I arrived in Mumbai late in the evening. My flight with Jet Airways was short, pleasant and a little bit boozy as I had no shame taking advantage of the unlimited champagne offered in Premium class. Next to me, the only other passenger in the two seats arrangement, sat a charismatic older gentlemen in a really good suede shoes brushed to perfection.
He took zero interest in my presence until I engaged the Jet Airways crew in every Instagram star’s favourite routine: stories, selfies and the endless production of photographs from a particular angle no one else seems to recognize beside you. As a result the crew delivered even more champagne and very personalized service, which other travellers confused with being mega famous and invited me for dinners with their wives. Luckily we landed and with no time left to respond I rushed out.
Mumbai International Airport greeted me with the shine and sparkle of a fully completed renovation to its interiors and services. For the first fifteen minutes I was absolutely alone in a giant endless corridor with panoramic windows to the runway on the right and cheerful wall art with a puppet theatre feel to them on the left. A very friendly passport control officer stamped my passport in less than two minutes and wished me a pleasant stay. Bless him!
My destination tonight was Taj Mahal. Yep, that’s right. Mumbai, or Bombay as the older generation proudly calls it, is a home to a palace of a hotel. Taj Mahal was built in 1903 in response to demand for a luxury hotel open for everyone who can afford it without prejudice. Originally the main entrance was not the one facing the Gateway of India and the sea, but the residential district from where horse drawn carriages brought in the wealthy and famous. The Taj at that time was only two floors tall and had no Tower. Later the entrance was relocated to the opposite side and a very charming pool surrounded by a lush garden built instead.
Right from it’s opening, Taj represented the symbol of Indian wealth and prosperity by becoming a landmark and pushing ahead of its time by setting quite a few records: complete electrification, first elevators imported from Germany, first Turkish baths, English butlers, first licensed bar, a discotheque (ou est la discotheque!) and a restaurant open through the day. Taj Mahal was converted into hospital during the First World War. The Tower was added in 70s and the Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces was born. So you can imagine my excitement smooshing my nose on the Taj limo’s windows, peering curiously into the darkness on the way to the palace. The Taj limo was equipped with cold towels, Himalayan mineral water, mints and complimentary WiFi immediately won my heart. The feeling of serene “Tajness” surrounded me like a fluffy cloud bringing in security, comfort and peace.
To be frank there was a separate significant reason behind my impatience. Back in 2008 I left Taj Mahal just a few nights before the terrorist attack, responding to my friend’s request to help her shop for diamonds, Chanel and gold in Dubai. I felt terrified watching my beloved home in Mumbai on the fire thinking of all the friends I made over there during the years and visualising its majestic interiors with closed eyes. The relief when it was all over turned into an obsession to revisit Taj in its full glory followed a major renovation in 2009. Half an hour drive from the International Airport and there we were about to enter through the new gate and pass luggage screening.
The first glance put a huge smile in my face. Taj looked majestically beautiful in the dazzling streetlights as if the fall of 2008 had never happened. I witnessed a very familiar scene, tall men in turbans efficiently guiding guests and traffic, happy kids carelessly running between parents, local dollies shining with diamonds and lip-gloss and wrapped in glamorous saris rushing to a party and so on and so forth. I missed you Taj Mahal!
To be continued…
Previously on Dwarika’s:
Imagine waking up to the first rays of sun playing a game of hide and seek on the wooden walls and floors of your bedroom. Red, golden, orange and silver twinkles mingle in a flirty dance reaching for your pillow. Goooood morning!
Tucked in the softest cotton sheets, you are lazying in comfort but your curious eyes are locked on a stunning view of the Himalaya’s peaks. The fresh mountain breeze rushes through big panoramic windows which you carelessly left open last night. Inhale… the sound of cheerful birds singing from the branches gets closer and louder, encouraging you to throw on a robe and get the coffee brewing. Tip: listen for the bird singing “La Cucaracha”!
Conveniently, the kettle, mineral water and freshly grounded coffee are just a few steps away. Another few steps and you’ll find yourself lounging on a spacious terrace at the top of the world. Exhale…
I could not resist spending most of my mornings sipping coffee in a sublime peace, watching the desperate attempts of local cheeky birds to steal Dwarika’s famous home-baked cookies, which are by no means sharable.
Easily carried away, I lose track of time! Every time. Fortunately, hotel guest relations are serious about looking after me and would often bring me back to the earth with a courtesy phone call to rush for breakfast. Un, deux, trois and I was fresh as a rose and ready to explore!
