The Chao Phraya snakes through Bangkok like an artery, bringing sustenance to the city. Any doubt that this is the river of kings is squeezed from the mind the way that the searing chilli in the hot and sour tom yum soup opens the nose. Note the bridges that join the river to the land. The Bhumibol Bridges are named after the recently deceased king and his father, and to honour Kings Rama 3, 4, 7 and 8. The best hotels in Bangkok are along the river and none is more historic than the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok. On the opposite bank of the river, the storied Peninsula Hotel towers among many grand and special hotels including The Anantara, Riverside and Shangri-La. The more recently opened Avani, just behind The Anantara, is more affordable and, prices drop at establishments farther from the river. The Mandarin Oriental was the first hotel to open in Bangkok, 140 years ago. It has deep literary roots, with Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, James Michener and Wilbur Smith, who has...

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