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The Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok - Review

Magical Mystical Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

by Irvina Lew

The luxurious The Oriental Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok hotel

The luxurious The Oriental Spa

The fan logo of the prestigious Mandarin Oriental hotel group has long symbolized luxury and grace, but it wasn't until we arrived in Bangkok at one of the world's most classically acclaimed hotels that we truly understood the fan as both a practical and ethereal trademark.

History comes alive here. The hotel dates from 1876 and Louis Thomas Leonowens, son of Anna, the British teacher in "The King and I," was once its proprietor. Louis, as anyone who saw the show recalls, was the future king's childhood friend; later in life, the King of Siam frequented the Mandarin Oriental where his portrait appears in the Garden Wing. Jim Thompson, the American who later made his name in Thai silk, now famous for boutiques bearing his name and selling silk fashions, was also one of the Oriental's owners.

We were met by a Mandarin Oriental host at the Bangkok airport and whisked in a limousine to the hotel entry. To the left, the hotel's Authors' Wing pays tribute to the literary giants who frequented. The Joseph Conrad Suite boasts its own riverfront terrace, and suites are named for Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham and James Michener. Our butler greeted us in the newer River Wing where our room faced the famed Chao Phraya River and an exquisite mansion with a decorated and pointed Thai roof. The palatial structure houses a restaurant where Thai dancers entertain during dinner and the extraordinary The Oriental Spa.

The launch of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok hotel A shirodhara bed at The Oriental Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok hotel
Pointed roof launch
Shirodhara bed

After a leisurely breakfast on the hotel's waterside patio, we boarded the pointed roof launch and crossed to the palatial, century-old mansion. Inside, a sari-clad receptionist with gold-painted toes welcomed us; a concierge kneeled on the floor to take our shoes, present slippers and place them on our feet, Cinderella-style. Then she walked us up the grand teak staircase beyond the floor housing luxuriant treatment rooms—each with shower and steam facilities and four reserved just for couples. We arrived at the Ayurvedic Penthouse, the former General Manager's home, which houses a few private suites and the office of the medical doctor who practices Ayurveda at the spa.

The serious young physician explained the essence of Ayurveda, India's 5,000-year-old science of wholesome living, and how it touches every aspect of life: physical, mental, social and spiritual. He recommended particular oils and herbs for the treatment. Then, the greeter led us into a suite lined with large vertical windows overlooking the river and the hotel. The suite was decorated with an imported hand-carved Shirodhara bed designed for Ayurvedic oil therapies, lovely wooden antiques, and an ornate mirror over the sink.

The steam chamber at The Oriental Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok hotel Spa suite tub and dressing area at The Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Steam chamber
Spa suite tub and dressing area

The 90-minute treatment, called Keraleeya Abhyangam, starts with a traditional foot bath during which the therapist kneels on the floor, washes feet and explains the session. For the Keraleeya body treatment using warmed oil, she choreographed the strokes to a lovely rhythm in the head-to-toe massage, which was so completely welcomed on the last day of an exhausting—and exciting—two-week trip from Dubai, to Phuket, to Chang Mai and Bangkok.

Afterwards, she led us into the seat within the wooden steam box that only leaves the head exposed; this herbal steam bath, called 'swedanam,' helps to eliminate toxins and is followed by a dunk in the huge copper tub with silver-coated claw feet. For this customary cleansing bath, she uses herbal powders called 'snanam.' There was ample time to relax in the luxurious suite, make up and appreciate life's bounty.

What a way to celebrate the last day of a memorable visit to Thailand.

The Oriental Spa
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
48 Oriental Ave.
66 (0) 2659-9000

(Updated: 08/23/10 SG)

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