Jodhpur – Blue is the Warmest Colour

Jodhpur was probably my favourite citadel in Rajasthan: I don’t know if it’s because it’s here that I took the executive decision that my stay in India would last (much, much) longer than I originally planned or because all that blue really blew my mind away, or perhaps because I was quite sick and so I had the time to stop and explore at a more reasonable pace than ever before, or more likely because I met some very amazing people here who showed me around town including some secret spots that I haven’t shared below but that I will include in my upcoming CREED guide of India that I will be giving away at Christmas to all my blog followers who request one.

Whatever reason, I really loved the blue city.

 Creed Guide to Jodhpur

COFFEE

Cafe Sheesh Mahal
An establishment in the coffee scene of Jaipur, with a wide selection of coffee (and specialty teas), snacks and light meals. Get a seat next to a window: people watching on this stretch of the Sardar Bazaar can be extremely entertaining!

Coffee Menhar
If you are visiting the fort (see the explore section of this guide) then a coffee break at this lovely and simple cafe is mandatory. Get a black coffee or try one of their many tea flavours.

READ

Testo libero

Krishna Book Depot
An establishment in the city and whole Rajasthan perhaps with a wide range of books in Hindi, English, French and German (maybe others too) about Indian arts, music, theatre and cultural scene. Some renovation works where taking place on the ground level, so I guess it will be even better now.
Address: Sardar Market, ask for directions as it might be tricky to find

EXPLORE

Jaswant Thanda
You will find many cenotaphs while in Rajasthan, but this one, if you like me have an obsession for symmetry and white, will blow your mind away. It was built in 1899 by Maharaja Sardar Singh in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, whom initiated the irrigation systems and protected the city from bandits. Much better from the outside than the very simple indoors, but you still need to buy the ticket to get close to it. Another bonus point is the great view over Jodhpur and the fort itself, especially in the morning.

Mehrangarh Fort

This impressive fort looks like it has been there forever and ever, in fact it looks like it was carved in the rocky mountain rather than being built on it back in 1459. I fell in the trap of the free audio guide as it was described to me as outstanding, it’s good, but the entire tour at that pace takes more than 3 hours and when it’s 38/39 degrees you can’t really do that!! Skip the tempting offer and just download some history online before getting there. We didn’t take the elevator as it would mean miss so much of the atmosphere of the first gates, I guess.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
I normally won’t recommend places I haven’t been to, but as this one was suggested to me by several people and had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of it while maintenance works were undergoing, I feel I can add it to my list here and be sure it’s a place worth a visit.

EAT

Omelette Shop 
This take-away spot by the main clock tower is always packed with locals and tourists, you need to try it to understand why.
Address: just off the clock tower on the right

The Blue House
Lovely, little family-run, rooftop restaurant at The Blue House Guesthouse. Food is simply delicious and a chat with the entire family (including granny and toddlers) in their living room at the end of your meal will just make things even more perfect.
Address: Sumer Bhawan’ Moti chowk, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

DREAM

If you want a traditional stay and meet the locals, you will have plenty of havelis and guesthouses to choose from, just be aware that tourism has put in danger some of these beautiful and ancient buildings, so just do your research and choose one that is safe and environment-friendly. Also, make sure to make a conscious use of water during your stay as peak season and irresponsible travelers are making things worse every year.

We were kindly invited to stay at Shahi Heritage Guest House, a fantastic 350 years old mughal-style Haveli right in the middle of the old town with a spectacular view over the fort and an amazing restaurant on the rooftop.

I couldn’t recommend this place enough, the staff, the food, the friendliness of the entire family made me feel at home during my stay, which was in fact extended by a few nights.

Address: City Police Gandhi Street, pop Narsingh Temple, Jodhpur, 342001

Gallery

 

Udaipur – The City of Lakes

Your new C-R-E-E-D guide is here, this time to tell you about the magical city of Udaipur.

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This is the city of love par excellence in the whole India or maybe the entire Asia. Honeymooners from all across the country and beyond come here to enjoy the serendipity and romantic vibe of the place, but also every age and love-stage couples come here to celebrate their anniversaries or more simply to renew or reinvigorate their love.
This is why, Udaipur is also known as the ‘Venice of East’.

