#AdventuresOfAnthro: Off to India with @elliebullen

June 20, 2018

Ellie Bullen’s life is an unabashedly vibrant one. After growing up and studying nutrition in Australia, she moved to the island of Bali – an epically beautiful home base that she uses as a launching pad for her travels around the globe. Readers look to Ellie’s blog, Elsa’s Wholesome Life (a cookbook by the same name was published last summer), for healthful, plant-based recipes and lifestyle tips; she inspires hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers as @elliebullen and @elsas_wholesomelife.

“This all started as just a hobby, just to do something creative,” she says. “But it took off.” Her posts are bursting with tropical vistas and lush tablescapes. And yes, we’re jealous, too.

Last month, Ellie traveled to Udaipur and Jaipur. Both cities are in the state of Rajasthan in northwestern India, and each is defined by a particularly vibrant hue. Udaipur, the “City of Lakes,” gleams and glistens with blues, while Jaipur is known for its rosy-hued facades. The entire city was painted shades of terracotta blush, a symbol of hospitality, to welcome visiting British monarchs in the 1800s. Today, a walk around Jaipur’s walled historic center showcases a beautiful uniformity. It’s a pink paradise.

However, the cities were anything but monochrome. As she wandered, Ellie spotted pops of seafoam, coral, and lemon. “There’s every color, everywhere,” she says. “The buildings, the walls, but also the way the women dress. Their saris are beautiful. In India, they’ll decorate old trucks and cars. They just love color.”

Here, Ellie offers some tips for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse.

The Packing List
Afternoon temps in Rajasthan often top 100 degrees (!) in the summer. “Everything I wore was loose and flowy,” says Ellie, who matched her stunning surroundings in our Antigua Pants, Farm Rio Toucan Maxi Dress, Abby Petite Maxi Dress, and Josephine Wrapped Maxi Dress.

In Rajasthan, a more modest dress code prevails – both men and women cover their arms and legs when they’re out and about. “When I went out exploring, I tried to keep my knees and shoulders covered to respect the culture there,” she says, with pieces like the Stonington Wide Legs and the Anastasia Embroidered Peasant Top.

Where to Stay
In Jaipur, Ellie got plenty of R&R at the Samode Palace hotel. “It’s about an hour’s drive from the city center, so it was nice and quiet. They told us you can sometimes see wild panthers from the pool area.” In Udaipur, she says, you can’t beat the Taj Lake Palace hotel, built in the middle of one of the city’s five lakes.

How to Get Around
Among the vehicles Ellie encountered: cars, bikes, motorbikes, scooters, and rickshaws—a sort of small, three-wheeled taxi cart. She also noticed some unexpectedly non-vehicular transit. “I saw a man riding a camel through a roundabout,” she says. “There are also cows wandering across the streets, and because the animals are sacred there, everyone slams on the brakes.” In short, hire a cab or a rickshaw and leave the driving to the locals.

What to See
In Jaipur, make the centuries-old City Palace your first stop. Inside its grand walls, you’ll find room after room of gorgeous art and architecture. Then, catch a sunset at the Nahargarh Fort. “The fort overlooks the city from a hill,” says Ellie. “The view is incredible.” Udaipur also has stunningly ornate palaces, but for a breath of nature, tour one (or a few) of its picturesque lakes on a boat cruise.

What to Eat
Ellie sticks to a plant-based diet, but since India’s mostly Hindu population means plenty of vegetarians, delicious options weren’t hard to find. “My favorite dish was chana masala, essentially chickpea curry,” she says. It’s so popular that, even when it wasn’t on the menu, chefs happily whipped it up for her.

What to Sip
One must-try is masala chai (masala means “spices”), a traditional Indian drink made with tea, herbs, and milk, or in Ellie’s case, soy milk. “I also drank a lot of fresh watermelon juice,” she says. “On the streets, there are stands just loaded with watermelons, mangoes, and bananas.”

Where to Shop
“Go to the open-air markets,” says Ellie. These lively bazaars sprinkled throughout both cities sell intricate silver jewelry, handmade shoes, and all kinds of textiles. “I bought a few beautiful purses made from Indian rugs, cut up and sewn together like patchwork.”

Follow all Ellie’s stylish adventures: @elliebullen, @elsas_wholesomelife, and Elsa’s Wholesome Life.