History The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

The Oriental Bangkok in 1900. A hackney coach is parked in front of the Oriental Hotel. The hotel was always popular for its fine garden, clean rooms and exquisite food.

The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

doorman mandarin oriental bangkokJim Thompson, the silk king, owned it, the late Peter Ustinov loved it, Graham Greene has a suite named in his honour and Michael Jackson hid from the press there. Hollywood royalty graces the hotel, the Queen of England enjoyed it and Her Majesty, the Queen of Thailand, is a beloved faithful regular visitor.

When Thailand was still Siam – in the mid of the 19th century – a rest house for foreign seafarers was established on the banks of the Menam river. It was to become one of the greatest hotels in the world: The Oriental.
The Oriental — so many stories, so many tales. What’s the secret behind this composition? This book tells it all. From famous guests to PR strategies and management tactics.

From Joseph Conrad, the sea captain and writer, who drank in the bar, to Nijinsky, who danced in the ballroom. Somerset Maugham suffered from malaria in his suite, playwright and actor Noël Coward treasured the memories of his favourite cocktail venue. Meet over 150 of the most important international Authors in their Lounge and enjoy a glimpse of the fascinating Oriental Royal Collection. Over 500 VIPs listed, over 420 photographs, 160 gripping pages.

‘This is a truly gripping, thoroughly researched and well written story of one of the greatest hotels in the world.’
Gavin Young
‘Having known the Oriental for 40 years and more, I find here is a writer who has made the history come alive and tells the story as no other author can.’
Harold Stephens

Our book THE ORIENTAL – THE AMAZING TALE OF BANGOK'S LEGENDARY HOTEL is an account of over 15 years of ongoing research. The photograph on its cover is one of our latest findings.

Dive into the history of this hotel, enjoy the reading and one day please go there, because:?"At The Oriental you never feel bored: the buzzing river in front of you, the relaxed pool, the choice of the best restaurants. And why not visit Bangkok while at The Oriental?"? The database with its various subjects (to the right) contains additional material not published in the hotel's book.
Andreas Augustin

HISTORY IN BRIEF

1860 A Boarding House was operated by Captain James White on the land of the Privy Purse, where the hotel stands today.

1863 The first hotel called ‘Oriental Hotel’ is operated by Atkins Dyer and William West, both Americans.

1865 On 11 June 1865, a fire destroyed the Oriental Hotel.

1866 German C. Falck operates Falck’s Hotel and a bowling alley on the premises.

1876 The official ‘opening year’ of the Oriental Hotel

1881 H.N.Andersen buys the hotel. 

1885 Andersen rebuilds the hotel, today known as the Authors’ Wing. Architects: S Cardu & Rossi.

1890 H.N. Andersen, welcomed His Majesty King Chulalongkorn. His Majesty decided to accommodate Crown Prince Nicholas of Russia for one week at The Oriental in April 1891.

1910 Marie Maire buys the Oriental Hotel.

1913 Establishment of the Imperial & Royal Austro-Hungarian Legation in the Kingdom of Siam on 28 February 1913 at the Oriental Hotel.

1923 William Somerset Maugham arrived at the Oriental Hotel. He stays for several weeks, after suffering from a serious attack of Malaria.

1942 During World War II the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo took over the management of The Oriental.

1947 Jim Thompson and Germaine Krull acquire The Oriental.

1950 Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in 1950 as a guest of the Thai government to speak at the American Association luncheon held at The Oriental, where a crowd of over 1000 people awaited her. 

1967 The Bangkok based construction company Italthai buys the Oriental Hotel. Kurt Wachtveitl becomes its general manager. The name is shortened to The Oriental.

1972 The owners of the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong decided to establish Mandarin International Hotels Ltd and expand into Southeast Asia. The Oriental matched their requirements in Thailand. The two companies entered into a partnership, which continues, harmoniously to this day.

1976 The new River Wing was completed. The year is – in retrospect – accepted as the centenary of the hotel.

1996 The 120th anniversary of the hotel is celebrated with the launch of the first official hotel’s history book ‘The Oriental’, by Andreas Augustin and Andrew Williamson.

2015/6 At the Authors’ Wing the Royal Suite, the Ambassador Suite, and on the ground floor the Somerset Maugham, James Michener, Noel Coward, the Authors’ Lounges and the Joseph Conrad Terrace are opened after six months of renovation.

Note to readers: The confusion over the opening date might lead to the impression that the history of The Oriental hasn't been research properly. Yet we actually searched for over ten years, finding evidence of an 'Oriental Lodge' in the same place during the 1850s (Bangkok Calendar). This lodge burnt down and was rebuilt. We tried to shed as much light as possible on this story in our book THE ORIENTAL BANGKOK. However, the hotel management decided to set the offical opening date to 1876. Why? Very simple. The new River Wing was inaugurated in 1976, and at this point the owning manager Giorgio Berlingiri decided to put an end to all speculation, saying: we are 100 years old NOW. And that was it. Ever since then, the hotel has celebrated its birthday following the 1876 date, although it could give a much higher age. A rare example of modesty in this industry.

HISTORY IN DETAIL

The exact date of the opening of the hotel is lost in the mists of history.

