What’s it like to stay in one of the world’s top 5 hotels?

It is pretty nice.

So here is how it went down: a few years ago, when I was teaching the class in Peru, we went to Machu Picchu.  There is one hotel up on the mountain beside the sanctuary.  When you stay there, you have non-tourist hours access and other privileges… plus, you’re RIGHT THERE.  But, since it was a ridiculous amount of money ($500 or so a night), Paul and I scoffed.  No way, we said.  That is a ridiculous waste.

And later, we regretted it.  We learned: if you manage to get half-way around the world to see something tremendous, pay the extra to get every bit that you can out of it.

When we went to Agra, we decided to do it right.  So, we stayed in the only hotel in the Green Zone, the only hotel with views of the Taj in every room, the only hotel that every guide says to stay in, even if you have to skimp on other things during your trip.  We stayed at the Oberoi.  Our stay in this property was more than quadruple the total of all our other lodging in India — more than three weeks — plus meals.  In other words, it was pricey.  We felt, as Paul put it, “like we were pretending to be somebody else.”

Here is a collection of photos to give a sense of what it was like…

(There are guards all around the property.  It made us sort of miss the “real” India… the one right beyond the gate!)

(This is the plastic bag that the kids let slip off our balcony while eating the crackers and fruit we’d brought with us… we thought for sure we were going to be asked to leave!)

The view is really incredible.  Both the grounds, and the Taj beyond, are fantastic in all light.

We swam in the pool both days (chilly!)  Because there weren’t many kids at the hotel, and because it is SO DARN SWANKY, we really felt nervous about letting them really let go and play.  A downside of fancy hotels: no COWABUNGA jumping in the pool…

The upside: walking through the blue water through the archways felt like exploring some flooded, undiscovered ancient tomb.  Like something out of an Indiana Jones adventure!

We did let Kate practice her “India dancing” on the patio outside… much to the delight of hotel staff!

Room service was a must.  Plus, kids aren’t allowed in the main dining room!

When the sun sets, torches are lit to prepare for nightly entertainment above the pool deck.

Turn down service is very thorough.  They even clean the bathroom!

More information about the Oberoi here.  In our opinion: it is worth the splurge!