Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bangalore's Hidden Gem: The Taj West End

Back in November, John and I made a whirlwind visit to Bangalore, where my best friend Udita's family is originally from. And ... it was amazing!

Although we were only there for five days, we had a wonderful introduction to India and even attended our first Indian wedding! Her family hosted us for lunch and dinner, and we had a wonderful time exploring the city - getting mid-afternoon massages, hopping into tuk-tuks, eating ghee-drizzled biryani with our hands, and shopping for home decor.

While we were there, I fell head-over-heels in love with our hotel, the Taj West End - a tranquil, hidden gem of a green oasis amidst the dusty, bustling city.

I chose the Taj West End for its beautiful botanical setting: the grounds, thick with vegetation across 20 acres, made me feel as though we were in a jungle and the hotel's reception had the most magical marble floors I've ever seen (I think I took quite a few #ihavethisthingwithfloors #shoefies while I was there!). Once we crossed the gates and entered the circular driveway, it felt like we left all the car horns and Bangalore traffic behind in another world.

On our arrival, we were starving and headed straight for the hotel's beautiful garden for French toast and masala tea while our room was being prepared. By some stroke of luck, we ended up in First Class seats during the flight over and Udita and I were so giddy with excitement, we didn't sleep for the whole 10-hour flight.

As excited as I was to be in India, I couldn't wait to curl up in bed and catch up on some rest - which we did as soon as I polished off the French toast, as my head was nearly dipping into my masala tea.

Once we were fully rested, we set off to explore the city with Udita and to join in the pre-wedding festivities with her family. Still a little overwhelmed by our incredible surroundings, John and I treated ourselves to a couples' massage at the hotel's beautiful Jiva spa. It was wonderfully peaceful and a great way to unwind before rushing home to host Christmas at our house just a few days afterwards.

We relaxed by the Taj West End's two gorgeous pools (John swam - I sunbathed) and marvelled at the sight of palm trees and blue skies above us in late November.

Staff at reception were exceedingly friendly and, by the end of our trip, they knew us by name. It's one of those places that makes you feel like you're special - like you're the only one to have ever stayed in that hotel - even when you're totally not!

The Taj West End's level of customer service was put to the test when Udita dropped off a sari to the hotel for me on the day of the wedding and I had to call the concierge for sari assistance! It takes so much skill and experience to expertly wrap a sari - all those folds and tucks - and I didn't exactly have time to YouTube 'how to tie a sari'.

Moments after ringing the concierge with my dilemma, a kindly, middle-aged lady with gold-rimmed glasses appeared at the door. First, she studied the blouse I'd put on before announcing, with a wry shake of her head, "Madam! You've put this on backwards!" We laughed as I turned it around and she expertly tucked the sari in all the right places, securing it with lots of safety pins since I was convinced that one trip to the bathroom would result in it completely unravelling.

I love wearing saris and wish I could wear them every day, like many women in India do! They're so elegant and flattering; creating long, lean lines. Udita and I had waited patiently as auntie after auntie cut in front of us in line to have henna applied at the mehendi party. You can just about see it on my hands in the photo above, but the henna turned a much darker color a day or two later, before sadly fading practically during our flight back to London.

On our final night at the Taj West End, we took the concierge's (complimentary) "Heritage Tour" of the hotel's grounds at dusk, which took us through the history of the hotel, from its founding in 1887, to its use as a film set for 'Passage to India', to its long list of famous hotel guests (most recently, Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel).

During our short stay, we tried each of Taj West End's three restaurants, Mynt (for breakfast and my beloved French toast), Blue Ginger (for Vietnamese noodles and mains) and Masala Klub (for delicious modern Indian cuisine).

That same evening, with Udita's help, we managed to convince the staff and guests at the Blue Bar to take part in a mannequin challenge. So random, yet totally epic - and a great memory to leave with!

Sari and mannequin challenge dreams fulfilled, I felt so sad to leave the Taj West End. Udita's there again for work this week and I couldn't help but feel a pang of jealously when she texted before takeoff.

Have you ever been to India? I'm dying to go back! Rajasthan and Jaipur are high on my list of places to see and visit.

This post was written as part of the Travel Link-Up series, hosted by Emma, Angie, Polly, and Tiffany. Head over to their blogs to read about more hidden gems around the world!

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