I was just in Amritsar visiting my son Narayan Singh who is in the middle of his first year at Miri Piri Academy and was on winter break. For me this visit to Amritsar has been very different than previous visits which have always been focused on visiting Harimandir Sahib (The Golden Temple). This time my focus was on being a support to my son and spending time with him.
I’m sure many of you visit Amritsar from international countries, and know how tiring and time consuming that travel can be. My journey alone took about 48 hours. Then once I got to India it was no fun getting around the city with terrible traffic and bad air pollution. It’s times like this that I want to find a place to escape and rest. For me the air pollution and just traveling in India took a lot out on my body during my travels. This year it was unusually cold and the whole week there was a thick fog which made travel very difficult & tiring.
Due to fog and weather related delays my visit in Amritsar was cut short, but by the end of my time in Amritsar I was really needing some pampering to rest and recover my energy before making the long journey home. During all of my previous visits to Amritsar I have stayed at small hotels right next to Harmandir Sahib or a Nivas. These are convenient for their location but are often noisy & are very basic accommodations.
Whenever I used to come to India I would stay at a nice hotel in New Delhi which would help recovery from the long international travels. Indian service is also really nice compared to American "non-service", so I appreciate these nice accommodations. In March of 2009 I had heard about the Ista Amritsar hotel which is the first five star hotel in Amritsar. When I was planning my India trip details I thought it would be nice to try this new hotel. I don’t normally stay in 5 start hotels in America, but when I travel it is sometimes nice to splurge a bit and stay at a nice place for a few nights.
I had a few more days with my son Narayan Singh before his school started, so packed up all my stuff and headed with him to Ista Amritsar Hotel from Miri Piri Academy in one of Amritsar’s convenient new radio taxis.
When we arrived at the hotel I was surprised at how large the hotel was. I guess I expected it to be smaller. Next to the Ista Amritsar there is a giant new shopping mall (Alpha One City Center) which is supposed to open in a month. I’m not used to seeing big hotels and shopping malls in Amritsar so this was a change for me. When I arrived inside the hotel someone greeted me and took care of all my luggage. I checked in and was quickly brought up to my room and shown the services.
From the room on the 19th floor I had a giant window with a view of Amritsar looking down below at the beautiful swimming and therapy pools. The skyline was pretty foggy/smoggy but just being this high up and overlooking the city was nice. I was very impressed with the quality of the room and all the attention to detail. The room was a bit smaller then I am used to but the layout of the room was very efficient. The closets were flush, well lit, had a safe, and fit all my luggage/clothing out of view. There was a small sitting area/couch, desk area for working, beautiful bathroom that also had floor to ceiling window view of the city, as well as a nice flat screen TV. Each room has it’s own climate control so I cranked up the heat to get it nice and extra cozy warm.
My son Narayan turned on the TV and checked out all the cartoon channels which he was happy to have. The room even had a DVD player which had a USB connection which I was able to connect my portable Hard Disk that had movies on it which we later watched on the TV.
The hotel has a spa which I was eager to check it out and get a relaxing treatment. I called down and made an appointment for a Reflexology treatment, which is a sort of foot massage that uses pressure points on your feet to aid your body in healing and relaxation. The spa was so beautiful and and continued in impressing me with it’s decor, ambience and attentive staff.
I relaxed for an hour getting a treatment and then went with Narayan to their "Collage" restaurant for some yummy food.They had a mix of western and eastern food that was fairly good and moderately priced for a 5 star restaurant. The waiters were attentive watching my every move waiting to serve me more food or get something else for me. As I finished food on my plate they would quickly serve more food on to my plate. It was quite nice getting this level of service which I am not used to. The following day we had dinner at the "Thai Chi" restaurant which served up some delicious Asian food and again great service.
The next day me and Narayan decided to adventure out into the swimming pool outside despite the cold weather. The week before we were in the sunny warm beaches of Kerala so we were already in swimming mode and not afraid of the winter pool as long as it was heated. The main pool was heated but not warm enough in the winter for us to hang out in, so we quickly ventured over to the "therapy pool" which isn’t as warm as a jacuzzi but much warmer then the full pool. We spent the next hour swimming in the medium size therapy pool chasing each other under water and enjoying being in water again. One of the spa staff stayed out there as we swam (looking cold) and got us towels and bathrobes. We appeared to be the only ones even thinking of swimming in the winter time. In the summer I am sure the pool is well used with the heat & humidity of Amritsar.
After swimming we went back to the room and while Narayan watched TV I got another spa treatment. This time I decide to get a head massage where they take different oils and massage into your hair and scalp, along with massaging your neck and shoulders. It was quite relaxing! My hair was so soft and nice after that treatment.
The two nights in the hotel we frequently ordered room service and didn’t go anywhere. It reminded me of my boarding school days in Dehradun where we used to get a hotel room on our town leave and just watch movies and order room service. This was our escape and fun with friends during that time. After so much traveling it was nice to just do nothing and relax in the comfort of this beautiful hotel.
My one"excursion" during my stay at the hotel was taking their complimentary shuttle/bus at 4am to Harimandir Sahib where they drop you off and pick you up 2 hours later. They also have an evening shuttle at 8pm which I didn’t go on because it was the weekend and gets really crowded during the day/evening at Harimandir Sahib.
The two things which really impressed me was the beauty and attention to detail in the hotel, as well as the service. Whenever I needed something the hotel staff was extremely helpful and took care of it. They always seemed to be ready and eager to please. For a five star rated hotel I thought the pricing/costs were very good when compared with similar hotels in other cities of India like New Delhi. The prices for a room start around $135 US Dollars and go up depending on the type of room you want.
I very much enjoyed my stay at the hotel and will definitely stay there again on my next visit to Amritsar. My wife is going to Amritsar next month also, to visit our son Narayan at the Miri Piri Academy, and I’m already looking into reservations for her to stay a few days at the hotel at the end of her visit in Amritsar!
If you want five star treatment and a relaxing escape during your next visit to Amritsar, Ista Amritar Hotel is a great choice that I recommend.