[ WHEN CF CARDS GO WRONG ] Lumbini, Nepal

You may be wondering why I’ve just posted multiple photos of Buddhist prayer flags – not very enlightening you may think – and you would be right. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) my cameras’ compact flash card decided that it would throw up these double exposure style alternatives to what had, at the time, appeared on my lcd screen. Annoying it may be, but with such an interesting accidental effect created (very unusual for digital format) I thought I might share some of them with you. I’d love to know what you think!



Yesterday, after nearly four months in India, I finally crossed the border into Nepal. Yessss!! Don’t get me wrong, I loved India, but it was, err, very hard work. I’m looking forward to a bit of relaxing time before heading off to China in two weeks, so where better to start than Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha and ‘Centre for World Peace’. Ahhh.


[ GOODBYE INDIA ] Sunauli, Uttar Pradesh

Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu
Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Jaipur, Rajasthan
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

Resourceful, resolute, devout yet unwary, collectivist yet self serving. India, for me, will always remain a nation of totally baffling juxtapositions. But the one thing that I think has struck me so plainly here is that Indians value personal appearances, almost always, over, well, pretty much everything else. You only have to look at the heavily embellished and embroidered clothing adorning hoards of women who sit passively on the stoops of their slum shacks, the dark kohl pencil lining the dark eyes of their 6 month old children, the perfectly tied turbans, the precision cut hairlines of men leaving roadside barber shacks and the scrupulous colour coordinating of the ever important bangle. So, for me and my four months of experience in India, I can offer you this one last summary of my experience in this brilliant multifaceted country...

 India: an outwardly dispirited backdrop of crumbling, dilapidated, hardship stricken grey reawakened by an exotic and ceremonious explosion of eye-poppingly brilliant, sensory overloading colour.  

Goodbye India!
Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
To see more photos of Wandering Threads in India visit the India set on Flickr


[ SHOP WHILE YOU SIP ] Open Hand Cafe, Varanasi

After three and a half months of mediocre instant coffee I leapt at the thought of sipping a proper cappucino when my boyfriend suggested I take a break from this weeks slog of freelance projects, and head down the street to the Open Hand Cafe near Varanasi's Assi Ghat. Having seen the name crop up a number of times around India in ye old Lonely Planet, I'm delighted I finally made a visit to one.
Open Hand's concept is that of a boutique coffee house where you can peruse the shelves for fairtrade, artisanal handicrafts whilst waiting for your mocha and banana nut muffin. In a country where bartering a fair price for goods that are often of debatable quality, Open Hand is essentially a tourist haven. Thoughtfully furnished and decorated with an array of beautiful hand spun silk shawls, cushion covers and bedspreads, its cosy 'contemporary ethnic' feel makes a welcome retreat from the crazy, traffic clogged streets of Varanasi...


[ COLOURFUL MADNESS ] Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi has to be one of the dirtiest places I’ve ever encountered. I have to say I’m glad this is my last stop in India, not due to the myriad of smells wafting off of cows, dead bodies and coal fires, making this overpopulated city is so damn crazy, but because it has been one of the high points of this four month trip. Why? Because of its absolutely breathtaking, otherworldly appeal, It's ability to shock, wow, anger, frustrate, excite, upset, and provoke a strange fondness all in one day.

Thriving off the waters of holy ‘Mother Ganga’, the millions of inhabitants of Varanasi come to its banks to bathe, pray, watch, float, work and even die (yes there were definitely some dead bodies floating down that river). Perhaps, if I were to be so bold, I may even pronounce that this enchanting yet often foul and potentially health threatening (!) city of Varanasi is the REAL INDIA. The juxtaposition of grime and dirt against the vivid hues of sunset orange of the holly men and the vermillion red, paisley printed saris of the ladies doing their daily laundry on the ghats is enough to satisfy anyone's lens, even if the monsoon seasons complete lack of decent light renders your photos a little, well, standard. 

Check out the guy in his USA flag printed towel - even surrounded by all the oddities of Varanasi, even he still manages to stand out (just like our Japanese friends at the Taj!).



