THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL BANGKOK
LEGENDARY PALACE HOTEL
Since 1876, and despite the presence of the neighboring top-luxury -but far less glamorous- Lebua, Shangri La, Peninsula and Chatrium, "The Oriental" (as still called affectionately by its returning guests) remains the best established five-star lodging in Bangkok, and one of most famous palace hotels in the world.
the shadow of the modern, quite unsightly 1970s "Main
Wing", stands the sublime "Authors' Wing": the original Dutch colonial
pavilion, where the legend of "The Oriental" was born in 1876. More
than 18 million dollars have been invested in 2016 to beautify what was
originally a basic lodge, hastily built for the first adventurous travelers visiting
Siam, after the Kingdom opened to foreign trade with the signing of the
Bowring Treaty. Somerset Maugham, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and
Graham Green inaugurated the crampy and mosquitoes infested wing. It
now houses the roof-topped "Authors' Lounge":
one of Thailand most photographed locations, it is world famous for its
so unique, stylish, romantic -and pleasantly old-fashioned "High Tea".
The dress code is as strict as in a London gentlemen's club. It brings
The Oriental a few, yet bitter, claims in Tripadvisor: essentially
written by tourists from outside the hotel, wearing short pants and
sleeveless shirts, courteously but firmly stopped by the efficient
security staff. This policy
meets the permanent satisfaction of the graceful Bangkok society,
gossiping in the white rattan armchairs, listening to live soft
music. Our last visit, right after the renovation, was
enchanting. As conservative as a guest of "The Oriental" should be, we
loved the whiter shade of pale design so much, and feared some
defacing; on the contrary, everything looks like more enchanting than
eyes will notice a slight difference in the structure of the double
stairs conducing to the newest, most sumptuous suites designed for "the
1%" (leading CEOs, statesmen, world famous artists, and wealthy honeymooners...) on
a no-limit budget.
authentic palace hotel, The Mandarin Oriental sells itself from the
prestige suites first. We have inspected, and even stayed, in some of
them (enjoying the noticeable "Captain Anderson" in the contemporaneous
Wing", for instance), and found them all different. Both in term of
style and charm. But we mush aknowledge that those in the "Authors'
Wing" left us voiceless. Totally
privatized, the "Royal Suite"
meets no competitor at all in Bangkok.
This is simply the most impressive lodging in the Kingdom of Thailand.
No picture and no words can describe the space, plush atmosphere,
feeling of supreme power, and unmatched relaxation indulged during the
exploration of the 326 sq.m of luxury.
It has only one king-size bed: which might seem odd due to the volume of the suite. But it connects directly with the 2-bedroom "Ambassador Suite", which is not less ritzy, plus another bedroom for security or maids. Decorated in the royal colors of yellow and purple, featuring original mouldings, silver leaf, and imposing crystal chandeliers, the "Royal Suite" comes with no bling but a spontaneous elegance. The living room, and the ceremonial dining room (sitting 12 guests), have been designed for dignitaries. There is a private gym and a SPA treatment room (but no sauna nor steambath). This is also the place for wedding parties and fashion photo shoot. The bathroom would please the most megalomaniac guest, indeed!
Our December 2016 stay, gave us the opportunity to experience the
same room like one year before. A "Premier Room", now rebranded into "Garden Room".
Located in the "Garden Wing", the "boutique" section of
the hotel, dating back from the 1950s, our totally refurbished room
featured a split level layout. Covering "only" 35 sq.m, it really
looked like a suite. Featuring a cozy bedroom and a lavish marble
bathroom, with stylish silver taps, on the mezzanine floor; and a
colonial-inspired, chic contemporary living-room on the ground
floor. It looks like an artist loft, with its floor-to-ceiling windows
overlooking the garden and
The nook, once hosting the writing desk, has given place to a
large bar filled with complimentary drinks from the best local and
international brands, including beer, house wine... and a personal
reserve of the yummy "Mandarin Oriental Bangkok" signature coconut
ice-cream served with style at the swimming pool! Thumbs up for the
Carefully displayed on the table of our living-room, we found a best-of all the bonuses expected by the experienced Oriental guest: wine, fresh snacks and tropical fruits, a welcome letter handwritten by the general manager, and an invitation to the fancy and exclusive "management cocktail party". Organized once a week, it allows the VIPs, suite and returning guests, to meet each other in the "Authors Wing", taste Thai snacks, wine and fine liquors, enjoy live Siamese music and dance, exchange their impressions and formulate any request to the management. There is only one hotel in the world organizing such a party, and we always calculated the day of our visit to make sure that we would not miss it. This is actually part of the folklore launched by Khun Kurt (Kurt Wachtveitl), "the man who did The Oriental". He retired in 2009, after more than 40 years devoted to "his" hotel (replaced by the dynamic Amanda Hyndman, who fell in love with the hotel when she was a young traveler).
