Three Camels, an Elephant and a Holy Cow: On the Road in India
by Diane McDavitt
Luxury Link President & co-Founder
The prospect of a trip to India, one week following my return from a conference in Mexico, left me with mixed emotions. Being away from home and the office again - this time for two weeks - was a daunting thought. Not to mention the time it would take to get there; let’s face it...India is a commitment. But to those of you have not yet been – those who have already know – it’s worth every frequent flyer mile, every conference call missed.
The impetus for the trip was the annual meeting of Preferred Hotel Group (an important Luxury Link partner), held this year in New Delhi. As always, Preferred did not disappoint. Then it was time to visit some of the hotels that are featured on Luxury Link, most notably two exquisite jewels in the crown of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts: Amarvilas in Agra and Udaivilas in Udaipur.
Once outside Delhi city limits, my life was literally in the hands of Akhtur, our incredibly calm and capable driver. We were off first to Agra, home of three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal. Entering Agra was an experience and my first real brush with the “functional anarchy” of Indian roads (to quote Daniel Moynihan, former U.S. Ambassador to India). Donkeys, goats, pigs, monkeys, dogs, camels, and literally tons of “holy cows”, competing with rickshaws, bicycles, trucks, cabs, and pedestrians – forget about which lane you’re supposed to be in, is there actually even a lane? – and always the horns, honking incessantly. Hair-raising doesn’t begin to cover it. Yet, amazingly, I felt completely calm in Akhtur’s pristine white car – as chaotic and disorganized as it all seems, it does flow in a very civilized manner. (As opposed to here in Los Angeles, where it is very structured but often as uncivilized as you can get within the confines of a 4-door sedan.)
Now, let’s get to what you really want to know. There is simply no other option for Agra accommodations than The Oberoi Amarvilas. Oh, there are other hotels. But nothing like this. Do not question the rate. It’s worth every penny. From the traditional Indian welcome to the morning tea service delivered precisely at 7:00 AM, the spectacular terraced lawns to the richly authentic interiors, this is a magnificent hotel. But the pièce de résistance? Every room has a view of the Taj Mahal. So after your seamless in-room check-in, relax on your terrace with a glass of champagne and watch the sun set on this exquisite monument to love. Yes. You are actually here.
Then it was on to Udaipur and The Oberoi Udaivilas, a lauded resort on the shores of Lake Pichola. Udaivilas is, in a word, stunning. (I’m trying to avoid too many superlatives but when one is writing about Oberoi, well, it’s just hard to do.) The grounds are exquisite, the room was divine: overlooking my semi-private pool and the City Palace in the distance. Incense and sitar music wafted through the air. But the thing I will remember most is the service, summed up with one simple story: after a day of meetings I arrived back at my room to find three eyeglass cases lined up in a row on the desk, along with a note from Ritu, the head of housekeeping. She noticed I had a lot of eyeglasses but no cases, and she thought these might be helpful. Enough said.
By the way, I arrived in Udaipur by way of Jaipur, where I took my first elephant safari. More on this adventure in a later post. Until then - Namaste...