As a devoted (and watchful) spouse I always accompany my Dearest on his business trips so that he never lacks for company. We have had some lovely trips together in Europe where he spends the day doing business and I catch up on my shopping and spa treatments! The world is changing, however, and my Dearest’s most recent business trip carried us to Mumbai, India.
We stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace. This is my kind of place. A sophisticated hotel that offers real luxury, character and world-class service. We stayed in the old wing, king-sized bed with a sea view.
The room was a work of art with lovely antique furniture tastefully paired with clean modern touches. For example, a rich cherry wood desk was intelligently matched with a high tech real leather office chair with lots of lumbar support and swivel. Beautifully framed works of real art hung on the wall. The bed featured a firm mattress with thick feather pillows and rich cotton sheets. Plenty of closet and storage space with lovely cabinetry. The fabrics were a nice blend of whites and creams with a few splashes of rich, Indian reds and oranges. Indian colors and patterns tend to be too garish for my taste but as accents against a generally soothing palette they work fine.
The white marble bathroom was huge and well equipped. The shower stall featured both a powerful hand shower and one of the biggest rainfall showerheads I have ever seen. Sheer bliss when I turned them both on full blast. Lots of nice bathroom touches, including a huge illuminated mirror, heaps of thick white cotton towels, and Molton Brown toiletries. The tacky wall-mounted hair dryer with only one speed was unfortunate. People: if I can afford to stay here do you really think I need to steal your hair dryer? Otherwise the bathroom was mercifully free of the stupid touches that cheapen too many hotel bathrooms. In particular, there was no insolent sign telling me to curtail my water or towel usage!
The room was bursting with helpful little conveniences: mirrors and telephones everywhere, lots of electrical sockets that work with U.S. plugs, and plenty or horizontal surfaces to unpack my gear. So many hotels have control panels for the lighting that are unintelligible: the lighting control panels in the Taj room were clear, easy to use, and located everywhere so I could always reach one. Another thoughtful touch: the room service menu had a special section of soothing food for Western stomachs suffering from curry overload.
The service was divine. Without exception, every hotel employee understood that his or her job was to spoil me rotten, and they utterly succeeded. Not only were they unfailingly polite and helpful, but they went the extra mile: constantly making helpful and thoughtful suggestions (as opposed to self-serving suggestions designed to sell more stuff), always checking to make sure that I was satisfied, and carefully watching me to learn what I liked and then, without being asked, bringing me more of it. The room butlers were consummate professionals, who listened carefully to instructions and followed them to the letter.
Instead of separate lines for concierge, room service, valet, and other hotel functions, there was one Palace Services line that handled all my requests. With only two exceptions the Palace Services line was answered within two rings. That’s the kind of service that separates real luxury hotels, like the Taj, from fake one that let their guests wait on hold listening to saccharine music and insincere recorded assurances that: Your call is very important to us. Someone will be with you shortly. The attendants who answered the Palace Services lines took ownership of every request I made. Never did they tell me to call someone else. Instead, they would send the right person to help me -- usually within five minutes.
Here is the problem: Mumbai is a septic tank that clogged up decades ago. Squalor on steroids. A public toilet smell almost everywhere. Sometimes the air was so acrid, I prayed that I would stop breathing. Poverty that is up-close, in your face and intense. Unless there is an ironclad reason to visit Mumbai (such as, for my Dearest, remaining employed), just stay away -- for the love of g-d. There is nothing here worth seeing that even remotely outweighs the visceral unpleasantness of this town. Plus, the mosquitoes are not just serving up malaria, but also, as a special bonus, dengue fever! Ask your doctor to cure that!
If you do visit, don’t even think of walking around outside. The heat and humidity are generally overpowering. Impoverished locals have turned many sidewalks into their personal residences, shopping malls and restrooms. Traffic is chaotic. Many intersections lack traffic lights and so turn into giant games of chicken with everyone driving in hopes that the other drivers slam on the brakes at the last second before glass-shattering impact. Drivers ignore crosswalks. While Mumbai pedestrians take this in stride, I saw several Westerners enjoy close calls with death as they jumped, shaking with terror, out of the way of speeding traffic. Unless you plan to spend an entire day in the hotel (not a bad option at the Taj!), arrange to have one of the Taj hotel cars on call at all times. They are clean. The seat belts work. The Taj drivers are skilful and courteous. They cost, but how much is your life worth?
On our last night, some of my Dearest’s local managers took us out for dinner. Afterward they insisted on patronizing a betel nut stand on the sidewalk. The mildly stimulating nuts are served on leaves with a variety of spices, herbs, and spreads. I was offered one on the house. I declined. Next door a disco was getting started with music blasting onto the sidewalk and lithe Indian lasses careening up in skin-tight micro-dresses. (Dearest, please don’t be so obvious when you stare.) Wild dogs, rats and feral children were racing about in a madcap game of capture the flag. I was profoundly repulsed.
At that moment I decided, for certain, that I will never return to Mumbai. I am instructing my Dearest to avoid all future India projects at work and dedicate himself to business located in places that are nice to visit, such as Italy. : )
Sweet dreams, my dear Taj Palace Hotel. How I will miss you!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Built in 1903, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai is India's first luxury hotel. Offering panoramic views of the Arabian Sea and the gateway of India, the hotel is a city landmark. The hotel offers 543 rooms including 54 suites, each adorned with original paintings and period furniture that exude an aura of old-world charm and elegance. The restaurants at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai offer distinctive dining experiences that cover the finest Indian and international cuisines - from casual, all-day eateries to Oriental, Japanese, Indian and Mediterranean fine dining. The hotel also houses the first licensed bar of Mumbai and also a beautiful sea-front restaurant for high tea and live music. Palace Services in the Palace Wing of the hotel add to the experience, where the butler plays the all important role of guide and assistant. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Taj Mahal Palace Hotel Mumbai (Bombay)
- Hotel Taj Mahal Palace
- Taj Hotels
- The Taj Mahal Hotel
- Taj Palace Hotel
- The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
- The Taj Hotel