Travel Weekly’s Jeri Clausing is on an India trip that will take her to Mumbai, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Her third dispatch follows.
AGRA – "I need an Oberoi, stat!" one of my fellow travelers declared — only half jokingly — as we neared the end of our six-hour trip from Jaipur.
Indeed, after the sometimes-harrowing drive in a minibus whose air conditioning could barely keep up with the 115-degree heat, we spoiled Americans were looking forward to the 5-star facilities and service that are hallmarks of the brand.
And we stopped at what might be considered the crown jewel of the brand’s resort collection: the Oberoi Amarvilas, which overlooks India’s most famed attraction.
Breathtaking is an understatement when describing the lobby, which has a perfectly centered view of the Taj Mahal. Every aspect of the hotel, which opened in 2002, was designed to maximize the view and the hotel’s exclusive proximity to the world wonder.
Each of the hotel’s 102 rooms overlooks the domed marble mausoleum. In the luxury and presidential suites, even the tubs and showers are placed to offer views of the structure.
We arrived just before a major dust storm blew through, temporarily obliterating the view and ushering in humidity that would prove to be close to stifling the next day.
Fortunately, our guide convinced us to get up early to see the Taj Mahal in the rising sun. It proved to be a great time not only because of how the pink light plays off the marble but because it was cooler and the crowds had not yet arrived.
The Taj Mahal was built in 1631 by Muslim emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his third wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child. Because of the enormity of the mausoleum and the love story behind it, it is considered or a magical or spiritual place by many, particularly Muslims.
Even the stray dogs on and around the property seemed happy, running around and playing in packs.
The Taj Mahal is probably the best-preserved of India’s many historical temples, palaces and structures, in part because it has always been surrounded by a Muslim neighborhood whose residents protected it.
After the visit, we went back to the hotel to have breakfast and another shower (it was going to be a three- or four-shower day), and prepare for what would prove to be another interesting drive.
But first we were off to Agra Fort. After all, no day in India would be complete without a visit to at least one palace.