The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a glorious example of living history. It opened in May 1887 as The Oriental, designed to offer the very best services and facilities for guests visiting what was then Siam. And nothing has changed since then (except for the name of the country). The hotel continues to deliver its hallmark luxury facilities combined with exceptional service to this day.
And in Bangkok, as elsewhere in the world, there’s no shortage of legendary luxury hotels, many of which come with a list of awards as long as your arm. They all share common attributes: history, location and a guest experience that sets them apart from the rest – well that’s the general premise of their success, but it isn’t always the case.
When it comes to the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, however, the rules just don’t apply because this is about as close to hotel perfection as you are ever likely to get. This is not a hotel of futuristic, cutting-edge design; it’s not filled with designer-clad staff looking like they leapt from the pages of Vogue; nor will your food arrive in test tubes festooned in clouds of steaming dry ice.
Rather, it’s that certain something you become aware of the minute you walk through the doors into the fragrant, marble-clad lobby – you know you are somewhere special. There is a feeling of graciousness and elegance that never dissipates. Staff are ultra-efficient – an approach that’s tempered by genuine warmth and the desire that every guest will enjoy whatever they have come for, be it a place to stay, a wonderful meal or the opportunity to celebrate a special occasion.
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok lives up not only to the marketing hype but also to its stellar reputation.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Buffet breakfast to be taken in Verandah restaurant
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Dining Experience
- One Thai Buffet Lunch for two persons at Sala Rim Naam, once during stay (excluding beverages)
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
Bangkok traffic is challenging at the best of times but never more so than when the heavens open up and the city is transformed into a giant water park. This was the case as I headed to the hotel. However, it didn’t dampen my spirits as I was excited to be going to one of my favourite hotels in the world.
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok may not be the newest hotel in town, nor is it adorned with acres of bling. Some far less experienced, trend-spotting, design- obsessed reviewers wouldn’t comprehend the ethos of this hotel, easily overlooking the delights of this, one of the world’s great establishments. In truth, this is the hotel by which all others should be judged.
The moment I stepped from my car, an umbrella instantly popped open above my head (lest a single raindrop were to fall on me), and I was ushered gently into the hotel’s cathedral-like lobby. The delicate perfume from the enormous flower displays wafted gently in the air as I was escorted to the reception. I was politely checked in, and from that moment, for the rest of my stay, every staff member I encountered referred to me by name – impressive indeed. Dining reservations made, I was escorted to my Garden Suite in the famous Authors’ Wing of the hotel.
Rooms and suites
The Authors’ Wing has recently undergone a complete renovation with the introduction of a range of suites, along with a dazzling new Presidential Suite. My Garden Suite was stunning in every way. At the entrance there are a few steps into the living and dining area. Decorated in grey, beige and teal with accents of silver, white and polished, dark-teak wood, the room is contemporary and sophisticated. Rather wonderfully, the interior incorporates elements of Thai design that perfectly complement the overall chic aesthetic. And to match such a beautiful interior, one needs an equally stunning view. I was not disappointed – massive floor-to-ceiling windows (at least 12ft high) frame the entire room, letting sunlight and the spectacle of the action on the Chao Phraya river flood into the room.
The lounge area had the most comfortable furniture I have ever draped myself across, including armchairs strategically placed to afford the best vistas. The dining area contained a large, round table with four dining chairs, a teak-wood cabinet housing the extensive mini-bar, a wet-bar area with a full-size refrigerator and a guest powder room.
The bedroom was equally spacious, with the most comfortable king-size bed I have ever slept in. A chaise longue sat next to the windows, as did a spacious (and elegant) work desk. Just off the bedroom was a large walk-in wardrobe and a dressing area with stunning views.
Mandarin Oriental invests heavily in in-room technology, and the Bangkok property is a showcase for this. My suite had two 46in HD flat-screen TVs with numerous channels and movies on demand. Lights had various pre-set levels and were all in the right places; curtains and drapes were electrically controlled. Best of all, though (and something this can be challenging with so many windows in sunny Bangkok), the air-conditioning worked perfectly no matter how hot and humid things got outside.
Wi-fi speeds were lightning-fast, both in the room and throughout the hotel.
I can’t recommend the Garden Suites highly enough. However, if your wallet objects, then consider the Junior Suites in the Tower Wing as these are delightful, very spacious and come with excellent river views – well worth the extra cost over the deluxe rooms, which are somewhat uninspiring.
Mandarin Oriental knows how to make a good bathroom, and mine was no exception. Pristine-white marble is liberally used, and the lighting was ideally placed. For those with luscious locks (unlike me, with none), I noticed the hair dryer was appropriately situated in the bathroom, or could be used at the desk in the bedroom.
