The Oberoi Amarvilas at the Taj Mahal
A Few Candid Moments at the Oberoi Amarvilas
Hot off the press from the Oberoi Amarvilas at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
Welcome to India
Our Emirates flight touched-down in New Delhi at 2:30am. The moment we stepped off the plane we were welcomed by a familiar scent; one that never left me since my last visit to India over ten years ago. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost a mix of incense, Jasmine, curry, and burning trash. Not necessarily a good or bad smell, just one that invokes a very soulful feeling.
Despite the fact that we had an extremely plush and comfortable flight, we were still exhausted and disoriented from the 30 hours spent in the air. To our dismay, our second welcome was a stuffy two-hour e-tourist visa line that seemed to be moving slower than a geriatric slug on a salted street. I had figured that by applying for our tourist visas online and in advance, we’d get through customs a lot quicker. This was not the case, and my husband and I hoped this was not foreshadowing of how the rest of the trip would go. It wasn’t.
Our third welcome to India was the totally chaotic and unmandated driving situation, which we got up close and personal with on our 3.5 hour drive to Agra. Imagine donkeys, feral dogs, cows, camels, wild pigs, goats, rickshaws, cars, bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians all sharing the same lane. Traffic drives in all directions in all lanes. There are very few stoplights, so nonstop honking is considered polite. At intersections everyone goes at the same time; meanwhile crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. Our driver explained to us that there are three driving rules in India. 1) Good honk 2) Good brake 3) Good luck. Perhaps the most bizarre thing we observed was a family of two adults with their three children all on the same scooter (…wait for it…) and two full grown goats smashed in between them! Safety first? I think not.
But First, The Taj Mahal
Visiting the Taj Mahal had been a lifelong dream of mine that was always just out of reach. On this day the stars had finally aligned and I was about to lay eyes upon one of the most beautiful architectural wonders of the world, built in the name of love. We had landed in New Delhi at 2:30am, made it to Agra by about 8am, checked-in at the Oberoi Amarvilas, dropped off our bags, and went straight to the Taj Mahal. We didn’t come all this way to get crowded out by other tourists and wanted to get in while it was still early. The Taj Mahal was to be closed the following day (closed on Fridays) so it was now or never. With jetlag setting in, we knew that if we had laid-down even for a minute it would’ve been lights out for the rest of the day. We powered right through with the help of our hotel, the Oberoi Amarvilas, which is just 3 minutes from the Taj Mahal.
We got into a rickshaw and only a few minutes later arrived at the security screening and entrance to the Taj Mahal. To my surprise, it was not crowded at all, and the weather was very pleasant.
“WOW!!!!!” Was about the only word that repeatedly kept coming out of my mouth. There. It. Was. The mausoleum of white marble – so exquisite and grand it gave me chills from head to toe. Seeing the Taj Mahal in photos is very different than witnessing the real thing in person. It was fascinating with a beautiful story behind it. The craftsmanship and intricate detail that went into such a heavenly masterpiece had me completely astonished, especially knowing they did not have the technology we have today.
I will soon be writing a full post on the Taj Mahal, but to read more about the history or for more information, please click here.
My Review of the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra
If you’re reading this you probably know that I have an infatuation with luxury hotels. While most people collect tangible items, I collect experiences. I’ve been a guest in hundreds of luxury hotels worldwide, but each hotel I choose to review is hand-picked because it offers my readers something very unique that cannot be found anywhere else. How many hotels can boast an ultra luxurious and intimate encounter with a spectacular world wonder? How many have a direct view of the Taj Mahal; not just from the lobby and restaurants, but from every single guest room? The Oberoi Amarvilas does. But this isn’t all they have to boast about. The pool and gardens are some of the most beautiful in India, and the world for that matter.
The design and aesthetic of the hotel reflect that of the Taj Mahal – using marble, meticulous craftsmanship, and flowing fountains. Guests are marvelously brought into a world of 17th century Indian luxury, fit for royalty. The beautifully dressed staff members exemplify a level of Indian hospitality that far exceeds guests’ expectations.
Sag paneer and chutney and masala dosas…oh my! I found myself in Indian food heaven at the Oberoi Amarvilas; my mouth watering as I write this. I easily put down massive amounts of food, so much that I felt a bit embarrassed, but where else would I have the chance to have true authentic Indian food like this again? The flavors and spices were beyond delicious and the servers could tell I was happy with what I was eating. They kept surprising me with new dishes that made my taste buds dance in delight.
Evenings at the hotel were my favorite time of day. Pink, orange, and yellow sunsets hung heavy over the opulently manicured grounds. The scent of incense filled the air, relaxing Indian music echoed throughout the property, and Bharatanatyam dancers twirled in their ankle bells entertaining the guests.
The paradox in all of this is that the city of Agra, which is just outside of the hotel is, like most of India, poverty stricken, dirty, and chaotic. The hotel is a peaceful little oasis in the middle of it all. Strangely, there is something very charming and special about the disorderly little towns sprawled throughout India.
- I would recommend staying 2 days at this hotel. One day to see the Taj Mahal and another day to relax and appreciate the beautiful setting of the resort, pool, and gardens.
- The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is at sunrise. Be sure to wear conservative attire, even if it is hot out.
- Bring some antacids if you aren’t used to eating spicy food.
- Do not expect your hair dryer or hair tools to work here. The hotel provides a hair dryer.
- Do brush your teeth with bottled water. You never know what you’re going to get in India. In previous trips, I’ve been sick from the water.