Travel + Leisure: 3 Great Bars in Mumbai

Check out my latest on Travel + Leisure's blog! 3 Great Bars in Mumbai

3 Great Bars in Mumbai

Mumbai presents an almost implausible contrast, between skeletal dogs in the streets and people living on top of each other in slums, to flaunting its new face of modern luxury and creative ambition.  You will absolutely need breaks and time to relax and reflect on the disparity. I raised my glass to the dizzying hub of India in three chic bars, all in vastly different neighborhoods:

Aurus: In Juhu, a wealthy beachfront neighborhood in South Mumbai, is Bollywood central! At Aurus, situated right on the beach (pictured, top), you're almost guaranteed to spot a star that lives nearby.  An outdoor drink at Aurus might even help break the humidity of a Mumbai night. Nichani Kutir, Ground Floor, Juhu Tara Road; 011-91-22-6710-6666.

Indigo: Set in an old colonial mansion in Colaba, near the city's landmark Gateway of India, the long bar within Indigo's restaurant space is calming with yellow walls and comfy leather chairs.  Light up at the cigar bar and chat with Mumbai's creative and artsy class or sip wine on the rooftop terrace. 4 Mandlik Road, Colaba; 011-91-22-6636-8981.

The Eau Bar at The Oberoi Mumbai: You won't be bumping elbows at Eau Bar-the space is expansive and contemporary but features a classic live band at night.  In the daylight, there's a great water (Get it? Eau=Water) view of the Arabian Sea.  There's even a full menu page of Vegetable Cocktails.  After a crazy Mumbai day, there's nothing like a relaxing Beetini or Cucumber Cool looking at the city lights of the Queen's Necklace. You may also want to try Ziya, their signature restaurant pairing international flavors with Indian cuisine.
The Oberoi Mumbai, Nariman Point; 011-91-22-6632-5757.

Photo courtesy of Aurus.

Guest blogger and New York-based travel writer  Annie Fitzsimmons writes about travel and is a frequent contributor to TravelandLeisure.com. Follow her on Twitter at @anniefitz.

The Oberoi Amarvilas at The Taj Mahal

I wrote here about how awe-inspiring it was to see The Taj Mahal. I often talk about being underwhelmed by certain destinations and famous landmarks (Pisa, the Mona Lisa, Italy when it's 110 degrees out), but The Taj Mahal exceeded every expectation. And the only hotel to stay at is The Oberoi Amarvilas. You only need one night, and with every room facing The Taj Mahal you can admire the gleaming white marble at every time of day from the comfort of your room. Wake up to watch the sun hit the minarets, tour the monument during the day, and return to watch the sunset over it. If you want to go to dinner at the hotel or enjoy a cocktail on the terrace, the views are there too.  It is built to show off India's most famous attraction to visitors from around the world and does it very, very well.

Pool Complex with Taj Mahal in the distance

Entrance to Amarvilas

Lobby

Table for Two with a View

Room

Bathroom

Living Area in Room

Lobby Bar

View from Terrace

Taj Mahal

Looking from the Taj Mahal to the entrance of the complex

National Geographic: The Gems of Jaipur

Jaipur was my favorite place on my tour of India, including staying at the Oberoi Rajvilas, this fall.  Here is my post on National Geographic's blog. Enjoy! 

"The distinctive shade of terra-cotta pink is what I first noticed about Jaipur, India, the capital city of Rajasthan, the Land of Kings. Bazaars, gardens, and palaces show flashes of pink, a color with historic roots. Back in 1853, the city draped itself in this warm hue to welcome Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, on a royal visit.  Now, all buildings facing the main street within the city walls must maintain the pink color.

Behind this bright color is an equally vibrant city. Driving from the heart of Jaipur to my hotel on the outskirts of town, I saw the chaos of daily life on full display–bustling barber shops, games of catch, cooking around a fire, and friends sharing a drink.

During my time in Jaipur I explored the history, royal heritage, intricate architecture, and, of course, the shopping that it is known for. Here are a few of my favorite discoveries:

 

Shopping

You’ll find fabulous goods for sale in Jaipur. Gem Palace is still run by the same family that established the shop in 1852. Even if it’s out of your price range, you’ll still enjoy the warmth of the staff and feeling like a queen while you try on millions of dollars’ worth of jewels. If you’re looking for something within budget, seek out the high-quality goat, camel, and water buffalo leather markets. Central Jaipur has hundreds of stalls to peruse, and you can barter with the owners. 

