Colour, people, energy, exhaustion, beauty, religion, cows, flowers, rubbish… just a few of the words that spring to mind when I remember snapshots of Rajasthan.
This post comes from UK blogger Lucy Williams of Fashion Me Now
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India is a country of contrasts in the purest sense, and traveling in it brings a wealth of highs and lows like nowhere else. With over 1.2 billion people, India has the second largest population in the world and, when you’re in the mix of its crowded streets, vivid markets and frenetic villages, you can literally feel the weight of its people. Nowhere else will you see so many bright and beautiful colours on a daily basis; embroidered saris, flowers for the temple, painted trucks and tractors, and decorated camels. Nowhere else will you see cows and goats grazing in the middle of the motorway. Nowhere else will you find 5-star hotels next to open sewers and slums. Nowhere else will you see women riding side saddle on the back of scooters so gracefully while a barrage of car horns surround them. Nowhere else will you feel such a sense of magic and history from dawn to dusk.
From fast-paced cities to secluded desert camps, we covered 6 places in 13 days which involved a lot of long drives but an incredible bite-sized experience of a unique country. Here are a few of things I learnt while exploring.
- Pack for all climates. The evenings and mornings were definitely on the chilly side, especially when you head further north towards Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. I definitely didn’t take enough jumpers and longed for a pair of jeans and a warm jacket at times, while the days were always sunny and warm.
- Cover up. In respect for local culture, cover shoulders and down to calves. At this time of year, the heat isn’t oppressive, so long sleeves and light trousers were my go-to.
- Given the amount of time we were there, and places we wanted to cover, hiring a driver was our only option. Ours cost around £400 for 12 days. This covers the driver’s accommodation while you’re staying at hotels too. We became experts at sleeping in the car and did a few 6 A.M starts in order to maximise our time in each destination. Download plenty of podcasts and audiobooks for the long journeys and settle in.
Shop responsibly and compassionately. Haggling is the done thing (they say go down to a third of what they originally propose) so barter in a friendly, easy way to get good deals and avoid stores at the entrances to tourist-hotspots like forts and palaces. While getting a fair price is important, I feel like not being an asshole is important too. If you find yourself arguing over a £1 (100 rupees) for something beautiful that you want, take a moment to remember the exchange rate and what it means to the vendor vs. what it means to you.
- The infamous ‘Delhi belly’ is unpredictable but definitely unpleasant. To avoid getting ill, follow the basics…eat in busy, recommended restaurants, carry and use hand sanitizer and stick strictly to bottled water (for brushing teeth too). Take a course of probiotics before you go to give your body a head start and pack plenty of medicine just in case.
- There are many ways to do India, from the most basic hostels to palace-like accommodations that cost upwards of £600 a night. For the most part, we fell somewhere in the middle, opting for boutique boltholes that offered more than just a bed for the night. From the loveliest family-run guesthouse in Jaipur to a design-hotel with a pool in Jodhpur, we found having somewhere welcoming, clean and comfortable to go back to at the end of the day a real must.
- We organised our own itinerary and didn’t hire a guide anywhere, which suited us perfectly. Research the key sites of cities to do (or not do as the case may be), and just hire an audio guide at palaces and forts. This way you have more freedom to wander, explore and veer off the tourist track, make sure you take the time to walk around and see places on foot.
Free People is always one place I turn to for holiday bits this time of year. I know that when other places don’t deliver, I can rely on FP to offer up all the beach dresses, oversized shirts, flares and spaghetti straps a wanderer could want. So this is exactly what I did before heading off to India last month!
Fast-paced and frantic, this little pocket of blue is nestled under one of the best forts in Rajasthan. Apparently painted blue to ward off mosquitoes, it feels like an export from Aladdin, full of winding streets, spice-filled markets and stores laden with antiques. There are very few times you can get away with wearing an oversized shirt and nothing else, but in the frenetic heat of an Indian city it feels like the dream thing to throw on and take on day in.
From Jodhpur we travelled north west to the Agra desert and the walled city of Jaisalmer. Brisk, icy nights followed by sun-drenched days made this one of my favourite bits of the trip. The landscape was totally different to the rest of Rajasthan and being out in the middle of nowhere, driving through the remotest farming villages on our way to the dunes, felt like the perfect antidote after the hectic pace of the rest of India. There was no better place to live out all my Out of Africa sartorial fantasies too. Scarf, wide brim hat and the stripy duo of dreams, the outback of India suddenly felt very old Hollywood.
Lucy’s previews exclusive outfits from the January Collection. Shop the FP Endless Summer Collection here for all our winter sun favorites!