Exploring the Malls of BangkokFeatured, Shopping & Style — By Mary on February 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm
I ended up in my first mall in Bangkok on a whim, trying to escape the ninety degree weather emanating off the cars and pedestrians on the streets of Bangkok; the heat trapped in by the congestion and wall of buildings. I could feel the coolness of the mall’s air conditioning reaching out through the open doors to where I stood on the sidewalk and it pulled me into its cold clutches, luring me inside to a more temperate wonderland.
I hadn’t planned malls into my itinerary (most travelers on Bangkok holidays want to experience the culture, not to shop!). It took me all of sixty seconds upon entering the air conditioned haven to realize that malls are a part of Bangkok’s culture. The air-conditioned food courts and open spaces in the mall are used for friends to meet up and hang out, while perusing through the various shops. The malls seemed much more social than the ones in America and spending a few hours browsing through shops in Bangkok quickly seemed to me like a totally natural way to spend time in Bangkok – and I am very far from being a shopaholic.
Two malls stand out in Bangkok. The first is the famous and luxurious Siam Paragon. The second is the new and worldly Terminal 21.
My visit to Siam Paragon combined two things: My desire to see the iconic Bangkok landmark that self-proclaims itself as “the Pride of Bangkok” and my mission to find a pair of shoes to wear to Sky Bar that night. (I’d decided my backpacker flip-flops weren’t going to cut it.)
Upon entering the mall, instead of being overcome by the smell of leather and fabrics, I was hit with the aromas of spices, coffee, and chocolate. I thought I was going to be stepping into a fashion magazine. Instead the ground level of Siam Paragon led me right into food heaven.
King of Food Courts
Siam Paragon’s food court is a dizzying and crowded array of food with everything from coffee shops to gourmet fusion fare restaurants. Just about any type of Asian food you desire is available – the hard part is picking which place to eat at.
Upon seeing Siam Paragon’s food mecca, I immediately postponed my shopping and sat down at a café that had a patio feel despite being indoors, and ordered an iced coffee and decadent chocolate-raspberry dessert.
Once I was able to tear myself away from the food (only temporarily – I went back later that night for dinner) I ascended to the next level and immediately realized I was out of my shopping league.
Chanel, Armani, Burberry…label-devotees will love the main level of shops in Siam Paragon. Hollywood favorites fill every corner and the stores are all enclosed behind glass doors circling around the hundreds of tourists and locals milling about on the floor. Very few people were actually in the stores, but that didn’t stop the upbeat and social atmosphere going on outside the expensive interiors of the designer shops. I was definitely not going to find shoes I could afford here. I was in luck, though. The next few floors consisted of stores such as Mango and Zara and a massive department store – much more affordable compared to designer-ville below. These levels had just as many people in the stores as out – packs of teenagers were eagerly rummaging through every table and rack of clothes at the trendy fashion-forward stores. I was happy to discover that on these upper floors I could afford something (well, if it was on sale) in Siam Paragon other than the food.
Terminal 21 is conveniently organized by category, but not in a conventional way. Built in 2011, Terminal 21 seems a bit reminiscent of Vegas in the sense that its designers seemed to have been fond of city replicas – and just like Vegas, Terminal 21 has a Paris.
Around the World
Terminal 21 divides up its stores into different levels named after cities. You won’t be going to just another level in the mall; you’ll be traveling up the escalator to…
Rome and Paris – complete with marble arches on the Rome floor plus a Champs-Elysees vibe on the Paris level making it a perfect backdrop to the high-end stores lining this section of the mall; Tokyo – with busy neon colors and images framing the walls and a plethora of women’s shops ranging from chains to local market-type shops lining the walkway; London – take a break from shopping to pose in one of the red phone booths for a picture and then browse at the many men’s shops on this level to get a present for your favorite guy; San Francisco – two stories of an array of food shops with a golden gate bridge replica stretching across the open center of the mall suspended in air between the two levels; Istanbul – this level has a Grand Bazaar feel with many jewelry and accessory shops; and at the top of the mall, Hollywood – where you’ll be greeted with a large gold Oscar statue and the option of catching a flick at the multi-screen movie theater. Who knew traveling the world could be so easy?
Each level of Terminal 21 has restaurants and little snack shops that fit with the city theme of that level. I was most infatuated with the food court Pier 21 on the – you probably guessed it – San Francisco level. Despite being in a high rise building in the middle of a loud, bustling section of Bangkok, Pier 21 did a good job of actually creating a harbor feel (minus the water) and offered some great seafood and Asian fare in a fun setting complete with dolphin statues and massive windows at one end bringing the sunlight in.
Siam Paragon is an easy BTS metro ride to Siam Station, which will drop you off practically right in front of the entrance to the mall. Just follow the signs.
Terminal 21 is located off of Sukhumvit Road between Soi 19 and Soi 21. If arriving via BTS, get off at Asoke Station.