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In this era of sophisticated luxury travel how can a hotel possibly be unique, original, breathtaking. It’s not easy, let’s face it. Those same old marble interiors, gilt mirror frames, Bose surrounds, fusion dishes. Which country am I in again? But not this one. The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok stands out above and beyond all others. You will never have the same exquisite style, atmosphere, meaningful and memorable touches wherever you go and whatever you pay. For one thing there’s no one else who has ever remembered or cared that I love mango and pomelo for breakfast. Well the inimitable breakfast team at the Oriental, headed by Panomporn, otherwise known as Ice, and Sompong, most certainly do. At The Oriental you only have to have been there once and from then on they welcome you back home, know all your small, niggly, likes and dislikes that everyone else finds so unimportant, eggs sunny side up or not, cappuccino without the chocolate on top, toast with marmite even in Bangkok ! Then there’s the incredibly flamboyant lift boy, Anusorn, in his flaming red Siam jodhpurs and shiny silver buttons, who somehow manages to remember which floor you’re on even if you conceal your key, and reaches inside the lift with a flourish to press the right button. How cool is that. There’s the little trick of the matchstick propped against your door so they know when you’re in or out and magically don’t disturb you but always have your room refreshed and with a new surprise when you return, more orchids, a little snack, a poem to get you thinking. The Mandarin Oriental is the oldest hotel in Thailand and boasts a fabulous legacy of greatness from Anna of The King and I who stayed there on her first night, to Grahame Greene, Noel Coward, Princess Diana, David Beckham, Sophia Loren, to the King of Bahrain who was there when I visited a couple of weeks ago. As far as spas go I’ve done the rounds in many countries, and my shoulder pain has always remained and that total relaxation eluded me, you know counting along with the tick of the clock and wishing the floaty music would just stop. Not this time at the Ayurvedic Spa on the opposite side of the Chao Praya River. It was miraculous, unbelievably healing, and the calm of the soft greens and pinks in the teak house soothed all my buried anxieties.
We ate at Lord Jim’s for lunch, watching the boats chugging by, arguably the best seafood buffet on the planet and guaranteed to have you there for hours as you scuttle back to refill your plate with the freshest of dishes, mixing up chocolate cake with tuna carpaccio in your excitement. But at dinner we were suddenly in Shanghai, the exotic red and black China House, which plunges you into the atmosphere of 50s China and serves delicious Cantonese dishes.
It’s other worldly this hotel. You don’t just go to a new city when you arrive in Bangkok. If you’re staying at the Mandarin Oriental you go to a whole new experience of hotel. The unique one that you’ve always been waiting for. This is the real deal.
How many people would love to make millions? Become multi-millionaires after all those years of trying to get their talent recognised. Those bleak times when doors were being slammed in their faces, and hope dashed with one breezy line or other like, Sorry, no thanks, good luck. Then, suddenly, that shining mesmerising moment when the break-through happens, gathering momentum, with all the accompanying fanfare and the cash pouring in. Now they can live the dream.
It happened to children’s writer, Jeff Kinney, whose crafty, funny, witty books, The Diary of A Wimpy Kid series, have even beaten Obama’s autobiography in the charts and knocked Dan Brown off the Number One slot.
The unusual, extraordinary difference is that Jeff wants none of the glamour, glitz, and luxury his sudden fortune could bring. The private planes, diamonds, Armani wardrobes, house in Malibu, penthouse overlooking Central Park, chauffeurs to drive his young sons to school. In fact he can think of nothing worse. He wants to live in Plainville, wear Dads’ jeans, drive an old car and keep his boys’ lives as simple and ordinary as possible. He wants to help out with the school baseball team, eat the same food and keep his head down. Next year, when Fox releases the movie of the sensational, fast-selling books, he’s going to have to try even harder to remain anonymous. But in this day of celebrity madness, consumerism and lack of spirituality, Jeff’s a cool guy who stands apart.
Here another clip of my interview with Jeff where he discusses how the fame of his book series has impacted his life: