Not all hotels are designed equally – this is a simple fact. No matter how much money is spent, marble lavished, oak varnished, terrazzo laid and gilt applied, it is essentially the design, attention to detail, F&B and functionality of a property that sets one apart from the rest. And in the case of the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum, its suites are some of the best designed I have ever seen, especially the Mediterranean Suite I had the good fortune to road test for a long weekend towards the tail end of summer, which, I might add, is an excellent time to visit any resort if one wishes to avoid crowds and kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I love children, but when splashing this kind of cash, one imagines that a discerning traveller surely requires some peace and quiet to tenderly take in and revel in the pure unadulterated high-end hospitality gorgeousness of it all. Not to mention enjoy the luxe facilities, appreciate the carefully considered touches and admire the beautiful finishing. As I was reluctantly packing to check-out of 145m2 of suite bliss, a sleek black helicopter, with a modern fan-in-fin style tail rotor, landed a few hundred metres away, gently depositing a group of guests within the resort. How envious I was of them at the beginning of their deluxe Bodrum break, just as I was leaving.
Bodrum was not always a playground for the wealthy and fabulous. On the contrary, apart from ground-breaking boho chic beach club and boutique hotel, Maçakazi, which twenty years ago started Bodrum on its luxury travel trajectory, for much of its early touristic life the destination was serviced by bargain basement charter flights filled with cheap and cheerful sunshine seekers. The plethora of superyachts parked in and around Paradise Bay and its surrounding crystalline waters today, together with six-star spas, supermodels and billionaires sipping expensive malts and magnums of fine bubbly, have all arrived in recent years. Nowadays the pretty Turkish peninsula is a go-to destination for discriminating travellers, and has done a rather good job of setting to one discreetly fenced-off side, its once widespread image of tourist hordes, cheap bars and all-night discos.
When in 2005 Kempinski opened a delightful 173-room resort overlooking Barbaros Bay, there soon followed a noticeable increase in the number of gullets (traditional Turkish wooden sailing boats) in the waters around Bodrum, and increasingly larger yachts began to appear more regularly, the like of which had previously dropped anchor in the Caribbean for the European winters. Next came 36-cottage Amanruya in 2011, a then eye-wateringly pricey (for the area) ultra-exclusive Aman property.
Beautifully laid out on multiple levels of a hillside, amidst an ancient olive grove, Amanruya is skilfully bedded into its surroundings by a strong architectural synergy to regional villages, and further elevated Bodrum’s hospitality image, just 75-minutes flying time south of Istanbul. The introduction of direct flights from a number of important travel hubs, not least London and Dubai, positively beckoned premium class passengers to at least investigate Turkey’s premier resort town and Aegean coast yachting center. Since then, top end travellers have kept coming back, and some would say that this class of holidaymaker now outnumbers the budget brigade, at the very least in their spending power.
Mandarin Oriental is an iconic Asian luxury hotel group which prides itself on its excellent service, high quality accommodations, Asian authenticity and top global locations. In short, the brand provides 21st century luxury with oriental charm and finesse in some of the world’s most desirable destinations. So, Mandarin’s first Turkish outpost was always going to be very special.
Purpose built to cater for people who take their holidaying very seriously, and opened in 2014 to much fanfare, Mandarin Oriental Bodrum is a sprawling ultra-elite resort of 129 oversized guestrooms, suites, apartments and villas, all of which are amongst the largest five-star lodgings on the peninsula. Each has its own sun-deck, terrace or balcony, and many have lush private gardens and generous infinity pools.
Irrespective of size, every guest room is dedicated to the art of vacationing, from the spacious 72m2 entry-level garden view rooms, which are bigger than many a standard hotel suite, to the bulletproof 7-bedroom presidential villa coming in at EUR 40k/night. And once inside the complex there is basically no reason to leave, since absolutely everything one could possibly wish for whilst on holiday is quite literally at the end of a cobblestoned path, timber boardwalk or ‘0’ on the phone.