1860 A Boarding House was operated by Captain James White on the land of the Privy Purse, where the hotel stands today.

1863 The first hotel called ‘Oriental Hotel’ is operated by Atkins Dyer and William West, both Americans.

1865 On 11 June 1865, a fire destroyed the Oriental Hotel.

1866 German C. Falck operates Falck’s Hotel and a bowling alley on the premises.

1876 The official ‘opening year’ of the Oriental Hotel

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We find the hotel again in the papers when The Oriental was bought by C Salje, a Danish seaman. He and moved it one big step closer to what may be considered a civilised hotel. 1878 advert in the annual Siam Directory: ‘Family accommodations.—American Bar, Billiard Saloon, Baths, Newspapers kept, Boats for hire, Table d’Hôte, Breakfast 9A.M., Tiffin 1P.M., Dinner 7P.M.’ A fellow Dane, H Jarck, managed the hotel. 1881: 29 year old Hans Niels Andersen from Nakskov in Denmark buys the hotel.
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In 1885, Andersen decided to rebuild the Oriental Hotel in a style befitting its growing popularity with the capital’s merchants and seamen. He commissioned a local Italian architect, S Cardu, to design the new building. S Cardu had established his offices in Bangkok in 1880. The Italian architect created a structure that, having withstood over a century of change, still stands at the heart of the hotel and is now known as the Authors’ Wing.
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1887: The newly established Bangkok Times was less than five months old when it announced the hotel’s ‘Grand Opening Day’ scheduled for Thursday, 19 May 1887: ‘The new hotel will open to the public for the first time. A banquet for 180 honoured guests will be held on the hotel’s lawn to the accompaniment of two orchestras.’ The hotel opened its own bakery.
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On 22 September 1888 The Oriental made another step towards being officially accepted by the palace. A dinner was given at the hotel by HRH Prince Prisdang, Director General of the Post and Telegraph, for the officials in his department ***** 1 June 1888: The proprietors of The Oriental gave the use of the hotel’s hall to a group of male residents (including Messrs Halliday, Heck, Arnold and Cook) wishing to practise for a series of musical evenings. (The Bangkok Times).

On 31 January 1888 the paper wrote about an incident at The Oriental Hotel: on this very Wednesday evening, a copy of Bacon’s Essays changed pockets rather daringly. Whether it was returned by the gentleman thief as requested by its indignant owner, we will never know. In 1891 the Directory for Bangkok and Siam: ‘The first important objects seen, in approaching the city, are the Bangkok dock premises on the west, the Oriental Hotel, and the French consulate’

In 1890 the guest list slowly grew more cosmopolitan and on one day it included patrons from Hamburg, New York, Rome, Cardiff, Singapore, Bombay, Delhi, and Geneva. In January a dinner was hosted by Mr C Donner, the Belgian Consul in Singapore, for his counterparts in Bangkok. The highlight of the year was 17 December. Mr Allen, the new manager, together with Mr Andersen, welcomed the most prominent guest the hotel had ever seen: His Majesty, King Chulalongkorn. The King arrived with his entourage to assess the ability of the hotel to host royal guests. His Majesty, King Chulalongkorn. was so impressed that he even decided to accommodate Crown Prince Nicholas of Russia, who became Tsar in 1894, at The Oriental in April 1891. In May 1887 Hans Niels Andersen, Peter Andersen and Frederick Kinch, the new owners of the Oriental Hotel, posed proudly in front of the new building. The Oriental was the first luxury hotel in Siam. Never had such opulence been seen in Bangkok outside the palace: carpets covered the hallways, there was artistic wallpaper with the latest designs from Paris and the bedrooms on the second floor were furnished with mahogany rattan. A second floor! What a sensation for a country of floating houses and one-storey bungalows. 

In September 1890 Bangkok’s first electric light generating system was inaugurated. The hotel had electric light from April 1891 onwards. One of the most interesting features of the illumination of 19, 20 and 21 September 1891 in honour of the King’s birthday was a ‘grand ornamental exhibition of electric light at the Siam Electric Light Co.’s works, the Royal Palace and the Oriental Hotel.’ Soon the city’s tram system was electrified and in 1893 King Chulalongkorn personally opened Siam’s first railway, a 16-mile length of track running from the capital to Paknam near the mouth of the Chao Phraya.

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1893: Hans Niels and Peter Andersen and Frederick Kinch sold the hotel with its steam launches, carriages, furniture, utensils, chattels, fixtures and stock-in-house for the sum of US$22,000*) to Franklin Bill Hurst. Hurst hired American W J Palmer to manage the property 1899: Hurst sold his interests in The Oriental to a syndicate represented by a Mr W Downie. By the turn of the century, The Oriental had firmly established itself with Bangkok society and was still a much sought after watering hole for travellers who had no contact with civilisation for a long time. In those days there was no air-conditioned airport building with limousines waiting to provide transport through the city. Journeys were exhausting. A voyage from Europe to Bangkok took around 40 days.

1931: The first group of aerial travellers landed at Don Muang airport, among them Mr and Mrs C H Day, The Oriental’s first air-borne guests.

1942: The Japanese International Tourism Bureau requested that the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo take over the management of The Oriental. Japan’s number one hotel also war-managed the Goodwood Park in Singapore, the Strand in Burma (left) and the Brastagi Heights in Sumatra. 1945: Interim manageress of The Oriental was Maria Robins from England. There were seven suites, 24 regular rooms with bath and 10 small rooms left. What little remained did overtime duty when it accommodated women and children evacuated from Japanese prison camps in Java. The Oriental housed liberated Dutch, British and Australian prisoners of war.