Khun Kurt remains the special adviser and ambassador of a soulful hotel, with a very low turnover among the staff... sometimes working here for decades, and actually knowing regular guests' -including the Royal Family- personal tastes and special requirements! The much devoted, anticipating service, always gave us the impression that we were staying in a royal palace. We have always been called by our name by the so friendly female head-concierge, and the discreet though efficient floor butlers (bringing us complimentary evening snacks, wine, and beautiful bouquets, or shining our shoes without any special request from our part!). We would like to understand how the lift-boy at the "Main Wing" (how many hotels still have a lift-boy nowadays?) can send the guests to their floor, faultless from the first until the last day of their stay? And also, why did the butler always emerged at the right moment to open our door? We had one secret revealed recently: there are motion detectors hidden in the rooms, to check whether it is occupied or not. The staff won't, therefore, never disturb the guests; rushing into the room as soon as they left to refresh it completely, everytime it looks necessary!
The hotel is located in the last area in Bangkok where oxygen remains more or less generously available... Let's cross the river aboard the hotel private teak-wood shuttle boat (also deserving the nearby BTS Sky Train station), land on the right bank, and visit the “Sala Rim Naam”: where royal Thai cuisine can be enjoyed in a typical “Sala”, with live Siamese traditional music. Next door stands the most prestigious SPA in Bangkok: an Eden, made out of precious teak wood, devoted to relaxation, with a new Ayurvedic Penthouse where we had a well worth the trip 90 minutes massage and treatment, performed by selected Thai masseuses proficient in the Indian techniques of relaxation and soothing. Alternatively, the very complete and soothing 90 minutes Signature Massage is excellent (approximately USD 130, and worth it). This Thonburi bank is also housing the quiet Thai Cooking School, and the very high-tech and chic Fitness Club. Near to the school lives "Khun Tong Jah": a very talkative bird, who shall greet you with a phony "Sawatdee Khrap" ("-Hi!"), or "Khap Khun Krap" ("-Thank you!")... if he likes your face and feels in a good mood.
Traditionally overpriced, always full for dinner (but with a reasonable offer at lunch time), “Le Normandie”, remains one of the most awarded French restaurants in South East Asia. "The China House"
serves in style a most authentic Cantonese cuisine. Refurbished from
its original, warm and picturesque design into quite a conventional
coffee-shop, “Lord Jim” is an excellent alternative for both
affordable and palatable international food. We actually prefer “Ciao”,
the open-air terrace restaurant (opened during the “dry season” only),
its palatable antipasti, pasta, and seafood, with a breathtaking view
of the river which must be experienced after dark. Note that this is,
with the "Riverside
(serving splendid chargrilled BBQ lamb and blue river lobsters in the
evening), the last place where you could freely enjoy a good cigar; a
strict law now takes over the gourmet and “aficionados”' freedom to
smoke in air-conditioned and "public areas" (which, in Thailand, means
everywhere!); even the now smokeless, freshly beautified Bamboo Bar, despite the
entertaining live music, lovely jungle theme with deep leather sofas
amongst palm fronds and authentic bamboo shades, lost part of its soul;
with a clean air, the once so animated Oriental jazz-club looks
like as aseptic as a Swiss clinic... Ironically the Habanos shop, with a selection of
the best tobaccos from Cuba, stands next door!
to say, The Oriental is one of the Top 10 most expensive hotels in
Thailand; nevertheless, it actually remain affordable to a large
majority of travelers, so happy to spend only 50% of what they would
pay in a Paris or London palace hotel, for more space and an unmatched
level of service... Those visiting Bangkok only once in their life
should stay nowhere but in The Oriental!
GASTRONOMY AT THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL BANGKOK
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok restaurants attracts the Bangkok high society, royal family and tourists alike. Often criticized by westerns for applying quite a strict etiquette (wear a light jacket, a discreet tie, and leave your short-pants in your hotel room!). We visited them many times and always enjoyed this anticipating service, location and splendid menus and wine lists which make all the difference with the competitors. The buffets are well worth a transcontinental flight!
LE NORMANDIE (*****): You are both gourmet and wealthy. You like superlative French wines and legendary Thai service. Le Normandie is the place for a happy fews. A French, highly experimented chef, and a stylish"Maître d'Hôtel", supervise this panoramic restaurant on the top floor of the lavish Mandarin-Oriental Bangkok hotel "Garden Wing": setting a splendid menu for its distinguished guests. Fairly good value for money at lunch time, with a classic "à la carte" at approximately THB 1,500-2,500 with one or two glasses of wine, it comes actually expensive for dinner. From what we could see, Le Normandie is very much visited by the local society (Queen Sirikit loves it: dinning there at least once per month) and European expats, nostalgic of the Western cuisine.
