Story by Manos Angelakis with updated information by Nick Ross
Photos courtesy Manos Angelakis, Nick Ross and the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Night view of Mandarin Oriental 100dpi

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

The best hotel I ever stayed in!

Through my 60 years of worldwide peregrinations, from the days of living in a rundown room at the Parisian “Beat Hotel” of Mme. Rachou, to my days as marketing consultant to the Leading Hotels of the World when I stayed in some of the most historic 5* luxury hotels of Europe, the middle-East, north-Africa, north- and south- America and Asia I have experienced as many luxury hotel properties as any world-traveler has ever done.

Claridge’s, the Dorchester, the Connaught and the Corinthia in London; the George V, the de Crillon and the Ritz in Paris; the Ritz in Madrid; the Pierre and the Peninsula in New York; the Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel a few minutes away from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; the Carerra in Santiago de Chile; the Mena House in Cairo; the Peninsula and the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong; the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo; the Bauer Palazzo and the Sina Centurion Palace in Venice; the Corinthia Palace in Malta; the Dolder Grand in Zürich; the Royal Club Evian; the Hotel Eden, the Hassler and the Cavalieri in Rome; Reid’s in Madeira, and many, many more… all have been absolutely fabulous hotels. But there is one hotel that I still place above all other luxury properties, the Oriental in Bangkok.

We arrived in Bangkok after a very long flight with a stopover at the Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG).

Whenever I have to fly with a stopover in Europe, I prefer the stopover at Charles De Gaulle for a very simple reason. At one of the duty-free shops one can still get genuine Caspian caviar! Expensive like hell, but still worth every penny spent for an ounce.


We landed in Bangkok in the middle of the day and were met inside the arrivals building by staff from the Oriental that whisked us through emigration and customs to one of the stately BMW autos that belong to the hotel. The drive from the airport to the hotel is still an “adventure” since Bangkok drivers are as aggressive as they have always been and traffic congestion is endemic for as long as I can remember. If you ask a local about how long it would take to drive from one area to another in Bangkok, the answer will usually be “between 20 minutes to two hours, depending on the traffic!”

The Bangkok Oriental is one of the most celebrated hotels in the world.

Oriental Bangkok Historic Photo

The original building, now housing the Author’s Suites, was built in the mid-19th century as a boarding house for seafarers on the bank of the Chao Phraya river and re-opened as a hotel in 1886. In 1891, King Chulalongkorn began using the Oriental as a guesthouse for visiting royalty and heads of state. In 1913, the Imperial & Royal Austro-Hungarian Legation in the Kingdom of Siam established its chancery at the hotel. Everyone who was somebody has stayed at the Oriental when Thailand was still called Siam, and they still stay in that storied hotel, now known as the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok in room fruit bowl

What truly makes the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok a standout is the attention to detail and quality of service. The service in this hotel is superb, second to none. In luxury hotel circles it is still considered the “standard” everyone tries to emulate. In many European and American luxury hotels the staff to guest ratio is, at most, one-to-one. A few Asian luxury hotels have a two-to-one ratio. At the Bangkok Oriental the ratio is still three-to-one i.e. three staff for every single guest.

Nowadays the hotel uses the original building, plus a hotel tower built in 1958 which is called “The Garden Wing” and a third tower building erected in 1976 “The River Wing”. The Garden Wing and The River Wing buildings are ingeniously interconnected, though they look from the outside as two independent structures. The towers have the majority of the rooms, modern suites, bars and restaurants, the exquisite public spaces, the executive offices etc. They are offset at the back of the garden, facing a large terrace that also serves as an open air dining room fronting the river.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Author's Lounge

The original building, now over 140 years old, has been recently completely refurbished and is called “The Author’s Wing”. It has the Author’s Suites, 12 river-facing suites with private balconies, all named after famous writers that stayed in the hotel during the years. It is surrounded by the tropical garden, and is mostly hidden behind trees.

Oriental author's suite graham greene living room

Three hundred of the hotels rooms have been refreshed with an interior that merges traditional Thai elements with modern amenities, like Bluetooth speakers and Nespresso machines. The river views of many rooms have gotten even better thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, some of which open onto balconies.

If you are a frequent or honored guest, there will be bilingual (English/Thai) stationery and business cards waiting for you on the desk in your room.

Another lovely touch is that if you use the hotel’s laundry, your clothing gets returned wrapped in Mandarin Oriental wrapping paper with an orchid flower on top!

Sala Rim Naam That Dancer

Across the river is the “Sala Rim Naam” a restaurant that offers classic Thai dishes plus a spectacular folkloric show (from 7:45 to 9 pm) and is open in the evenings, till 10 pm.

Sala Rim Naam Shrimp

Signature dishes are Goong Phad Prig Daeng (fried prawns with garlic and red chili sauce) and Ped Toon Nam Ma-Kham (duck in tamarind sauce) and of course, spectacular carved fruit, an ephemeral Thai artistic endeavor. Also across the river from the hotel is the Spa and the Oriental Thai Cooking School.

Sala Rim Naam Carved Fruit

Kurt Wachtveitl, one of the best known and very highly respected hotel General Managers, managed the hotel for 42 years. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Wachtveitl in the very early ‘90s when I stayed at the hotel a number of times. It was due to his leadership that the hotel attained the exceptional position to be considered as “the very best luxury hotel East of the Suez Canal” providing the most gracious hospitality in the Asian hotel industry.

 Le Normandie Duck Dish

On one of those visits, I also met Executive Chef Norbert Kostner, another industry leader; he made sure all of the hotel's restaurants provided immaculate service and exceptional food, and turned the kitchen of the 2 Michelin-starred “Le Normandie” the hotel's haute cuisine restaurant into one of Asia's top eateries and the hotel into a destination for gourmets. He was given the Grand Maitre du Goût (Grand Master of Taste) award by the Academy of Taste.

His motto was “You don’t need a cook to serve caviar. To roast a chicken, and get it moist and tender and crispy, you need a cook.”

Wise words! 




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