It was my first full day in Bangkok and I strutted my way over to the Mandarin Oriental to check in. I was feeling preeeeeetty full of myself, thanks to my fancy unlimited data plan, which banished my usual travel terror of being hopelessly lost the majority of the time, so it was a real kick in the pants to hear that they didn’t have my reservation listed. WHAT?! The walls came crashing down around me. My jetlagged vision tunneled and the ground shook. Luckily, I was in Thailand, and Thai people in the hospitality industry are among the most helpful people on the planet. They make you feel like nothing bad could ever possibly happen while you’re in their presence. Within two seconds, I was sipping a cool beverage on a fabulously plush armchair and sizing up the bustling lobby scene. Lobbies don’t usually do it for me, but this… THIS is a place to make an appearance.
I had to remind myself that Old Hollywood mirrored itself after Bangkok, not the other way around
Floor to (massively high) ceiling windows make you feel as if you’re surrounded by a tropical jungle while you lounge on overstuffed brocade armchairs and feast on fresh fruit and cocktails, all the while gawking at a massive flower installation chandelier, complete with over 400,000 buds that drip from the ceiling down to pond of lotus flowers below. The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has a full time flower manager, with a further four members of staff reporting to him working exclusively on the floral arrangements for the hotel. I am totally on board with this idea. Every hotel should do the same.
Once my reservation was sorted (precisely 3.5 minutes later), I was shown to my room, which featured a gorgeous view of the Chao Phraya River, a massive bed that I would be perfectly happy to live in for 17 years, and a bathroom that… weeeeeell…. the bathroom had a bit of a privacy issue. While beautiful to look at, and FULLY stocked for your convenience, if you happened to be sharing the room and had a touch of traveler’s stomach, you would be well advised to send your love down to the bar for a good long while. As seems to be weirdly a la mode in hotel design right now, there is no sound buffer. There isn’t much sound insulation in the room at all really, so if you are a light sleeper you might want to let them know ahead of time so they can accommodate (and they will).
Perfect for the paranoid UHNW traveller, or the tech-savvy voyeur
That evening, I toured the property – currently celebrating its 140th anniversary – to get an up close and personal view of their new design. While this is being called a renovation, really it should be considered more of a restoration. They have done an amazingly detailed job bringing the hotel back to its original state. The property now matches the old time photos that they have hanging in their Oriental Reserve Exhibit. I also had the pleasure of touring (by way of a Jetson’s type private elevator) the Royal Suite and the Ambassador Suite (directly connected, if desired) and both designed by local Thai talent, P49 Deesign. The suites are jaw dropping, with dressing rooms, a private treatment room, a private gym, a conservatory (my favourite) and a SURVEILLANCE room. Perfect for the paranoid UHNW traveller, or the tech-savvy voyeur.
Next stop was the Bamboo Bar, the first jazz club in Bangkok (and one of many firsts that the Mandarin introduced to Bangkok, including first cooking school, first hotel spa, and first to develop on the other side of the river). Swanky, meet swankier! This place oozed sex appeal, and while it immediately brought images of Old Hollywood homes to my mind, I had to remind myself that Old Hollywood mirrored itself after Bangkok, not the other way around.
A 45 second breezy boat trip later, and I’m seated in the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s Thai restaurant, Sala Rim Naam, enjoying a traditional Thai meal and show. Diners are given a booklet outlining the food courses, costumes, and dances performed. If I hold a smile for more than four seconds for a photo I like a cat that’s been electrocuted, so I wondered how the performers manage to hold a constant smile for 20 minutes, looking calm and beautiful. People, tell me your secrets!
The following morning it was back across the river once more (I could really get used to those boats) for the Oriental Signature massage at their luxury spa. For the next 90 minutes I was lubed, flipped, rubbed, twisted, and tugged to my heart’s content and I REALLY did not want to leave when my time was up. Honestly, if I didn’t have a plane waiting I would probably have extended. C
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
+66 2 659 9000; mandarinoriental.com
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