Shop, don’t drop !
When I first travelled to Bangkok seventeen years ago I was advised to travel to the country with an empty bag for Bangkok is known for a great bargain. This time though I did not find any deals that I thought were worth it and came back with ‘everything spice’ for my kitchen. For those who still don’t get the name PottyPadre and who have never placed the cursor above the ‘about me ‘ section, I am a chef by profession.
We stayed at the Cirtus Sukhumvit, a very nice hotel in the Sukhumvit area of the city. The area is very touristy, mostly western tourist and also a number of Middle Eastern tourists; the area has several restaurants catering to the cuisine from the Middle East. Sukhumvit is within three metro stops from Siam ( pronounced as see- arm) and depending where you stay in Sukhumvit it could be a pleasant half hour walk either via the streets level or the pedestrian walk that runs along the ‘mall district’ around Siam.
While Bangkok is strewn with malls I will limit myself to the Siam and Ploen Chit area of Bangkok. Bangkok’s malls can clearly be categorised into affordable, mid-level and luxury. Take for example the Central Embassy a six story retail podium which is home to the biggest international and local names in fashion, beauty, design, dining and tech with its fancy restaurants and sky terraces that overlook the sights and lights of downtown Bangkok. Situated on the former gardens of the British Embassy, the mall located in Ploen Chit and is accessible by the metro, perhaps the best bet to travel quickly considering that this traffic route is notorious for traffic snarls.
A couple of hundred meters away one stumbles upon ‘One Siam’, three great malls linked to each other; Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Siam Discovery. Siam Paragon with its 250 outlets is known for its high end boutiques like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace to name a few beside a number of mid-range stores like H&M and Zara. It also houses Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium, a 16-screen Cineplex, and a comprehensive selection of world cuisine.
The Paragon ‘department store’ is a great place to visit for tech items, electronics and kitchenware and home lifestyle stuff. My favourite place in Siam Paragon was the gourmet market on the lower level which shares its space with a number of excellent eateries. If you are looking to shop for ingredients both fresh and processed for your kitchen this is great place to shop. If you want mid-range Thai food products then you can always go to Tesco Lotus in any part of the city.
The Siam Center which has been around for forty years was recently re- launched in January 2013, It is as cutting edge, hip, and chic as any of Bangkok’s shopping malls. With over 200 vendors it combines fashionable Thai designers along with big name foreign brands, along with plenty of hi-tech and glitzy gimmicks to make sure you have a pleasant shopping experience. It is open from ten am to ten pm. Siam Centre also has a great food mall on the top most floor called food republic. Honesty this is super value for money if you want to try Thai food from all its regions and for the unadventurous they also have Cheese Burgers (I will soon write on where to eat in Bangkok and I highly recommend this place)
Finally you have Siam Discovery which also houses modern art displays side by side with high end fashion that are laid out naturally, as you expect to see them in someone’s home or almost walking around an exhibition. It’s all a bit confusing at first and takes you time to figure out the lay out of the mall which was refurbished in 2016 and originally built in 1973. Siam Discovery also houses Madame Tussauds which will set you back by 790 Bahts.
While the design of the mall is modern, there is in my opinion, nothing special here that gets your attention unless you love drones which are up for sale. The Mall has everything you would see in other malls but displayed differently. ‘The Loft’ is worth a walk through if you are a fan of miniature characters. Even if you’re not here to splurge your cash it’s still worth a visit for some window shopping or simply to escape the heat which can get quite blistering in Bangkok.
Finally the MBK Centre and this one really got me stumped even after two visits. It’s huge and sprawling and in my opinion terrible. You could be looking at a mid-level brand and then as you turn around you wonder if you have been transported to a chain of street vendors who have magically been relocated in a mall. The mall has seven floors divided into four zones; A to D.
The mall sells everything from fashion and beauty, gold and jewellery, souvenirs, electronics and what have you. This is a great place to shop for t-shirts which are priced at 99 Bahts and clothing. It has a whole floor on the sixth level called craft village (zone D) which sells souvenirs. You could also buy a custom made suit (men and women) for 3000 Bahts or three custom stitched trousers for 2,700 Bahts or three shirts for 2,500 Bahts.
You could buy Thai silks and rather nice looking Table cloths, runners, cushion covers and bed covers with Thai prints (mostly elephants). Perhaps the place that put me off the most was the section selling electronics. It is sardine can and I don’t just mean the number of people packed into that place but the smell of stale food hanging in the air makes you sick. The vendors can’t stop eating! MBK is a place you must bargaining, so bargain your head off.
The weekend market at Chatuchak is also a great place to shop but I will treat that topic separately.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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