But, of course, singles, love-seekers and convinced love-haters are welcome to come the City of Lakes has it has so much to offers to anyone. Udaipur doesn’t need much introduction in fact: this picture-perfect city spread on the banks of the Pichola lake and surrounded by lush green hills is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature in the best way possible.
A boat ride on the lake at sunrise or sunset would start or close your day in the perfect way. And a visit to its City

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COFFEE

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Brewmen
I said it many time, but here I’ll tell you again: No day should ever start without a good cup of coffee, so the best option you have in Udaipur is Brewmen: excellent vibe, great arabica espresso and top-notch service. Oh, did I mention the delicious brownie with ice cream? Nope, well just check the picture below and let your mouth water… 🙂

Address:  Hitawala Complex II, Saheli Marg, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

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READ

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If you have time (which unfortunately I didn’t have that time!), you should go to check the Gulab Bagh Public Library . From the outside, it’s a very stunning building, but I’ve been told that inside there are some pretty amazing literary treasures too.

In terms of books, you should read:
Maharana: The Story of the Rulers of Udaipur 

and again, get a copy of
Rajasthan Style (out on November 10th)

[see the READ section on my Jaipur guide for the details]
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EXPLORE

Like most cities in Rajasthan, there is so much to see, but In Udaipur especially, the best part is on the streets itself. Make sure to save at least 45 minutes to one hour just to roam free in the narrow lanes and…get lost! Yes, that’s real fun and you will find some of the oldest bikes and Vespas ever, you will talk to some locals or just exchange a few smiles with them and have some street food. Then, when you had enough, turn on your google or pick actual maps and make your own way to the Jagadish Temple, a popular hindu place for worshipping made even more special by the colourful saris of the Indian women sitting and praying ( note: photography is not allowed inside).
Once you are done there, make your way to City Palace: this one is unmissable.The quite expensive ticket makes it worth the while, but remember to make a separate ticket for your camera too. To end your afternoon, head to Ambrai Ghat where you can have a stunning view over the lake as well as the City Palace and Lake Palace, another outstanding building right at the center of the Pichola lake now turned into a luxury hotel.

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EAT

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For this special edition of your CREED guide, please refer to the DREAM section for my dining suggestions; The Leela Palace, with its various restaurants and its Library provided the best food in town so we didn’t feel the urge to explore beyond its kitchens!  

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DREAM

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With a prime location on the Lake Pichola and a superb view of the Aravalli Mountains, The Leela Palace evokes grandeur and opulence of the land of the Mewar. Beautifully designed to reflect the surrounding style and influences by Jeffrey A. Wilkes and the attention to detail in the art and embellishment by Mrs. Madhu Nair makes it the ultimate royal trip in India.

I never really understood why a normal person would spend their holidays barred in a hotel when in any location you choose for a holiday or a break there is always so much to see and explore, but after spending a few nights at 5-star hotel at The Leela both in Udaipur and New Delhi, I think I have a few answers! Why on earth would you even think to leave heaven when you can have a massage, a swim, outstanding food and so much more all under one roof?
Well, this is what we actually did and that’s why we only left our paradise to test the fabulous and uber chic Leela tuk-tuk to roam the street of Udaipur and see its main sights.
Whether you are coming to Udaipur for your honeymoon or for a relaxing holiday, do come and stay at The Leela Palace. Not only the best hotel in town, but also the best Spa in all Asia according to World Spa Awards. And having had the best Swedish massage ever I can only confirm the award!

But let’s not forget the whole magical halo that surrounds the Leela Palace in Udaipur.
Our fairytale started right at the jetty where our boat driver was impatiently for us.
The boat was sailing Pichola lake at a leisurely speed when I suddenly saw it standing right, in its gorgeous greatness right in front of me. While entering the palace a rain of rose petals softly fell all over me like I was the princess they had been waiting for. The entrance, in its grandeur splendor was shining of sparks and mirrors. The huge chandeliers standing above us was impossible to miss or to not look at. And then, a beautiful indian lady welcomed me with a bindi as a local welcome to their royal palace.