1947: Jim Thompson and Germaine Krull acquire The Oriental.

1966: Madam Krull sold her hotel shares and moved to Paris. In April 1967 Jim Thompson, founder of the Thai Silk Company, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the highlands of Malaysia.

1967: Italthai buys The Oriental’s. Kurt Wachtveitl becomes its general manager

1970s: Rooms at The Oriental cost 275 baht for a single and 390 baht for a double. The Royal and Thai suites in the old building were 1,000 Baht per night. At this point the owners of the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong decided to establish Mandarin International Hotels Ltd and expand into Southeast Asia. The Oriental matched their requirements in Thailand. The two companies entered into a partnership in 1972 which continues harmoniously to this day.

1976: The new River Wing was completed. The year is accepted as the centenary of the hotel.

1980: For the sake of posterity, a ‘Louis T Leonowens Time Capsule’ was sealed in front of the Authors’ Wing in the concrete base of the company’s symbol, a huge swing. Dr Thanat Khoman, deputy prime minister, was the guest of honour who placed and sealed the capsule. It contains artefacts of the present, photographs, newspapers and some little secrets which will only be revealed when the capsule is opened in 75 years time on 5 June 2055 The Oriental was the first hotel in Thailand to launch an apprenticeship programme (OHAP). Every year, 100 young people were accepted to attend the high quality hotel training courses. This was of course meant to improve local human resources. The young people can be found all over the hotel, where they gain practical experience in the day-to-day routine of The Oriental.

1992: The Oriental opened the first Oriental Shop at Bangkok’s Isetan shopping complex.

1995: A second Oriental Shop was opened at the Lake Rajada office complex selling gift items, fine chocolates, pâtés, wines and almost everything needed for an exquisite gourmet dinner at home. Lord Jim’s, The Oriental’s seafood restaurant on the first floor, overlooking the terrace, received a new, stunning interior design. Rock lobster from the tandoori clay oven, by the way, is a must!

1996 The 120th anniversary of the hotel is celebrated with the launch of the first official hotel’s history book ‘The Oriental’, by Andreas Augustin and Andrew Williamson.

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In 2001, the 125th anniversary of The Oriental (at least the official age, as all attentive readers know by now) was the talk of the town.

1,500 of the closest friends of the hotel gathered for a champagne reception in the lobby, followed by a perfectly organized gala dinner on the terrace. A splendid fashion show and half an hour of brilliant fireworks crowned the evening. The next years brought a total refurbishment of the Garden Wing studios with its splendid split-level rooms. All the house has been equipped with wireless LAN and high-speed internet access in every room. The terrace received a major face-lift, while the verandah restaurant was re-designed. New suites were created, such as the Thais Suite, a two bedroom suite with a Northern Thai atmosphere. Drapes and furnishings are sumptuous, and the foyer, living and dining areas are panelled in teak, like the flooring underfoot. The Selandia Suite evokes the charms of a life aboard ship, with its teak floors and walls, navy striped cotton draperies and brass cornered tables. Named after the ship Selandia which was requisitioned by France on 9 May 1940 in Saigon and in return requisitioned by South Africa on 22 June 1940 in Cape Town (South African Highland Regiment soldiers boarded the ship while the French sea-officers were ashore and ‘persuaded’ the French marines to leave the vessel). The suite’s master bedroom is complete with gold leaf, crystal and silver. The nautical theme is visible throughout, right down to the photographs, engravings and maps that take pride of place on the walls.

2001: 125th anniversary items were vacuum sealed and packed into the time capsule; this time an earlier edition of THE ORIENTAL BANGKOK book was among them).

2006: 130 years The Oriental celebrates its anniversary under general manager Kurt Wachtveitl.

2007: the new edition of The Oriental history book appears (green cover). The main archives of THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELS IN THE WORLD purchase an original folder from the 1920s, featuring American illustrator Dan Sweeney as cover artist.

2009: Kurt Wachtveitl retires from operative hotel business and hands over to Jan Goessing as general manager.

 2011: O-Zone opens on second floor of River Wing as staff recreation centre.

2012: Mrs Amanda Hyndman becomes general manager.

2014: The Oriental Journey opens, inspired by Amanda Hyndman, curated by Carola and Andreas Augustin, this is the history exhibition of the hotel. It is located in the historic Author's Wing.

2015/6 At the Authors’ Wing the Royal Suite, the Ambassador Suite, and on the ground floor the Somerset Maugham, James Michener, Noel Coward, the Authors’ Lounges and the Joseph Conrad Terrace are opened after six months of renovation. 

The Oriental wins the Conde Nast Readers Choice Award as THE BEST HOTEL IN THE WORLD.

