The next chapter of our journey began at the gorgeous Taj Mahal palace hotel – a ridiculously perfect and gorgeous Christmas present from Jane and Pads. The lobby smelt like honeysuckles and was filled with thousands of fresh flowers, polished stone floors and dark carved wood furniture – all just so gorgeously opulent! We were taken up to our floor in Baz Lurham style lifts with big numerical dials and led through corridors packed with colonial furniture fenced into these odd little pens throughout the building. Our room was dreamy – a marble bathroom floor to ceiling with those perfect fluffy white towels and robes and a huge bed with a little balcony looking out to the sea!
After a leisurely unpacking we strolled out to the Gateway of India – an impressive stone facade bustling with people taking photographs. We became the subjects of plenty, asked constantly to feature in Indian visitors’ photographs and to hold their children – but this soon became super weird as crowds of young men asked for our company and needed repeated refusals before they would bloody leave!
Satisfied with our own candid shots we wandered into the Kala Ghoda or black horse district and popped into a beautiful art gallery where the exhibition was being unpacked around us – a lovely mix of sculpture, paintings and drawings all unfortunately unlabelled but worthy of remembering!
As we came out of the building we happened to stumble upon the entrance to Mumbai’s annual Kala Ghoda arts festival. This street party-come-exhibition-come-festival was filled with sculptures themed around the areas’ famous black horse statue and aiming to bring communities and charities together under the umbrella of the arts. This was without a doubt my favourite part of the trip thus far – where stalls selling bags made by local women’s refuges, sculptures aiming to demystify PTSD sufferers and unforgettably delicious vegetarian samosas came together in one beautifully decorated outdoor venue. (Pictures to follow!) oh and disclaimer – Sara and I are vegetarian now so gone are the days of Tesco continental meat platters – bring on the lentils!!!
We left feeling culturally satisfied and after a relax by our stunning hotel pool in the sun we headed behind the taj itself to #Social bar. Another amazing recommendation from Alec – again surprisingly shoreditch in style with exposed brick and unusual cocktail glasses. Struggling to chose from this hipster cafe’s gorgeous menu we settled on an Indian tiffin of spicy masala peanuts and Chaana dal – crunchy spicy lentils flowers by this incredible almond chickpea thing and Vada Pav which was essentially an onion Bahji stuffed in a sweet brioche style roll – so incredible!! After washing them down with our new favourite cold kingfisher beers we went back to our room for a pamper session and an excuse to have luxurious showers and try out our snuggly dressing gowns!
On Varun’s recommendation (see my previous post) we headed to Dome bar in the Intercontinental hotel for extortionately expensive but delicious gin and tonics to watch the sun set into the city smog – surprisingly beautiful as it seemed to sink into a dark mist over the sea.
Inspired by our experience at the arts festival we decided to head to one of their literature events (being the young intellectuals we are). Enticed by the title “Doctors without boarders” we headed to a talk supposedly on the organisation Medicines sans frontieres but after several minutes it became clear that this was not in fact the case. Instead it was an actually super interesting panel discussion between an interviewee – gayatri pahlajani and doctor/fiction writer Vikram and this other guy who was a doctor and political cartoonist. They discussed how their professions intertwined for example how political cartooning can be considered a diagnostic field of work in the way it diagnoses social ills and how it is a training in the arts and humanities not sciences that prepares a doctor in delivering news to patients with empathy and care.
The talk was undoubtedly marred slightly by the late arrival of an incredibly patronising third panellist so Sara and I headed to a square near by to watch some amazing dance events – from Bollywood to hip hop followed by and evening spent how we know best – in bed in our snuggly hotel room, faces covered in sudocreme.