Two brass turtles and the fascinating life of the beautiful Gayatri Devi, Maharani of Jaipur

In India until last week, living a Travelife, we spent most of our time exploring places and eating lots of very good food.

We actually didn’t have much time for shopping, although you’d never guess this, from the amount of luggage we brought home with us.

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I’d deliberately left Manila with my version of a light luggage, precisely to leave room for shopping.

At the Cathay Pacific check-in counter in Manila, I double-checked my luggage weight. It was something like 22 kilos.

But this included a lot of disposable stuff I was planning to leave behind in India after use, so I wasn’t very worried.


Then, in India, we had about three shopping opportunities over nine days.

That really isn’t much, and as far as I remember, I’d bought mainly textiles.

But when Judgement Day came along, what do you know? There I was on a domestic flight from Gujarat to Mumbai, pretty overweight and needing to pay for the extra kilos.

We actually needed an extra car for our luggage
upon arrival in Mumbai…

We were okay on the international flight on Cathay Pacific since we were both on business class and with frequent flier status; between us, we probably had enough kilos to check in an elephant on the way back to Hong Kong.

But I did have a problem on the domestic flight between Indian cities, where we had to ride planes that only offered coach class and the corresponding weight allocation for this.

Besides, I was already way over 30 kilos by then.


I love the colors and fabrics of India.
This almost became dress #9…

“Whatever did I buy?” I asked my friend. He replied: “Must be all those clothes. I think you bought eight dresses.

I’m sure he kept track because he had to wait ever so patiently while I took my sweet time deciding on styles and colors.

And it’s true. I love the fabrics and jewel colors of India, and you just can’t get them in our part of the world. But I didn’t think they would weigh so much.

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Read more about our trip to India
in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine

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So I didn’t really buy anything significant on this trip. However, two purchases I made really make me happy.

One is a pair of brass turtles (now that I think of it, that’s where the weight went!) that I found in an upscale crafts store in Gujarat one evening.

They looked so pretty and unusual, and I thought they would go nicely in my living room. So even if they promised to literally weigh on me, I snapped them up.


On my last day in Mumbai, on the other hand, I went into the bookstore of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

This is my favorite bookshop in Mumbai and I always visit it when I find myself in Mumbai, whether I’m staying at the Taj Mahal Palace or not.


I have stayed twice in the old wing of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel before the unfortunate terrorist incident.

I haven’t stayed here again since the incident. But if you do decide to stay in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, you should definitely pay up and stay in the old wing if you’re after a Travelife experience.

The old wing of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a hotel unlike any other, and it’s completely different from the new wing.

Even now I still think it’s one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed in.

We had a lovely suite full of antiques and precious art that simply took my breath away, and my dining room looked out onto the Gateway of India.


On a third visit, I stayed at the Four Seasons Mumbai.

Here, what I remember most is the amazing sky bar. At that time, it was the first of its kind in the world, perhaps, and it was truly, simply out of this world.


This time, we were at the lovely ITC Maratha, which has lovely and quiet suites on its executive floor.

But I did find time to visit the bookshop at the Taj, where I bought a really heavy book on the last Maharani of Jaipur. It was terribly heavy and also terribly expensive, but I thought that this was such a special book and I would never be able to get it elsewhere — except in Jaipur, perhaps.


So I closed my eyes, handed over my credit card, and went off to find my friend who was busy taking photos, lugging my heavy book. I think he thought I was crazy for adding this heavy book to my already terribly heavy luggage.

But I just couldn’t not buy this book.

And last night, I began to leaf through the pages, enjoying so much the photos and accounts of a wonderful and glamorous life that no longer exists. How nice that someone has collected all the information and photos for posterity.

And how wonderful that I’ve been able to bring this lovely book home, to read in between my never-ending and never-endingly eventful Travelife.