Royal, Noble and State Visits

The Royal Family of Thailand patronizes The Oriental since its very beginning.
The hotel is also proud to welcome the most notable international and local visitors. Here is an excerpt of its impressive guest list:
Akishino, Prince of Japan
Alahmadi Ali Muaaddi Aziz Abdul Bin
Albert, Prince of Belgium
Albright Madeleine
Alexander, Prince of Belgium
Alexandra, Princess & Sir Angus Ogilvy
Alexandra, Princess of Denmark
Amneh Althani, Princess of Quatar
Andreotti Giulio, PM of Italy
Annan Kofi, Secretary General UN
Anne-Marie, Queen of the Hellenes
Badawi Dato Seri Abdullah Bin Haji
    Ahmad of Malaysia
Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands
Bertil, Prince of Sweden
Bhawani, Maharaja of Jaipur
Birendra, King of Nepal
Bongo El Hadj Omar Albert-Bernard
     of Gabun
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Bush George
Carl Gustaf XVI, King of Sweden & Queen Silvia
Carrington Peter, 6th Baron Carrington
Carter Rosalyn
Chand Kanidta
Charles, Prince of Wales and
     Princess Diana
Chretien Jean
Chirac Jaques
Cinzano Count Alberto
Constantine XI
Cuellar Perez
Dini Lamberto
Diskul Subhadradis
Duke d’Antin
Estrada Joseph Ejercito, President of the
       Philippines
Fuerstenberg George Prince & Victoria
Fujimori Alberto, President of Peru
Fukuda Takeo, PM Japan
Gandhi Rajiv & Sonia, PM of India
Genscher Hans Dietrich
George Tupou V, King of Tonga
George William, Prince of Hanover
Goh Chok Tong, PM of Singapore
Haakon, Prince of Norway
Halonen Tarja, President of Finland
Hassan al-Bolkiah Mu’izzad-din
     Waddaulah Haji, Sultan of Brunei
Havel Vaclav, President of Czechia
Hawke J L Robert, Australian PM
Heath Edward, Great Britain PM
Henrik, Prince of Denmark
Hermannsson Steingrímur, PM of
     Iceland
Hitomi Hiroshi
Hohenzollern Prince Johann George
Hussein Abdullah Prince
Hussein, King of Jordan & Queen Noor
Ingrid, Princess of Denmark
Jettou Driss, PM of Morocco
Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain
Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands
Khalifa Bin Salam Al-Khalifa,
      PM of Bahrain
Keating Paul, PM of Australia
Khoman Thanat, Deputy PM
Kissinger Henry
Klestil Thomas, President of Austria
Kohl Helmut, PM of Germany
Ladawan Thawisan M L
Lee Hsien Loon, PM of Singapore
Lee Kuan Yew, PM of Singapore
Lilian, Princess of Sweden
Lusinan Jaime, President of Venezuela
Macapagal-Arroyo Gloria, President of
    The Philippines
Manmohan Singh, PM of India
Margarethe II, Queen of Denmark
Margarita, Queen of Bulgaria
Maria Teresa of Luxembourg
Masako, Crown Princess of Japan
Michael, Prince of Kent
Minnikhanov Rustam Nurgaliyevich,
     President of Tatarstan, Russia
Mohamad Datuk Seri Mahathir, PM of
      Malaysia
Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
Nixon Richard, President USA
Papandreou Andreas, PM of Greece
Peres Shimon
Person Goran, PM of Sweden
Pignatelli Luciana Princess
Quayle Dan, US Vice President
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Rainier III de Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco
Ramos Fidel, President Philippines
Reagan Nancy
Rocard Michel, PM of France
Rojanastien Boonchu, PM of Thailand
Rothschild Philippine de Baroness
Saad Al Abdullah Al Salim Al Sabah,
     Crown Prince & PM of Kuwait
Sarasin Pote, PM of Thailand
Sartzetakis Christos, President of Greece
Schlueter Poul, PM of Denmark
Schmidt Helmut, Chancellor of
     Germany
Shultz George, US Secretary of State
Shah Azlan, Sultan of Perak
Sihanouk Norodom, King of Cambodia
Simeon II, King of Bulgaria
Shinawatra Yingluck, PM of Thailand
Soeharto Tojib, President of Indonesia
Sonja, Princess of Norway
Spencer Earl & Lady
Suzuki Zenko, PM of Japan
Talal Bin Mohammed, Prince of Jordan
Thatcher Margaret,  PM of Great Britain
Thein Sein, President of Myanmar
Thyssen-Bornemisza de
      Kászon Hans Henrik
Trudeau Pierre Elliott
Tupou George V, King of Tonga
Vadhana Galyani Princess
Vranitzky Franz, PM of Austria
Wangchuck, Jigme Khesar Namgyel,
      Dragon King of Bhutan
Weinberger Caspar
Weizsaecker Richard,
      President of Germany
Willem Alexander, Crown Prince of the Netherlands

