UNPACKING WELLNESS IN INDIA
Location: Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai
The Taj is wellbeing itself. It is a way of life. The day starts with, perhaps, yoga on the lawns of the huge walled garden, or an early swim; or perhaps a walk or run through local lanes. It continues with unhurried breakfast on the balcony of the Sea Lounge overlooking the harbour - this is in my top ten city breakfast locations (best with morning light, almost as good for tea).
It might then be time to meet friends in the grand lobby over an espresso, or sit peacefully in a huge wicker chair in the garden veranda with a fresh lime soda and a book. Or, get busy. The Taj spa - on the ground floor, centre stage - is ultra-lavish and self-spoiling. In the maze of stores you can have a quality jacket tailored, shoes mended, hair coloured as good as at home, and feet made anew with the best possible pedicure (when the guy who’d looked after my feet since 1980 retired, his well-trained son succeeded to this vital wellness job).
Going out and about is good, too. Mumbai is an international port city and India's centre for finance, entertainment and fashion, and perhaps art, too. It is the most buzzing and easy-to-enjoy of all India’s great cities. The Taj hotel stands at the epicenter of historic downtown Mumbai. It is near just about everything you might like to do. Just walk out in any direction to have a fascinating time (or use a car, but that’s less fun). You have Colaba market stalls, art galleries, high-fashion boutiques, bars and cafes. And plenty of street life. It’s an interesting 10-minute walk to one of the world’s great museums, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (still Prince of Wales Museum to most locals) - the paintings and textile galleries are a real treat.
And right outside the Taj you have two off-the-wall treats I never miss. One is joining locals to hang out on the harbour promenade and around the Gateway of India, often with music, jugglers and musicians. The other is joining foodies in Tulloch Road behind the hotel where, from mid-evening till very late, agile chefs serve up top notch kebabs (veg and non-veg), bhuna mutton/chicken, romali rotis and more. Wealthy Mumbai residents send their chauffeurs to collect orders; multi-generation families come on special outings. Great for just looking - I eat there, too. Delicious.
Two important things to know about the Taj. 1. Whether you take the cheapest room in the New Wing or a suite in the historic Palace Wing, ALL the above are available to you. 2. The verandah, garden and pool are only for residents - which means there should be just the spot you are seeking.
Must-do wellness experience at the Taj Palace: hanging out in a wicker chair on the veranda
Taj Palace buzzwords: Lost her? Try the spa/veranda/garden/pool/Sea Lounge/beauty parlour. Then the shops. Then the bars/restaurants.
Taking a walk out from the Taj, be amazed at what you see, from cobblers to Victorian shop signs to vendors of almost everything - here, a seller of paan (a digestive) lays out his product with rose petals and shaved coconut.
Mumbai's architecture is stunning. Fronting the Maidan - where half a dozen cricket matches might be played simultaneously - the row of classy Art Deco apartment buildings rival those in Miami.
See tiffin carriers sort workers' lunches brought by train, putting them onto delivery carts for their destinations. Harvard made a study of this complex efficiency, done with no notes or laptops, and found it was 99% accurate.
Mumbai's art and culture scene is exciting, world class and easy to access. On your arrival, the international air terminal is stuffed with site specific art. Downtown, you can gallery hop late into the evening, and explore Kala Ghowda festival in February. Art happenings abound; one might fill the warehouses of Mumbai's original fishing village (as in this photo). And do check out the new Ambani Cultural Centre which draws top performers.
The Victorian Gothic public buildings of Mumbai's 19th century heyday as 'urbs prima in Indis', first city in India, are the world's best. Designed by top British architects, they were built and decorated by locals.
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Please know that we experience great sights in the best possible way, with lots of add-on encounters and visits to off-beat places. We meet conservationists, curators, craftsmen and musicians, we walk with naturalists, we cook with local chefs. In sum, we imbibe the essence of each area thanks to my four decades of studying and visiting India - and making great friends who I share with you.
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