Bangkok is a thrilling ride of extremes. The sheer skyscrapers spin glittering into the heavens composing a skyline so wide, it makes even a New Yorker dizzy. Their long shadows, pumping with frenetic life, spill and stretch over ancient temples that are intricately decorated and as mind-blowing feats as any 21st century structure could ever hope to be. Boats, built in the same style as their 1000 year-old ancestors, shift and slide along the famous Chao Phraya River canals (Bangkok is known as the “Venice of the East”), while jets soar above, zooming to and from one of the busiest airports in the world. Modernity stacked on top of history.
It follows then, that life in Bangkok can be similarly extreme. Visitors who flock to the city in droves find an overload of sensory stimulation: spices, colors, aromas, sights and sounds. Here, the crowds can be epic—where poverty and privilege are elbow to elbow—and the streets can mesmerize, with intoxicating mix of nightlife and tourist attractions. Both are of global proportion and Asian legend.
The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, with its glorious history saturated in the richness of this legendary city combined with a cutting-edge approach to modern luxury, is an extreme experience in its own right. It dazzles while it pampers, it excites while it relaxes, and above all, it fulfills your every whim with the effortless grace of a truly old-world hotel, definitive of its brand of luxury. It is a world all its own, that you can slip into from the buzzing, overwhelming universe of the city that surrounds it. It will nurture you in a way that will leave a lasting impression–a rare lotus whose heady fragrance stays with you long after you leave.
You are greeted with chains of fragrant flowering orchids, and a traditional welcoming drink of lemongrass and ginger. Immediately, the hot, stickiness of travel evaporates, and a sigh escapes your lips—a sigh that will soon become like a mantra uttered each time you arrive on the threshold of the Mandarin Oriental.
The oldest hotel in Bangkok, a legend in its own rite, the Mandarin Oriental welcomes you, the newcomer, into the ageless realm of the global traveler, instantly making you a part of its history–an intriguing, splendidly beautiful and constantly unfolding plot line. Housing some of the most acclaimed restaurants in Bangkok, spanning a spectrum of global cuisines and opulent eras (the French Classic, the Chinese Art Deco, the Italian trattoria, etc.), the Mandarin Oriental is a city attraction all its own.
The Bamboo Bar, a venue that’s been the epicenter of Bangkok’s thriving Jazz scene since the 1940’s, is a must-experience, with live jazz every night of the week. The cocktails, appropriately classic with a playful flourish, are not to be missed, and you are likely to be enjoying them alongside Mr. 007 himself, Pierce Brosnan, who’s such a Bamboo Bar regular that his favorite drink (the “Thaijito”) is noted as such on the menu.
The novelty of having your own private, chauffeured boats, waiting to shuttle you to various nearby spots along the Chao Phraya River, never wears off. Outfitted like a traditional, royal vessel, you can bob along (with surprising swiftness) to a well-known antique shopping district, located on the edge of the city’s famous, vibrant Chinatown. Take the boat south instead, and you can be dropped off near a stop on the Skytrain, Bangkok’s ultra-modern and very slick take on public transportation.
Most importantly, however, is the shortest commute. Directly across the river are two of the brightest jewels in the Mandarin Oriental’s crown: The Sala Rim Naam and The Oriental Spa. The former is a traditional Thai restaurant that has nightly dance and music performances, and an epic prix fixe that will single handedly guide you through the haute cuisine version of Thailand’s traditional fare. The latter, The Oriental Spa, is the perfect piece of blissful sanctuary you will ever be so lucky to encounter. The diverse menu of treatments available follows suit to the philosophical nature of the whole hotel—encompassing the best of ancient practice with modern technique. Everything from an entire day of head-to-toe nurturing and revitalization, to a single hour of nirvana, can be arranged for. The astonishing transport of body and spirit awaiting you at The Oriental Spa more than makes up for, and is well worth, the little trip across the river.
The best part of traveling to a place like Bangkok is the mind-blowing wealth of experiences that embrace you. The best part of staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, is knowing that the world is at your fingertips, immediately accessible as soon as you set foot on the threshold. Yet, that in a heartbeat you can also have the quiet serenity of the hotel’s countenance—where you can just as instantly relax into the calm, stunning luxury of your temporary home. At the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, the world is your oyster, but you are staying in its pearl.
– Ava Fedorov
Photographs by Jeffery Owens and Ava Fedorov for Socially Superlative