Travel + Leisure: 3 Great Bars in Mumbai

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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 Follow her on Twitter at @anniefitz.

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

Across the World in Mumbai, India

Everything is turned up a notch in India.  I mean way up.  Before I left, I found this quote of Mark Twain's:
"India, the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous poverty, of splendor and rages, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps...the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined."
The Gateway of India
And how true it is after just two days.  I just wrapped a very quick visit to Mumbai before moving on to Udaipur today.  I stayed at The Oberoi Mumbai, a super sleek hotel that caters to a business crowd but was really comforting for me.  As I toured the hotel, I kept thinking that this is the new face of modern luxury in India.
Lobby at the Oberoi Mumbai
I especially loved the bright red piano in the lobby and the pops of red woven throughout the entire hotel's decor.  The piano was put to great use in the evenings during cocktail hour and dinner. 
The sea-facing views at The Oberoi are fantastic with a look at the Queen's Necklace, or Marine Drive. Marine Drive is home to many Art Deco buildings and reminded me a little bit of South Beach.  Many of them are rent-controlled today and not well kept, unlike the newer, extremely pricey apartment buildings that are built next door. 
View of Queen's Necklace from Room at The Oberoi Mumbai
Locals in Mumbai try to book reservations at the hotel restaurants and often can't because tables are full. The Hotel Hassler in Rome is one of my favorites and I found out they have a relationship with the Oberoi Mumbai's Vetra Italian restaurant, providing recommendations for food and chefs.  I had the greatest Indian meal, especially the almond tikki, at Ziya, run by British superstar Chef Vineet Bhatia. 
Bedroom at The Oberoi MumbaiGreat bathroom at The Oberoi MumbaiLiving area & Desk in Suite
The spa at The Oberoi Mumbai is open TWENTY FOUR HOURS! I absolutely loved getting a treatment at 10:30 p.m. after a super packed day.  Granted, I fell asleep towards the end of the massage but it was still wonderful. 
Looking down to the lobby from the top floor
Every minute, 51 babies are born in India.  Cities like Mumbai, with a population north of 18 million, are a stunning study of contrast.  Americans know Mumbai from Slumdog Millionaire and I was excited to see the Victoria Terminus Station where they sang Jai Ho at the end, hands-down the most gorgeous train station I've ever seen. It's also absurdly busy, with 1,500 local trains running a day and 3,000 buses.  The architecture in downtown Mumbai, much of which remains from the British rule of 1858-1947, echoes of Victorian and English styles.  I had romantic visions of the colonial rule due to these buildings, though I know that is far from the truth. 
Victoria Terminus Station, Mumbai
But even in my brief visit, Mumbai is so much more than the slums, the larger ones existing on the outskirts of the city.  A quickly changing landscape with a frenetic pace but at the same time there are countless people on the streets sitting and doing nothing.  I could easily be friends with the men and women I met, all ambitious, smart, worldly and fun to talk with about our shrinking world.  Education is extremely important for India, as parents want their children to do better, to study at the universities here or leave and return to help make the country better. 
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai
The world's first BILLION-dollar home in MumbaiMy favorite $3 sandals at the markets in Mumbai
"26-11," as they call it over here, was the day in 2008 (started November 26, ended November 29) when terrorists took over famous landmarks and hotels in Mumbai, including The Oberoi Trident, which is connected to The Oberoi Mumbai by an underground passage.  Over 160 people were killed from these attacks.  And I just came from Amman, where hotels were attacked in 2005.  I haven't been scared for a minute.  How can you be? Every safety precaution is taken at these hotels, and overly so now.  These hotels are in cities that need to be visited to be fully understood.  I felt very safe in Mumbai, especially snuggled up in my bed at The Oberoi.  Little touches made this hotel for me, like the universal plug adapter at the computer desk, fluffy bathrobes and slippers, tech-savvy blackout screens for the windows, and most especially the pure, genuine service from the staff.