Once upon a time, travel was glamorous. It was romantic. It meant being swept away to an exotic locale and reveling in luxury. If you think those days are over, then you haven't stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Thailand. The grand dame of hotels along the Chao Phraya River, the Mandarin Oriental was the place to stay for royalty and the otherwise rich and famous after the mysterious East opened its doors to visitors in the late 1800s.
More than a century later, grown to 393 rooms, it's still the place to stay, its elegance burnished with time and its guestbook a Who's Who of distinguished and celebrity guests. Upon arrival you'd be forgiven for looking around below those golden teak bell chandeliers in search of leather steamer trunks. Our well-worn bags just didn't quite fit amongst the courtly staff, exuberant flower installation and dressed-to-the-nines men and women who were sweeping through the lobby.
Rumpled as we were after our trip, my husband and I felt a bit under-dressed for the occasion of even entering the luminous atrium lobby to be welcomed with a flower hand garland, a feeling borne out when we later read the dress code. Yes, this hotel comes with a dress code – no shorts or sandals after 6 p.m. please. At first taken aback by the policy, I came to appreciate it for adding to the sense that those bygone days of travel romance aren't so long-gone after all.
The splendor of the hotel, its rich history, and the exquisite service have led to endless accolades naming it among the best hotels in the world. I'm inclined to agree with those who place it at the top of those lists.