From there we were transported to our suite which comprises of a huge bedroom, an even larger living room and a stunning, spotless bathroom (if you were following me on snapchat, you probably remember what I’m talking about).
From there, every single detail of this venue was a pleasure to the eyes and to the heart, walking on the corridors, was more like a walking in a museum where local artworks collected by the late Krishnan Nair and his wife Leela, hung on the walls throughout the properties.  You can easily spend half a day just browsing it all and already feeling inspired and in touch with the Rajasthani culture and art trends.

Another point goes to the stellar food we had throughout our stay, especially the bespoke dinner Chef Rupak prepared for us at Sheesh Mahal, the fine dining restaurant overlooking the Pichola lake.

What else to add? Well, the true cherry on the cake of all Leela’s properties is probably its outstanding service: the staff, constantly smiling and incredibly courteous and helpful truly made me feel like a princess in a castle.

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*This article was sponsored by The Leela, 5 stars luxury resorts, all the views are my own.

Pushkar – A photo Essay

Last post: Jaipur | Next: Udaipur
Stay Tuned on #thestoryteller_inIndia and Steller

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Copyright © 2015 Sabrina Andrea Sachs. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Sabrina Andrea Sachs. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. If you are interested in buying any copy or prints, please email me to thestorytellerphotos@gmail.com

Pink is the new black: Jaipur

Dressed almost completely in pink, the royal city of Rajasthan, Jaipur is an interesting blend of history, myths, palaces, art and forts (of course!). With its sister cities of Agra and Delhi, it forms the world-famous “Golden Triangle”, one of the most travelled route in India and a small part of my itinerary here too.
In Jaipur, more than anywhere else in Rajasthan, you will notice the interesting “clash” of a heritage city and a fast-moving metropolis. In fact, inside the walls, the faded pink will tell you stories of Marajahs and rulers of another past, but just outside a world of technology, young students and western fashion will take you back to this century.

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Here is your City Guide, with everything you need to know about Jaipur. As always, covering the five most important elements for a great weekend away:

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COFFEE | READ | EXPLORE | EAT |DREAM

BUT FIRST, COFFEE

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No day or exploration should ever start without a good cup of coffee, right? So here you can get your daily dose..

Art Gallery Café

Perfect hangout place for tourists and expats. Decent coffee and a varied menu of local and international nibbles.
Address: 132 – 133 , Chaandi Ki Taksaal,  Hawa Mahal Road | Shankars Art GalleryJaipur 302001, India

Indian Coffee House

One of the most important coffee establishment in Jaipur or maybe in the whole India (?) as it opened back in… Well,  no one really knows when this place was first opened as you can read here, but despite its age, it still attracts lots of locals who come here for a great coffee, very good dosa and an afternoon long chat for hours with friends.

Address: Cooperative Society Building, Opposite Khadi Bhandar, Mirza Ismail Road | Jaipur 302001, India

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READ

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In Jaipur, there is an excellent Book Club that you should join if you have time during your stay, it’s called Jaipur Book Lovers and its founder, Ayush, uses a meetup page to announce new events and meetings twice a month on first and third Sundays of the month. You can also keep up with the group on Facebook.

Books about Jaipur

Libraries and Bookshops
Please let me know below your suggestions as I couldn’t find any decent library or great bookshop to be mentioned here.

 

EXPLORE

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When exploring Rajasthan, you will quickly realise that at least one fort is present in each and every city you will stop by. I’ve seen most of this state now and most of its forts too, that’s why, I will try and make your job a little easier, by pointing out here (and in the future guides), only the forts I think are very special and I believe you should visit too.
In Jaipur, for example you should spend some time both at Amber Fort and at Nahargarh Fort, you will understand why looking at the pictures below.

Amber Fort

This is probably my favourite fort in all Rajasthan and I hope the pictures will show you why. From here, you will also have a great view over the city of Jaipur, with its symmetrical and very organised street systems. Watch out for the monkeys! 🙂

Nahargarh Fort

This other fort which once was the residence of the King Sawai Jai Singh II, sits on the hill in the northwest corner of the old city. A tour here, especially before sunset is almost mandatory!