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ARTISTS, ACTORS and OTHERS


Adjani Eric
Alexandre de Paris
Ambler John
Andrews Julie
Archer Jeffrey
Armstrong Neil
Arpels Mr&Mrs Philippe
Atkinson Kim
Attenborough, Sir Richard & L.
Aubert Jean-Claude
Aznavour Charles
Bacall Lauren & Robards
Baez Joan
Balestra Renato
Balmain Pierre
Barichello Rubens
Barnard Christian
Barnes Nick
Bartlett Hall
Baxter Anne
Beattie Anne
Becker Boris
Beckham David
Beevor Antony
Belmondo Jean Paul
Bhicharnchitr Worachai
Bisset Jaqueline
Bjornsdotter Cecilia
Blamey W S
Bocuse Paul
Bolshoi Theatre Dancers
Borg Björn
Boriboon Burin
Bouwer Sandra
Bowie David
Bradley Ed
Bradford Sarah
Brannon Robert L
Brillantes G
Brosnan Pierce
Brogen Pierre
Bronfman E M Mr &Mrs
Brotherhood of Man
Buffet Bernard
Burns George
Caine Michael & Shakira
Cardin Pierre
Carey Peter
Carr Allan
Carreras José Maria
Carroll Diahann
Cartland Barbara
Chan Jackie
Chand Meira
Chang Jung
Charles Ray
Chow Yun Fat
Cimino Michael
Clapton Eric
Clement Richard
Coburn James
Colen D J
Conrad Joseph
Connery Sean
Cooper Edward Jr
Corbett Ronnie
Cornwell David (John Le Carré)
Cousteau Jaques-Yves
Coward Noël,
Crawford Michael
Cronkite Walter
Cruise Tom
Cusack John
Dahl Arlene
Dajani A
Dalrymple, William
De Bono Edward
De Niro Robert
De Voss David
Dench Judi
De Palma Brian
Desavesa Chavane Choen
Devakul Tri M L
Dhammachoti Ussiri
Di Caprio, Leonardo
Dillon Matt
Dior Christian
Diskul Galavanardis M C
Douglas Eric
Dove Rita
Drabble Holroyd Margaret
Eastham Richard 
Eastwood Alison & Kyle
Eden Barbara
Estefan Gloria & family
Fairbanks Douglas Sr
Federer Roger
Feibleman Peter
Ferry Bryan
Field Sally
Finkbeiner-Zellmann Peter
Fisher Carrie
Fleming Alexander
Fleming Ian
Flick F K
Flierbach H Rolf
Fluor Robert J
Forbes Malcolm Christopher
Ford Harrison
Forsyth Frederick
Fox Michael J
Gabor Eva
Gainsbourg Serge
Gangler Julie
Garavani Valentino
Garret Leif
Gemma Giuliano
Gibson Mel
Giraudet Pierre
Glas Uschi
Glendinning Victoria
Godunov Alexander
Golding William & Anne
Grant Huge
Gray Linda
Greene Graham
Guerlain Philippe
Guyer David
Hackman Gene
Hagman Larry
Hancock Herbie
Harrison George
Hawke Bob
Hawn Goldie
Hayden Bill
Heath B W
Henkel Gabriele
Henkel Konrad
Hennessy Gilles
Hepburn Audrey
Heston Charlton
Hillary Edmund
Hitchcock Alfred
Holmer E C
Horowitz Anthony
Hudson Ernie
Humperdinck Engelbert
Humphries Barry (Dame Edna)
Hutasing Toum
Iyer Pico
Jackson Michael
Jagger Mick
Jarre Jean-Michel
John Elton
Johnson Don
Kane Brian
Kelly Grace
Kennedy D
Khoman Thanat
King Alan
King Don
Kingston Maxine Hong
Kitt Eartha
Kostelanetz André
Kruger Hardy
Lacoste Bernard
Lamsam Bancha
Laube William T
Lauda Niki
Laurent Yves St
Law David Jude
Leach Robin
Lee Christopher
Lemper Ute
Lennox Annie
Levin Boris M
Linen James A III
Link Alma Khunying
Llosa Mario Vargas
Loren Sophia
Lowes Tony
Luce Clare Boothe
Ludwig Christa
MacNee Patrick
Mailer Norman
Marks Mary-Ellen
Marone Cinzano
Marriott John Willard III
Martin Mary
Matteson John R
Maugham Somerset
Mehta Zubin
Menuhin Yehudi
Michener James A
Midler Bette
Mills John Sir
Mimieux Yvette
Mochtar Kusumaatwadja
Moore Roger
Moreno Rita
Morgan Rex
Mori Hanae
Morley Sheridan
Moss Kate
Moss Stirling
Mountbatten Leggy
Muldoon Robert
Murdoch Iris
Naghaway I
Naipaul Vidiadhar Surajprasad
Nakamura
Nakasone Yashuhiro
Nakorn Na Saengdoen Khunying
Nandabhiwat Boonying
Nandhabhiwat Sarapee Khunying
Navaphan Sukhum
Navratilova Martina
Newhart Bob
Nicholson Jack
Nijinsky Vaslav
Nilsson Birgit
Nureyev Rudolf
Oe Kenzaburo
Ogilvy David
Palma Brian de
Papp Joseph
Parker Maynard
Parrot JeanMarie
Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)
Penn Sean
Philips Mark
Piatelli Bruno
Poitier Sydney
Polanski Roman
Pongpaiboon Naowarat
Powell Jane
Powers Stephanie
Pramoj Kukrit
Pramoj Usni M L
Presley Priscilla
Price Vincent
Promphen Vilai
Prussia Lee
Pulitzer Joseph III
Puttnam David
Rafelson Bob
Raffin Deborah
Rampal Jean Paul
Rampling Charlotte
Rauschenberg Robert
Reagan Maureen
Rees Roger
Richard Pierre
Rockefeller David
Ross Diana
Roux Michel
Rowntree Richard
Sachs Gunter
Salikun Bin Mauri
Sarasin Pong
Sathienthai Surakiat
Sayer Leo
Schumacher Michael
Sedaka Neil
Selleck Tom
Sharapova Maria
Sharif Omar
Sheldon Sidney
Shelton Deborah
Sherry Norman
Shipley Walter
Sinclair Joplin
Singh Vijay
Smith Harold
Smith Wilbur
Squier Billy
SP Somtow
Stallone Sylvester
Stamp Terence
Stanislaw James
Steinbeck John
Stewart Jackie and family
Stone Oliver
Straub Peter
Strauss Peter
Struthers Sally
Sukarno Dewi
Sukhanetr Sribhume
Sutherland Dame Joan
Suyin Han
Taittinger Virginia Dard
Takase Nagayuki
Tamchai Orasa
Tang David
Taylor Elizabeth
Theroux Paul
Thumboo Edwin
Turner Tina
Ungaro Emanuel
Ustinov Peter
Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Damme Jean Claude
Vanderbilt W C
Vidal Gore
Vine William
Viravardaya Marisa
Virawan Amnuay
Voon Wong Meng
Vuitton Louis
Wallace Mike
Warwick Dionne
Washam Joanne
Watanabe Sadao
Webber Andrew Lloyd
West Morris
Whiting Leonard
Wilson Owen
Williams Tennessee
Williams Venus
Winchester Simon
Winter Roger
Wise Robert
Witt Hajo
Yanni John Christopher
Yeoh Michelle
Yevtushenko Yevgeniy
Yip Francis
Yipintsoi Misiem
Young Gavin
Young Paul
Zellweger Renee
 

