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India's Ancient Beauty

By: Bryan Durocher
Posted: September 25, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
A room at the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, India

Each room at the elegant Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra in Agra, India, offers a stunning view of the Taj Mahal.

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Thanks to the endless cacophony, the crowds and the terrifying traffic—and the long journey to Indira Gandhi International Airport followed by the harrowing trip through the city to the hotel—Denise and I were both exhausted and on edge by the time we arrived at The Ashok Hotel, New Delhi. The five-star Ashok Hotel is grand with 550 rooms, 110 suites, and 12 restaurants and bars. Its prime location in the heart of the capital makes it a popular destination for tourists, diplomats, businesspeople and celebrities, and the service is meticulous—the helpful staff will arrange tours, dinners, trips to the theater, golf outings, financial transactions, and even doctor and dentist appointments. The décor is tasteful and modern, with endless expanses of gleaming marble and rooms featuring colorful bedding, draperies and accessories.

Once we arrived, a soothing visit to the hotel’s Amatrra Spa awaited us, and we were eager to relax in the new 45,000-square-foot facility located on the bottom level of the hotel. The facility is state-of-the-art, complete with a fitness center, pool, Jacuzzi and gorgeous grounds. Facilities for men and women are completely separate and only same-gender therapists work on guests.

“Amatrra” is defined as the silence that occurs during meditation between recurrent chants of “om,” and the stated treatment philosophy is to blend therapeutic and rejuvenation treatments based on traditional Indian ayurveda with Oriental spa rituals. They claim to combine astroscience and ayurveda into an approach called Astroveda, which involves customizing each regimen by identifying the most beneficial therapies, oils, mantras and dietary prescriptions for the guest, then prescribing aromas, colors and precious therapeutic gems for each user based on the planetary diagnosis.

After our arduous journey, I chose the Globe Trotter Travel Recovery Massage from the international menu. I was presented with a robe and slippers large enough to fit my 6-foot-5-inch frame, and I also appreciated the offer of a pair of disposable boxer briefs, which are so much more comfortable and offer much more coverage than the paper thongs used by most spas. After I changed, I was led down a beautiful, illuminated pathway to the treatment suite. It was lovely, but I noticed the floor was slick, and it would be easy to slip and fall if one wasn’t careful.

The treatment began with a delightful foot ritual and a brief Hindu prayer, and then I was settled onto the large, heated bed with a built-in face cradle. Beneath the cradle was a beautiful glass vessel containing floating flowers and lemongrass essential oil, which was not only lovely to look at, but allowed the lemongrass to prevent my sinuses from closing up during the treatment.