicated mind of a child may be able to glean more than we can from such exploration.
My four year old has been privy to our planning for india thus far and it has spawned a bevy of inquiries, “why are you always reading?”, “can I see too?”, “what exactly are you doing?” Then there’s “read to me!” The child is under the self-created belief that if a book or a computer is open, mommy must erupt into spontaneous audible recitation (no matter what the subject matter) for she must “know everything” she says. But I digress.
She is now interested in travel. In fact, travel has been added to her ever growing “to do list”. After I read to her an excerpt on the Taj Mahal, she asked me two questions while she peered at the computer screen. “When will I be five?” AND “Can I go too?”  Mind you, she can cleary recite her birth date to you, but has no concept that it only comes around once a year. Jeda will be five in February AND no she will not be going to India. I had to break the latter response to her gently. She took it well.
Undaunted, she snuggled up beside me on the couch and pulled the lap top over until it no longer rested on my lap, but on her own. With my hand still on the mouse, I browsed sites as I am always compiling a list of deals and promotions. One such site caught her eye. She said “hmmm” as she “read” the page on “tropical destinations”. She lifted her little brown hand and deliberately placed her tiny finger on the screen and said “where is this?” I responded “Costa Rica”. Never afraid to ask for what she wants she uttered frankly, “Can I go when I turn five?”

I looked at this four year old child and wished that I could be such a decisive woman. She awaited an answer. Somehow my lips formed the words “yes”.  I was shocked that the voice emerging from those lips was indeed my own. She said “thank you” with a matter of fact voice as she had just planned her first trip.  To her it seemed like a trivial thing as she got up and began to play again with her ball. I assume once we get back from India we need to start planning a trip to Costa Rica. Stay tuned.
A smorgasbord of Costa Rica deals await you at Trip Advisor.com.
Not going to India or Costa Rica check out Trip Advisor for firsthand accounts and honest feedback about almost any destination you can think of. Travel safely!
Kayak can help you find low air fare.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More About the Taj Mahal

Not to beat the proverbial dead horse, but the Taj Mahal is awesome. There is more to share about this Monument of love. As already stated, The Taj Mahal has come to be known for its architectural beauty. Interestingly, many of its aspects were based on Muslim beliefs. Given the fact that it is a mausoleum, every part is laced with spiritual references that hold spiritual relevance.
The Taj Gateway is the entrance to the Taj Mahal. It was built in 1648 and made of red sandstone; it is symbolic of the divide between the material and the spiritual and is decorated with verses from the Koran. Its primary purpose was to keep people from getting a glimpse of the tomb before entering.
The Taj Garden is a sprawling green carpet that lies before the Taj Mahal. According to the Holy Koran in Islam, a garden represents “paradise”. The garden is accessed through the Gateway. Created with bountiful painstaking details, one point of interest about the garden besides its beauty is that in it grows Cypress trees, which signify death and fruit trees, signifying life.
The Taj Mausoleum  is accessed by way of the central path through the garden. The Mausoleum is the pearl shape dome. This part of the Taj Mahal is the most recognized feature.
The Tomb is the actual location of Queen Mumtaz Mahal’s remains. It is much to be studied and simply admired about this structure. From its unique architecture to its symbolism of “paradise”, it is breath taking. Interestingly, Emperor Shah Jahan wanted all the family to be buried there, but the son who succeeded him did not follow his wishes.
Keep in mind that neither of these four parts where built for mere beauty or intrigue, but at the root of all the pomp and circumstance was also to give honor to Allah. The beautiful dome, which is the most recognizable part of the Taj Mahal “unites heaven and earth”. The dome also represents a pearl, which is significant because it is believed in Islam that God sits on a throne where a pearl dome supported by pillars exists and from it flow the rivers of grace.
Imposing, graceful and eternal the Taj Mahal lives on as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it rivals as one of the most beautiful structures to ever be created. Unfortunately, Shah Jahan spent his last days unable to touch the prolific structure he had made but was tortured to gaze at it from a distance. He was over thrown and put in prison by his son, who “graciously” created a portal for him to stare out of till he died at the age of 74.
A testament of longevity, mystery, honor, grief, grace and love…The Taj Mahal.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Captivating Taj Mahal

Now that you know how to get to India, what should you see when you get there? The Taj Mahal of course. Without running the risk of giving a history lesson, amazing facts about this exotic edifice must be shared. The Taj Mahal is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, ranking with such wonders as the Great Wall of China and Christ the Redeemer. As a matter of fact, the fore mentioned marvelous sites (including the Taj) are a part of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”, not to be confused with The Ancient Seven Wonders, the Natural Wonders of the World and The Seven Wonders of the Modern World (all worth checking out).
Because we are doing our research on what to see and do in India we started our research at the top of the list with the Taj Mahal. Of course we rediscovered all sorts of facts most people know about the Taj like the fact that it is located in Agra, India, but here are some interesting facts you may not know.
-The palace is actually a Mausoleum.
- It took 22 years to complete.
- Agra is in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh, close to Delhi.
- The Taj Mahal is not just one structure, but consists of four main structures and auxiliary houses as well.
- In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."
- Because the Taj sits on The Yamuna River (Jamuna River) some believe that the massive main building is beginning to “sink” leaning deeper into the ground on side facing the river.

