India is a swarm of colour and bright sound, earthy reds and bright blues that mimic the natural landscape. It is the ultimate sensory experience. Its sacredness is as natural and abundant as the baskets of magnolias that somehow appear freshly picked each morning, to be hung across doorways and placed in shrines amidst trinkets and coins.
Women wander, sari-clad, down wide streets, carrying bunches of sweet fruit or vegetables for the many stalls packed with fresh food, fish and hanging meats, and all around the air smells of sweet spices and frying onions.
Sunday Somewhere is characterised by beautifully sleek sunglasses whose authentic vibe fits perfectly with the laid-back subtlety of India’s exotic charm. Whether poolside or preparing for a trip to a temple, feel at home in the quality and unique allure of places meant to be felt and products made to be seen.
Our first stop is Pushkar, India’s sacred city of lakes. It is a world of tranquillity, where locals lie in late, and dew coats the streets where in the heat of the day puffs of dirt rise with the stamp of feet.
Legend has it Brahma created the lakes by dropping a lotus flower to the ground, which spread to create the holy water that rises and invites pilgrims to bathe in their enchanting clarity, surrounded by gentle pastels that coat temples and houses. The city itself is enchanting, hosting rooftop restaurant dining, colourful stalls and the opportunity for day hikes and visits to the surrounding countryside.
Next we visited Jaipur, a city full of colour and old world architectural beauty. In the evening, the Pink Palace glows as the sun sets, changing colour from red to a dusky rose.
Abbey & Scout Tours
If you are travelling in a group, Abbey & Scout Tours are an amazing company with expert organisation and professional care that creates an accommodating and reasonably priced travel experience. They took care of all our needs and were on call for our convenience 24/7, and helped to deal with problems we encountered that weren’t even related to the tour.
Our trip involved an organised transport bus that became a hub and our home away from hotels for nine days. Living this way allowed us to share constant banter, led by ‘JP’ our wild-hearted driver who loved the crew and never missed an opportunity to join in.
The upside of making a home of the bus allowed us great balance and organisation, with the added freedom of stopping to visit extraordinary sites or scope out locations off the itinerary. It was a road trip campaign, and allowed us to experience the overcrowded, noisy highways, insistent pedestrians and frequent stops of travelling by road in India to the tune of our favourite playlists.
The bus took us from Delhi International Airport to Pushkar (seven hours), from Pushkar to Jaipur (four hours) and made the long return journey that was supposed to take four hours but inevitably took nine.
Roseate House, Aerocity
On arriving in Delhi, we stayed at the Roseate House, an exquisite luxury hotel and the ‘Best Hotel in Transit City’ – entirely living up to its name. The décor was decadently sophisticated and we were served the most incredible buffet breakfast. The hotel service is impeccable, and made our arrival feel seamless.
Gulaab Niwaas Palace, Pushka
In Pushkar, we stayed at the Gulaab Niwaas Palace, where the rooms were basic but the overall aspect stunning, so much so that we ended up using it as a location for the shoot. Lounging about the pool feeling like we’d stepped into a 70’s Slim Aarons portrait, the palace was both timeless and incredibly glamorous.
The Trident, Jaipur
The Trident in Jaipur allowed us convenient access to the city’s key attractions, and was simple and luxurious. Despite the simplicity there were touches of the artisanal work that makes Indian architecture so eclectic.
Gulaab Niwaas Palace
The Laughing Buddha, Pushkar
The Laughing Buddha in Pushkar caters for a variety of dietary requirements – always important when travelling in a group, and the profits made go towards educating children who need it. From high on their terrace tableau you can sit and watch the streets flash by below. At nighttime we visited the Raju Terrace Garden Restaurant, which has a beautiful palace vibe and overlooks the stunning Pushkar Lake.
On arriving in Jaipur, Steam is a unique bar extraordinarily located inside an actual steam engine (Shikhar Train carriage). The decor radiates grandiosity with a distinctly Victorian style. The food is served inside the train as well as on the platform. Inside the steam engine are diwan, or low, seats, in the manner in which kings and higher officials sat during the period before the Independence of India, adding a touch of history and culture.
To experience more of India’s stunning colours, visit the Bar Palladio: where bright blue, white and peach walls, deep carvings, exotic naturalist prints run onto a black and white mosaic floor. Or, for an eccentric warmth, drop by the Nibs Café and Chocolateria where you can sit in a bicycle modelled seat and drink coffee with dessert.
Must Do Experiences
At the break of day, experience the Morning Prayer: for serenity for the day and an unmatched spiritual experience.
If you plan to hot air balloon, nothing can prepare you for doing so over the city of Pushkar, seeing its glowing pastel temples and blue lakes from the clear air.
In the evenings, visit the Aarti at Varah Ghat, as incense fills the air and the sound of chants float into the golden sunset. After the sun sets, browse the night markets where locals sell their handmade crafts.
Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal is not to be missed, its evocative façade covered in 953, jharokhas, or small bay windows. It is believed to imitate Lord Krisna’s crown, and is known as the ‘wind palace’, due to the breezy rooms held up by giant pillars. In the City Palace you can either wander alone or take a tour through the majestic rooms with their round ceilings and hanging gold ornaments.
For an adventure, take an elephant ride to the entrance of the Amber Fort. This costs around twenty AUD and takes about 20 minutes – depending on elephant traffic. Begin and end the day with sunrises at the Jal Mahal floating palace and sunset at Nahargarah Fort, at the top of which artists present their collections as the sun descends.
If you’re interested in shopping, the best way to skip tourist traps and find authentic Indian pieces, book a shopping tour. They help negotiate prices and you can purchase stunning silks, linens and other natural fibres in bright colours – or bring a sari home.
Prior To Departure
Do not leave home without comprehensive travel insurance.
India, despite its friendly vibe, are strictly official when it comes to Visas – organise yours online so that it arrives before you leave.
Tips & Tricks
If you are visiting a holy place, touts will try to bless you and your family and give you a red ‘entrance’ band to the city. You are not obligated to buy one of these. After seeing it happen once, we avoided this area, but supposedly the scam is that they put red string on you, bless your family, create a gorgeous flower ceremony for you and then ask for an outrageous amount of money – per group member. Oh and if you don’t pay, they will curse you and all your friends!
When taking photos or certain people or animals (such as cows that are dressed up or elephants on the street), someone nearby is expecting a tip. It isn’t a requirement to pay, but if you don’t, expect to be yelled at!
There are many false vendors selling fake train tickets – this happens all over the world. Use your intuition as many people do get caught out.
Always get receipts before paying on arrival at a hotel. Some places attempted to make us pay twice, swearing we did not pay at the beginning.
Finally, if you hire a driver for the day and leave your bags in the car, ensure you take photos of the license plate and the driver’s information in the car. Don’t pay until the end of the day, and certainly don’t leave valuables in the car.
That said, India provides a stunning and explosive retreat unlike anywhere else in the world, one-of-a-kind imagery and beauty at every corner. Those that have been say that India changes you, and that you never quite get it out of your system: the smells, the paint, the flowers falling from women’s hands.