A comfortable 3 and a half hour car ride from Delhi, on the Yamuna expressway, got us into Agra on a Friday afternoon. The traffic on Friday is thin in Agra, as it is the one day in the week that the Taj Mahal is shut for tourists. As we drove along a sweeping approach road, surrounded by native trees, through the gates of the Oberoi Amarvilas, we were met at the main entrance, by a young hotel staff member who guided us past the grand quadrant style forecourt, into a lobby where a crystal chandelier hung from a blue-and-gold dome, showering its glittering light onto the marble floor.
Laveena and I were once asked by someone who knew our penchant for travel, whether we were Aman Junkies. Since neither of us were familiar with the term, we inquired as to what an Aman Junkie was? We were told that the luxurious Aman had a dedicated fan base, travelers who were loyal to the brand and who were devoted to the treasures offered by this super hospitality group to all who chose to experience the magic of Aman. “In fact, a true Aman junkie is known to plan his vacation according to the 32 resort locations around the world”, we were told. When asked what about the Aman made the experience so different from the other top of the line hotel brands like the Four Seasons, The Oberoi or the Taj, we were told that the Aman promised to help guests ‘lock away cherished memories for life’. This simple response was enough to raise our curiosity and we immediately began scouting around for an Aman property in India given that Laveena had a short weekend break in December.
Laveena recently had a short break for Ganesh Chaturti. It is a Hindu festival, celebrated in honour of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha. Given the auspiciousness of the holiday, Laveena was keen to travel to Varanasi, regarded as one of the seven holy cities of Hindus. The Sapta Puri are seven holy pilgrimage centres in India. While Varanasi also known as Benares or Kashi is one of the seven, the others are Mathura, Haridwar, Ayodhya, Kanchipuram, Dwarka and Ujjain.
I have been a member of the Taj Innercircle programme (http://tap.tajhotels.com/reward-programmes/taj-advantage-plus/taplogin.html) since the past decade and every year, Laveena and I make it a point to cash in with our free night stay coupon…
‘Vita Pulchra Est’ is Latin for ‘Life is Beautiful’ and our recent stay at the Oberoi RajVilas reaffirmed the aphorism. Laveena and I visited the royal resort, built in a traditional Rajasthani fort style, last month, and fell instantly in love with what the grand property had on offer.