After an adventurous day out and about at Dwarika’s, I would always look forward to getting back to my “castle on the hill”. It’s such an incredibly nice feeling to mess the freshly made bed, open curtains wide open, fill a tub with a hot water and soak those super tired muscles in a pleasant long herbal bath.
Barefoot, with only a bathrobe made of the lightest cotton, I often ran upstairs to the terrace for some serious tea time in the shadows of the disappearing sun. The hardest choice of the day would be between herbal, camomile, jasmine or pure green (all locally sourced).
As the sun leaves my sight until the next morning, I covertly run downstairs, turn on the light and surround myself with the comfort of indoor warmth. See you soon!
Nepal for many is one of the world’s best trekking destinations, where the bravest conquer the peaks of Everest or chase down the mysterious Yeti. I arrived in Nepal in a search of peace and hidden treasures, hoping to discover sights, people and, as it turned out, cats defying stereotypes. That’s how I ended up at Dwarika’s in Dhuikhel, a place very few have heard about and even less visited (here is a link to the start of my journey).
Located on several hills in the Himalayas, this resort is not a typical all-inclusive 5 star Disneyland to impress and entertain.
Nor is it a boring detox center filled with over concerned personnel.
The resort is founded on a philosophy of respecting nature and the self, and promoting a balance between a body, mind and a spirit to enjoy a healthy life (with a breathtaking view).
With a holistic approach to every detail, Dwarika’s incorporates a mix of Nepali tradition with the best modern life has to offer. Think air conditioning, soft cotton fabrics, solar panels, water re-harvesting, minimized light pollution at night, recycling and a lot more. Dwarika’s is built using mostly natural materials like clay, stone, wood, glass and sand to decrease the harmful effect on the environment and guests. Dwarika’s helps out Nepal’s indigenous arts and crafts by creating working spots for locals plus a continuous demand for products.
The designers deliberately chose earthy colours and patterns to transform this resort into real eye candy from an architectural point of view, branding Nepal as a new luxury destination.
Top it off with the famous Nepali hospitality, a focus on individual wellbeing, and you like me will never want to leave. To prove how seriously guest relations are taken, a resident cat was hired to ensure that happiness is not a just a meawy word.
Being a respected employee, the Dwarikat is entrusted with additional responsibilities that include but are not limited to spontaneous food tastings. Blessed with a cheerful, loving, humble and cheeky personality (not to mention the pretty face), the Dwarikat is set to become the next most popular Katdashian. I am surprised she doesn’t run her own celebrity Instagram page yet. I would follow her straight away.
To be continued…
P.S. Thank you Dan for a brilliant Cat’s name idea, the Dwarikat
I am wearing a tailored kaftan and swimwear hand made by a Dubai-based designer Anna. Check them out.
We arrived in Katmandu early afternoon.
Being in a habit to rush off the plane, I noticed only the tourists were hurrying, worried about queues and luggage and airport wifi. Local Nepalese travelers smiled peacefully, letting us push past.”Namaste, welcome,” smiled a man in a uniform. “Namaste,” I replied and bombarded him with visa related questions. He patiently answered them and pointed me through the visa formalities. My destination was an hour away from the capital, a gem of a hotel hidden high in Himalays.
Exiting the airport, Katmandu greeted me with sun, cheerful conversations, fresh breeze, laughs and uniquely melodic truck horns. I was welcomed by a charming man in a suit, Dwarika’s ambassador, who relieved me of two heavy suitcases and supplied a bottle of water, hot towel and a lovely chatty driver. I jumped into the car and we bravely joined the traffic chaos.
The music of street life burst through the bus windows. Motorcycles, fruit vendors, authentic houses, gossiping girls, moms holding kids and lots and lots of construction. My eyes were shining bright, piercing for every little detail. Katmandu’s daily routine is paradise for a curious soul.
Katmandu is still rebuilding after the 2015 earthquake, however nothing apart from bricks and cement indicate it. My camera couldn’t get enough of outside scenery, especially when lavish green fields replaced the urban streetscapes. I spotted women in colorful sari-like outfits crossing farms with huge wicker baskets hanging off their shoulders, at the same time boys were enjoying themselves at coffee houses spread along the road. Needless to say it was all casually happening against a background of traditional huts, clay temples, resting cows and powerful statues. Meanwhile our bus was taking us way up, higher and higher with every turn.
The road curved one last time and the bus stopped. I was at the footsteps of Dwarika’s. A few minutes later a golf cart appeared out of nowhere and in a matter of minutes I was sitting in a lobby on top of the world sipping a refreshing welcoming drink. Life has never been better!
To be continued…