19th March 2019
WF's Tara, from our US office, recently travelled to India as part of our Rajasthan: Taj, Temples & Tigers tour to get her first taste of India. In her 'Just back from...' she describes her favourite moments, activities and some handy advice.
Our amazing female local guide delighted us with a breath-taking view from the ramparts of Chittorgargh. The living fort stretched out below us, and in the distance the city, fertile lands and mountains rolled onwards to the horizon. The best part of all - there were no other souls in sight (a rarity in India as you can imagine); it felt like we were granted a special access pass!
Every meal was delectable in Rajasthan; I really enjoyed the rich flavour profiles and emphasis on using seasonable vegetables. For me the aloo gobi comes out on top, which is a dish made of potatoes, cauliflower and spices such as turmeric and curry powder. I am salivating just thinking about it!
I absolutely loved Juna Mahal in Sawai Madhopur (near Ranthambore National Park). The property is a delightful fusion of new and old; although it has only been open for a few years it is designed with old royal architectural sensibilities in mind. I loved the lush foliage, Mughal influences and swimming pool
Walking around the village of Bhenswara was an unforgettable experience. During this leisurely walk we paid a visit to a Jain temple, were welcomed into locals’ homes, and really got a feel for village life (barbershops, street games, jewellers and waving children). Our visit to the local Hindu temple was the icing on the cake; we were welcomed into the complex with open arms as locals celebrated Mahashivaratri (a celebration of Shiva). At one point I looked around and realized that each of our group members were in different areas of the temple interacting with the local worshippers, all with beaming faces and plentiful laughs.
Getting up-close and personal with Noori the Bengal tiger at Ranthambore National Park was one of the most incredible travel moments I have ever had. I was stunned!
Each city has wonderful hand-crafted goods on offer. Agra is known for its marble and I took home some lovely marble boxes for gifts. However, I think my favorite “take away” might just be my beautiful henna body art from a local girl in Bijaipur!
Don’t be afraid to mingle and chat with the locals – everyone we encountered was so friendly and open. Also, we learned from our guide that the best way to avoid getting followed by souvenir hawkers is to simply not respond (even a “no” or a “not interested” is likely to make them continue with their sales pitches), whereas they leave you alone if they get no response.
The only regret is the sheer number of photos I took… it is taking me quite a while to go through them. India is a photographer’s dream!