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SEA WRITE AWARD

Past Guest Speakers 2012 Mr. Simon Winchester 2011 Prof. Dr. Edwin Thumboo 2010 Mr. William Dalrymple 2009 Mr. Paul Theroux (first time in 1985) 2008 Mr. Antony Beevor 2007 Ms. Sarah Bradford 2006 S.P. Somtow (Somtow Sucharitkul) 2005 Ms. Rita Dove 2004 Ms. Meira Chand 2003 The Honourable Victoria Glendinning CBE FRSL 2002 Mr. Mario Vargas Llosa 2001 Mr Pico Iyer 2000 Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul 1999 Lord David Puttnam 1998 Mr Norman Mailer 1997 Mr Frederick Forsyth 1996 Miss Jung Chang 1995 Dame Iris Murdoch 1994 Mrs Margaret Drabble Holroyd 1993 Lord Jeffrey Archer 1992 - 1991 Dr Norman Sherry 1990 Mr Sheridan Morley 1989 - 1988 Mr Wilbur Smith 1987 Sir Peter Ustinov 1986 Mr Morris West 1985 Mr Paul Theroux 1984 Mr William Golding 1983 M.R. Kukrit Pramoj 1982 Mr Gore Vidal 1981 Dr Han Suyin 1980 Mr James A. Michener

Legends and Stories from the book The Oriental Bangkok © famoushotels.org

The difference is in the robe: Like aboard a ship, there are different classes in life, and even at The Oriental. But how to recognize this? Simply watch the bathrobes - occupants of one of the fantastic suites wear silk bathrobes at the pool, the rest of us the other models.

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Joseph Conrad One man did not stay at the hotel although he was a frequent visitor to the bar. On 24 January 1888, Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, born in December 1857 in Poland and better known as Joseph Conrad, arrived in Bangkok to take over command of a ship, the Otago. The previous captain had died at sea. While in Bangkok, overseeing the reloading of the ship and waiting for the crew to recover from illness, he spent many evenings swapping stories in the bar of The Oriental. ‘We talked of wrecks, of short rations and of heroism . . . and now and then falling silent all together, we gazed at the sights of the river.’ Early in the morning of 8 February 1888, the Otago weighed anchor and glided quietly past the foreign consulates and the still-slumbering occupants of The Oriental, on her way to Singapore. This was to be Conrad’s only visit to Bangkok and in fact his first and only sea-going command. A few years later he traded the helm for a pen and, settling in England, took up writing full time. Conrad’s experiences with the Otago provided material for a number of his stories including Lord Jim, The Shadow Line, Falk and The Secret Sharer. Here fact and fiction merge so that it is almost impossible to tell the two apart. Bangkok continued to have a strong hold on his mind and he utilised every moment of his experience in the East in his writing, embellishing here, enhancing there, until even the old timers at the Oriental bar would have been proud of him.

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The concert hall at The Oriental was the centre of Western arts in Bangkok. Just before World War 1 (1918-1914) the hotel’s concert hall had been successfully transformed into a theatre.

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In 1916, Oriental owner and manageress Maria Maire had the pleasure of hosting Russian born Vaslav Nijinsky at the Oriental Theatre. Arguably the greatest dancer of the 20 century, Nijinsky was a refugee from the great war, travelling the world with his family in search for a new home.

