Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

48 Oriental Ave, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand

Opened in 1879, Mandarin Oriental was Thailand’s first hotel and is still among its best, offering a touch of romance from a bygone era. The high-rise buildings are modern and blocklike from the outside, but the interior shines with elegant 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 riverside location. The world-class service has attracted personalities from Somerset Maugham and 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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Old-School Haunts at the Oriental Bangkok

From lean multistory towers with glitzy rooftop bars to spacious well-appointed magazine-shoot appropriate condo-hotel suites, there is no shortage of places to stay in Bangkok; you’ll be hard pressed to make a bad selection. But I try, whenever fiscally possible, to spend a few nights at the Oriental and enjoy its rich history. Opened in 1877 and built in an Dutch colonial design, the Oriental has welcomed tzars, actors, astronauts, rock stars, and diplomats through its regal doors. Writers seem to find a respite in its bright ivory hued walls: There is a Author’s Wing in the original structure where Somerset Maugham, James Michener, and Noel Coward have dedicated rooms. The pièce de résistance is the Joseph Conrad Suite: Its checkered terrace shaded with verdant palms is an impossibly cool oasis in the magnified heat of Bangkok. The guest rooms are well-appointed and classic: There is cold juice and plate of fresh fruit waiting for you upon your arrival. In the morning we sat at cabanas by the small infinity pool, drank coconut water, and ate pineapple slices. A river boat zipped us across the river to our massages. We slipped in for a late afternoon tea in the whitewashed Author’s Lounge; they were setting up for a wedding and I immediately envisioned a happy couple standing at the balcony, like at a coronation, waiting at the applause and then cascading down its winged staircases. Given the immaculate setting it is no wonder that so many have found inspiration here.

Time for Tea

Surviving the third trimester of my pregnancy during hot season in Bangkok called for drastic measures. The indulgent afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental was just what a tired, mom-to-be needed: a comfortable sofa; very, very cool air conditioning; and three levels of buttery, carb-loaded (guilt-free) treats.

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