A large vanity with twin sinks housed the largest range of toiletries I have seen in quite some time; there was little chance of running out. For those needing a long soak, the tub was designed to fit every shape and size and was exceptionally deep should you wish to use lots of bubbles. A marble-clad WC and large walk-in shower completed the set-up.
But again, it’s the small things that set this hotel apart, such as the mountains of perfectly fluffy, pristine-white towels, the opulent Thai silk robes (along with Frette bathrobes) and the bathroom amenities (no problem if you happened to have forgotten your toilet bag). All very impressive.
Amenities hail from the decadent Floris range and come in good-sized bottles that were regularly replaced with religious zeal.
Given that the hotel is, without doubt, the most iconic in Thailand, it may seem strange that my opening comments regarding dining are about the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, The China House. Given Mandarin Oriental’s heritage, the fact that there’s a great Chinese restaurant in-house is hardly surprising. Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building, its interiors are opulent, chic and a contemporary take on ‘old Shanghai’. But of course, one doesn’t come here for interiors, but instead for the exceptional Cantonese food, masterfully created by executive chef Andy Leong Siew Fye.
I went with a selection of the most delicate dim sum: as light as fresh air on the outside, with explosions of taste on the inside. They were beyond delicious. I followed this with the restaurant’s hallmark dish, the Cantonese crisp-skin duck with pancakes. I have had this duck many times in other establishments but the finest example is at The China House, perfect in every way.
Service is discreet, highly professional and attentive, with immaculate timing between courses.
There are other restaurants at the hotel you shouldn’t miss, including the French restaurant, Le Normandie, where classic French haute cuisine is served on the top floor of the Authors’ Wing. Everything about this locale verges on epicurean perfection, right down to the foie gras.
I was not as impressed with Sala Rim Naam, the Thai restaurant, which is directly across the river next to the Oriental Spa. Featuring northern Thai specialities, the food, for me, was somewhat uninspiring, perhaps geared more to the tastes of Western guests. But in a city that’s brimming with superb restaurants, there is better, more interesting Thai cuisine to be found elsewhere in Bangkok.
When it comes to breakfast, I am not a great fan of the ever-predictable breakfast buffet but The Oriental is the exception. It is served outdoors on the Riverside Terrace, from where you can watch the boats and life on the river as it unfolds before your eyes. This breakfast extravaganza is indeed one of the world’s most fabulous. Sliced and elaborately carved fresh fruit, hot and cold dishes and excellent service to boot make this an unforgettable experience.
Spa and wellness
The Oriental Spa is across the river from the hotel in a separate wing with a huge gym alongside. The hotel runs a regular boat service to and from it which takes just a few minutes. Inside, the decor is all polished teak wood and marble. Treatment rooms are large and beautifully appointed.
I booked a 90-minute Swedish massage, and while the treatment itself was wonderful (my therapist was excellent), the Thai-style massage platforms have a relatively thin mattress along with headrests that can only be described as uncomfortable, so this is worth bearing in mind. That said, the Oriental Spa is recognised as one of the best hotel spas in the world, so it is worth the visit for one treatment or another.
Pool and beach
The hotel features two swimming pools, both surrounded by tall trees providing reasonable levels of privacy. There is a wading pool (surrounded by cabanas) as well as one that measures 25m long, ideal for those wanting to indulge in some aquatic exercise.
I spent an afternoon lounging by the pool, and even here there was not the slightest blip in the service. Pool staff were incredibly attentive, and there is also a collection of recent magazine issues to choose from, should you have forgotten to bring your own. However, best of all was the staff member with the ice-cream cart who regularly circled the pool – a fabulous touch.
As with most urban hotels, facilities for children are limited. Instead, take them on a river tour or go for a fruit-carving class – at least you’ll get to eat their efforts.
Staff and service
If there were ever a hotel whose hallmark was legendary service, then it would have to be the Mandarin Oriental. It is held in high esteem by so many people around the world, and if you ask them why, invariably the answer would be ‘the impeccable service’.
I firmly believe the service here is that by which all other luxury hotels should be judged.
If there was ever a United Nations of guests in a hotel, it was here (outside Geneva, that is). Holidaymakers, business people, heads of state, royalty, guests celebrating special occasions – you name it, they stay here.
My departure was as smooth as silk, even though there was a small error on my bill, which was dealt with in an instant. My luggage disappeared off down to the hotel’s pier, where my longboat was waiting for me.
How to get there
50 minutes by road transfer from Bangkok International Airport
368 Rooms & Suites