[ JAPANESE FANCY ] Taj Mahal, Agra

Agra, Taj, Taj Mahal from back, India,

Once referred to by Rabindranath Tagore as 'a teardrop on the face of eternity', iconic in its white marble purity, you think of India, you think of the Taj Mahal. You think back to all those stunning images of the pristine white Taj set against a background of sapphire blue sky and you sigh with appreciation for its beauty, longing to set eyes upon this wondrous sight just once in your lifetime. You wake up at 5.30am, ready to see the sunrise behind the Taj, a moment shared with but a few other early risers. You jump eagerly out of bed, look out the window....and yes you guessed it, its raining! 

Japanese fancy, Japan meets India, Japanese girls in saris, Taj Mahal sari, Agra
So that was my experience of the Taj, as you can probably guess I was pretty peeved having bused it all the way out to Agra. Typical. Here's a tip: don't visit India in the monsoon season! However, every down has its ups, and I found mine at the front of the Taj in the shape of two very pretty Japanese girls who had thought it only right to dress for the occasion. Check out their coordinating printed saris! Later I saw one of their male companions walk past in a very regal looking Indian costume. 

Click below to see more images from inside the Taj and around.


[ WITH LOVE FROM TIBET ] McLeod Ganj, India

Down the hill from McLeod Ganj lies the Secretariat of the Tibetan Government in Exile and of course, the residence of his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Decorating the outer walls of the Library complex are these brightly coloured examples of Buddhist art. Directly above you can see a bhavacakra, a painted, symbolic representation of saṃsāra (cyclic existence)) and if you click on the link below you will also find some examples of the Buddhist Wheel of Life. Hopefully these will give you a little breather from all the Indian aesthetics I've been bombarding this blog with up until now, as well as a little taster of what is to come from Nepal where I shall be heading in just over a week!


[ A MELANGE OF COLOUR ] Golden Temple Amritsar, Punjab

This post is a little late, since I ventured up to Amritsar a few days ago, before my stop up here in McLeod Gangj. Forgive my slow editing/uploading, for I have been once again struck down with the dreaded Indian food poisoning (that's now twice in one month!). I just couldn't bear not to share these images with you as the sight and experience of this place was truly remarkable. These images were all taken at the famous Golden Temple in Amritsar. According to 'The Book', aka Lonely Planet, it is to Sikhs what Mecca is to Muslims. Contrasting colours could be found everywhere, from the orange of the holy men's robes to the mélange of vibrant dastaar's (Sikh turbans) and saris. 


[ AN INDIAN SUMMER ] Jewellery by Free People

Right now I'm sitting cooped up in a rather damp hotel room up in McLeod Gangj (location of the Dalai Lama in Exile), Northen India, Himachal Pradesh to be precise. Its cold, its ridiculously wet (it hasn't stopped raining for more than 30 minutes in 4 days) and quite frankly I need to think warm thoughts. Thankfully my savior has come in the form of Free People's new Indian Summer jewellery collection. Evidently this is exactly my kind of jewellery, its Indian inspired for starters and its tarnished silver-bronze finish seems to glint at me (yes even from my computer screen) like some ethnic treasure should. I would do anything to get my hands on some of these chunky stone set rings such as the signet topped, turquoise, coral, amber, agate and opal set Saldana Chunk Ring, but since I'm stuck in what feels like a cloud, I may just have to do with the Tibetan alternatives stocked at the markets up here in Mcleod. 



[ PARADE POMP ] India-Pakistan Border

This evening I battled the monsoon rains to travel to the very ends of India (ok slight exaggeration) to witness what I was told to be a rather peculiar display of military spectacle, and spectacle I did find. Arriving at the India-Pakistan border 30km west of Amritsar I came upon what can only be described as a Monty Python-esque performance of goosestepping pomp, finely accessorised with these wonderful fan-wafer turbans! Every day at around 6pm these rather flamboyantly clad officals parade up and down the borer strip in front of hundreds of very patriotic Indians (and a gaggle of bemused foreigners) in a theatrical closing of the border ceremony with their Pakistani neighbours. I'm a bit of a sucker for uniforms, I find their varying assemblies and rank motifs or badges fascinating (I even wrote an entire dissertation on said topic at St Martins). Think it odd you may, but look at all the designers who have pulled inspiration from military uniforms: Temperley, Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Derek Lam, Collette Dinnigan... the list goes on


