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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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After our tour, we returned to The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, tired, hot and sweaty, and were greeted at the entrance by Shipla, our luxury guest coordinator, a lovely woman clad head to toe in a colorful sari. This gracious, hospitable woman whisked us to our well-appointed rooms, where our luggage was waiting. Every room in the hotel offers a view of the Taj Mahal beyond a balcony laden with fragrant bougainvillea, and we started each day on these balconies with fresh watermelon juice as the rising sun caused the white monument to positively shimmer in the early light. The sight was truly breathtaking.

At The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, the Oberoi Spa is located on the lower lobby level and consists of four therapy suites, a steam and sauna area, changing rooms and a well-equipped gym. There are also three therapy suites on the fourth floor of the hotel, each with magnificent views of the Taj Mahal, and this is where I received my treatment. Each therapy suite is equipped with two massage beds, a freestanding bathtub, and a steam and shower. The décor is elegant, with rich wood floors, and all of the senses are engaged thanks to beautiful music and lovely fragrances.

I requested the Balinese Deep Tissue Massage, and my therapist told me she received her training at the world-class Banyan Tree Thai Massage Academy in Phuket. This superbly accomplished woman couldn’t have been more than 5 feet tall, but she had the strength of someone twice her size, and even jumped up on my back in order to work as deeply as possible. In her private suite, Denise received the Four-Handed Indian Massage, with two therapists working in perfect synchrony for 90 minutes. She was literally unable to speak for some time when we reunited for dinner that evening.

This hotel and spa experience exemplified how it costs nothing to treat people well, and even though this was an expensive destination, it was the service that made our visit to The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra so memorable. Amidst the beauty and grandeur of the locale, the staff worked hard to anticipate our every need. No matter what we requested during our stay, someone appeared in less than a minute to assist us. I really and truly felt like a rock star at this hotel and spa, and I think any spa would do well to offer clients that same royal treatment, no matter where it’s located.

Natural beauty

We left Agra the next afternoon, returning to New Delhi for the night, then caught a propeller plane that took us to Shimla, which lies in the foothills of the Himalayas. Our destination was the hotel Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas, an Oberoi Resort, situated 8,500 feet up in the legendary mountains among 23 acres of pine and cedar woods.