Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is looking fresh from an extensive renovation

By Daryl Lee 29 December, 2016
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is looking fresh from an extensive renovation

Past perfect

The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is everything one would expect of a luxury hotel in a major metropolis. There’s discreet, attentive butler service, top-notch amenities in each room, world-class spas and restaurants, plus an eye-popping Grand Royal Suite that spans an entire floor and features six bedrooms.

While these are impressive, they can also be found at any luxury hotel in any major city in the world.

However, what precious few hotels can claim is history, and it’s something the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has in spades. It’s celebrating its 141st anniversary this year, and it’s amazing to think that when the hotel first opened in 1876, Thailand (more accurately the Kingdom of Siam) had just opened up to foreign trade.

The hotel’s lobby

Indeed, the hotel predates the car, and indeed, municipal power in Bangkok. It would be eight years after the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok opened – then known simply as The Oriental – that the Thai capital would have its first taste of electricity.

In those days, the hotel had 40 rooms, a second storey, carpeted hallways and in the decades to come, electric ceiling fans. Make no mistake, though. While the hotel is undoubtedly steeped in history, it’s by no means decrepit, especially not after having undergone extensive renovation work totalling some 630 million baht (S$25 million).

The main beneficiary of that remodelling is the oldest wing of the hotel (the Authors’ Wing), restored to its colonial-era glory. That wing houses the Grand Royal Suite on the second floor and the Authors’ Lounge cafe, where afternoon tea can be had under the glass-panelled roof of the main dining area.

If it’s more old-world charm you’re after, there’s Sala Rim Naam, on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River, accessible via a short complimentary ferry ride. Serving traditional Thai food, your dinner also comes with classical Thai music and dance performances. You’ll be able to order Thai-inspired cocktails (like a Thaijito, a mojito variant featuring Mekhong rum and lemongrass) or an Italian Pinot Grigio, its silky astringence providing a nice counterpoint to the spicy food.

However, the most striking example of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s old-world charm starkly juxtaposed against modernity is in its French restaurant, Le Normandie. As with the rest of the property, it has recently undergone a remodelling, breathing new life into an eatery some have described as the grandfather of fine dining in Bangkok.

The cuisine includes delicate amuse-bouches, light mains and entrees that allow the natural flavours of the ingredients to shine.

Even the immediate vicinity of the hotel is redolent of yesteryear, with the colonial architecture of the nearby French ambassador’s residence, the shophouses of Bangkok’s Chinatown, and the magnificent Wat Arun and Grand Palace across the river. It’s almost easy to forget that the megacity buzz of the Sukhumvit district is less than a half hour away. How long that serenity lasts remains to be seen, however. Among other new developments, the 750,000sqm Icon Siam, comprising two adjoining megamalls and luxury residences (the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will be operating one of the residences), will be opening in 2017.

Even if the property’s peace is ruffled somewhat, one thing won’t change and that’s heritage – it’s something few, if any, luxury hotels anywhere in the world can lay claim to.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
48 Oriental Avenue
Bangkok 10500
Tel: +66 (2) 659 9000