Virtual Journeys: The Cultural Heart of India
This week's virtual journey will take you to India's cultural heart, Rajasthan, where you'll get lost in the magic of this enchanting state's diverse history, rich heritage, iconic architecture and striking landscapes. Discover a true taste of the majesty of the destination - from Old Delhi's lively streets to the romantic palaces of the Pink City of Jaipur, Jodhpur's charming blue houses to the rugged sand dunes of the Thar desert, then spending your final nights floating on Udaipur's glittering fairy-tale-like Lake Pichola.
Eat & Drink
After a stopover in Delhi, you’ll spend two nights at Alila Fort Bishangarh, a former 18th century warriors fort on the edge of Jaipur, perched high in the Aravalli mountains and transformed into beautiful, boutique hotel. After an activity-day filled exploring nearby Amber Fort, meeting artisans in local rural village Bishangarh, horse-riding in the dunes or cooking with locals, why not sip on a soul-warming chai tea as you enjoy blissful sunset views over the secluded hillside?
Warming Chai Tea
- 2 cardamom pods
- 2 black pepper corns
- 2 cloves
- 5g fresh ginger
- 300ml boiling water
- 3 tsp of strong tea (e.g. Assam)
- 150ml full-fat milk
- Sugar to taste
- Crush the cardamom pods, black peppercorns and to cloves to create the spice blend.
- Add the ginger to the boiling water, boil for one minute, and then add the tea and turn the heat down.
- Add the milk, boil on high for another minute then add the spice blend.
- Boil for about one minute more until the mixture turns brown, then take it off the heat, filter the tea through a strainer, add sugar to taste, and serve.
You tour continues through Jaipur, Chhatrasagar, Jodhpur and its surrounding desert ending in Udaipur where you’ll stay at the unique Taj Lake Palace, the former summer palace of the Maharaja of Udaipur, a jewel floating in the middle of Lake Pichola. Glamorous and opulent style radiates through this heritage hotel and the discreet staff will ensure you are treated like the royalty that lived here before. Hop on a water taxi to the city or simply soak in the panoramic views of it from your decadently designed suite. Dine al fresco around the central courtyard’s lily ponds sampling a traditional Thali meal including a fresh, flavourful Kachumber.
- 450 g good-quality, ripe baby plum tomatoes or sweet cherry tomatoes (the key to this recipe is that they are as ripe as possible)
- 6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tbs lemon juice
6 tbs olive oil
- 3/4 tsp chilli flakes
- Pinch of salt
- a small bunch of finely chopped coriander
- Wash the tomatoes and chop them into very small cubes. Place in a serving bowl and put aside.
- Add the chopped shallots to the tomatoes then the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and chilli flakes, and stir together. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour minimum – the longer the better so the flavours really combine.
- Just before serving, stir in the coriander.
- Serve as a starter with warm naan bread or as part of a larger Indian feast.
*Kachumber will keep in the fridge for 2 days.
Lion – Film
‘Lion’ is based on the biographical novel ‘A Long Way Home’ by Saroo Brierley. After accompanying his older brother on a trip outside of his rural village – and the only place he knows - five-year-old Indian boy Saroo accidentally finds himself caught on an empty moving train, all alone, that takes hundreds of miles from home. Unable to find his way back, Saroo is forced to survive as a struggling street child, frequently escaping danger before he is taken to an orphanage and adopted by a loving Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, Saroo sets out to search for the family he unwittingly left behind.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Film
Seven British pensioners find themselves at the rundown Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, having seen it advertised as an exotic and luxurious retirement home. On finding the glowing potential seems to merely be a fantasy created by the hotel’s young manager, the group try to navigate their disappointment and the inadequacies of the hotel, alongside learning to live in an unfamiliar culture. Soon, however, they become enchanted by their unexpected surroundings and find that if you let go of the past, you can discover new life and new loves. A heart-warming and humorous story with a star-studded cast.
The Darjeeling Limited - Film
The story of three brothers with a turbulent relationship who take a trip together across India by rail in an attempt to rebuilt their familial bond after the accidental death of their father. Through the experiences they have together, they go from arguing and resenting each other to resolving their past issues, all against a backdrop of the beauty of India and its people. Wonderfully eccentric, and as quirky and colourful as you'd expect a Wes Anderson film to be.
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
A novel based on Forster’s own experiences in India of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. When Adela Quested and her elderly travel companion Mrs Moore journey to the Indian town of Chandrapore, they are instantly aware of the narrow-minded Anglo-Indian influence within society and that, as a result, they are not experiencing ‘true’ India. They enlist well-respected local physician, Dr Aziz, to help them discover the real country however this leads to a misunderstanding during a tour he organises to the Marabar Caves that ends up embroiling Dr Aziz in scandal. A tale that raises tensions between race, class and privilege in India’s colonial era.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Set in India in 1975, A Fine Balance is the story of four strangers who are unexpectedly thrown together when the government declares a ‘State of Emergency’ as a consequence of political unrest. Widowed Dina Dalal takes in a young student and two tailors who have been uprooted from their homes into her tiny, rundown apartment. Together they struggle through their new shared life initially mistrusting each other to eventually becoming a family of sorts in spite of their differences in class, background and religion. A book that shows human heart and spirit amidst cruelty and corruption.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
This epic novel tells the story Australian ex-con and former heroin addict, Lin, who having escaped from prison in his home country, flees to India on a fake passport. Lin’s Indian reinvention involves living in one of Mumbai’s poorest slums where he starts a free health clinic, a stint in the Bollywood film industry, unrequited love, fighting in a war that is not his own and joining the Bombay mafia whose boss Khader Khan becomes his mentor and spiritual guru. Based on the author’s own encounter with the underworld of Mumbai, Shantaram offers a fascinating portrayal of an India that’s simultaneously seductive and chaotic, and the mesmerizing journey the protagonist takes within it.
A.R. Rahman – Score for Slumdog Millionaire
One of India’s most eminent contemporary musicians, A.R. Rahman has composed songs, jingles and scores for many Indian films and television programmes along with personal albums. Though internationally famous before, he is best known for composing the score of Danny Boyle’s 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire for which he won two Academy Awards.
Pandit Ravi Shankar – Music of India
Ravi Shankar is a prolific Bengali musician who popularised Indian music around the world with his hauntingly beautiful melodies. A master of the art of sitar playing, he taught The Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison how to play, as well as influencing many other musicians globally.
Panjabi MC – The Raj
Anglo-English music producer, artist and DJ, Rajinder Singh Rai, better known by stage name Panjabi MC has made his name paying tribute to his Punjabi roots through his music, modernising traditional bhangra by mixing it with elements of garage, hip hop and electronic sounds. His 1998 hit song ‘Mundian to Bach Ke’ was a global hit, endorsed by Jay-Z and one of the best-selling singles of all time. His signature combination of authentic Indian beats with mainstream music is prevalent in his 10th studio album ‘The Raj’.
Luxury destination spa & wellness retreat, Ananda in the Himalayas, located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India is offering live virtual wellbeing sessions such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness on their Instagram. Follow them @anandainthehimalayas to experience a multi award-winning wellness experience from your own home.