A lady never tells her age, but I will divulge that although this grande dame is the oldest hotel in Asia (her looks have held up exceedingly well) you can still count on your stay at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok to provide unsurpassed excellence in style, comfort and service. The Oriental (as the locals refer to her) has garnered more awards than Jennifer Lawrence, ranging from “Best Hotel in the World” to “Urban Spa of the Year”.
After a long day exploring the teeming metropolis of Bangkok, you’ll be more than ready to return to your oasis of calm that overlooks the legendary Chao Phraya River. Each of the Mandarin Oriental’s 358 rooms and 35 individually themed suites are studies in local craftsmanship using neutral Thai silks and natural teaks. The perfectly firm bed swathed in ultra fine linens virtually guarantees a wonderful night’s sleep.
Just a few things I adore here: the large bathroom with separate tub and walk-in shower was strewn with orchids; the private floor genie-like butler who never failed to welcome me with a respectful “wai” (the traditional Thai greeting, consisting of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together) and an afternoon snack, the gold embossed personalized stationery, as well as a most welcome time-saving master switch by the bed that turns off all the lights at once. (Can someone please tell me why all hotels don’t have this?)
While lounging by the swimming pool, my “cabana boy” would quietly sneak over to drop off a chilled washcloth and a tall glass of ice water, and, if I was awake, offer to bring me a poolside snack. One could happily while away the whole afternoon here.
But it’s the unrivalled service with a smile that really sets this property apart. While I was at the concierge desk watching Hoon (their most savvy I.T. concierge) work wonders on getting my stubborn I-Pad to play nicely with me, I overheard the following exchange between another concierge and a rather crotchety older guest, (which was gravely conducted with all the deep concentration of a doctor talking to his patient).
“So when I leave tomorrow you’ll pack me up a dozen of those tasty mangos I loved at breakfast, right?
“With pleasure, sir.”
“But I don’t want them to be all mushy by the time I get home.”
“I completely understand sir.”
The concierge then spent several minutes doing higher math to figure out that with the gentleman’s flight schedule and time change it would be three days before his next breakfast. He promised to consult with the chef and package up 12 green mangoes guaranteed to achieve peak ripeness by the man’s return home.
Food lovers can select from nine gourmet international restaurants and bars:
• Fine French dining at Le Normandie
• Seafood with a beautiful riverside view at Lord Jim’s
• Traditional Thai cuisine and dancing at Sala Rim Naam
• Contemporary Chinese cuisine in an art deco setting at The China House
• BBQ specialities at The Riverside Terrace
• All-day international specialities at The Verandah
• Elegant afternoon tea at The Author’s Lounge, a cheerful white wicker room
• Delicious Italian dining at Ciao (I didn’t have a chance to try them but the wood-burning pizza oven was turning out some might delish looking pies.)
• Jazz and cocktails at Bamboo Bar
A perfect choice for my final evening was the Thai dinner/cultural show at Sala Rim Naam, right across the river where the famed Oriental Spa can also be found. Lush greenery and a rainbow of flowers, outlined with sparkling fairy lights, surround both. The hotel’s teak boat ferries you over to the lavishly decorated Northern Thai pavilion where you settle in for a classical Thai dance show performed after dining on a set menu featuring over a dozen dishes. Subtly spiced standouts included the spiced mango salad with soft shell crab, green pork curry with pea eggplant, and the herbed prawn in coconut soup. Colorfully costumed dancers, bedecked with golden headdresses, gracefully performed various classical Thai dance and mock battle performances accompanied by seated musicians playing Thai stringed instruments.
How can you not love a hotel that states, “Your leisure is our pleasure” and nowhere is that more evident than at the breathtaking Oriental Spa. The ultimate me-time begins with the fun ferry “cross-river” to the intricately carved teak house with 15 treatment rooms, as well as the Ayurvedic penthouse, a holistic slice of heaven located above the spa, which offers a wide selection of natural healing treatments.
I was tempted to go early for a workout at the state-of-the art fitness centre, but nah… I was greeted with a hospitable Wai, a fragrant cup of tea, a chilled towel, and a pair of bamboo slipper to slip on before my therapist led to my spacious private room complete with a rain-and-steam shower and assorted toiletries. After perusing the 40 plus treatment choices, I opted for the 90 minute Oriental Signature Massage, which began with a quick shower and then a choice of massage oils, before lowering yourself down to the floor mattress. The only questionable part was that since you aren’t on a massage table there is no cut-out space for your face so it was a little tough getting comfy propped up on a rolled towel. After I removed it and put my head to one side it was much better. And thus began a blissful hour and a half of relaxing Swedish stroking finished by a pat-down of warm compresses filled with Thai herbs that eased the last of my trouble spots. This is one spa that really lives up to its major rep!
Janice Nieder is Founder of Travel with Taste.