Temple 

 

City Palace, Jal Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal 

The Streets and Bapu Market

You will realise that in India everything happens on the streets, there is more life on the streets than anywhere else and, despite the heat, you are going to spend loads of time on them, especially in Jaipur, so bring on your camera!

 

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EAT

Peacock Restaurant 
Award-winning restaurant on the rooftop of the Hotel Pearl Palace.
Address: 51 Hathroi Fort, Hari Kishan Somani Marg, Ajmer Road

La Forresta

A great venue for a dinner alfresco and a few cocktails.
Address: Near Moti Mahal Cinema, Bani Park, Jaipur 302016, India

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DREAM

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If you, like me, love boutique hotels and their heritage, there is one beautiful property you should pick among all. If you also enjoy great food and outstanding service, then the place for you in Jaipur is definitely the Pearl Palace Heritage or its sister location Hotel Pearl Palace.
Founded by Mr. Satinder Singh about eighteen years ago, it encompass nine rooms (will be 16 next year) and it has been voted the most romantic hotel in all of India. The idea behind this little gem was to allow visitors to discover India under one roof, as all rooms are themed with one city or region of India and local artists where hired and brought to Jaipur to decorate the walls of each of the nine rooms.
Every single detail in the properties has been custom-made, you will notice that every wall is hand-carved and most of the decorations are hand-made.  Karan Singh, Mr Singh’s son and Hotel Manager, told me over dinner that “hand-crafting a hotel in many heritage styles take a very long time. For example, our second floor passageways took a family of artisans over a year to carve by hand!”
Maybe this is why, this fabulous hotel was hand-picked by Oscar-winning director John Madden as the main set for his “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” movie starring American actor Richard Gere, British Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and local super-star Dev Patel?
Well, I think so!

This great property offers an excellent and very informative city-guide to all its guests and it’s also the first hotel in town to organise a city tour that includes most of the places you will find in the EXPLORE section below. Have a look here to see what else is included in the tour and all its details.

Continue reading

Agra – A Photo Essay

Agra is that one city that everybody who visits India has to pass through. Not because it has something special, but because it’s very close  to something extraordinary and famous in the entire world. A little bit like Alice Springs in Australia or Anaheim in California, Agra is a gateway to something else, something pretty incredible in fact, it is not exactly a city you would normally include in your itinerary if it didn’t host the best, grandest, most beautiful monument on Earth – at least, in my humble opinion.  Something that everybody in Europe, USA, South America, Australia and the rest of Asia has seen at least once in a postcard, TV or a magazine.
I’m obviously talking about the Taj Mahal, that one and only building I wanted to see since I was 5 or even younger as I found a postcard and fell in love with it straight away. 25 years later and having brought that card with me in 3 different cities across two countries where I lived in the past,  the dream became real as I was standing in front of all its grand beauty.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, the white marble mausoleum on the southern bank of the Yamuna River is in fact a tomb that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.  It took about thirty years and about 20,000 artisans to complete, but Shah Jahan didn’t actually had time to enjoy the outstanding monument as his son quickly imprisoned him to take over the reign.

Anyhow, enough words for now, I let this white, huge, moving, perfect building speak for itself.

Photo Tips:

#1 Leave  your tripod and big expensive lens at home. They might let you only take one camera/lens, definitely not a tripod or a gorillapod and you will be asked to leave it outside, no storage facility from the gate I entered, so I kindly had a shopkeeper looking after my stuff while I was inside.

#2 Enter from the southern gate, it’s the least popular for some reasons, but the queue is also the faster one.

#3 If possible, go there in the morning as soon as it opens (normally at sunrise), to get some nice #empty shots, but stay there until people arrive to give some scale to the building. If you wish/can, you should go back around sunset to capture the changing colours of the marble. Ideally, find a place to set your camera on a stone or something for a long time-lapse.

#4 Boat trips are not longer available; the river’s water is very polluted, therefore dangerous  – however, local people keep having sacred baths by its shores.

#5 Tickets are 750Rs (about £7.50) for foreigners . It’s worth going back if you have the time!

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While in Agra, there is also another outstanding place you should visit: Agra Fort, the one fort (among millions) you must visit while in India. The photo essay continues:

Stay tuned for my Indian adventures!