Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (January 6, 2016): Hotel review: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (Thailand).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Last december, I enjoyed a terrific stay at Bangkok’s most legendary and ultimate five-star hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Timeless yet contemporary, classic yet cutting-edge, the hotel’s unique blend of luxury and comfort make this a haven of calm that has pleased travelers from all over the world for more than 135 years. The ultra luxe hotels features 339 rooms (most with river views) and 35 suites, in addition to no less than 9 outstanding restaurants and bars, and a brilliant spa.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Thailand.
Have you ever stayed at this hotel? If so, what was our experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The hotel enjoys a central yet very peaceful and tranquil location in this hectic metropolitan city, whose population now numbers more than 8 million. Excellently situated within easy reach of all Bangkok’s main attractions, the hotel is only a short walk from the city’s famous skytrain, and a short boat ride from the famous Grand Palace.
- The iconic five-star hotel is spread over two sites with the river in between. The hotel’s main complex (with lobby, room wings, bars, restaurants, and pool) is connected to the gym, cooking school and Thai restaurant on the facing shoreline by means of charming, teak shuttle boats. Boats run every 5 to 10 minutes, so there is never a long waiting time.
- The hotel has been an iconic Bangkok landmark for decades, enjoying a reputation for style, service and excellence. The original structure was the first hotel built in Thailand when it opened as The Oriental in 1876. Since then, the hotel has always been the preferred Bangkok address of world leaders, royalty and celebrities. Audrey Hepburn, Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, Sophia Lauren, George W Bush, and David Beckham have all stayed here.
- The hotel’s grand lobby and reception area make a great first impression. Majestic floor-to-ceiling windows that face towards the Chao Phraya River, two royal elephants guarding the lift landing, and historical “temple bell” chandeliers are faithful to the hotel’s oriental heritage. I visited the hotel in December, during the festive season, and the lobby was sublimely decorated with spectacular flower arrangements everywhere and a magnificent, exotic Christmas tree.
- Check in at the hotel is quite unique. Instead of the usual check-in at the reception counter, a member of the hotel staff escorted me directly to my room, where the actual check in was done. In addition, the welcome amenities were quite overwhelming: besides the usual welcome drink and fruit bowel, I also received a mini-boat with beautifully displayed macarons. I am not sure though if this is the standard check-in procedure for all guests.
- The hotel has 358 rooms and 35 suites, spread over 3 wings: the river wing, the garden wing, and the author wing. During my visit, I stayed in a river wing’s deluxe room, which was located on a higher floor and came with superb river views. Featuring traditional Thai touches such as teak furniture and beautiful silk accompaniments, the rich decor of the room was stylish yet comfortable. Furnishings included a king bed swathed in luxurious linens, a desk with multi-region power and communications sockets, and a spacious bathroom with large soaking bath and luxurious amenities.
- There is a butler on every floor, who sits at a desk near the elevators and is available 24 hours a day to help with any questions you may have about the hotel and its many facilities.
- The hotel also has several specialty suites, which are among the best accommodations in the Thai capital. Suites in the historic authors’ wing are named after literary figures that once called the hotel their home, such as Joseph Conrad, James Michener and Somerset Maugham. The river wing contains deluxe two bedroom suites named after former guests or personages associated with the hotel including Barbara Cartland, Graham Green, and Jim Thompson.
- One of the features that I like the most about this hotel, is the presence of large outdoor terraces with tables and sun loungers along the river. This large outdoor space represents a nice oasis of calm in a vibrant environment and gives the hotel a ‘resort-in-a-city’ kind of vibe. It is lovely to relax on the terrace and watch the many varied boats and ships passing by.
- The hotel has two pools, hidden amidst trees and garden so it doesn’t feel like you are surrounded by high-rise buildings. The pool has a separate kids area with a shallow end for the little ones. The cabanas comfortably offer space for four. Water and extra towels are brought right away. I appreciated the complimentary ice cream with sweetcorn and noodle toppings.
- Since 1974, the hotel has been managed by the legendary Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, one of the best global luxury hotel brands. The group has grown from a well-respected Asian hotel company into a global brand and now operates, or has under development, more than 40 hotels. I have previously reviewed the Mandarin Oriental properties in Bodrum, Shanghai, Munich and Kuala Lumpur.