[ ETHNIC LUXURY ] Scarves by Etro

ethnic luxury, bohemian luxury, ethnic style, ethnic inspired fashion, Indian prints,

Did I mention my obsession with scarves? No? Well, I have at least 20 of them (ok, so 20 that I actually wear/can find), most of them handmade and originating from far off lands such as Thailand, India, Kenya, Russia (the background of this blog is none other than my beloved Russian scarf, bought back from St Petersburg by my lovely Ballet Russes obsessed friend Imogen), the list goes on. I rarely leave the house without a scarf and some big dangley earrings (cue the inner gypsy in me). So now I'm in India and there are not only scarves, but paisley printed scarves, EVERYWHERE (especially here in Pushkar)! Lucky for me they are all at a fraction of the price of these beautiful cashmere SS'11 Etro scarves, but what I wouldn't give to get my hands on one of these beauties (although I'm not sure they'd last the wear and tear of a year in Asia). If you've got a spare bit of dosh lying around, I would highly recommend snapping up one of these. Not only are they designed by such a wonderfully bohemian luxury brand, instantly making them investment pieces, they can also be tied, draped, wrapped, or hung in a myriad of ways, giving them ultimate accessory appeal! I love Etro. Yes. I. Do!




Wandering Style, Gypsy Finds, Rajasthan, India
Ethnic Style, Gypsy, Rajasthan, Indian textiles
Pushkar shopping, Rajasthani style, Indian embroidery
Indian applique, vintage, rajasthani gypsy blouse, mirrorwork
handmade Indian mirrorwork gypsy blouse I have been waiting weeks to show everyone this amazing antique gypsy blouse that I found hiding on a back shelf of a bazaar over in Jaipur. Finally, today, in the light drenched alleyways of Pushkar, I had a little bit of spare time to don said gypsy item and prance around in full view of hoards of school kids and sniggering restaurateurs (embarrassing much?). The Rajasthani gypsies are famous for their elaborate mirrored blouses and lengha combo's (Lengha Choli), and if you're lucky enough you'll find a few brightly clad folk traveling around India selling such wears, just like the ladies I came across in Hampi (here). To see some close ups of this beautiful blouse, follow this thread below or click here. 



[ ACCESSIBLE ETHNIC ] Asos Patchwork Mirrored Bag

ASOS Premium Patchwork Mirrored Ethnic Bag With Leather Handle £45

I'm rather lucky to be trawling the bustling bazaars of Rajasthan for handmade mirrored, embroidered and sequined accessories at very far from UK prices, but for those of you stuck back in the rainy, cold UK (sorry, I just had to get that in there) who like what you've been seeing here for the past few weeks but aren't lucky enough to be able to jump on a plane to India for a shopping trip (or enough pennies to pick up an Antik Batik alternative as seen here), I've found you a very accessible alternative! ASOS are currently selling this beautiful mirrored, patchwork bag. Perfect for that bohemian summer vibe. Snap one up for £45 - it's no 300 rupees but, hey, at least your saving yourself a couple hundred on a plane ticket!



[ BIZARRE BAZAARS ] Pushkar, India

So it seems the holy town of Pushkar in eastern Rajasthan (supposedly the place in which Brahma dropped a lotus flower on the earth) has cashed in on its popularity. A destination for foreigner and Indians alike, Pushkar is a favorite on the traveler/pilgrim trail for witnessing the, often very peculiar, acts of Hindu worship. Priests with dreadlocks, holy men swathed from head to toe in orange and a lot of flower petal accompanied dipping in the many ghats, Pushkar is one 'interesting' place, and its not just the scamming 'holy men' that will make you part with your money. Feast your eyes on this array of dazzling bazaar finds: from piles of pendants to mirror work bags, camel leather wallets and patchwork cushion covers. There's something for every ethnically obsessed traveler in Pushkar. 
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