Book review: At the Oriental Hotel Bangkok
By Roy Howard
By Roy Howard
For many of us who have been guests at the Oriental Hotel or who have enjoyed the hospitality at venues like the Bamboo Bar or the Normandie Grill, this book will bring back the memories of a unique hotel that has earned its place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest and most memorable hotels.
Well known to global travellers as one of the world’s leading hotels, the first people important guests met on arrival at the Oriental Hotel were the charming and highly-efficient General Manager, Kurt Wachtveitl and the Public Relations Director, Pornsri Luphaiboon.
Pornsri served under five general managers during her 29 years at the Oriental Hotel and it is from her vast collection of photographs and her vivid recollections that form the basis for this new book by veteran author Harold Stephens.
A resident of Bangkok since the 1960’s, Harold Stephens has written and published 30 books describing his travels throughout Asia and the Pacific and the many larger-than-life characters he has met along the way.
In researching this book, Stephens spent countless hours and days talking to Pornsri and searching through her collection of literally thousands of photographs and memorabilia.
Amongst the personalities one meets in this 270-page book are Dr Chaijudh Karnasuta and Giorgio Berlingierie, the early owners of the Oriental Hotel who provided the financial support to upgrade the hotel to match the world standard.
Authors like James Michener, Han Suyin and Gore Vidal were attracted to the Oriental Hotel and its former associations with Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham. From the film world came Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore and Sophia Loren, and leading businessmen including Malcolm Forbes and Rob Walton also enjoyed the special brand of Oriental luxury.
The Oriental Hotel’s first royal guest was His Majesty King Chulalongkorn who visited the hotel on December 17, 1890. In more recent times, the book describes visits by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and HRH Prince Philip. Many world leaders also chose to stay at the Oriental Hotel and the book includes photographs and descriptions of the Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Nixon, George Bush and Pierre Trudeau.
At the Oriental Hotel Bangkok published by Wolfenden, 270 pages. Available at Asia Books, Amazon and all bookstores. Priced at B650 (US$17.95).