Hotel review

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok: Luxury Hotel Review

Bangkok needs no introduction, but just in case, it’s a sprawling concrete jungle of over ten million people. It’s quirky and interesting, hectic and hot, frenetic and a hodgepodge of architectural beauty, crumbling buildings and narrow waterways. The streets are alive with the smells of a thousand different foods, vendors peddling their wares, people fixing sewing machines or motorbikes.

It’s hopelessly addictive, which is why so many people use the city to book their trips to Thailand. For my money, spending a week here really means getting under your skin, making sure you get the right balance of quiet retreat and hectic life. The bottom line for this is a wonderful place to get away from it all – step into the Mandarin Oriental.

The riverside terrace at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok

why stay here

Nestled on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the main artery that runs through the city, the Mandarin Oriental is one of Thailand’s oldest hotels at nearly 150 years old and a true icon of Bangkok. It’s been a temple of luxury since 1876 and its doors have seen royalty, celebrities and cultural icons pass through.

That said, these aren’t the same doors – the hotel underwent a huge refurbishment in 2020. The lobby seems a bit sold out for the spectacular space you walk into – a huge deal of two floors full of bright colors, water features and unique flower displays – the perfect place for afternoon tea, full of light and a wonderful respite from the sticky heat outside.

The hotel is divided into three spaces, two adjacent to the east of the river and the spa located in a teak farmhouse on the opposite bank, accessible by a river shuttle, next to the newly built residences.

Mandarin Room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok

Rooms and suites

At the main site, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has three wings – the River Wing, the Garden Wing and the Authors Wing (so named for the writer Somerset Maugham who fell rather ill here and took it used as a basis for recovering from malaria). The most contemporary are those in the River Wing – a fusion of New England and traditional Thai styles, the rooms are generous and comfortable, a soft blend of bright blues, white woodwork and gray accents. Most of the fabrics come from Jim Thompson, savior of the Thai silk industry in the middle of the last century.

You’ll have your very own butler on hand to help with everything from dinner reservations to laundry services. Being greeted on your return to your floor by someone who knows your name really creates a sense of intimacy and the warm welcome the hotel extends to you. This creates a sense of “home away from home” – much sought after by hotels but rarely achieved. The service throughout strikes the perfect balance between friendly and brilliantly efficient.

It’s no secret that hotel lighting is often seemingly designed by someone who has never turned on a light switch before. Not here, though, with a nice button labeled “scenes” that has several different lighting settings to suit your mood. Was in love.

Bathrooms are marble affairs with a 21st-century point of difference — Japanese toilets. If you don’t know, you’ll have to google it, but trust us, you’ll be ordering one for your home after your stay.

La Normandie is the hotel's flagship restaurant

Eat and drink

Breakfast is a fun and lively affair taken on the terrace overlooking the river; classics sit alongside Thai and Chinese dishes and an extensive pastry, waffle and pancake area. Of particular note are the preserves: apple and vanilla and rhubarb were both just the right side of sharp and perfect with a croissant.

The hotel’s flagship restaurant since 1958 is La Normandie, a temple of French gastronomy, which obtained its second Michelin star in 2017. In December 2021, Alain Roux took over as chef patron, bringing his decades of cooking experience. There are tasting menus galore with plenty of luxurious ingredients to devour and some of Roux’s classics like Canadian lobster medallions with ginger and white port sauce. Needless to say, reservations are essential.

Lord Jim’s is a buffet like you’ve only seen in a few ultra-upscale hotels: groaning platters of lobster, crab, shrimp, oysters; hand-rolled sushi; Iberian ham; hot stations with beef ribs, chicken ballotine with truffles, salt-baked sea bass with champagne, a purée so rich in butter that it’s almost a sauce; Made-to-order Thai dishes and a long, long dessert section that kept us coming back more than twice. The room itself is lovely with large windows overlooking the river and a steamboat theme.

For an after-dinner drink, Bamboo Bar, tucked away behind a frosted glass door, is a famous jazz bar that opened in 1953. In 2018, the Bangkok institution was selected as one of the top 50 bars of Asia and the rest since.

One to watch, two-star chef Takagi Kazuo is opening “Kinu by Takagi,” bringing his Kyoto-style cuisine to the hotel in July 2022. As of this writing, Mandarin Oriental’s Nam Rim Sala, one of best Thai restaurants in Bangkok, is closed, having not reopened after the pandemic. When it does reopen, however, be sure to have it on your list.

Lord Jim's sideboard is a spectacular affair

What to do

There are plenty of reasons not to do much here – the spa has remarkably skilled practitioners with a great understanding of the body; the bedrooms are generous in size and some have their own wooden bath if you want to feel even more relaxed. Taking a boat down the river to the spa adds an extra level of decadence and fun to the experience. Behind the spa is the hotel’s cooking school if you want to hone your chef skills to impress your friends and family back home.

The hotel’s pools, recently remodeled with cabanas to create a more private, upscale, and intimate atmosphere, are a wonderful place to escape the heat. A separate kids’ pool means the main one remains a tranquil haven to retreat to with a book; regular visits from friendly staff with ice cold water are a welcome interruption.

If you fancy a little something different, the hotel has a shuttle to the new IconSiam mall; it’s a good mix of thai and global brands, there’s a very cool cafe and a huge food court on the ground floor where you can try lots of bangkok street food in an accessible, easy (and air-conditioned).

How to book

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok rooms are from £400 per night including breakfast. 48 Oriental Ave, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand; mandarinoriental.com


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