The next stop is Ahmedabad, some 250km from Udaipur. The best place to stay is The House of MG, once the stately home of a wealthy textile magnate built in 1924, located in the heart of the city. The Mangaldas Suite, originally the bedroom of owner and founder Seth Mangaldas, is particularly impressive.
Though perhaps not the most renowned city on the Indian tourist circuit, there are some gems to be found in this metropolis. Right next to The House of MG is the 16th century Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, renowned for its carved stone latticework windows. In the evening, take a taxi to the Kankaria Lake for dinner at the lakeside Skyz restaurant before a view of Ahmedabad at night from the Ahmedabad Eye, a tethered hot-air balloon which rises 350ft into the sky.
Another option would be to enjoy the highly recommended Gujarat cuisine within The House of MG itself, before taking the short taxi ride to see the Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show at Akshardham, which infuses the night with 45 minutes of magic every evening.
Take the morning off to see Akshardham Temple, an expansive spiritual complex near the city centre. The monument in Akshardham is a shrine to Lord Swamunarayan, who in 1792 commenced a seven year trans-India pilgrimage at the age of 11.
Set off for Surat, your next destination, by midday in order to ensure arrival by evening. Stay in the Gateway Suite at Athwalines, which has an excellent view of the Tapi River from the vantage-point of its banks. Go to see the ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness, aka the Hare Krishna movement) Temple, about 20 minutes from the hotel by taxi. Also, be sure to try Khaman, a tasty Gujarati snack made from gram flour and sold on the city streets.
Continue heading due south out of Surat in the morning, heading for the Bollywood capital of Mumbai, some 285km down the coast. En route you will pass through Daman, a popular escape from the alcohol ban in Gujarat and a place where, surprisingly, one might be able to hear Portuguese being spoken (it was part of Portuguese India until it’s violent reclamation by India in 1961).
When you arrive in the sprawling urban mass that is Mumbai, with it’s vast population of over 20 million, there is an almost endless selection of exquisite hotels, restaurants, and engaging sights to visit. We have planned two nights here, in order that you can see the best of what Mumbai has to offer.
First make sure you navigate your way through the chaotic roads to The Taj Mahal Palace, in South Mumbai. Completed in 1903, this incredible structure is situated on the edge of the harbour next to the famous Gateway to India, and has been seen as a second home to maharajas for over a century- it really is the cream of the crop of luxury hotels in India, let alone Mumbai.
Due to Mumbai’s sheer enormity, it is advisable not to waste time stuck in traffic trying to get to distant parts of the city; there are a plethora of attractions in South Mumbai alone. For dinner, go to the Rooftop Domeat the Intercontinental Hotel in Churchgate, which provides breathtaking views over Marine Drive’s twinkling lights. Attentive waiters serve affluent locals in a romantic setting. Enjoy the cool breeze, sat on a white sofa in this oasis of calm. Afterwards, you may well want to let your hair down a bit after five days of travelling. Check out Mumbai’s vibrant nightlife, which will be in full swing for the weekend. blueFROG, situated in Todi Mills Lower Parel, is one of the premium locations in the city to enjoy live (and occasionally world famous) music. Combined with its quality food, state of the art cocktails, and a trendy dance atmosphere post-9:30pm, you may find yourself staying all night! If however, you’re feeling the ache of the travelling lifestyle, the Taj Mahal Palace awaits you for some well-earned palatial beauty sleep.
After a leisurely breakfast in the Palace, spend the rest of the morning and afternoon exploring Mumbai. See the sprawling street market Chor Bazaar (literally ‘Thieves Market’) in Kalbadevi, which has long attracted keen bargain hunters. Tiny stalls sell a mixture of antiques and junk. Bargain hard for carved wooden furniture, old Bollywood film posters or a dusty chandelier. Also, you could visit the spacious Ensemble in Colaba, which houses dozens of India’s top designers and sells exquisite silk bridal wear, sassy bejewelled dresses and accessories. Heavyweight fashion names include Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Malhotra.
A perfect culinary introduction to India’s coastline can be found at Trishna, which serves legendary seafood to Mumbai’s politicos and glitterati. It’s high regard means booking in advance is a must, but you will know why when you taste the garlic king crab, or the Konkan-style lobster. Spotting some Bollywood stars on a nearby table is not unlikely here.
You might worry that an afternoon taster of Mumbai’s sprawling slum district will bring you down from the heady heights of gastronomic pleasure, but it’s an eye-opening experience which has changed lives, and poses a stark contrast to the glamour of Bollywood which is essential to the real Mumbai. A guided tour will show you the reality of the stories of poverty which we hear of, but rarely take time to fully comprehend.
For dining in the evening, Indigo is the perfect restaurant to round off your time in Mumbai. Located in Colaba, it serves high-quality European cuisine to Mumbai’s wealthy set. The Zen-like decor comprises of uncluttered ochre walls and dark wood furnishings, with a separate cocktail bar and candlelit open terrace. The diverse menu offers everything from lobster and shallot risotto to tea-grilled quail. Return to The Taj Palace for a second night, ready to rickshaw in the morning.