- The hotel is one of the two flagship hotels of the Mandarin Oriental group. Yes, you read that right. Mandarin Oriental is probably the only hotel brand in the world to be in the unusual position of having two “flagship” properties, being The Mandarin in Hong Kong and The Oriental, Bangkok. In 1985, the company rationalized its corporate structure by combining these two renowned properties under a common name, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. But it wasn’t until September 2008 that the hotel formally changed its name from The Oriental, Bangkok to Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
- Home to nine outstanding restaurants and bars, the Mandarin Oriental hotel is not only Bangkok’s most iconic hotel but also the city’s premier gourmet destination. And there is something for everyone: French fine dining at Le Normandie restaurant, traditional Thai at Sala Rim Naam restaurant, seafood at Lord Jim’s restaurant, Chinese cuisine at The China House restaurant, international bbq buffet at the Riverside Terrace restaurant, rustic Italian food Ciao Terrazza restaurant, and casual international dishes at The Verandah restaurant. Since I only stayed one night, I could not try them out all, but I had dinner at the Thai restaurant (where you can choose to sit outside on the riverside terrace or inside and enjoy a Thai show) and the food was delicious.
- The breakfast buffet is served on the riverside terrace along the river and is of very good standard. The selection for breakfast is great, consisting of “oriental” yogurt, fruit loops for the little ones, breads, cheese, cold cuts, dim sum, eggs prepared to order, and many other things.
- The spa, located accross the river and featuring classic Siamese aesthetics, is quite famous and has frequently been voted by magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler among the best in the world. It offers a range of unique treatments blending contemporary and ancient techniques. I had a 90 minute Oriental signature treatment, which combined Thai and European massage techniques. Before the start of the treatment, I was welcomed with a soothing tea, followed by a foot cleansing ritual and private consultation. Highly recommended!
- With the rigorous demands of the Mandarin Oriental brand and the incredible number of staff (more than 1300 people are employed by the hotel), it’s not surprising that the service is top-notch and one of the best in the world! You will be treated like royalty.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a class of its own. There may be hotels that are newer, more modern, and higher, but they do not compare with the timeless elegance of Bangkok’s grand dame. I did not encounter any issues during my stay, but you may want to know the following nonetheless:
- With 393 rooms in three wings, the hotel is large and can feel busy from time to time. As one of Asia’s iconic hotels, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok also hosts many local functions, such as weddings and corporate events, which can make the public areas even more busy. But the good news is that there are always lovely sanctuaries to retreat to, such as the tree-lined swimming pool and the library with cabinets.
- This is a very posh hotel. In the evening there is a strict “smart dress” policy in the lobby and throughout the hotel, which should be respected. Gentlemen need to wear long pants, and while that definitely contributes to the sophisticated ambiance of the hotel, it can be a bit uncomfortable in Bangkok’s subtropical climate with high humidity (as I experienced myself).
- The rooms may feel a bit cramped by modern standards. In addition, the decor and furniture of the rooms is a bit dated, but the hotel is currently undertaking a comprehensive renovation so that should be a thing of the past soon.
- WiFi is complimentary as long as you have made the room reservation online on the official Mandarin Oriental website. If not, you will have to pay for WiFi, which may be a concern for those who cannot live without network.
- The view from the main pool towards the river is blocked by a small service building. Removal of that building would not only result in a spectacular river view from both the lobby and the pool area, but would also create a more spacious feeling in the pool area itself (perhaps a suggestion for the hotel’s architects when they renovate the pool area in the future).
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8.8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, free WiFi, and $100 USD food & beverage credit). You need to log in or register (for free) to view and book these Virtuoso perks.
- Save money: book your room with an additional 10% off making use of a Best Rate Guarantee.
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (and/or receiving many free perks).
- Book a room on the hotel website to enjoy complimentary WiFi.
- If you get to the hotel by taxi, then do not call the hotel Mandarin as most taxi drivers only know it by its original name, The Oriental (as I experienced myself).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The weather in Bangkok is dominated by a tropical monsoon climate which means there are three main seasons: a cool, dry season between November and February (which is the best period to visit the city); a hot, dry season from March to June, and a rainy season from July to October. As Bangkok holds claim to being the hottest city in the world, expect daytime temperatures to be in excess of 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year (with the possible exception of late December and early January). The two periods April to May and September to October are characterised by high, almost untolerable humidity. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing unsettled, cloudy conditions and, for many, this is a welcome respite.
HOW TO GET THERE
Bangkok is served by 2 airports and this Tripadvisor page gives great insightful information for getting from the airport to the city center.
- Suvarnabhumi International Airport is located 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of downtown Bangkok and is a major hub in Asia. Check the Wikipedia page of Suvarnabhumi International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to this airport.
- Don Mueang Airport is Bangkok’s regional commuter flight hub and the de facto low-cost airline hub. Check the Wikipedia page of Don Mueang Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to this airport.
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Another wonderfully thorough and enticing review!!! The place looks sublime.
Thank you for your kind comment! It’s a stunning hotel indeed.
Great review! We love this hotel too. The last time, there was a young staff by the lifts and he would remember which floor the guests were on and would press the appropriate floor button for you! Truly impressive! And we had a lovely English afternoon tea experience in the lounge by the few shops off the main lobby. All sky lit with palms and wicker chairs. A rather colonial experience!
amazing review ! You have to visit in Singapore it´s so great there too !