Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, the Parnassus of the Mae Kong

Amidst the jolly sparkling Sunday brunch vibe at the riverfront, my request for usual liquid kale and ginger detox formula appears to be too sober and requires an affirmation. The order placement is treated with assurance and avidness, a Mandarin Oriental commitment to excellence. The blend is delivered with care as I flip through a precious copy of The Gentleman in the Parlour by W. Somerset Maugham. My literary journey in the mystical realm of Siam resumes as I sip the nutritious emerald colour elixir. Yet, I cannot help but to disagree with the late author reminiscing his journey and acute malaria as I lounge by the languorous Mae Kong and be enchanted by the modern Thai marvels and mayhems.

“The hotel faced the river. My room was dark, one of a long line, with a verandah on each side of it, the breeze blew through, but it was stifling. The dining-room was large and dim, and for coolness’ sake the windows were shuttered. One was waited on by silent Chinese boys. I did not know why, the insipid Eastern food sickened me. The heat of Bangkok was overwhelming. The wats oppressed me by their garish magnificence, making my headache.”
Fabled and fashionable, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has been the stable ofextraordinary Asian hospitality and accommodations in the Far East for great authors, stellar personalities, royalties, and to swoon the most discerning travelers in the past one and half century. The foremost of grandes dames on the continent continues to attract the ton in droves with her acclaimed glitz, grandeur, gourmet restaurants and sterling services to date. 


The first solid account of a twelve-room hotel was rebuilt out of a fire in 1865 is perhaps the most reliable apart from earlier documents of the Oriental hotel that can date back to 1863. The history is now enshrined in the Author Wing known for the colonial Indochinese decor graced by photographs of distinguished guests. And narrated in the fascinating biopic work by the Austrian hospitality historian, Andreas Augustin, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is reticent about her true age. Yet, the enigma allures modern hotel junkies to revere the Crystal Palace style reception in the centre of the River Wing, built in later half of the 20th century in the pre-merger era.

Even more grandiose in scale to her renown sister property in Hong Kong, the Mandarin, the Oriental majestically houses 331 rooms and suites in nineteen categories, full spectrum of casual diners to Michelin-star restaurants, two swimming pools, and an accoladed spa. The extensive renovation executed by Jeffery Wilkes in 2019 preserves the timeless lustre and accentuates the contemporary glamours by appointing bright and darling colours. The teak bells hanging down from the ceiling are dreamy, and some are now replaced by the glittering Bohemian crystal bells.

“The hotel first opened 148 years ago and has long been the center of Thai Society as an aspirational place in Bangkok. The Oriental legacy has always been the cornerstone of every decision for the project, with an emphasis on its position in the culture, which follows through with the interior design. Fabric selections from Jim Thompson who co-owned the Oriental in 60s, seating plans in the lobby respecting long-staying guests and people of importance, cultural influences on color and pattern all combined in an urban resort that respects the past but is indicative of the present as it progresses into the future.”,remarked by Jeffery Wilkes at the international design awards interview.


It has been a difficult task for me to name a favorite room type. The teak wood paneled State room with an unhindered vista of the river and a spacious walk-in wardrobe is my regular choice while I rarely decline a generous upgrade to a suite. Ushered by the courteous staffer, the door of a Deluxe suite leads to a shimmering Jim Thompson fabric upholstered lounge space connecting to the ivory color bedchamber dotted with curated Siamese artworks.

All the guestrooms are immaculately configurated for both a prompt workcation or a monthly tenancy. The dedicating floor managers always deliver the espirt of proper butlership, buzz the bell and regal services are at your fingertip. I have never enjoyed check-in this much elsewhere, it is a spectacle to view the senior floor manager ministering the expertise of unpacking.A collection of Author’s suites exudes timeless elegance and pay tribute to past literary laureates, with individually themed interiors, precious antiques, and personal butler.“The Oriental is the most glamourous hotel in the world!”, raved by Dame Barbara Cartland, and she is immortalized in the eponymous suite, pinkish every corner as one can imagine.


Even the basic Deluxe room exudes unsurpassed luxury to recommend itself. I recollect vividly the stunning view of the mighty Chao Phraya from one of the Deluxe rooms at my very first check-in, it is love at first sight. Wellness facilities are across the river on the Thon Buri side, the spa is perhaps one of the finest in Khun Thep and frequented by the local hi-so glitterati. I must have been a sailor in one my previous lives as I am always delighted to board on the ornately carved Mandarin Oriental Bangkok pontoon, besides the Siam yacht, wherever it sails toward.


My solo hygge brunch is punctuated by the cordial chitchat with the legendary concierge regina, Mayuree Laolugsanalerd, who has been attending the widely revered Thai royal family and numerous celebrity guests. The staff of Mandarin Oriental have worked for the grande dame since decades and undoubtedly have seen it all. Quotidien mindreading attentiveness is the basic, and any whims of spontaneity can be fulfilled, from a piano placed in your suite to a grand firework above the Mae Kong.


The anecdote about my liquid juice formula was no less fascinating than the royal lodging of the future zaddy Tsar Nicolas II in the spring of 1891 archived in the Royal Record. In one of the previous stays, when I learnt about a beloved friend contracting flu, I instructed the Verandah kitchen whizzing the fresh and antioxidant ingredients to prepare a detox elixir. It was a delicious and immediate remedy and should always mark a rigorous accueil and a rare amity.


I retreat from the riverside diner to avoid the heat in early spring, and the golden tropical sunlight filters through the drape and illuminates the reception, where guests in glamor ascend the ornate staircase for a wedding. The hotel manager Alex Huels paces about and greets all the visitors, and then comes for another welcoming conversation. To the question how the grande dame shall dazzle the future generations and remain at her throne of the Thai social fabric, he shares his view.

“The unsurpassed heritage and tradition of the Oriental instill the pride in our colleagues and transcend through the group. The recent renovation led by Design Wilkes reflects how the loyal clientele are respected for their supports as the very core value of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is so well preserved but reimagined to make sure our grande dame always stay fresh and elegant.”, says Alex Huels. And he continues with such a fondness of both Bangkok and Hong Kong.

“Growing up in Bangkok and being able to enter the fascinating industry with a career in both my favorite city destinations, it is a true blessing. The riverside of Bangkok is back on the map with such an exciting new scene coming about art and gourmet experiences, and we look forward to welcoming all the guests from the rest of the world to enjoy the heartfelt hospitality.”

Author:Joseph Wan

Photo:Joseph Wan/elle/Rosewood

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