Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Thailand Hotels – Colonial hotels – A NIGHT OF PASSION AT THE EUGENIA

Have you, like me, ever strolled through The Raffles Hotel, Singapore, or Eastern & Oriental in Penang, and wished you’d been there in the good old days before their cash-register-ringing commercial heyday? (With Singapore Slings costing a cool SGD$28 a glass these days I certainly do.)

Now you can relive those halcyonic times. At The Eugenia in Bangkok. To me it must be the closest thing to experiencing the humble but tasteful origins of those hotels before they went on to become fabled legacies of the colonial era.

Thailand of course was never colonized. And to complicate this story more, The Eugenia was created not by the British nor a Thai, but a Taiwanese with a passion for design. And expensive old cars.

Mr Eugene (surname unknown) has created instant history. My companion, a Thai, walked into the hotel and said ‘Oh, so old, it’s scary,’ as the wooden floorboards creaked beneath her feet. She, like me, was flabbergasted to find out that this hotel is only four years old. Yes, yes, but the building itself is older right? No. This was built from scratch four years ago.

Eugene has long had an interest in colonial style design, and collected items for his clients … 100-year old clunky light switches, bathroom tiles, stuffed animal heads, zebra skins, brass fans, four poster metal bed frames; all the old-school imperial touchstones you can think of. From Burma, India, Indochina. So the hotel is utterly, convincingly, authentically stuck in a time warp. (Apart from the airconditioners and LCD TVs in the 12 rooms, and high-speed internet in the library downstairs). Call it bespoke.

The only things that’ve been specifically made for the hotel are its copper and aluminium-alloy bath tubs, handbeaten in Indonesia.

Why even the fleet of cars out front are from a kinder gentler era: A Mercedes 190 SL, and a Daimler almost as big as the 3-storey hotel itself. Just a small taste of Eugene’s personal fleet.

And speaking of taste, breakfast and dinner in the DB Bradley restaurant are a must. Classic white-linen dining, with the likes of Connie Frances, Vera Lyn and Glen Miller setting the tone in the background. Home-made (Ok, hotel-made) breads. Heart-starting coffee served in cereal bowls (well, I put this down as designer chic … perhaps they’d just run out of coffee mugs on the day?). Lamb chops. Duck fillets. Candlelight. Waiters in white duck suits.

If I smoked, I would then wander out the back to the pool and drag on an overstuffed Cuban cigar as I watched the full moon filter through the palm trees, believing fully that it’s the 1930s again, Brittania rules the waves, old chap, and Singapore shall never fall.

Don't dream it's over. At The Eugenia it's certainly not.

Footnote: Thailand has a number of colonial style hotels where you can experience that olde worlde flavor. Try the Author’s Wing at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (over 130 years old) , the Sofitel Centara Grand Resort & Villas (since 1923) in Hua Hin. There is also a colonial wing at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai.

1 comment:

  1. Once I had an opportunity to spend two days and one night at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok hotel after my thanksgiving tours. It was located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and it was opened in 1879. According to me it is the best place to stay. It has a nice and generous staff. Its services are quick and great. During my stay they did not give me a single chance to repeat my order. I would like to recommend it to all.


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