Pretty much everything has been designed with exclusivity in mind. A fleet of leather-upholstered buggies swish guests around in the appropriate fashion, between the sumptuous three-storey spa complete with VIP penthouse and garden cabanas, Blue Beach Club on the edge of the Aegean, a multitude of gastronomic options, and jetties against which superyachts are routinely moored whilst their passengers dine on innovative Japanese fare at Kurochan by Ioki, overlooking the resort’s main sands. The possibilities for eating, drinking, reclining and enjoying life to the full are seemingly endless within the portals of this idyllic 60-hectare vacation paradise.
As I’ve always said, luxury is different things to different people. For some, space and time and freedom is all they’ve ever wanted. For others, rich fabrics, deep duvets, plush drapes and cashmere blankets make their world go around. In the case of a Mediterranean Suite at Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, the luxury inimitably lies in the height, light, design and, most of all, the attention to interior detailing. This is one exceptionally well planned and executed suite, delivering perfectly on all the levels one would expect at its price point.
What strikes you immediately, once through the gloriously tall solid wood entrance doors, is the sense of serenity and calm which permeates the large loft-like space. This is thanks to the abundance of natural daylight which floods in through 12-metres of floor-to-ceiling doors filling one wall of the lounge – which open onto a private garden and pool – plus two giant skylights, one of which illuminates the bathroom from above. Married with the liberal use of different types of stone and timber, not to mention Turkish rugs and naturally coloured furnishings, cushions and curtains, the overall effect is one of immense warmth and calm quite literally from the moment you enter.
Dark wood tables with dark green marble surfaces, and timeless teak armchairs meticulously upholstered, are juxtapositioned with grooved white stone walls which add a subtle touch of 70s glam. Furniture of varying heights – including a cool high-top table topped with a slab of locally quarried stone and surrounded by chunky solid wood stools – draw the eye to all parts of the space, which serves as an extension to the pool deck when the massive 3m square doors are fully open. Off the lounge, a stainless-steel kitchenette is connected to the real world via a separate entrance so butlers can discreetly deliver room service, and a guest powder room is laden with Shanghai Tang toiletries.
Outside, the enclosed private gardens and large infinity pool – the latter lined in rich Verde Guetamala sourced from India – combine to create the perfect ode to al fresco eating, poolside lounging and sun worshipping in supreme style, complete with a huge curtained day bed, outdoor shower, oversized loungers and dining for six.
In the bedroom, night lights are discreetly built into bespoke hand-woven leather headboards, bedside table panels feature a ‘blackout’ button which works to a tee, soft furnishings abound in soothing tones, and more floor-to-ceiling doors slide open towards the private back garden. In the spacious master bath, a beige deep-soaking tub sits a few metres away from a long vanity topped with handmade porcelain bowls finished in a stunning cracked turquoise glaze. A massive walk-in shower enclosure at one end of the room boasts a variety of showering options and doubles up as a steam room.
Since the design and décor is so spot on, artwork, flowers and objet d’art would be superfluous anywhere within this suite. Such design perfection is not easy to achieve in any environment, let alone hotels, which are notorious for their louche impersonality. Acclaimed international designer, Antonio Citterio, is to be applauded for so perfectly executing such sweet accommodation, to not only take full advantage of the resort’s outstanding vistas across Cennet Koyu, but also allow guests to feel at one with nature.
I am rarely one to stay behind closed doors, especially when presented with the excitement of a new destination. Blurring the lines between inside and out, rendering everything as one immaculate Mandarin Oriental hospitality world, so perfectly designed was my Mediterranean Suite that, despite the lure of happening beach clubs and gourmet restaurants mere minutes from my abode, I was reluctant to leave it for the duration of my time in Bodrum. On check-out day, I extended my departure time as late as I possibly could without offending the hosts at my next stop. Next time, perhaps it would be easier not to check out at all.
Nicholas Chrisostomou stayed in a Mediterranean Suite at Mandarin Oriental Bodrum in September 2017, when the nightly rate was EUR 3,725 inclusive of breakfast and taxes.