Like with many overachievers, the story of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok involves a lot of firsts.
The year I lived in Thailand can basically be divided into time before boiled chicken (BBC) and time after (ABC). The transition occurred early one afternoon a few months after I arrived.
Step out of a warm, muggy night into an air-conditioned little bungalow on a quiet side street. Inside is a holding area with a waist-high partition and behind it, a curved bench along the wall. Five young Thai women, wearing numbers for easy ordering, lean forward and smile.