Bangkok - Sprawling, vibrant Bangkok is known as the capital of the Land of Smiles — a reference to the gentle Thai character and supreme service culture.
This city of ancient temples and modern skyscrapers, where visitors come to do business, shop and eat Asia's finest street food, is also nicknamed the Venice of the East because of its canals and rivers.
Visitor numbers across Thailand are soaring, up nine million year on year from January to March and with an expected 34 million arrivals over this year as a whole. Europeans, Australians — and, increasingly, Chinese — are eager visitors, many choosing to spend a few days in Bangkok before using the capital as a springboard to the islands, including Phuket and Koh Samui.
The Oriental Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, the oldest hotel in Bangkok, opened in 1917 and was soon being described as “the most popular hotel in all of Siam”, with advertisements boasting of its “French chef and modern toilet fittings”.
In 1974 the Oriental merged with the equally legendary Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong and a five-star superbrand was born — Mandarin Oriental.
Today there are 29 Mandarin Oriental hotels worldwide and a further 17 in development. The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok remains one of the world's best-loved hotels with a guest list of the great and good down the decades, from Noël Coward and novelists Joseph Conrad and John le Carré to Prince Charles and David Beckham. Fifteen of the hotels offer residences for sale, including London's One Hyde Park. The first Mandarin Oriental Residences in Southeast Asia are being built in Bangkok, diagonally across the river from the famous hotel.
Stunning homes with finest-quality finishes
Thai developer Iconsiam has taken a five-acre waterfront site to build two tall, slender towers containing the Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
One tower has 379 apartments — all of which are already sold, at prices from £230 000 (about R4.3-million) — and the second has 146 Residences over 52 floors. The two-to four-bedroom apartments range from 1 367sq ft to 7 610sq ft penthouses, and all have generous balconies with front-row river views. These are top-quality homes, surpassing even the finishes of One Hyde Park, according to Iconsiam managing director Thanawan Chaiwatana. The ceilings are 10½ft high, the full-height windows overlook the river, and bespoke furnishings include inspirational metal-and-glass-enclosed Bulthaup kitchens with aluminium laser-cut units.
Leisure facilities feature an outdoor pool, fitness studios, sauna and gym along with a children's playroom, a golf simulator and several meeting rooms, lounges and a library. Perhaps most enticing of all for many buyers is the full concierge service from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Freehold prices for the Residences start from £900 000 with annual service charges from £9 700. Over 40 per cent are sold, with completion planned for 2019. This is a “high-quality, low-cost city”, says Chaiwatana. “The Residences at Mandarin Oriental are in the prized river area, 10 minutes from the Central Business District and very close to the Temple of Dawn. Buyers have come from Europe, China and Hong Kong looking for quality homes with full service in a world-class destination.”
Live in luxury in the heart of a new district
There is a cluster of five-star hotels along this prestigious stretch of the river but the waterfront is not easily accessible. Iconsiam plans to change that, with well-advanced plans to open a vast, upmarket retail centre and create a new tourist district in Bangkok with international boutiques, water features and gardens. The aim is to “fill in what is lacking on the river” says Chaiwatana.
Other branded apartments for sale in Bangkok include three-to five-bedroom Ritz-Carlton Residences in a 77-floor tower — the highest in Thailand — in the Central Business District. The building will include seven floors of retail and 20 of the Miami-based Edition Hotel. There will be a Joël Robuchon restaurant and, as at the Residences at Mandarin Oriental, the focus on facilities and service will be heavy.
Apartments here start from £1.6-million, through Sphere Estates.
“Buyers come from Europe and a few from the US, with ever-increasing demand from Hong Kong, China and Singapore,” says Adam Taugwalder, Sphere Estates' Thailand partner. “Bangkok property is considerably cheaper, often half the price, of that in the capitals of those Asian countries.”
The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok: moresidencesbangkok.com (+662 118 2211) Sphere Estates: sphereestates.com (020 3617 1360)