Read the rest here

Exploring the Land of Kings: The Oberoi Udaivilas

Spa pool at The Oberoi Udaivilas
For a stay in Udaipur, there is no better sense of place than at the Oberoi Udaivilas.  A quick flight from Mumbai takes you to Rajasthan, one of the most popular areas for tourists in India. And for good reason--the royal history, gorgeous lakes and hills, palaces, and fabulous hotels.  Walking down the airplane stairs and onto the tarmac, I breathed in the cooler air.  Gone was the humidity and heavy air of Mumbai.  I was so excited to explore the "Land of Kings." And with much better, frizz-free hair! 
Forty minutes from the airport, I boarded a boat on Lake Pichola for a quick ten-minute ride to the Oberoi Udaivilas in the darkened nighttime air. 
 The scented air at all Oberoi hotels I visited on this trip will remain with me-hints of jasmine and other flowers that I've never smelled before.  Arriving at Udaivilas felt like I was arriving to stay with my friend, the King of Rajasthan. Rose petals are showered upon each guest upon arrival. Bags are whisked away and immediately brought to your room.  All guests enter the palatial lobby and then through my favorite candlelit room pictured above. 
From my room, I had this view of the Royal Palace's lights and moon.
Dinner was al fresco with local musicians, and I loved the imaginative and comforting take on Indian food. Can you ever eat enough garlic naan? I loved it and the ladies I dined with, though the whole place felt very honeymoon and I missed Andy. I lived vicariously through the other deliriously happy couples eating outside.
Dinner Entertainment
I returned to my room, which I loved, and watched Om Shanti Om on DVD, a 2007 Bollywood smash hit. If you want the perfect movie to get you in the mood of India, watch this one! 
My room, perfect for watching Om Shanti Om! I loved this classic bathtub
Everything looks different in the daytime, so I went exploring early the next morning through the open-air hallways and to the pools and spa (fitness center time was very needed). 
Entrance to my room The long pool outside my roomPool chairs outside my room The Main Pool at Oberoi UdaivilasSteps leading to more rooms & main pool
Beautiful green area and statue playing trumpet
I loved these elephants & decorative pool
I loved exploring the bustling city of Udaipur and then returning to my oasis at Udaivilas again.  It became a theme of my India trip-the contrast of down-and-dirty exploration and returning to peace, quiet and true beauty at the hotels.  I witnessed heartbreak and joy on the streets every day and could reflect upon the culture and chaos each night without worrying about the water or food.
From the Royal Palace (a must-see during your stay in Udaipur), there are wonderful views of Udaipur, like this one below, with the mountains in the distance.
I recommend booking a guide through Greaves India, as they have access to the most knowledgeable (and fun!) guides. This recommendation coming to you from a straight-up tour guide snob. There are so many terrible ones out there-Greaves has the best connections. 
Great view of Oberoi Udaivilas from the Royal PalaceThe Jagdish Temple in the center of Udaipur-a great place to visit Shopping at Soma in Udaipur

Trident Bandra Kurla & The New U.S. Consulate in North Mumbai

While in India, I had a chance to tour some Trident branded hotels, a more business-oriented, lower-priced chain that is part of the Oberoi brand.  Think of Trident as Hyatt and Oberoi more along the lines of Park Hyatt, the company's top-of-the-line luxury brand. 

Trident Bandra Kurla LobbyWhile the Trident Bandra Kurla is a hotel that Americans visiting as tourists will likely never book, they may book it if they're on business. It's an area that is considered to be the new financial and commercial district of North Mumbai.  This is also where the new, huge U.S. consulate of Mumbai is being built.

New U.S. Consulate Under ConstructionSouth Mumbai is where I stayed, at The Oberoi, and North Mumbai is growing every day. It was interesting to tour a hotel in an area that will feel very different in five years, a buzzing hub of finance and business. The restaurants are nice for business lunches and dinners.  But I wouldn't recommend it to a tourist, as it's really far away from everything you'd want to see in Mumbai. 

Trident Bandra Kurla PoolRoom at the Trident Bandra KurlaChandelier in Lobby