See My India

“My mum is very upset. I forgot to send her a message last night to say I was fine. Despite the fact I left home 8 years ago and lived in 3 different cities in two different countries since, she is currently very worried. When I was living in London, we would chat once a week or less, but since I’ve touched Indian soil, she has been extremely worried. Do you know why? Because there is this pre-concept/rumour/urban legend in the Western world of India being extremely dangerous for female travellers, the impossibility to walk on the streets without being sexually harassed (there is harassment, but of another type which I will discuss on my blog later this week….), of men touching you without permission or various other risks for women. So, my mum, for the first time in 8 years, requests me to keep her constantly updated of my movements: morning, afternoon and evening.. That’s why, even being the least tech mom I know, she is on Snapchat now 😅 My mum, and many, many other people around the world think of #India as a scary country – thanks to the media btw – but I’m here to try and destroy this idea forever. I’ve been asked by a few local people here to help spreading the word so, here I am to do so as I desperately want the world to know that – if you are smart enough and respect the local culture – India IS safe. It’s been only two weeks, so maybe too early for such a statement, but let’s see if I will have to change my mind or not. I’m willing to take this challenge on. #letschangewhattheworldthinksofIndia

This is something I wrote on my Instagram 45 weeks ago while I was travelling around Rajasthan and the rest of India. Back then, I was still at the very beginning of my three-month Indian tour that would later take me to eleven states of that beautiful country. Fast forward to today and I still stand for what I wrote back then. My trip and adventure around India was just filled with the most incredible memories and experiences and despite whatever the media says, I’ve always felt safe and secure.

My mission to change what the world thinks of India hasn’t stopped when I left the country back in December. In fact, I’ve started a solitary campaign to address the questions and the doubts of all my friends, relatives and whomever was asking my opinion. I have kept this cause close to my heart – as I’ve always hated prejudice, racism and stereotypes – with the hope that more and more people interested in the Indian culture would finally leave their fears behind and just go.

https://www.instagram.com/p/91eSUnsQ1d/?tagged=thestoryteller_inindia


It was with immense humbleness and excitement that I have accepted the role of brand ambassador and testimonial for F5 Escapes,
an alternative travel company, based in Bangalore, India with a vision to redefine the way women travel India. Their goal – like mine – is to make India a preferred destination for women travellers from across the globe.

Their next tour leaves in November and in 18 days you will have the unique opportunity to explore some of the most amazing places in India all in the safety and comfort of trusty hands. I couldn’t  recommend F5 Escapes or this specific tour strongly enough. What you have to do is to drop me a comment below letting me know you are interested and I will send you all the info and put you in touch directly with one of the amazing F5 Escapes girls. For a very convenient price you can witness and experience the best that India has to offer and I am sure will be amazed by this incredible country.

5 FACTS ABOUT F5 ESCAPES: 

  • 3 years in operation
  • Incorporated in India as Zingara Solutions Pvt. Ltd
  • 250+ trusted vendor network across India for end to end logistics support
  • 600+ customers – Indians and expats
  • 100+ tours – groups and customized itineraries

See My India #3

A photo posted by See My India © (@see_my_india) on

THE F5 ADVANTAGES:

  • Experience with flights ticketing
  • Experience handling international women travellers
  • Good industry connects for seamless end to end logistics
  • Local tour leads from different parts of India know their land like the back of their hand
  • Well-researched, destinations already executed with current set of women customers

THE TOUR

The Itinerary

  • 17nights/18days (departing in November / January / February and March)
  • Delhi – Agra – Amritsar – Dhramshala – Rajasthan – Kerala – Delhi
  • A glimpse of desert, Himalayas, beaches and backwaters at a moderate pace

If you wish to know more about the tour or F5 Escapes, please feel free to drop me an email to sabrina.andrea.sachs@gmail.com or leave me a comment below.
You can also check more of my Indian shot here and you are still in time to pre-order a copy of your “See My India”, a photo memoir of my travels there here.

Jaiselmer, Sleeping Under the stars

In the north-west of India, at the most remote corner of Rajasthan, almost on the border with Pakistan, sits a golden city that emerges out from the Thar desert like an oasis in the middle of the dunes. That city is called Jaisalmer and it is another remarkable fort-gifted town I visited during my travels there last month.

