Taj Mahal opens palace suites two years after Mumbai attack

The historic Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai will re-open on Aug. 15, India’s Independence Day, marking another significant day in India’s history. The opening comes two years after 10 terrorists killed 166 people at the hotel.

The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, as it was formerly called, was a favorite among royalty, rock stars and celebrities from all over the world. To celebrate the opening, the Palace Wing is offering guests free nights in suites costing as much as $1,450 a night, the hotel’s website says.

The 285-room Palace wing will include 42 suites, 19 of which are themed. Grand Luxury Suites are priced at 170,000 rupees a night (approximately $3,633 a night), while the Luxury and Executive suites will cost 120,000 rupees ($2,565 USD) and 95,000 rupees ($2,030 USD) respectively, according to the hotel’s website. The Taj has spent 1.75 billion rupees (approximately $37 million) to restore the hotel, which also includes added amenities such as ergonomic furniture, home theater systems and bathrooms with Italian marble and rain shower heads in the suites. The 5,000 square foot Tata Suite, named after the owner Ratan Tata (and also the most expensive of all the suites), will reopen in September.

Abercrombie & Kent: Five cinema-cations around the world

You may not have that look that Hollywood craves, but you still want to get close to the action, right? You want to touch the greatness that comes with being splashed across screens from coast to coast. Thanks to the latest concept from luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, you don’t need talent. The latest “cinema-cation” packages send you to the locations where some of the hottest movies of the last year or so have been shot. There are enough options that you’ll definitely find something to match your personal style.

1. Sex and the City 2
After seeing this movie opening night on May 27, 2010, dash off to Morocco. A&K Group Managing Director George Morgan-Grenville was actually over there while movie was being filmed at the Amanjena Hotel and in the Djema el-Fna Square souks. The interiors and pool scenes, he says, were shot at the soon-to-open Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma and Palmeraie over in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Suggests Morgan Grenvile: “Take a camel ride at sunset and spend the night under the stars in a Bedouin-style tented camp surrounded by the largest sand dunes in the world.”

2. Eat , Pray, Love
Before going to see Eat, Pray, Love on August 13, 2010, check out the treasures of Northern India with this A&K Journey for Women. You’ll take apersonal journey with A&K guide Shagun Mohan, who says, “We spend time with local women at a bead-making workshop in the holy city of Varanasi, witness a spiritual Aarti ceremony on the Ganges at night, see the Taj Mahal at both sunrise and sunset, and visit Khajuraho’s Hindu temples. This kind of journey is a life-changing experience for almost anyone.” 3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallow Part 1
Families can get a feel for Harry Potter‘s Great Britain ahead of the November 19, 2010 opening with the A&K Tailor Made Magical Great Britain package. According to Duncan Hambidge of A&K Europe, who has visited may Harry Potter film spots with his family, “One highlight for children is the Great Hall at Oxford University, Hogwart’s Dining Room. Another favorite is crossing the dramatic Glenfinnian Viaduct in the Western Highlands aboard The Royal Scotsman, the route taken by the Hogwart’s Express train in the Chambers of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire.

4. The Hurt Locker
Last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker captured the attention of audiences across the United States. A&K suggests following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia if you’re looking for travel inspired by this movie. The A&K Extreme Adventures Jordan package is the way to go, led by Raed Omar Saleem.

Saleem’s been leading thrill-seeking visitors through Jordan since 1997 and recalls from a recent excursion, “In the middle of nowhere, we pitch our tents and gather around the campfire for dinner, recalling the hikes through ancient cities, the 4X4 treks and mountain climbs that brought us here. Without speaking of it, we all share the same sense of awe, the palpable sense that time passes through this desert yet barely seems to touch it. The moon-like landscape stretches to the mountains, bannered by multicolored striations in the rock. The smooth reddish sand is devoid of stones, and our camels’ toes rouse no dust as they thudded in their steady pace. There is no dust here in the valley of Wadi Rum, once a sea basin and later the place T.E. Lawrence found his calling. That is the beauty of the desert: it is nothing and everything.”

5. Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin
Trace the history of life with the A&K Wonders of the Galapagos trip. Says A&K’s Ian Mackinnon, “The islands of the Galapagos offer an opportunity to interact with the natural world to a degree that’s virtually impossible anywhere else.”

He suggests, “Swim and snorkel with sea lions and turtles. Stroll past colonies of penguins and blue-footed boobies. Imagine yourself as Charles Darwin seeing a tortoise for the first time. Every island is unique; it’s no wonder Darwin was changed by his time there.”

I suggest: “Bring a creationist and ask constantly if he thinks dinosaurs walked the earth 5,000 years ago. Point and laugh.”

Photo of the Day (2.21.2010)

Check out this stunning reflection shot of the Taj Mahal, brought to us by Photo of the Day regular, jrodmanjr. There’s just so much good stuff going on here, it’s hard to know where to start – the clusters of people, faded colors and the wonderful lighting all help to move your eye around the scene. A unique perspective on one of the world’s most-photographed landmarks.

Have any great reflection photos you’d like to submit for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best shots here.

Gadling Take FIVE- Week of Feb. 28–March 5

Yes, yes, yes. It’s 70 degrees where I’m sitting. People have seemed to be feeling chipper in Columbus everywhere I’ve gone today. I’m ready to head outside again, but before I do, here are some Gadling gems that you might have missed.

  • Brenda’s post Eddie Aikau and the Hokule’a voyage gives the back story to the term “Eddie Would Go” and news of the upcoming ’round the world voyage of the sailing vessel Hokule’a to commemorate Eddie Aikau, one of Hawaii’s beloved heroes.
  • Kraig’s post Touring the Taj gives a recommendation on seeing this national treasure of India. Go twice. I’ve been to the Taj Mahal once and it wasn’t enough.
  • In his post Into Zapatista territory: Exploring the Mexican state of Chiapas, Aaron presents a lush region of the country that offers adventure and natural wonder big time.
  • For those of us who didn’t make it to Mardi Gras, or those who did, check out Jeremy’s post Life Imitates Art at Mardi Gras. The photos are wonderful.
  • Tom, who really is a nice guy–really–wrote a humorous piece 7 Steps for Surviving a Destination Wedding. One thing he says that I definitely agree with is to take time out from the wedding crowd to do what you want. Any town can have an interesting aspect that might surprise you.

Hope that wherever you are, even if at a destination wedding, the weekend brings you all good things.

Touring the Taj

Built in 1648 by Shah Jahan as a monument to his third wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child, the Taj Mahal still stands as one of the greatest man made structures anywhere in the world. Attracting upwards of 4 million visitors per year, the Taj is India’s top tourist spot, with many foreigners now being inspired to make the journey thanks to the success of Slumdog Millionaire.

Recently the Houston Chronicle published an excellent article with great tips on touring the Taj, which was named a World Heritage Site back in 1983. The article is a great read for anyone planning on visiting the massive mausoleum, which can be quite daunting for the unprepared.

One of the first tips offered up for travelers is that they hire a regulated guide to show them around the sprawling grounds that consist of the iconic white domed tomb, as well as a large garden, and a number of smaller buildings as well. The guide will not only help you navigate the place, they’ll also make sure that you aren’t mobbed by vendors and beggers while making the final trek to the entrance gate, which isn’t all that close to where you’ll park.

Also of note, the article recommends that you go to the Taj twice, once at dawn and once at dusk. This will double your chances to avoid crowds, which can be quite massive and chaotic during the days, and allow you to stroll the compound at your own pace.