West Meets East by Hilary Geary

West Meets East by Hilary Geary

Quest, 2006 May

West Meets East by Hilary Geary

AROUND THE WORLD in eighty days?

No-eight days, with the first stop London, then Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), and ending up in Hong Kong.

As we checked in at British Airways at Kennedy, we were asked where our visa was. Our agent had told us we did not need one. Well kids, you sure do-with pictures and all. So we changed our plan and stopped in London to quickly get a visa to India. There was a silver lining in this cloud, as Lakshmi and Usha Mittal invited us by for a drink and a grand tour of their dazzlingly beautiful, treasured-filed house in Kensington Palace Gardens.

A little champagne, then back to the airport to hop on BA for an eight-hour flight with wonderful flat beds that you really can sleep on.

We arrived at Mumbai's crowded, un-air-conditioned airport that was reminiscent of the Cali, Colombia airport circa 1970. Well rested and ready to explore, I was armed with a big list from all my pals as to what to bring and where to go. Before I left, I had stopped off to visit Dr. Sandy Cardin for a travel kit to cover any surprise aliments and also to get a few booster shots. I additionally packed granola bars and peanut butter as Jackie Weld had suggested the food can be tricky there. Catherine Adler wisely advised extra toothbrushes, in case I accidentally brushed with the tap water. Our friend Silas Chou even brought his own water to India, but that was a few years ago and he has his own plane. When Marjorie Fisher visited, everyone teased her when she brought a suitcase of food and ended up sharing with her whole group.

Diana Vreeland said years ago that "pink is the navy blue of India." She was completely accurate, and that has not changed. The Mumbai ladies still brighten the cityscape in their enchanting colorful saris as they glide through the streets. Two excellent hotels were recommended: the Oberoi and the Taj. We opted for the latter and dined at Vetro, the very cool restaurant there. One night we spotted Elizabeth Hurley with her Indian beau Arun Nayar dining around 11:30 p.m. with a big group.

Mumbai is a shopping town, though, not a restaurant Mecca. Udita Nabha took me to a wonderful place to find luscious sari fabric called Kala Niketan at 95 Queens Road. There were so many choices, and it was so hard to decide. Ask for K.K. to help guide you through a zillion possibilities. She also steered me to Neenrana for pretty silk tunics in luscious colors. Mai Harrison and Florence Kaufman told me not to miss Tarun Tahilana's boutique, and they were right. There are great looking beaded outfits that are just right for Palm Beach, Newport, New York, anywhere and everywhere. Lauren Veronis suggested The Courtyard near the Taj, which has a terrific lineup of shops. Mai was filled with great jewelry suggestions, and as she is one of the "best jeweled" ladies, pay attention to this.

Her favorites are Getanjali Kothari Shah, who can copy anything, and also Guzdar at the Taj. Gudzar has some wonderful old Mogul pieces. Also on her hit list is Feroza Punewalla for wonderful handbags and Sacha Mehta for ethnic clothing. World traveler Usha Mittal suggested Bhagal Jewelers and for dresses, Abu Sandecp.

She also likes Radhikar Nair. Trust me, she knows the best of everything. The Taj has a wonderful shopping mall as does the Oberi. Catherine also sent me to a shoe store in the Oberi Mall called Gossip, filled with fun sparkly "Manola"-type sandals for about $60 a pop. All my pals say bargain, bargain, bargain—and it is expected.

There was so much more to see, and I cannot wait to go back!

Off to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific's business class. This seven-seat across, eight-hour flight is not up to their usual standards, but so it goes. The Peninsula was booked in Hong Kong and the Mandarin is under construction, so we opted for the new (six-month-old) Four Seasons Hotel near the financial district. I thought it was terrific! The rooms are decorated in a warm contemporary style, user-friendly with comfort and luxury in mind.

The views of the harbor took my breath away as the constant activity is endlessly interesting. The hotel features a three-story, ultra-deluxe spa and gym that is a destination in itself. The pristine gym has state-of-the-art machines with individual TVs and an attentive staff willing to show you how it all works or bring you water plus a fluffy towel. I could walk from the hotel to visit my two favorite shops. K.S. Sze Jewelers is known for sensational jewelry and reasonable prices. Ask to see the adorable Elsa, as she can redesign some of your old pieces.

Mayer Shoe Co. offers excellent made-to-order shoes and bags and beautiful alligator copies inspired by the names we love like Hermès, etc. I admired a beautiful green alligator handbag that happened to have been ordered by Palm Beacher Britty Cudlip. How small is this world? Both stores are in the Prince Building until August, when the Mandarin reopens.

Of course, we would not miss dinner at the glam China Club with its great atmosphere and a wonderful singer to entertain us. David Tang's great eye has assembled a sensational Chinese art collection that you must see—it is worth the whole trip. We also dined at Alain Ducasse's superb restaurant Spoon, which has awesome food and the best views of the harbor. At the bottom of the substantial check, it says, "Hope to see you spoon." I hope so. Last but not least was dinner at Silas and Celia Chou's beautiful house on the Peak, with soaring views of all of Hong Kong. They spoiled us with a scrumptious Cantonese feast, washed down with Petrus and Cristal, followed by a blissful ride home on their gorgeous Global Express across the Pacific and back to Palm Beach. •

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