Repeatedly voted the world’s best hotel for its service and attention to detail, the Mandarin Oriental was Thailand’s first large hotel. It was established in 1876 and completely rebuilt in 1887. More wings have since been added. The hotel owes much of its charm to the Armenian Sarkies brothers, creators of the luxurious Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and boasts lavish decor and a spectacular setting on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
The original, white-shuttered wing contains the renowned Authors’ Suites. Somerset Maugham was one such author who stayed here in the 1920s. Recovering from a bout of malaria, he wrote of the “dust and heat and noise and whiteness and more dust” of Bangkok, though his perception of the city was to change once he was able to explore the wats and khlongs.
Classic, English-style high tea is served in the Authors’ Lounge of the hotel, a riot of potted plants and wicker chairs. A teak barge shuttles back and forth to the Sala Rim Naam on the opposite bank, one of the hotel’s eight highly acclaimed restaurants. Performances of traditional dance are staged here as guests dine. The hotel runs a respected school of Thai cookery.