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Oriental Bangkok - The Making Of

Fighting White Ants
by Andreas Augustin

At The Mandarin Oriental shop, and present in every room, the book about the Oriental's history is more than just a souvenier. History has long become an USP at the Oriental. The book is its faithful ambassador. 

You can buy the book here. A few copies of the leather bound edition are always available for the connoisseur collector. 

The research: 

In 1994, Kurt Wachtveitl, a general manager almost as famous as the hotel he run, invited me to Bangkok, where I had the privilege of meeting a few fantastic 'assistants': Chancham Bunnag, who had helped compiling an early biography of The Oriental (An Oriental Album); Ankana Kalantananda, the longest serving employee (she had joined the hotel in 1947!), and Pornsri Luphaiboon, one of the first PR managers in the hospitality industry. Liz Taylor's dog was one of her favourite topics of conversation. 

Today, general manager Jan Goessing is in charge of the hotel. A cultivated German, he comes from a country where tradition and history are key elements of the society. 

Wachtveitl's sense of tradition was based on these elements, too. He had established various history related settings. The suites were named after famous visitors such as Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham or Noel Coward. A restaurant was called Lord Jim's after Joseph Conrad's novel. Now it was up to us to find out more. We would go a long, long way, digging across the globe for ten years, to collect some 1,300 pages of material on the history.

Jan Goessing
I invited the British historian Andrew Williamson to join the team. In Thailand there are almost no public archives. The usual excuse is: 'they were eaten by white ants' or 'lost in a fire'. We started our research at the hotel (all archives lost in a fire) and visited the building authorities, who in return had been visited by white ants long before we arrived. 

Now we triggered a global research effort by alerting newspapers around the world. A drip feed of material started to reach us from different corners