As anyone who is familiar with Chelsea Handler knows, the late-night talk show host finds joy and comfort in uncomfortable situations. It’s why she loves traveling and why Mumbai ranks as one of her all-time favorite cities. Earlier this year, Handler and her Chelsea film crew descended on the buzzing metropolis for three weeks to shop for hand-embroidered saris and kurtas, dance with Bollywood performers, bowl with cricketers, and soak up the ubiquitous scent of fresh biryani. The India-centric episode, which airs this summer on Netflix, celebrates the places she can’t forget.
She explored Mumbai's classic side...
“For a very India experience, wander past the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel and around the Gateway of India, then take the hour-and-a-half ferry ride to the Elephanta Caves, west of the city. You can shop for spices and bangle sets on the carts in Gharapuri, the village at the ferry port, then walk up the 200 or so steps to explore the caverns where Shiva and other Hindu gods and goddesses are carved into stone.”
...and tasted its multicultural side
“Mumbai is where many cultures come together, and the food highlights this. Pali Village Café, a hip little eatery in Bandra, mixes Parisian with Italian and Indian. There’s also San:Qi, at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, which spans everything from Japanese to classic chicken tandoori. Afterward, you can go to the rooftop bar Asilo for 360-degree views of the Arabian Sea and a fresh lime and soda, the local drink of choice.”
She slept near the Arabian Sea...
“Whenever I travel, I love being right on the water. In Mumbai, I stayed at the Taj Lands End. The desert-tone structure sits on its own strip of land, flanked by the Arabian Sea and the Mahim Bay. One of my favorite meals of the trip was from the hotel’s restaurant, Ming Yang. We had pan-fried scallops, honey-glazed pork ribs, and Hakka braised pork belly. It was the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. From the Taj, we would drive three and a half miles across the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link bridge to reach the center of Mumbai. On the other side of the bridge, I discovered that the best place for an afternoon cocktail or snack is the lounges at The St. Regis Mumbai, where they serve drinks with signature Indian spices like turmeric or cumin. [The rooftop lounge has sweeping views of the western coast, too.]”
...and laughed with locals
“Bollywood is hard; you have to sing, act, and dance—kind of like Britney Spears. But at Dance Planet, you learn classic moves like the Thumka, the hip-bopping move you see in movies like Slumdog Millionaire. I’m uncoordinated and have no rhythm, so it was very entertaining to try and mimic the woman who teaches many of the Bollywood actresses how to dance. To meet more locals, head to Dhobi Ghat (or ‘washing place’). It’s known as the laundromat for all of Mumbai. Clothes are hanging everywhere and people are working, but it’s a really welcoming place. Kids were running up, hugging us, and asking for pictures. Everyone has preconceptions about India—that it’s so sad, and there’s so much poverty. And that’s true. But there’s so much spirit as well. It’s infectious.”
What she read before she left...
“I always try to read a few books about the country I’m traveling to. For India, I read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, a classic, and Alex Von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer, which gives you the long, sordid history of India and the British Empire with soap opera-like drama.”
...and what she brought home
“The vibrant saris and kurtas are incredible. I bought some for all my friends’ kids at Colaba Causeway.”