India - Taj Mahal Palace Hotel Mumbai
Quite Possibly the Most Beautiful Hotel in the World
Yes, I've said it. Quite a statement isn't it? We visited Mumbai in December 2015 and fell in love with the city, along with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. I've already done a post on our Mumbai wanderings, showing pictures from around the Mumbai (Bombay).
However, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel deserves a post of its own. Imagine snaking through the city, past the hustle and bustle, the trees, the people, the tuks-tuks, the food stalls. You arrive at the Gateway to India, its arches directing your gaze far across the Arabian sea towards the shores of Oman. There at the edge of the city stands the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the sun gleaming off the domes and palace-like spires. Inside, weary travellers can enter an oasis, a sanctuary from the city.
Built in 1903 by Jamsetji Tata, the architecture is something of its own. In fact, the style has the name 'Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture', an inter-twining of British, gothic, Indian, and Indo-Islamic styles. In fact, if you closed your eyes and imagined what one of these styles might look like, and opened them, you would surely see your dreams represented somewhere in the Taj Mahal Palace. Many think it was designed by British architect WA Chambers, but in fact when you look at the original planning documents, you see that they are signed by Indian architect Raosaheb Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya. No wonder the styles merge together like a melting pot of cultures!
There are daily tours of the hotel (for guests), where one can wander around the many hallways, rooms, reception areas, and learn about the history of the Mumbai and the hotel. This was one of my most favourite parts of our visit. You enter the hotel through one of many entryways and somehow the noise of the city dissapears behind you. Immediately the scent of fresh orchids wafts towards you, as you are given a flower necklace as a traditional Indian welcoming, with a red-dot tilak applied to your forehead. This magic spot is said to be the centre for wisdom and calm. I certainly was calm, enjoying the sounds of the birds chirping in the colonial-style courtyard, speaking with the amazing staff, and enjoying cold drinks by the pool.
We're not usually a couple to stay in a lavish hotel, we prefer smaller more personal experiences. However, this was one of the most special experiences of my life. We woke up in the morning and enjoyed breakfast in the great tea room, looking out over the harbour, watching the fisherman with their daily catch. Men and women passed in brightly coloured saris, with horse-drawn carriages riding up and down the main road, carrying tourists along. We peeked in and out of the hotel bars and restaurants, and I took a long bath in the marble tub. It really was heaven. After our one night rest, we dissapeared back into the city, just as if we'd left a sanctuary rejuvenated to start again. How fitting this was over the new year period, preparing for 2015.
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - we love you.