Images from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai, India (photos by Brad A. Johnson)
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’s maddening. And it’s what makes Mumbai one of the most interesting 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. One of the world’s beloved grand dames, the turn-of-the-century palace overlooks the iconic Gateway of India in the Apollo Bunder neighborhood, on the banks of the Arabian Sea in the Bay of Bombay. Step inside the hotel, and the city’s swirling rumpus immediately fades. Serenity cleanses the senses. Here’s a quick look around this beautiful hotel.
Jasmine Sour Martini at Hookah Lounge in Hyderabad (photo by Brad A Johnson)
If you’ve got a jasmine bush in your yard (and the jasmine is blooming throughout Los Angeles at the moment), or if perhaps your neighbor has one… Make this drink! This is one of the best, most elegant cocktails I’ve had in a long time. I discovered this jasmine sour martini at the Hookah Lounge at Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, India. And I can’t get enough. Continue reading →
Taj Falaknuma Palace hotel, Hyderabad, India (photo by Brad A. Johnson)
On the outskirts of modern, high-tech Hyderabad, on a hilltop in the heart of the Old City, one of India’s finest historic palaces recently opened as a luxury hotel.
Falaknuma Palace sat empty for much of the last half century, sealed up like a time capsule as a curious reminder of what life must have been like for the royal courts before India gained its independence. It took several years to dust off the cobwebs and remove the overgrown weeds from throughout the sprawling estate, but after years of painstaking restoration overseen by the former princess herself, along with Taj Hotels as a partner, the time capsule has been opened. Falaknuma Palace has been reborn. This is a truly stunning hotel, an otherworldly experience, a retreat of a lifetime. The service, the cuisine, the history and the glamour… This is India at its finest. Just make sure to schedule two or three utterly lazy days where you don’t have to leave the estate. Here’s a look around:
If this picture doesn’t make you smile, then nothing will. This picture captures the very essence of Hyderabad. These two kids were sitting in the back of a three-wheeler mini cab in the parking lot of the Nizam Museum. Their smiles, their eyes, their spirit—pure magic. Pure India. I’ll be posting more stories about Hyderabad soon. Stay tuned.
Srinigar City in the Kashmir Valley of the Himalayas (Brad A. Johnson)
There are so many stories to tell about Srinagar, an extraordinarly beautiful city in the northernmost Indian state of Kasmir (technically Jammu & Kashmir—an area that Pakistan would also like to claim as its own, but which is under the control of India), high in the Himalaya mountains. Stories are coming, but for now, here’s a visual journey. The city, the lake, the people, the flowers, the roads… Continue reading →
The best way to experience the true soul of a place is to arrive by train. I’m reminded of this after spending several days aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express and disembarking my posh Pullman car at the dirty, chaotic platform of downtown Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station at the height of rush hour. My senses are instantly thrust into overload. Train whistles are blowing at nearly all the 20 or so platforms. People are shouting, laughing, scrambling for luggage, rushing to climb aboard one train or another. Cars waiting in the street are honking incessantly. A chicken runs underfoot, feathers flying. A dozen young monks in bright orange robes shuffle through the station in a parallel but silent world. “Where is my valet,” I’m wondering?
“He’s watching us,” says the guide, leaning out of our idling Jeep and pointing to the soft-dirt road in the jungle that we’ve been traversing. Monkeys screech overhead, swinging from the Banyan trees. “He’s circled back behind us, and he’s watching us. He’s here—listen to the monkeys, they’re warning the other animals of an imminent danger.” Continue reading →
Thai Street Food By David Thompson This might be the most beautiful cookbook ever published. It’s made for the coffee table, but it’s also a very workable book. Granted, some of the recipes took me a couple of days to assemble. But still. We’re talking truly authentic recipes from the world’s most famous and devoted disciple of Thai cuisine. Thompson owns Thai restaurants in Sydney, London and Bangkok and splits his time between Bangkok and London. In this book, he takes us along on the most incredible tour of Asian street food ever documented. Brilliant. Breathtaking. Ground breaking. (Ten Speed, $60) Continue reading →