Our series on iconic hotels around the world continues with Bangkok’s first hotel, the Mandarin Oriental.
Built in 1876, the Mandarin Oriental (originally The Oriental) enjoys an envied position on the Chao Phraya River, and offers a legendary guest experience.
An impossibly high staff-to-guest ratio delivers the most personalised kind of attention, which is echoed in the gold-embossed writing paper with your name on it when you are checked-in to the hotel in the privacy of your room.
You may want to dine at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Normandie, or at their seafood-extravaganza offering, Lord Jim’s, named after a Joseph Conrad character.
In fact, the most historic part of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the Authors’ Wing, is so named after having hosted such literary luminaries as Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward and James Michener.
As a South African, you may be interested in staying in the Wilbur Smith Suite, decorated in an elegantly Afro-colonial way and, most fabulously, has signed copies of all his books.
There are stunning wildlife drawings and African masks and fabrics along with all the traditional things you would expect to find in a great hotel.
Back to the food, though … a Chinese restaurant is among ten restaurants and bars.
The Riverside Terrace is perfect for feasting during the day while viewing the water traffic or looking out onto the Mandarin Oriental hotel’s gym, a spa complex and a traditional Thai restaurant on the opposite side of the river.
Afternoon tea is served in the Authors’ Lounge, amid white rattan furniture.
This is where, along with the traditional English tea of scones and clotted cream, an Asian Tiffin tea is served, which may include satay sticks and steamed pork buns.
The Mandarin Oriental’s staff is its greatest asset as no amount of bling and expensive interiors can make up for their extraordinary impact on your wellbeing.
The lift will be called before you reach it, and the member of staff will know, as if by magic, on which floor you reside.
Then, when the lift doors open on your floor, the butler will be there to greet you and to open your room door for you.
Rooms have a purpose-built cubby for your shoes. The butler will access your shoes via a locked corridor door without you being the wiser, polish them overnight and return them, wrapped in tissue paper, like a cherished gift.
Confirmed Iconic Status
From their gravity-defying floral-art displays in the lobby to the complimentary carved fruits and bowls of ice cream served to you poolside, everything about the experience confirms the Mandarin Oriental’s iconic status.
A visit here may spoil the memory of every other hotel you thought special.
* From March through to October 2019 all the rooms and suites in the hotel’s River Wing, together with the lobby, swimming pools and Lord Jim’s, The Verandah and Riverside Terrace restaurants, will be upgraded. The historic Authors’ and Garden Wings of the hotel will remain open throughout the renovation.
Words by Brian Berkman