By Anita Draycott
Welcome to Bangkok, capital of the Kingdom of Thailand, where east and west, ancient and modern, exotic and erotic, calm and chaotic, clash and collide in the most delightful ways.
Back in the 1800s, when Thailand was called Siam, the original 140-year-old Oriental hotel, located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, opened its doors as a humble rest house for wayfaring seamen. Now called the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, the landmark property went on to become one of the world’s most famous luxury hotels. Noel Coward enjoyed cocktails on the terrace; Mick Jagger partied at the Bamboo Bar; Michael Jackson hid out here from the press.
Going to Bangkok and not stopping at Thailand’s oldest hotel would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Quite honestly, I could check in and never venture off the grounds.
Service reigns supreme, starting with the gentlemen who stand in front of the lobby elevators and push your floor buttons. In my room, overlooking the river, I was greeted with fresh orchids and bowl of mangosteens. The hotel delivers a different type of fresh exotic fruit to your room every day, along with another treat that comes with the turndown service— perhaps an elephant made of white chocolate.
Breakfast at the Riverside Terrace is an idyllic way to start your day. Help yourself to a Mimosa of Chandon bubbles and freshly squeezed mandarin juice while you contemplate the irrestistable buffet. Warm croissants, eggs Bennie, Thai noodles, sushi, panna cotta and apple tart are just a few of the options. Take a table by the river and watch the water hyacinths and longtail boats drift by.
Thai High Tea
To celebrate its 140th anniversary, the Oriental completed a $25 million renovation of its historic Authors’ and Garden Wings. For a total splurge, consider the 600 square metre Grand Royal Suite complete with private elevator, Victorian conservatory, private butlers and dining room that accommodates twelve. All this is yours for about half a million baht per night ($18,000 CDN).
If that sounds a bit rich for your budget, settle for Thai High Tea in the Authors’ Lounge where luminaries such as Joseph Conrad, W. Summerset Maugham, Jeffrey Archer and John Le Carré have supped. The lemongrass, chilli, lime and crabmeat sandwiches are exquisite, as are mango scones and tartlets. There’s a tempting list of teas and infusions, specially created for the hotel by the prestigious Parisian teahouse of Mariage Frères. It’s a poetic finale to a blissful day in Bangkok.