We particularly enjoyed the Duck Liver served with an excellent Sauterne, the Supreme of Lobster and the Filet Mignon (juicy and tender) with vegetables strudels. Most of the ingredients are freshly imported from France: only two or three 100% authentic French restaurants in Bangkok can afford it.
Cheese is wonderful, with a great variety from not so common Murol to popular Bresse Bleu, and from aristocratic Roquefort to Brie de Meaux, generously served on a trolley. As a dessert, we recommend the "Creme Renversée": a pure delight, which comes on the regularly updated menu.
Time has gone, unfortunately, when a French "maestro" was hired for a long term as a consultant (Troisgros, Senderens, Vrinat... all of them have worked for Le Normandie); the new generation of world famous chefs still visit Le Normandie on special occasions, conducting special culinary menus.
Normandie remains one of our
best addresses in Bangkok for those who like the "Cuisine
Certainly the most prestigious.
We concluded our meal with a strong coffee from Thailand (as strong and perfumed as the best Italian brands) and a cigar, watching the traditional Thai riverside life, drifted by the sight and sounds of the “menam” and the discreet melodies of the live band playing almost every night. That's a good life!
The service was so good that we expressed our satisfaction to one of the waiters, working for the hotel since... 25 years. Despite of the re-branding, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok remains The Oriental: a still brilliant “Old Lady”!
Open daily for dinner 7:00pm -10:45pm.
THE RIVERSIDE TERRACE
CIAO (****): What a location for a romantic moonlight diner! Settled between the river Chao Phraya and the tropical gardens of The Oriental «Authors' Lounge», this is certainly our favorite terrace in Bangkok. You feel like far from Italy, with a breathtaking panorama on the starlit «menam» (=river), jammed with rice barges, speedboats and ferries; but we must recognize that the food is close to what we would have enjoyed in a Roman trattoria. The sauces are lighter, the olive-oil dosed with parsimony; but we are in a tropical country and, indeed, your stomach will like it. Else, the pizzas are cooked in an authentic Neapolitan wood-fired oven. There is a variety of home-made pasta which make the Italian diaspora, quite active in Bangkok, come back again and again.
We enjoyed very much the Antipasto of small Calamari, with Sun Wilted Plum Tomatoes, Oven Roasted Pumpkin, Small Olives and Sweet "Pepperoni" (THB 380), which is one the chef's signatures. Very light and tasty. Another favorite: the Casareccia Pasta With Lamb Meat Balls, Salted Ricotta and Touch of Chillies (THB 390). The Original "Alex Cesare Cardini" Salad, with Anchovy Fillets, Garlic Tiles and Parmesan (THB 380) is a best seller. The Risotto with Crustaceans, Green Asparagus, Aromatic Herbs and Drops of Saffron Oil (THB 450) has been adapted to the climate, and we liked very much this light, palatable version of what is basically supposed to be quite an heavy meal.
Excellent desserts, featuring original Italian ice-creams.
We had our diner with a very affordable (THB 400 by the glass) «Primo Amore 2006 IGT, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie» with light pear and almond aromas, with dilute fresh pear fruit flavors and a soft and slightly tart finish. Interesting and refreshing.
Friendly and efficient service, supervised by Khun Nattanone: the «Maître d'Hôtel », which has been working at The Oriental for ages.
We warmly recommend this genuine, affordable Italian restaurant.
from 5pm until 11pm (closed during the rainy season).
SALA RIM NAAM (*****): Our first great tourist and gastronomic experience in Thailand. Still under the jet lag, we booked our diner at the Sala Rim Naam in The Oriental Hotel. This was a delight: after crossing the river Menam Chao Phraya in an old fashion teak wood ferry-boat, when at dawn the lights of the ships are starting reflecting in the obscure water, we reached the Thonburi's right bank where is located the Sala Rim Naam, just behind a romantic garden and terrace. Our dreamed Thailand became reality as soon as we stepped into this traditional and luxurious pavilion: a stream of servants drove us to a table -after our shoes had been softly removed !- kneeling quite permanently in front of us to present a set menu of tasty typical specialties.
Meanwhile, we were entertained by dances from old Siam court, and episodes of masked Ramakian performed by "katoeys" (transvestites) any honest man would feel ready to marry on the spot... discovering quickly the sad reality ! Royal treatment, indeed. We left the Sala Rim Naam little bit dizzy with nostalgia, sweet music, great spicy food and cool Singha beer. A "servant" (could we talk about "waiter" or "waitress" in this such a noble place?...) returned our shoes, delicately polished. Was it a dream ? No: this was Thailand, Sala Rim Naam, and the superlative luxury of The Oriental.
The Sala Rim Nam is also serving lunch. In a quiet and very local atmosphere -lots of guests were upper class Thai residents- we experienced their sumptuous buffet: lots of crispy, chewy, spicy, sour and sweet delicacies! With still that unique quality in term of food, beverage and service! Booking is essential.
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