Mumbai is chaos. Absolute, full-sensory chaos. The noise. The pigeons. The traffic. The incessant honking. The wild dogs barking. The heat. The tongue-wetting aroma of durian on the sidewalk. The wafting incense of marigolds and jasmine. Cows leisurely wandering through rush-hour intersections. Horses clopping. Children laughing… It is maddening.
All of this is what makes Mumbai one of the most fascinating cities in the world, a place everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is the perfect antidote to all this frenzy. It is one of the world’s true grande dames, a turn-of-the-century palace that overlooks the iconic Gateway of India (built 20 years after the hotel) in the Apollo Bunder neighborhood on the banks of the Arabian Sea in the Bay of Bombay.
Long after it debuted in 1903, the Taj was the first hotel in Mumbai to install electricity. It was the first hotel in India to offer air-conditioning. And it is now the flagship of a global chain of luxury hotels bearing the Taj name. The service here is impeccable.
When I step inside this hotel, the city’s swirling rumpus dissolves. Serenity washes over all of my senses. I’ve been lucky to stay here twice, first in 2004 and again in 2012. Halfway between those two visits, terror struck.
In 2008, terrorists rampaged Mumbai and bombed the Taj, taking the entire property hostage with hundreds of guests and staff trapped inside for days.
Those horrific events are now the subject of a new film out this month called Hotel Mumbai, starring Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, and Anupam Kher. Here’s the trailer:
This isn’t the first film based on these events, though. In 2015, writer/director Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla earned praise for his short film Embrace, which was based on the story of two hotel guests, a husband and wife, who were caught in that siege and forced to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to be reunited with their son. The film used actual news footage from the attack, which makes it all the more haunting. Here’s the promo for that:
When I stayed here after those events, the hotel was even more beautiful than ever, the service even more exquisite than before. And just as ever a slice of serenity amid the constant chaos of Mumbai. Here’s a quick look around this incredible hotel: