Mandarin Oriental Bangkok – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Often referred to as the Grande Dame of Bangkok, the Mandarin Oriental is now an impressive (for a city hotel) 142-years old! The absolutely spectacular original façade, dating back to 1876, has been carefully preserved by successive general managers. Colonial in style, it is white with pale green trimming around the balustrades and windows. The hotel has adopted celadon green as its running colour motif and this can be found through the property in the furnishings as well as in-room artefacts.
The original building was just one mid-sized structure, with little room to expand and hence, as the hotel increased its inventory, the management bought the adjacent building as well as some land across the river. Therefore, it is quite a piquant experience if one decides to go in for a leisurely spa treatment, as one must needs take a boat for it!
The lobby has a massive, thematic floral arrangement almost touching the ceiling, to then fall downwards in an artfully stunning cascade. Unusual hanging lamps made of teak and with an antique finish, lend a harmonious backdrop to the cluster seating. A pair of silver elephants gaily adorned with dried-flowers caparisons, flank the way to the lifts.
The room inventory includes 324-rooms and 44-suites, making it a total of 368-keys, with every floor offering butler service. There are 11-categories all-told, plus some uniquely themed suites: Superior Room (40-sqm) Deluxe Room (40sqm) Garden Room (35sqm) Mandarin Room (63sqm) Executive Suite (55sqm) State Room (63sqm) Deluxe Theme Suite (85sqm) Authors’ Suite (92sqm) Family Two-Bedroom Suite (95sqm) Garden Suite (80sqm) Deluxe Two-Bedroom Theme Suite (125sqm) the Oriental Suite (295sqm) and the Grande Royal Suite (600sqm)
The Grande Royal and Ambassador suites as well as three separate double bedrooms, are housed in the original Mandarin Oriental building above the tearooms and are extremely exclusive, with access restricted to the suite occupants only. Usually, this entire upper floor is either given over to state visits or else, to wedding parties and hence, the three double rooms, tastefully decorated in gray and silver, with celadon green touches in the bolsters and cushions, are not sold on an individual basis.
The Royal Suite has an intricately worked ceiling in white plaster. The lounge has pleasing turmeric coloured drapes, paired with mustard and orange cushions. The bedroom has lavender and violet bed furnishings offset by gray curtains by the bed, while the windows have violet drapes. The bathroom is simply humungous, with twin sinks as well as dual shower cubicles and the bathtub placed in the centre of the room, occupying pride of place. This suite also offers a boardroom for six people, a spa room for in-house massages and a private gym.
A 12-seater dining room connects both the suites. The Ambassador Suite –named in commemoration of Tsar Nicholas of Russia’s visit as the first foreign head of state to stay at the Mandarin Oriental, as also other dignitaries who subsequently followed suit – has two bedrooms and a living room, all done up in shades of fawn offset by celadon green cushions. Green silk tassels on off-white curtains lend the room an elegant touch. The bathroom is spacious, with a beautifully carved wooden brace in which the sink is embedded. This suite has the most amazing conservatory, simply but charmingly decorated, which can also be used as a private dining area.
The Royal Oriental Suite used to be the erstwhile Presidential suite. It is more Asian in look and furnishings, with heavy brown offset by gold and copper tones in the 12-seaer dining room. There are two bedrooms here; the first has a four poster bed and the theme here is of pineapples, while the second is done up in deep pink and reddish tones. This suite has a very posh bathroom, with a rotating large-screen TV and a bathtub that faces the river.
The Deluxe Room, which I stayed in, sports understated rather than opulent luxury. An extremely comfortable king-sized bed is offset by a carpet with a grey and mustard motif. The room’s muted grey and celadon green trimmings are complemented by a vase of white orchids, highlighted by an overhanging lamp. There is plenty of storage space like drawers and wardrobes. The bathroom has twin sinks along which is placed a miniature longtail boat with all the toiletries. There is a whole jar of bath salts as well as a bottle of bath oil thoughtfully placed by the bathtub. Personalised stationery and a chocolate platter complete the welcome touch.
All rooms (except the Garden View) offer bathtubs. Room amenities include four complimentary bottles of drinking water, electronic safe, minibar, tea/coffee maker, large screen TV, umbrella, torch, weighing scale and hair dryer. It’s not very easy to find the power outlet though, as it’s hidden away in the desk cabinet.
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok offers a fine selection of F&B options. Lord Jim’s, with 60-covers, has an aquarium running along an entire wall on one side. Overlooking the river from an upper level and open for lunch as well as dinner, the cuisine here is western international. The 50-covers Bamboo Bar, with a décor in sepia overtones reminiscent of an old world-gentleman’s club, presents jazz performances every night. A charming space, however, the British manager here is less than affable towards Indians – or perhaps Asians in general! The Verandah, with 150-covers, is the all-day dining outlet overlooking the river and caters to an a la carte breakfast. A section of this space, on a patio by the river, is called the Verandah Riverside Terrace. With a 100-covers, it is open between 5.30pm-12.30am and also serves a daily buffet breakfast. Further along, the 40-covers Ciao Terrazza offers al fresco Italian cuisine during the evenings only. Across this space is the Author’s Lounge, housed in the original hotel building, where the entire ground floor is devoted to being a quaint tearoom with 40-covers and various lounges opening into the other. High tea is served from midday until 5pm, to the accompaniment of mellow tunes by a visually impaired pianist. This is a truly tranquil space, well flooded with natural lighting and discreetly appointed interiors.