Here’s your

Creed guide to Jaisalmer 

COFFEE

City View Cafe
Address: Inside Fort Chougan Para, Jaisalmer, 345001, Raj India

Shiva Cafe

Excellent service and coffee, we stopped here for some refreshments and didn’t eat anything but everything is cooked with mineral water, so you should be fine. Oh, very happy staff!
Address: inside the fort, on top of Shiva guesthouse

 

Bhang Shop
Not actually coffee LOL, but it didn’t feel appropriate to put it in any other section of this guide 🙂 Bhang is a preparation of cannabis, frequently used in food and drinks in India and this shop is famous all over India or maybe the world for their bhang lassi and cookies. Take it easy! 🙂
Address: Fort Road, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer 345001, India

READ

Bhatia News agency on Court Road, but also the various book stalls in the fort.

Dhahran Book Store includes a little coffee shop at the back and wifi connection to check your latest purchase.

Rawasl Handicraft and Bookstore on Vyas Para, Fort, is another interesting place to browse for new books.

EXPLORE

Jaisalmer Fort
It wouldn’t be a proper Rajasthan city if it didn’t have its Fort, right? So, make sure to visit this one too! The interesting fact of this one is that unlikely others in the state, people still live here, in fact the fort has about 2000 residents, the majority of  which are Brahmins.

Havelis
Commissioned by wealthy and powerful men during the eighteen and nineteen centuries, Havelis are stunning houses built on the principle of Hawa (Air) and Veli (Ventilation), they normally have two open courtyards and elaborated artwork on the mughal pillars.

Camel Safari
If you came this far across India, it’s probably because you are looking for a camel safari or sleep under the stars. Well, you picked the right place as this is probably one of the best and starrier sky in the whole world and if you avoid touts, scams and big organised tourists’ groups, you might even have a fantastic night in the desert.
In fact, me and my friend had a bespoke tour of the desert, we ate in the pitch dark food that had been cooked there in front of us on a fire and later we had the whole desert as our own bedroom as you can see from the pictures below! Leave the fuss of the tends and comfort for one night, just sleep in the wild!
I highly, highly recommend the tour organised by the accommodation that hosted me, (see the DREAM section below) and get in touch with me via email if you wish to be put in touch.

Gadsar Lake
This is probably one of my favourite places in Rajasthan and maybe India. It’s incredibly peaceful and it offers so many great opportunities for incredible pictures, like this one or the below.
In the past, this “little” lake acted as a reservoir that controlled the entire supply of water to Jaisalmer.

Pushkarna Trust Sunset Point
Just outside Jaisalmer, it’s a great place to watch the sun going down and painting the golden city in orange and red, but also to walk around the ruins and maybe chill under one of the many cenotaphs enjoying the incredible view.

EAT

Monica
Very calm, terraced restaurant that serves Rajasthani and tandoori dishes and several veg and non-veg challis.
Address: Near the Fort Gate

Midtown Restaurant
Very, very simple terraced restaurant, with basic decoration and setting, but excellent food and smiley staff. Bonus point is the view over the square where you can spy merchants making business or kids coming back from school. Excellent spot for some street photography without being noticed.
Address: Gopa Chowk, opposite to Bhang Shop 

DREAM

The foundations of Jaisalmer fort, built on a base of soft clay, sand and sandstone, are rapidly eroding due to the increases in water consumption related to tourism. Due to some drainage issues, during peak season some of the water comes back into surface and hits the foundations[read more here]

People died in 1998 and few more bastions fell in 2000 and 2001, for this reasons Jaisalmer is now listed among the World Monument Fund’s 100 Most Endangered Sites and as an eco-traveller as I consider myself, I decided (like many other conscious tourists do) to book an accommodation outside the fort.

I couldn’t have found a better hotel to host me during my stay in Jaisalmer.  In fact, The Gulaag Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel built in the traditional architecture of old hovels, including open courtyards and intricate sculptural work on each column.

It has twelve luxury rooms, eight deluxe rooms and four grand suites.

It includes a refreshing swimming pool and SPA as well as a rooftop restaurant that specialise in Rajasthani cousin as well as a few international dishes.

Address: in front of Nagar Praishad, Bera Road, Jaisalmer 345001

Gallery

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.

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.

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