A Bewitching Landmark
A Bombay (now Mumbai) landmark since 1903, the Taj Mahal Hotel is India’s most famous and probably its best, a Victorian extravaganza that faces the Arabian Sea and was in its day a rival of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, welcoming luminaries such as Mark Twain. (“A bewitching place, a bewildering place, an enchanting place,” he wrote.)
The Bombay elite tend to use the Taj as a private club, with splendidly uniformed doormen ushering locals and guests into the deliciously cool, gleaming white marbled interior of the elegant Old Wing. The high staff-to-guest ratio and white-glove service make this an ideal escape from the throbbing, whirling realities of the hot and humid city, with its population of 12 million.
Balconied rooms on the high floors of the Old Wing are the place to stay, with calming views of the sea, the Gateway of India (the arched monument built by the British to welcome King George V in 1911), the bay, and the hills beyond. The Tanjore Restaurant may offer the best traditional Indian meal in town, accompanied by sitar music and classical dance.
This was the first hotel in the Taj Group, which now owns more than sixty hotels in India and abroad. An adjoining thirty-story modern wing built in 1972 lacks the historical ambience but offers the same views.