A sublime staycation close to home

A 5-star retreat at the riverside Mandarin Oriental is sure to delight holidaymakers from lovebirds to extended families

Last weekend, I enjoyed one of the most indulgent and memorable vacations of my life, just 14km from my home.

We were staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, which is currently offering post-lockdown discount packages, or "Staycation by MO".

At an unusually affordable price (see details below), the special package gave us an opportunity to enjoy a 5-star retreat without the risk of travelling and the confidence of being in a sanitary surrounding.

The stay also made me understand why the 144-year-old hotel has been lauded across the globe as one of the very best.

It's not the hotel's iconic architecture, lavish design, prime riverside location or even its history or legendary heritage that makes it special. Over time, it has been the people at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok that have made the hotel retain its highly esteemed reputation. If there was only one word to describe my experience there, it would be flawless.

Check-in guests will immediately get a first-class impression as soon as they pull into the hotel. A parking slot is already reserved for you should you wish to waive using the valet service. Regulars of the hotel will know that finding a parking space can be a challenge here.

The premier one-bedroom suite.

Ever since its re-opening in July, the dynamic spirit of the riverside hotel has been brought back by locals -- diners and holidaymakers.

To avoid unnecessary gatherings at the freshly revamped lobby, we were led straight to our room for the check-in process upon arrival. There, a welcoming surprise awaited us -- a touching memento created exclusively for each guest. It was a heartfelt greeting that you might find only at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.

A shuttle boat ride to neighbouring communities adds charm to the staycation.

For the staycation packages, room options vary in size ranging from 43m² to a selection of suites from 83m² to 376m² at the River Wing and the colonial-inspired Garden Wing.

All the rooms have been newly renovated but still retain a reminiscent charm. Our 108m² deluxe one-bedroom suite boasted a large marble bathroom, a walk-in closet, a dining room, a pantry, a separate living area and a private balcony with seating.

The Oriental Spa's Thai thermal salt treatment.

The suite is a comfortable refuge whether you come as lovebirds or an extended family. Staying in at the hotel will not lead to boredom thanks to the amenities provided and the platter of delicious treats available.

However, the highlights for me were outside the room.

After making your reservation, I recommend that you also book a treatment at the Oriental Spa because it can get full very quickly.

Located on the opposite side of the river from the hotel (a shuttle boat ride is another fascinating part of the stay here), the award-winning spa offers a comprehensive variety of treatments for both male and female guests.

A 120-minute Thai thermal salt body treatment is guaranteed to relieve your muscle pain and detoxify the body and mind. Meanwhile, a 60-minute anti-ageing Endermologie facial, using non-invasive suction technology from France, is ideal should you wish for firmer and more youthful-looking skin. Last but not least, a muay Thai massage, inspired by Thai boxing, is recommended for those in the mood for deep-tissue rejuvenation.

While the ladies are having a heavenly time at the spa, the gentlemen are welcome to use the adjacent fitness centre where state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a range of classes and sporting facilities await them. A variety of gym activities designed exclusively for children from eight to 16 years of age, including exercise, kids' yoga and kids' boxing is also available.

When it comes to dining, choices are aplenty as well. I am not talking just about the two Michelin-starred Le Normandie French restaurant, but also Lord Jim's seafood and fire-grill restaurant and the Verandah all-day dining restaurant where -- impressively -- the staff tends to know your name.

There's also a wide selection of food items you can find in the Bang Rak neighbourhood at the Iconsiam shopping centre and at local food shops on Charoen Nakhon Road, all within a 15-minute walk from your hotel room.

However, if you choose to stay put and wish for an utmost socially-distanced meal, Le Normandie and Lord Jim's offer a degustation dinner menu in a private suite without extra charge. Moreover, breakfast from the Verandah can also be served to your suite on request.

During our two-day stay, the hotel's employees, whether they were front desk officers, concierge, chefs, restaurant staff, spa therapists, fitness trainers, butlers, housekeepers, security guards or shuttle boat attendants, lived up to the hotels' long-treasured legacy.

They were always prompt and highly efficient without being rigid; cordial but not overly friendly. Paying attention to the small details, the staff treat the guests with a personalised approach but at the same time respect your privacy. It's a perfect balance of Thai-style amiability and world-class hospitality.

The "Staycation by MO" package is valid from now until Sept 30 across various room types.

The package includes a choice of accommodation with butler service; daily breakfast for two guests at the Verandah restaurant; early check-in starting from 8am and late check-out until 8pm; a bottle of chilled Champagne on arrival in your room; and reserved car parking.

Guests enrolled in a Fans of MO programme can enjoy, on a daily basis, 50% of your accommodation rate credited to your hotel balance. The credit can be used at all of the in-house restaurants and bars as well as the Oriental Spa.

Room options listed in the package include the Deluxe Premier Room, priced at 17,450 baht per room per night (which includes a daily resort credit of 8,725 baht) and various suite options with prices starting from 42,950 baht per room per night (which includes a daily resort credit of 21,475 baht).

For more information or reservations, call 02-659-9000 or email mobkk-reservations@mohg.com, or book direct at mandarinoriental.com/bangkok.