By Estee Le Grange
For anyone thinking of travelling to India, Mumbai could be one of your places of entry. Beautifully situated in the middle of the country, and with both a national and international airport, it allows easy access to other states. Mumbai also has so much magic of its own.
I stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on recommendation by a good friend and the only thing that I was disappointed by was that I didn’t choose to spend more time. Here’s what you’ll be able to experience and some recommendations of my own.
You’ll need to book online. I used an app called Kayak or Trivago that does a pricewatch for you and alerts of any price drops or increases. I had a day to book and found a good deal. When I got to the hote,l I was offered an upgrade for a small additional fee. Take the use grade, and I will elaborate later why I recommend taking the upgrade.
As I drove into the foyer of the hotel, our bonnet and boot were opened and examined for any danergous items. I was asked to go through something similar to airport security, walked through a metal detector and my bags were scanned the same way they are at an airport. This is quite normal in bigger establishments in India. I had the same checks at the shopping malls and other official spaces. I suggest you see it as extra precautions taken to ensure that you are safe. This might seem a bit odd to be reading in a travel blog but I feel it good that you’re aware as security measures did feel slightly strange to me at first.
The welcome at the Taj Mahal is so gracious and elegant. One is blessed with an Indian blessing and you really experience a royal welcome. I was upgraded to the palace wing and I stayed on the top floor overlooking the hotel garden. I chose this so I could fully experience the hotel, there are also city views and sea views available, so decide your preferred view and make that request when you check-in, depending on your preference at the time.
I loved the room I chose. I had every bit of splendour I could ask for. I checked in abnormally late at night, after 11pm, having flown in from Kerala. My front-of-house person took every bit of care to tell me about all the facilites available to me with my upgrade. I’ve stated a few things my upgraded availed to me below.
I could enjoy chocolate and cognac at 9pm, a splendid breakfast layout in the sea lounge or pool area (breakfast is not included with some online offers, please check carefully when booking) a tour of the hotel which everyone should do, light drinks and snacks from the lounge and high tea at around 4pm. These free activities around the hotel embrace the royal sense of India and are a full day’s worth of a tour on their own, in the most elegant manner.
Why the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel? The service is built on a platform of elegance. Upon entering my room, my butler did everything I could ask for to make me feel at home, the porter cut my airport tags off my bags and I’m sure if I needed them to hang my garments, they’d do it elegantly. The slogan of the hotel is “an elegance you can feel” or something along those lines, and you really really do feel it.
Given my elation with the hotel’s service, I also chose to be chauffeured around Mumbai to visit 12-15 of the tourist attractions. Now consider a chauffeured Mercedes with free Wi-Fi and snacks in a car driven elegantly (a huge commodity in India where almost everyone is a hell driver) and it worked about to about the same price as a tour would cost. The driver knew each spot and stopped so I could enjoy each place at my leisure, my favourites were Mahatma Gandhi’s house, it tells a story of his life and the staircases hold pictures of his time in South Africa. I also loved the spaces where millions of pieces of laundry are washed each day, and the Jain temple with its splendid and intricate silver artwork. My driver’s name was Subash and when I tried to tip him he hesitated, this was his commitment to serving selflessly, the Indian philosophy. Please tip generously anyways, it will still cost less than a normal 4-hour city tour.
Safely back from my tour I experienced the tour of the hotel. Built in the 1800’s with splendour and only the best in mind the walls ooze this sense. You feel it as you’re transported through different wings, the pool area, many ballrooms and a wonderful surprise at the end of the beautiful hallways , an enchanting art gallery, the whole hotel holds pieces of art both classic and contemporary and I could spend another whole day just walking the many hallways to experience and admire them.
At afternoon tea which is a must-do for all ‘The Who’s Who’ in Mumbai, please try those treats that look safe and recognizable but also all the lovely Indian treats and delight your taste buds. I loved so many things about high tea, which was my send off as I needed to leave to airport. I loved the pianist who played many classics. It was so mesmerizing for me, especially because the last song I heard before checking out was ‘Autumn Leave’s which is special to me, being the last song my dad sang on our last call before he died in 2007. I also loved all the traditional sweets available, please try them, you’ll be delighted. And I was pleasantly surprised to see a chef serving a popular street food in Mumbai, pani-puri. Directly translated, it means water cracker. It’s a wonderfully spicy Indian consommé topped with condiments and an absolutely must do. I happened to have some on the streets of Mumbai and asked for a not-so-spicy option where they added no chillies and yet, it was playfully tasteful.
Then check-out which was again filled with grace and elegance. And one gets a little gift which spans back many centuries in Indian family tradition. I won’t spoil the surprise. What I love most about the experience is that the elegance I experienced is so contagious that it has now grown onto me and become part of my own way of being.
I would recommend, that anyone looking for a little experience of elegance stays at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. It really is a little piece of elegance.