Opened in 1879, Mandarin Oriental was Thailand’s first hotel and is still among its best, offering a touch of Far East romance from a bygone era. The high-rise buildings are modern and blocklike from the outside, but the interior shines with elegant, exotic details, from sweeping white staircases and filigree woodwork to towering tropical ferns and potted frangipani flowers. There are expansive river views from most rooms and public spaces, thanks to the direct riverside location. The courtyards of louvered white windows, lily ponds, and world-class service have attracted personalities from Somerset Maugham to Audrey Hepburn to Mick Jagger. The New Wing consists of modern, brightly decorated rooms; the Garden and Authors’ Wings are a better choice for those looking for Old Asia. Each suite is unique. The restaurant, cooking school, and spa are some of the most sumptuous and highly regarded in the region.
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Mandarin Oriental is right at the Chao Phraya River’s edge, meaning guests can wander around and enjoy the exotic array of boats plying the waters without even leaving the hotel grounds. The area surrounding is a mix of elegant hotels, glittering temples, and urban concrete. Just inland a block or so is Thai Home Industries, a mishmash of handicrafts and oddities in a building that used to be monks’ quarters. A mile walk north is Talat Noi, a more authentic old market area with alleyways lined with Chinese shrines and creaky machine shops.
Need to Know
Rooms: 393 rooms, 35 suites; from $435. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: There are eight restaurants (including French, Chinese, and Italian choices) and two cafes at the hotel, but the Riverside Terrace—with outdoor dining along the river, and an excellent barbecue buffet—is not to be missed. Traditional afternoon tea in the colonial-style, white rattan–clad Authors’ Lounge is another signature experience. Spa and gym details: The Mandarin Oriental Spa is considered one of Bangkok’s best, with therapies including ayurveda, a huge massage menu, and various detox treatments. The hotel also offers tennis, yoga, a fitness center, and two swimming pools.
Who's it for: Luxury travelers who enjoy history and culture; romantic literary enthusiasts. Our favorite rooms: Sleep like the world’s greatest storytellers in the Heritage Authors’ Suites, with elaborately carved canopy beds, deep-colored linens, and gold leaf details. Temple shopping: Just around the corner from the hotel is Thai Home Industries, an eclectic jumble of Asian crafts in a templelike atmosphere.