Welcome, your royal highness
This is Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, which looks and feels like one of the magnificent palaces gracing Rajasthan. Travel-weary guests are greeted with wide smiles, cold drinks and fragrant towels to wipe grime and sweat from your face and hands. Staff are flawlessly courteous and gracious, making you feel like nobility. Except they’re often better looking. Their teeth are whiter, their grooming impeccable and they’re wearing elegant Indian clothes. I can’t describe it any other way. If you don’t want to walk the garden paths to your room, you’ll be chauffeur driven, where wine, chocolates, a bowl of fruit and other treats await you.
Oberoi Rajvilas evokes princely Rajasthan with garden rooms, luxury villas and royal tents in a fort-like setting. The hotel is spread over 32 acres of lush gardens, trees, fountains and pools. It’s a palatial oasis, but doesn’t feel formidably formal. The palette is a soothing beige and pink sandstone, invigorating ochre, peaceful greens, blue and white tiles. Wood is highly polished with deep, rich red tones.
All rooms are somehow so artfully arranged that you’re never bothered by slamming doors or partying guests. I stay in a premier garden room close to the main swimming pool and the beauty spa. I visit them both, and then the Hindu temple on the property which has an evening service at 7pm. By the time I drift across the moat to dinner in the opulent dining room, dressed in a georgette Lucknow kurta and pants, I feel positively beatific.
It’s OK, the butler
will sort it
Premier rooms (mine is pictured below) are separated in clusters, each with a central courtyard featuring a garden and fountains. The bedroom features a four-poster king size bed, a mini sitting room, dressing room and a spacious marble bathroom with a sunken bath looking out to a private walled garden. Considering how grand the Oberoi Rajvilas is, the basic room price of 22,000 INR seems quite reasonable. At 2.30am one night, I’m tossing and turning and unable to sleep (too much luxury?) and belatedly realise the pillows don’t suit my posture. I wonder about trekking to reception. But I read the pillows menu and ring for the butler instead. A few minutes later, new pillows are delivered with a smile, the problem is sorted and a sound sleep is mine at last.
Despite all the pomp and ceremony, and my penchant for the hotel’s gin and tonics (I recommend The Library Bar), I like to eat no-frills Indian vegetarian food. The Oberoi has that too on the menu in the traditional manner. Fresh and spicy served in simple bowls on a metal tray and a banana leaf. Delicious.
The Oberoi Group, founded in 1934, operates 30 hotels, a Nile cruiser and a motor vessel in the backwaters of Kerala. The group has presence in six countries under the luxury Oberoi and five-star Trident brand. It’s also engaged in-flight catering, airport restaurants, travel services, project management and corporate air charters. If you’ve never stayed in such a magnificent hotel, consider treating yourself. Even for one night. Live the fairytale and feel like a princess. Check in as early as possible and out as late as possible to make the most of it!
Beyond the the gates of Oberoi hotels, life looks like this. It’s a massive inequity I struggle with, while cosseted in luxury.
However, The Oberoi Group gives thousands of young Indians the opportunity and security to learn job skills for better lives. It has been ranked 13th among India’s Top 100 Companies to Work for. The group established The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development in New Delhi in 1966. Today, this institution is considered among the best learning centres in Asia with about 100 students graduating each year. Oberoi actively supports many charities including bear sanctuaries, schools for the blind, hospices and village building projects.
- $A433 a night 22,000 INR at the Oberoi Rajvilas (room only)
- $A552 a night 28,000 INR at the Oberoi Amarvilas (room only)
- $A246 a night 12,500 INR at the Oberoi New Delhi (delux room)
- Tipping is widely expected in India. The basic wage in India for a casual labourer is only 180 INR a day.
- Many hotel employees will earn from 18,000 INR a month. Minibus drivers, who navigate the dodgy roads and unpredictable traffic with considerable patience and skill, may earn only 4000 INR a month.
- Tour guides also expect a tip, of about 100 INR per person, a day.
- It’s worth keeping small denomination notes and coins on hand for tipping, if you’re on a tour.
- Oberoi hotels recommend not tipping staff individually, but leaving an amount for collective gratuity when you check out. This will be divided among the staff who served you.
- My basic Tips for travel health in India
- I stayed in India courtesy of Cox&Kings, the world’s oldest travel company with its headquarters in India.
* This post replaces a previous one where formatting hit large hiccups. Images of the pool, tent and dining room courtesy of Oberoi Hotels.