If that’s not enough to make you want to visit the fascinating Taj Mahal, maybe the love story behind why this auspicious monument was created will.
The 5th Mughal emperor, born 1592, Emperor Shah Jahan is responsible for giving the order to build the Taj Mahal. Though a powerful ruler and dynamic conqueror, history remembers Shah Jahan as the most prolific architect of India and of his time.
The Taj Mahal was built in honor of Shah Jahan’s favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal (chosen one of the palace); she died giving birth to his 14th child. Mumtaz Mahal married the emperor at age 14. Though she was not his only wife she was favored above all and was by his side until her death in 1631.
Historians do not agree if the reason for building the monument of love, purity and beauty was because of a death bed request given by the queen herself or if it was out of grief that the emperor spent 22 years, (1631-1653) most of his treasury and much of his reign building it.  I can hardly wait to explore every corridor and hall to see if I can discover the answer.

National Geographic: Taj Mahal
Amazon.com (A History of Architecture p.624-630)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to get to India

It's no secret that travel is expensive. Generically speaking, the
farther from your home (country or state) you travel, the higher the
expense. Gas prices are astronomical! Baggage fees are ridiculous!!! And flights… well we all know they are very pricey.

How do you get to the exotic land of India without breaking the bank?

Here are a few tips that may help you out. First, start your search in the obvious places.  Online travel agencies and discount travel agencies are helpful.  

Book as far ahead as possible.  Sign up at http://www.travelzoo.com/ and www.shermanstravel.com/top25 as these online sights do some of the work for you by checking thousands of online travel sights for unbelievable deals to dream destinations. Remember to proceed with caution if you find an arrangement that you think is too good to be true.

Here are a few tips to keep you on track:
1. ALWAYS make sure that whichever agency you choose offers  a  method to get all or most of your money back if your trip has to be cancelled. Legitimate agencies will offer travel insurance, and some will even allow you to put down a deposit rather than having to pay the full vacation balance at once. This way you can reserve your trip without losing out on the promotion, and still have time to save  to pay off the balance.

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  I have never booked a trip without first consulting http://www.tripadvisor.com/, your one stop shop for pictures (from actual travelers not the hotel website), honest reviews, deals and promotions. Also, similar to Travel Zoo and Sherman you can sign up for updates and promotions that will come directly to your email address.
Now that you know a safe way to search for an Indian vacation, what's next?
Always check with a reputable company that specializes in Middle East/Asia/Africa trips like http://www.friendlyplanet.com/,
First, be aware; Friendly planet’s steeply discounted packages don't
stick around long at all. So if you plan on taking a trip to India, book
well in advance to take advantage of the best deals.
Once yourIndian destination is chosen and your itinerary is solidified,
don't drag your feet. If you don't have a passport get one as soon as possible. It
could take up to 6 weeks to process your passport request. If you do have a valid passport, make sure your existing passport will not expire prior to  six months after the date of your return. Once you’ve gotten everything with your Passport straightened out then you need to move on to the next step. India requires a visa. Some countries will issue a visa upon

entering the country. Not so with India. You must obtain this document well in
advance of your trip (more on that later).
Little things could make for a bad experience in India. Be sure to check the
climate. Do not assume that India is always dry and hot. Northern India
gets cool (40-60 degrees F) while southern India is pretty

consistently warm to hot (65-85 F) with monsoons possible between June and October.
Also be careful and respectful. India has two main religions, Hindu and Islam. If entering a religious edifice on an excursion or tour cover your arms and no daisy dukes or short skirts
ladies. Familiarize yourself with the customs of any new country you are
planning to visit. It will make the trip much more enjoyable and the locals will be more accomodating.
A few final note on booking a trip to India and beyond:
1.  Some internet promotions are a scam. Enough said. Do your research.
2.  If you have a question don't try to figure it out. Call the 1-800 #
available. Save yourself some trouble.
3. I can't stress enough to READ reviews. Travelers who have just
returned from a destination will spew (good or bad) about the
service, cleanliness, food of a place and will tell you what travel
agencies to beware of. Some establishments promise you the world and don't deliver.
4. Cruises are an excellent vacation option. I  have learned from experience that cruises can be awesome. You can experience more than one destination at a time.
You have all inclusive food and entertainment. Cruising could really
be a traveler’s Mecca. Just keep in mind when booking, almost every deal
you see from cruise lines are what is called "land only", meaning air is
not included. You can find a great deal for $399 per person but understand you
have to add air fare to that price and if it's Europe or Asia, for
example, the cost of air could get as high as $1500 or more a person
(depending on the season). The conclusion is a really great deal just turned
into a pretty expensive trip. Don't be deceived, some cruise lines now
offer “preferred” air fare services if you book your flight through them.

These services are usually only
pennies cheaper. You may be better off booking your flight separately
with your frequent flyer discounts, card member rewards or points.
See you in India!