Breakfast with Amanda Hyndman, The Oriental Bangkok
THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELIERS
The Hotel: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, affectionately known as “The Oriental”
The Manager: Amanda Hyndman, General Manager 2012–2017
‘The Oriental’ at the Chao Phraya river – and the historic Authors’ Wing.
For five years, Amanda Hyndman was the General Manager at the helm of the flagship of the Mandarin Oriental group ‘The Oriental ’ in Bangkok. Her elegance and personal appearance was legendary. (All personal portraits by Michelle Chaplow)
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a founding member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. No other hotel has been declared the ‘Best Hotel in the World’ more often by readers / travellers / juries’ choices over the past three decades.
Amanda Hyndman, who started in 2012, achieved two things that were considered unthinkable. She made us almost forget that the legendary general manager Kurt Wachtveitl had retired, and she even surpassed all expectations of the travelers’ community by making a name for herself at the helm of one of the most celebrated hotels in the ‘exotic East’. For the past five years, Amanda Hyndman managed The Mandarin Oriental with foresight, creativity and diplomacy, in short: a female touch.
In 1990, Amanda enjoyed a snack on the terrace, knowing that she would return to The Oriental, one day ... (A. Hyndman personal collection)
Good morning, dear Amanda, and thanks for your time. We are having breakfast at the Verandah, the temperature is pleasant out here, and it’s lovely to see you. I have never seen you ‚having‘ breakfast. What is your preferred breakfast?
Americano with cold skimmed milk on the side.
Q. Do you have a motto in life?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Q. You actively promote a dress code at The Oriental. Could you imagine welcoming a guest – and you wear jeans and a t-shirt?
No and I have never worn a pair of trousers at The Oriental, let alone a pair of jeans.
Maria Maire 1917, the first female proprietor and manager, posing on the first floor of The Oriental.
2017: Amanda Hyndman at the very same spot, 100 years later.
Q. Your are the fourth woman in history after Madame Bujault (1904), Marie Maire (1910, with interuptions until 1947) and Germaine Krull (1947-1960) at the helm of The Oriental. Should there be more female touch in hospitality?
I abhor positive discrimination. Any person of any gender, ethnicity or background, if they have the passion, can make a positive contribution in hospitality.
Q. I try it again: what should men learn from women? Do you see a difference between female and male management?
It is impossible to differentiate although if I have to generalize I often see that successful women have had to work a lot harder to get where they are.
Royal Suite Living Room
Q. What was your “dream-profession” when you were a kid?
Hairdresser or vet.
Q. What advise would you give a girl who wants to become a hotelier?
Be prepared to work very hard, be part of a team and want to smile every day.
Q. What was the most important advice you ever received?
To praise loudly and publically and to criticize gently and in private.
Q. What did you change when you took over?
I would like to say that I didn’t change anything but I enhanced what was already here.
Q. What would you never like to be changed at you hotel?
The esprit de corps of The Oriental Family (the hotel colleagues).
Q. For the same budget, would you rather afford the smallest room in the most famous hotel of a destination or the best room in a less expensive hotel?
Q. How do mega hotel companies with totally different brands under one roof affect hospitality business?
I don’t think they do in the luxury segment.
Q. Do you prefer to enjoy beauty rather alone or in company?
Always in company.
Q. Which was the most recent book you read that really impressed you?
The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee.
Q. Is it too much or too little courage that sometimes makes you fail?
Q. How do you balance business life and private life?
Q. Which hobbies are absolutely essential for you?
Walking & cooking.
Q. Which book is on your bedside table?
The Honorable Schoolboy by John Le Carre.
Q. Having managed this most legendary hotel, what could possibly top this position?
Spending time with my family and giving back to society.
The Authors’ Wing received a major facelift, the Somerset Maugham Lounge for example was decorated with portraits of the author and other elements of his work.
At the historic Authors’ Lounge, in the oldest wing of ‘The Oriental’, where many important people sat before, you are surrounded by portraits of the most famous authors of the literary scene. Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré, Forsythe, Maugham, Coward, … They were all guests at The Oriental.
Portratis of visting authors and personal dedications and quotes from their works grace the walls. Following a major renovation in 2015/16, under Amanda Hyndman the entire Authors’ Wing was decorated with 365 historical photographs displaying The Oriental’s Royal Collection and the Authors’ Collection (both curated and edited by historian Carola Augustin/famoushotels).
Q. Do you like this philosophical air of history lingering all over the hotel or do you consider such strong ties with the past a burden?
It is what defines the hotel and sets it apart from all others.
The Amazing Tale of Bangkok’s Legendary Hotel — THE ORIENTAL — appeared in 2016. With over 420 (some never before published) photographs and illustrations, this new book by Andreas Augustin is the new ‘Grande Dame’ of the Edition Raconteur, the grand format in the library of hospitality.
Q. How important is the hotel’s history for you as a marketing tool?
The two grand ladies of The Oriental: Ankana Kalantananda, Thailand’s first female hotel employee and part of the Oriental team since 1947), and Amandy Hyndman at the Opening of The Oriental Journey — the permanent exhibition of the hotel’s history (curated by famoushotels).
And the famous one-liners:
Amanda Hyndman in 2012, shortly after taking over The Oriental.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
When we were awarded five stars by Forbes after the military coup.
DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT HOME?
IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
I prefer felt pens.
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSEPAD?
Don’t have one.
STONES OR BEATLES?
AND THE SIMPLE CHOICES:
Black&white or colours White
Furs or synthetics? Neither
City or countryside? Both
Reading or watching? Watching
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Cats or dogs? Big dogs
Skiing or snowboarding? Neither
Open air or inside the music hall? Inside
Introverted or extroverted? Extroverted
Q. Are you leaving the hotel business for good?
Never say never…. I am looking forward to a different life.
Q. What do you want to have accomplished in the next five years? Peace.
I thank you, dear Amanda, for your time and that you have dedicated five years of your life to accompany The Oriental.
THE EXECUTIVE TEAM:
General Manager: see below ...
Personal Assistant(s): Duangrudee Siriwan, Attawan Sumongkol
Food & Beverage Manager: Thomas Kinsperger
Front Office Manager: Vorasingh Hutasingh
Head Concierge: Chaba Khampha
Executive House Keeper: Daranee Boomalert
Director of Public Relations: Karn Puntuhong
Director of Sales: Robert O Kennedy
The new general manager has been welcomed on 1. May 2017: Greg Lidell
The Oriental at the Fin de Siecle
Ambassador Suite Living Room (2017)
Noel Coward Suite exhibting portraits of the author as well as of his paintings.
Opening of the Oriental Journey — the permanent history exhibition. Hotel manager Marcus Bauder, Amanda Hyndman and Andreas Augustin (from left).
And finally — and not surprising — here are the smiling faces who welcome you upon arrival — and who make The Oriental such a special place to be.