Gallery: intriguingly incomparable India
Picture India, and you are quite likely picturing Rajasthan. A land of ruined fortresses and long-abandoned palaces whose stones speak evocatively of past maharajas. A desert land where rural life is tough and little-changed over the centuries, yet vibrant and full of colour. A land whose people know how to celebrate and how to welcome strangers.
Udaipur, Rajasthan’s city of lakes
Udaipur’s setting in the Aravalli Mountains, and around a string of man-made lakes, gives it a unique character among Rajasthan’s cities. Arriving here it is immediately obvious why it is so often called the ‘city of lakes’.
Gallery: the friendly people of Khimsar
Around a 450 year old fort on the edge of the Thar Desert a small town has grown up, consisting of little more than a market, some shops and a bus station. These serve the surrounding rural community and those who work in the fort, which is today is both home to the Thakurs, former rulers of the Kingdom of Khimsar, who built it, and also a heritage hotel.
Tiger, Tiger, burning bright …
Like just about everyone else who visits, we came to Ranthambore with the aim of seeing tigers. And Ranthambore is all about the tigers. Every conversation you have here is guaranteed to start with ‘Did you see any tigers?’ The answer is quite likely to be yes, although there are, as ever with wildlife, no guarantees ...
Friendly Friday: meet a young tightrope walker in Jaisalmer
Perched on the top of Trikuta Hill, Jaisalmer’s honey coloured fort rises above the city like a giant sandcastle. This is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan, one of the largest in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and almost unique in India in being still inhabited.
Gallery: La Vie en Rose in Rajasthan
The fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, ‘Pink is the navy blue of India’ and in Rajasthan I certainly saw why she would say that. Everywhere we went the women were dressed in the most gorgeous shades of that colour. Among all the wonderful colours that I remember from our time there, it is pink – a shocking pink – that stands out.
Meeting the locals in Narlai, Rajasthan
The village of Narlai in Rajasthan would be completely off the tourist track were it not for the hotel that has been created in the former hunting lodge of Jodhpur’s royal family. It is a small village which faces some of the same challenges as rural communities everywhere. Its population is declining as younger people drift away, tempted by big city life and its wider opportunities.
Chaumukha Mandir, the four-faced temple of Ranakpur
On a wooded hillside in the Aravalli range of hills in Rajasthan, north of Udaipur, is an exquisite Jain temple, intricately carved in white marble, Ranakpur. It has a cool serenity, its pale stone a welcome contrast to the vivid colours and assault on the senses that is India.
Tales of death in Jaisalmer and beyond
Deep in the Thar Desert in the far west of Rajasthan is a golden city. A fairy tale fort sits on a ridge overlooking the town, still home to many families whose houses cluster within its sheltering walls. I loved Jaisalmer's remoteness, its border-town mentality, and the beauty of its golden architecture. And I enjoyed the personal stories of life (and death) as told by our Brahmin guide Gaurav.
A warm welcome in the Thar Desert
Nothing makes you feel more welcome in a country than to be invited into someone's home, however humble. And language is no barrier to connecting with a friendly hostess and her curious children.