My mom just finished a four-day stay in Bangkok and is on her way to Myanmar for 2.5 weeks. (Months ago I posted about my thwarted plans to visit Burma 21 years ago.) While this is her first trip to Myanmar, Bangkok is not a new adventure for my mother. She hung out there for part of one summer back in 1965 when the Vietnam War was building up for the Americans.
Of all the places my mom traveled on her around-the-world trip that summer, she has probably spoken the most about Bangkok. She and her friends stayed at this Princess Hotel (she found this photo on a cool vintage Pan Am site). During they day they would go out and sightsee. In the afternoon they came back to the Princess to hang out at the pool.
But nights were all about the Oriental.
This hotel has a reputation for being one of the finest in the world and since the mid-1970s has been known as the Mandarin Oriental. Famous authors like Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Noel Coward, Joseph Conrad, John LeCarre, Tennessee Williams, and James Michener stayed there.
For my mom and her friends, they became friendly with the American pianist at the Oriental’s bar. It was so much fun that the women returned to the Oriental almost every night while in Bangkok. Years later, after my mom and her friends had returned to the US, one of them read in a small newspaper article that their pianist friend was murdered in Bangkok. Since it was a domestic issue, it didn’t make headline news in the US. And of course it was well before 24-hour cable news came onto the scene.
It must be bittersweet to return after all these years to a place full of great memories, but now with the knowledge that part of those memories ended in tragedy.