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On 6 January 1923 Somerset Maugham arrived in Bangkok by train from Chiang Mai and booked a room at The Oriental: ‘I was in Bangkok. It is impossible to consider these populous modern cities of the East without a certain malaise. They are all alike, with their straight streets, their arcades, their tramways, their dust, their blinding sun, their teeming Chinese, their dense traffic, their ceaseless din. They have no history and no traditions. Painters have not painted them. No poets, transfiguring dead bricks and mortar with their divine nostalgia, have given them a tremulous melancholy not their own. . . . But when you leave them it is with a feeling that you have missed something and you cannot help thinking that they have some secret that they have kept from you.’
And about The Oriental (The Gentleman in the Parlour): ‘The hotel faced the river. My room was dark, one of a long line, with a verandah on each side of it, the breeze blew through, but it was stifling. The dining-room was large and dim, and for coolness’ sake the windows were shuttered. One was waited on by silent Chinese boys. I did not know why, the insipid Eastern food sickened me. The heat of Bangkok was overwhelming. The wats oppressed me by their garish magnificence, making my headache.’
Maugham fell ill: ‘I took my temperature. I was startled to see that it was a hundred and five. I could not believe it, so I took it again; it was still a hundred and five.’ Maugham had contracted malaria while travelling. ‘Towards the end of my journey down Siam the officer in command of the post had insisted that I should stay in his own house. He gave me his best bedroom. I had not the heart to say that I preferred my own little camp-bed, which had a mosquito-net, to his, which had not. The anopheles snatched at the golden opportunity.’ It was a bad attack. For some days the quinine had no effect on him.
One morning he overheard a conversation between the manageress of the hotel, Mme Maria Maire, and the doctor. ‘I can’t have him die here, you know. You must take him to the hospital.’ The doctor replied: ‘All right. But we’ll wait a day or two yet.’ ‘Well, don’t leave it too long,’ she replied. A few days later Maugham recovered. ‘And because I had nothing to do except look at the river and enjoy the weakness that held me blissfully to my chair I invented a fairy story.’ * In 1925 Maugham was back in Bangkok, stopping again at The Oriental, and he stayed for two weeks in perfect health, much to Mme Maire’s relief. On his last visit to Bangkok in 1960 to celebrate his 85th birthday he reminisced: ‘I was almost evicted from The Oriental because the manager did not want me to ruin her business by dying in one of her rooms.’
(More about S. Maugham and some photographs here)

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Germain Krull, The Orient legendary owner and manager during the 1950s, remembers in the book The Oriental: ‘The vogue for wanting things they couldn’t have or which didn’t belong to them was not confined to the hotel staff but extended to hotel guests. A Thai ashtray seldom remained in the hotel longer than a day. If we began the evening with five ashtrays on the bar, there were none left when it closed. ‘All the little bells, which were difficult to get, disappeared from the tables. I imported novel wooden pepper mills from abroad but they became so popular with the guests and their appearances on the tables so brief, that I gave up on ordering them. ‘I went to a great deal of trouble to have special lamps made for the tables in the Bamboo Bar. The bases were carved teak elephants about six inches high. The shades were of hide with cut-out Thai designs of flowers or animals. We only retained them because the boys knew the customers most likely to walk off with them and did not hesitate to check in the late evening hours. ‘There were times when I felt I was carrying a leaking bucket, what with money disappearing like magic into the pockets of charming employees and hotel equipment spirited away by equally charming guests.’
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Buying The Oriental 1967 Giorgio Berlingieri, born in Genoa in Italy in 1922, entered The Oriental’s history book in 1967 with his company ‘It', founded in the mid-fifties by Berlingieri as a joint-venture with Dr Chaijudh Karnasuta. This very Dr Chaijudh first called Berlingieri about The Oriental in 1967. Berlingieri later reproduced this conversation in An Oriental Album: ‘The first step leading to the acquisition was taken in mid-air, so to speak. My partner, Dr Chaijudh Karnasuta, co-chairman of the It, put in a long-distance call to me, as I was on a business trip to Italy. “There’s a hotel for sale.” “Forget it,” was my immediate reply. “It’s The Oriental Hotel,” said Dr Chaijudh, a man of few words. “Why didn’t you say so?” I cried. “Of course, we’ll buy it!” “That’s what I thought you would say,” the good doctor calmly remarked. And that was that.’

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Giorgio Berlingieri was the head of the owing company of the Oriental in the 1970s. ‘People always judge the hotel by its restaurants,’ said Berlingieri. A born gourmet like many Italians, Berlingieri’s knowledge of food and wine was excellent. It seems extraordinary, that there was no spaghetti on the menu. Berlingieri explained that, ‘Spaghetti should be cooked al dente with split-second timing, a task too difficult to perform in a restaurant.’ Well, today the Italian restaurant at The Oriental proofs him wrong.

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In 1992 The Oriental opened the first Oriental Shop at Bangkok’s Isetan shopping complex. In 1995 a second Oriental Shop was opened at the Lake Rajada office complex selling gift items, fine chocolates, pâtés, wines and almost everything needed for an exquisite gourmet dinner at home.

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The Oriental Queen, a river boat, was one of the successful enterprises of the hotel in the 1980s and 90s. Over one million passengers travelled on her daily river cruise from the hotel’s landing pier to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.

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In 2001, the 125th anniversary of The Oriental (at least the official age, as all attentive readers know by now) was the talk of the town. 1,500 of the closest friends of the hotel gathered for a champagne reception in the lobby, followed by a perfectly organized gala dinner on the terrace. A splendid fashion show and half an hour of brilliant fireworks crowned the evening.

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Room Attendance To avoid unwelcome disturbances an electronic detection device helps the butler to find out if the guest is in the room or not. Old guests still remember the little wooden sticks leaning at the doors. When the roomboys saw that they had fallen, they knew that the guest had opened the door.

