Q: What is it? A: A truly classic Asian hotel on the east side of Chao Phraya river. Sleeping quarter for folks like Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, yours truly and Bryan Ferry.
This hotel was my first glimpse of Thailand.
A gentle driver in a long white coat, sporting a matching uniform cap the size of a family pizza, sliding the door open to his Toyota Ventury Majesty, offering bottles of chilled hotel branded mineral water to tired travelers. Twenty-five minutes later, I’m in the lobby of one of the most friendly places on earth. An hour later I’ve crossed the river. I’m in the Mandarin Oriental spa, getting an outstanding massage. Life could definitely be worse.
Anyone for breakfast?
Behind the counter of the Riverside Terrace the soccer team-strong band of chefs will cook you anything from pancakes to miso soup. The selection is rather impressive: Eight different types of marmalade. Fifteen or so different kinds of juices. A seemingly endless selection of cereal and then there’s the bread… They even offer you cold or iced chocolate (with ice cubes), iced tea and smoothies and frosties made to order. Make no mistake, among hotel breakfasts this hotel breakfast is in the elite hotel breakfast league.
There are numerous hotels in the neighborhood. Why is this different?
The original building, making it Thailand’s oldest hotel, is now called the Authors’ Wing. A few large suites are still there, but you are more likely to enter that part of the hotel for afternoon high tea, a private event or a very expensive handbag. Their more recent wings look a little bit like a Swedish hospital, circa 1974.
Their reason-to-be is their impressive 1,300 staff catering to 396 rooms. No, that’s not a typo. You’re loking at the highest staff to guest ratio in the industry. Most work there for 16 years on average and they do know service. The fact that out little group is arriving just minutes after sunrise isn’t turned into a problem. They don’t even mention their actual check-in time. They just make us all feel very, very welcome.
Who is it for?
I’d say the Mandarin Oriental is for everyone. Despite its high rankings and its touch of money, fame and royalty it doesn’t feel like a discriminating place. There’s room for disappointment if you enjoy very modernist spaces. You will not be taken away by the interior design (rooms are fine without being overly traditional, but you will remember the view from the balcony, rather than any special details).
Breakfast aside, what will make you fall in love with the Mandarin Oriental, is the charming staff. The lady, probably in her late 50s, who was our butler on the ninth floor, remembered names and never stopped smiling. I honestly, seriously believe those smiles came from the inner regions of her heart.
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
48 Oriental Ave,
Bangkok 10500, Thailand (Bang Rak)