I just shared a hotel with a mass murderer — none other than notorious President Duterte of the Philippines, who willingly admits to shooting more than a hundred drug dealers and crime lords while he was the mayor of a town in the Philippines, not to mention all the executions he has ordered since becoming President. My curiosity of how a renown hotel handles their regular clientele while accommodating a celebrity or powerful person with a full entourage has now been satisfied. Over the years I have shared elevators, restaurants, shops, airports, and private homes with ” stars” of varying notoriety and current fame, but my recent stay at the Bangkok Mandarin Oriental is my first time of multiple days of observing what goes into dealing with raw power requiring extreme security.
My 14 year old grandson Thomas, son Lex, and I were two days into enjoying our week in Bangkok when we arrived back to our 8th floor suite at the Oriental and I noted a seemingly innocuous letter on the desk informing us that due to a foreign delegation, the hotel lobby entrance was going to have times of lock down and there would be heightened security through out the hotel. I had observed the tripling of armed guards and soldiers when we returned to the hotel, but thought little of it. The protocol for luxury hotels worldwide has been forever changed since terrorists stormed the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai ( Bombay) and killed guests while destroying parts of the historic building. It is now standard operating procedure for fine hotels to have posted security.
“Goodness!” I declared to Lex. “Someone special is arriving today and this letter is saying we won’t be able to get back into the hotel after 11 pm tonight.” We were scheduled for a tut-tut food tour of the night markets, ending at 11 pm.
So it began. Soldiers. Police. Private guards. Handlers. Men in dark suits with ear pieces and side arms. The lobby full of paparazzi, the daily papers headlining the talks between the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Thailand with President Duterte concerning the South China Seas. We handed our bags through metal detectors and waited for our drivers while black armored vehicles sporting flying flags on the hood and flashing police cars queued up for the President to swoosh through the lobby. He tended to wear white cotton shirts, Philippine style, while all around him were in Saville Row tailored suits.
On day three of the occupation, I rushed to enter a lobby elevator before the doors closed and found myself with 4 ultra-handsome, rather young Thai butlers dressed in Oriental Hotel silk native dress, white gloves, and an expectant air. They had pushed the 16th floor penthouse button. ” Ah,” I observed, ” You’re going to wait on the President!” They all stared at the floor, then one of these cute guys demurred, a shy grin at the corner of his mouth, ” Yes, Madame.” ” What an honor,” I replied. They all nodded, avoiding eye contact. I felt their energy. No matter where you are, and how evil the famous person, celebrity is universally alluring.
I caught glimpses, rubbed shoulders at the breakfast Veranda buffet with his personal secretaries and lackeys, and all the while marveled at how the Mandarin Oriental made the entire situation seem flawless as far as client disruption. My problem in it all was realizing that a man who has personally murdered so many people can enjoy such luxury and fame and be a leader of a country.
Sally Uhlmann | SU Platinum Properties – Bozeman, Montana