The China House is in a building across the road, to the side of the Oriental Arcade. Tastefully done up in red and black, with latticed doors and the 55-covers seating on two levels, it is reminiscent of the Shanghai of the 20’s and 30’s. Quite apart from the food, the stylish menu itself warrants a second look.
Of course, the jewel in the crown is the 35-seater Le Normandie, with two Michelin stars under its covers, err, belt! This restaurant offers sophisticated, French fine dining and therefore, guests are asked to dress formally, with male diners requested to wear jackets for dinner.
A quaint experience for in-house hotel guests would be to cross the river if they wish to enjoy Thai cuisine at the hotel’s 100-covers Sala Rim Naam, which has an indoor restaurant where traditional Thai dances depicting scenes from the Ramayana and other mythology, are performed (7.45-9pm) during a set dinner service. A la carte dining is available outdoors at the 100-covers Terrace Rim Naam overlooking the river.
Recreation facilities include a swimming pool as well as a wading pool for toddlers in a separate area off the main pool, with curtained cabanas around it for the parents to relax. The Spa Studio in the main wing of the hotel has four rooms for basic and quick beauty requirements such as manicure, pedicure, waxing or facials. However, if one would like a more relaxed and leisurely spa experience, as well as wish to use the gym, one needs to take the hotel boat and head across the river in the same direction as the Sala Rim Naam restaurant. The main spa has 18-treatment rooms, of which 14 are twin, one a single and the remaining three given over to facial treatments. A hushed space, the Reception area has a celadon green wall panelling off-setting the wooden roof and floor, while the Relaxation Lounge is done up in aqua shades. Each treatment room has a steam and power shower cubicle. The signature treatment is a combination of Thai massage techniques used with aromatic essential oils, followed by the traditional Thai herbal ball firmly rubbed across the entire body. The efficient and well trained masseuse places heated neck pads at the base of the skull that totally relax the neck muscles, as she works over the rest of the body. Although not unusual in itself, the treatment stands out due to the skill of the therapist as also the care given to guest comfort.
The Fitness Centre is also housed within this complex. Apart from all basic equipment and steam/sauna facilities, there are also separate rooms where one can learn Muay Thai boxing, yoga or aerobics.
Near the Sala Rim Naam is the Baan Phraya, with cane furniture offset by the now-familiar green cushions. This building has the Thai cooking school in one half and a bridal room for the bride and her entourage to get dressed in the other, on the occasions when an outdoor wedding has been planned at the Thai restaurant.
Convention facilities are located at the Oriental Arcade adjacent to the main hotel, with shops and boutiques on the ground floor and the meetings rooms above. These include three small meetings rooms that can accommodate between 4-20pax and the Grand Ballroom, patterned in gold and cloudy blue and which can be sectioned into four parts, that can accommodate 800-pax cocktail style. Although there is free wifi across the hotel, four computer work stations are provided for complimentary guest use, just off the Business Centre.
Housekeeping staff are efficient and discreet, while F&B is attentive and particularly solicitous at Sala Rim Naam. Front Office staff are welcoming and courteous upon check-in, but on check-out they are not as helpful, leaving one to drag one’s luggage to the hotel jetty by oneself; although it is only a short distance, the lack of courtesy is disconcerting.
The access to the hotel is via the hotel’s private boat, which can pick or drop guests off at the Sathorn pier, from where a flight of stairs takes one to the Saphan Taksin BTS station. The Mandarin Oriental is close to the Asiatique river mall, while the new Icon Siam mall will be coming up across the hotel. Guests can also take a ferry cruise down the Chao Phraya river, stopping at China Town, Little India, or Khaosarn along the way.
All major airlines fly into Bangkok as also many low cost ones and there is plenty to do in the City of Angels, from Siam square with its luxury malls, restaurants as well as roadside shopping, to Thonglor, full of upbeat pubs and bars. Apart from this, you can take in a day tour of the Grand Palace; visit Wats (temples) such as Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun and others; visit a Floating Market, the Flower Market and countless Night Markets, or Chatuchak Market, open only on the weekends, 6am-6pm. You can also do day trips to Ayutthaya or Suko Thai (both erstwhile capital cities of Thailand) Kanchanaburi and the Bridge over the River Kwai; Khao Yai with some Thai vineyards; or beach destinations such as Pattaya and Hua Hin.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
TEL: +66 (0)2 659 9000
FAX: +66 (0)2 267 4955
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.