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ADVERTISING the FANS One of the most successful advertising campaigns in the history of the Mandarin Oriental group is the 'Fan campaign'. It features international celebrity endorsements, performs well in advertising recognition surveys and is backed by an annual budget of approx. US$5M. All hotels contribute 1% of their annual gross revenue to be part of the campaign. The stars featured include: Barry Humphries = Dame Edna 'Megastar' Bryan Ferry David Tang Elle Macpherson Frederick Forsyth Helen Mirren I.M. Pei Jane Seymour Jerry Hall Kenzo Takada Lance Armstrong Maggie Cheung Michelle Yeoh Whoopi Goldberg Vanessa Mae Vivienne Tam Zubin Mehta

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"Peeping behind the scenes of the hotel in more modern times proved a real eye opener. The secret of how the Oriental achieved its world-leading status became increasingly obvious. Painstaking, meticulous work with the staff was a key element in our quest. Slowly the book grew into a manual of perfect hotel-keeping. I once asked Kurt Wachtveitl how the Oriental became the best hotel in the world. 'It's very simple,’ he explained. ‘We tell our staff exactly, what to do.' Smiling, he paused before adding: 'And we tell them what again week in, week out'." Author Andreas Augustin remembers learning the secrets of the house while researching his book on The Oriental.

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Kurt Wachtveitl was the longest serving general manager of The Orientl (1967–2009 = 42 years). He graduated from the hotel school at Lausanne, Switzerland in 1961, read history of art and literature in Rome, Italy and philosophy in Spain. His professional career includes stops at Trois Couronnes, Vevey; Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne (where he met his wife Penny); Suvretta Haus, St Moritz; and the Park Lane Hilton, London.

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The MO Magazine has a circulation of 40,000. It is mailed to MO top clients and distributed in-room at all MO hotels.

 


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Managing The Oriental

Some of the varied individuals who have managed the hotel.
Owners appear in parentheses.
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1863 Captain James White
1878 H Jarck (C Salje)
1887 Georges Troisoeufs (Messrs Andersen & Co)
1890 Mr Allen
April 1891 Mr Smith
September 1891 George F Kornloff
1893 W J Palmer (Franklin ‘Bill’ Hurst)
1899 (a syndicate represented by a Mr W Downie)
1903 F S Robertson
1904 Carl G Edwards (Mme M O Bujault)
1910 Mme Maria Maire
1932 Lt. Col and Mrs Sylow
1935 Mr J O Hossig
1940 Maria Robins
1942 Mankichi Sugiyama
1945 Maria Robins
1947 Germaine Krull (Germaine Krull, Jim Thompson, Chai Prateepasen, Prince Bhanu, Pote Sarasin, John Wester)
1960 Robert Fassom
1963 Barrie Cross
1965 Albert Urscheler
1967 Kurt Wachtveitl (Italthai–Hong Kong Land, from 1972)
2009 Jan Goessing
2012 Amanda Hyndman

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Managed by: Mandarin Oriental Hotels
368 Rooms
30 Suites

Private Butler service Work desk with in-built international plugs and Internet access plugs Complimentary fax machine/printer on request 3 IDD telephones with two lines Individual thermostatic controller for air-conditioning and humidity Remote control TV with on command in-house movies Bose CD player and CD library Radio Twin or king-sized beds Personal mini bar refrigerator Fresh fruit and flowers daily Large in-room safe Spacious bathroom with separate bathtub and walk-in shower in the River Wing and combined bath and shower in the Garden Wing Hair dryer Bathrobe and slippers

Joseph Conrad ------ Somerset Maugham ------ Graham Greene ------ Adisorn Charanachitta ------ Barbara Cartland ------ Selandia Suite ------ The Oriental Suite ------ Thai Suite ------

The China House (Chinese) ------ The Normandy (French, gourmet) ------ Lord Jim's (Fish restaurant) The Verandah (casual coffee shop) Pool-Restaurant BBQ-Terrace CIAO (Italian) Bamboo Bar Author's Lounge Baan Rim Naam(Thai)

A visit to the Spa, the mother of all Spas. The Thai cooking course (1 to 5 days) is the quintessential course for all chefs - hobby or professional. 'I have met a chef from Australia and a housewife from Siwtzerland in this course - we all were equally enchanted by the professional presentation. You listen to the teaching chef, before you start cooking yourself - under his supervision. I learnt a lot and was instantly able to reproduce it at home in my kitchen. You also receive a pack of original Thai spices, the important cooking wine and a solid information on how to use all these ingredients.' Culinary delights include a visit to Lord Jim’s, The Oriental’s seafood restaurant on the first floor, overlooking the terrace. Rock lobster from the tandoori clay oven, by the way, is a must!

Oriental spa ------ Swimming pools and sauna ------ Tennis and squash ------ Fitness and jogging ------ Golf driving range

No shorts and slippers, if you are visiting the Oriental for tea or during the day.
In the house it is possible to wear your bathrobe on your way to the pools. However, changing facilities are provided near the pool.
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Our Select Member Hotel

The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Country: Thailand
City: Bangkok
Opening date: Between 1850s and 1863 (officially 1876)

Note from the Host

General Manager

Mrs Amanda Hyndman


Coordinates

48 Oriental Ave
10500 Thailand, Bangkok

Tel: +66-2-23 60 400
Fax: +66-2-23 619 39, +66-2-267 4955

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