Like most Americans, I was horrified to learn of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on Wednesday and glued myself to the television set for the rest of the evening. That’s because unlike most Americans, I’d been in Mumbai this March and actually stayed in the historic old wing of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in a beautiful room overlooking the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea. Indeed, one of the reasons I was in India was to assure Americans, through my writing about food and culinary tourism, that India is worth the 18 hours or so of flight time from the U.S. My opinion on this has not been changed.
I’m deeply saddened today, because I think of all the amazing people I met — chefs, tour guides, wildlife specialists, drivers — not just in Mumbai, but in places like Udaipur and Kerala, who’ll pay for this economic blow to India’s tourism industry, and pay dearly. It’s not fair. Although it’s chilling to think that Americans and Britons may have been singled out by the terrorists at the hotels (this hasn’t been confirmed officially), is this enough reason to cross a country off a “must see” list? For many tourists, the answer will be a resounding “Yes,” even though the mortality risk is higher driving to work each day.
I thought I’d post some of my photos of the Taj Palace to give you some idea how beautiful this hotel is. As I mentioned, we stayed in a room overlooking the sea; we actually had one of those dormer rooms you see in all the news reports. I would stand in the window with my Mac laptop and talk to my son back in the U.S. via Skype, turning my web camera out toward the sea so he could see the hundreds of colorful boats bobbing in the harbor, or down toward Apollo Bunder to watch the motorized rickshaws and Ambassador cabs drop off and pick up an endless stream of passengers:
Here, inside the dome at the center of the hotel. We often skipped the elevator just so we could walk down this gorgeous staircase:
Our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, Mr. Dubash, took us over to Elephantia Island one day. Here’s a view of the hotel from the sea. The Gateway to India is on the right:
Another view of the hotel from land:
We breakfasted in the loggia along the courtyard in the back of the hotel, which is technically the front of the hotel; the side facing the sea is in the back.
The hotel was like a cocoon for us, a buffer from the madness, noise, and mind-numbing contradictions that make up Mumbai:
Despite all that’s happened there this week, I’m eagerly counting the days when I can return to India and explore it more deeply. And if you’ve ever considered a holiday in India, please don’t let this incident affect your plans.