I am blogging today about one of my favorite regional travel passions – Bangkok shopping!
If you’re a moderate-to-marginally frantic shopaholic just like myself, chances are you have vigorously scoured clean the numerous shopping malls of Bangkok. Most repeat visitors to the Land of Smiles never fail to check out a good number of its scattered shopping havens in each trip. But for those who have not been to Thailand’s capital or are scheduled to fly within the next few months, then here is a quick guideline to the same should you be interested in checking them out or simply window shopping for comparison. I will divide them into high-end, mid-range, and low-to-mid range for easy classification.
Emporium is a sister company of Siam Paragon. It was opened a few years ahead of the latter. In terms of ambience, it has all the expensive qualities of Paragon but on a smaller scale, size-wise. High-end but not as crowded, it has a smallish food court on the highest floor but don’t count on it as a favorite of many because the area fights space with the home apliance section of the department store. And aside from being isolated from the cluster of malls in the Siam Square area, it doesn’t have the wide crossover appeal of Paragon. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Emporium Suites, Novotel Lotus, St. James Hotel
Central World is what I call a work-in-progress. It used to be the simpler, albeit humongous, World Trade Center that has Zen Department Store in one end and Isetan on the other with a large number of shops in between. Now, it has transformed to an architectural maze that can challenge (and confuse) the ordinary window shopper to a game of hide-and-seek. It wants to capture the best of both high-end and mid-range shoppers with the strengthening ‘presence’ of the masses in its wide walking spaces. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Centara Grand, Arnoma Hotel, Intercontinental Bangkok
Gaysorn Plaza could be the favorite of rich Thais who want a sense of exclusivity while shopping. Only fat wallets or gold/platinum-branded credit cards can afford most of the merchandise here. But if you simply want a go-see, you won’t feel cramped because it doesn’t get deluged by busloads of tourists or locals. Alternatively, you can use its cool interiors as short cut to the pathway leading to Pratunam markets or Big C Ratchadamri. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Intercontinental Bangkok, Holiday Inn Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan, Arnoma Hotel
Erawan Centre can actually double as the official shopping mall of the Grand Hyatt Erawan attached to it. It is across Gaysorn Plaza and is just as high-strung. The only difference is the food court in Erawan’s basement. It may not have the cheapest dining options but there are some good eats that can be had. Also, its frontage is almost always the pit stop of buses upon buses of tourists who make a quick peek into its offerings before moving to other malls. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Grand Hyatt Erawan, Intercontinental Bangkok, Holiday Inn Bangkok
Esplanade was initially conceptualized and eventually opened as a high-end mall in the stretch of Ratchadapisek Road – the only one worth mentioning in its location. Afterwards, it slowly became more reachable in appeal and sacrificed exclusivity for a more visible throng of shoppers. Its multiplex is worth recommending for the movie buff. Hotel/s near or within a 1km distance: Amanta Ratchada Serviced Apartments, Palazzo, Siam Beverly
Siam Center is one of the older shopping establishments in the list. But with a prime location beside Siam Paragon, it has sustained continuous patronage through the years. The place has already evolved into the shopping paradise of teens, young adults and the young-at-heart. It proudly houses a lot of boutiques of homegrown designers with clothes for the fashionably adventurous and/or stylishly up-to-date. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Novotel Siam Square
Amarin Plaza is another old shopping mall that has been slowly refurbished in recent years. The shops inside appeal more to an older middle-class crowd so do not expect the place to be filled to the rafters. Honestly, I find this place boring unless there is a particular store I need to buy something from. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Holiday Inn Bangkok, Intercontinental Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan
Low-to-Mid RangeMBK Center is a must in every tourist’s itinerary. No visit to Bangkok will be complete without making at least one visit to the place. It has just about everything you need – all in one place….well not all because this is not the mall to shop for genuine (and pricey) designer brands. It has multiple levels of shopping for the budget-conscious with a spacious food court and multiplex in the upper floors. The middle ground portion regularly puts several brands and items on sale with deep discounts that can make the stingy part away with his/her shopping money on the spot. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Pathumwan Princess, Siam Design@Design Hotel, Novotel Siam Square, Krit Thai Mansion
Platinum Fashion Mall is the viajera’s air-conditioned dream of a shopping venue. Before it opened, people interested in wholesale prices would troop to Pratunam Market and spend hours upon hours buying boxes and boxes of several clothing items to be sold back home. But the hot and humid weather definitely took a toll on many of them so they decided to shift allegiance to Platinum where they can endlessly haggle without sweating bullets. For purely retail buyers, don’t get turned off. The place will always welcome you with open arms. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Grand Diamond Suites, Amari Watergate, Baiyoke Suites, First Hotel
Pantip Plaza is where you can buy all things related to computers, I.T. requirements, gadgets, DVDs, etc. – in short, it is electronics galore here and at very competitive prices. I would classify Pantip as Bangkok’s answer to Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po, but I still prefer the latter hands-down. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Grand Diamond Suites, First Hotel, Amari Watergate, Residence Rajthaevee
Big C Ratchadamri is a favorite of mine especially when staying with its next-door neighbor Arnoma Hotel. The place is more about height than horizontal spaces. It has several stories of small shops, boutiques, restaurants, multi-level supermarket etc. plus a good enough multiplex on top (than can be quickly accessed via elevator on the side facing Arnoma) and a food court with some of the cheapest prices for lunch or dinner. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Arnoma Hotel, Aphrodite Inn, Intercontinental Bangkok, Holiday Inn Bangkok
Silom Complex Shopping Plaza is the only mall in the Silom area so you call this one an oddball amidst the street shops lining up the area. The upper floors of the building are actually concentrated on offices and the like but the first 3-4 levels have a department store (Central), a curious assortment of independent boutiques, bookshops, restaurants, etc. What’s more, it has a dedicated walkway to a skytrain station (Saladaeng) from where you can also hop to the subway depending on where you want to go after. If you ask me, Silom Complex doesn’t have a clear shopping image or specific niche it wants to cater to, but it easily qualifies as a convenience mall to office workers and tourists conglomerating in this section of Bangkok. Hotel/s adjacent or very near: Dusit Thani, Pan Pacific Bangkok, Inn Saladaeng, Saladang Place
This is where the list ends and since I focused only on shopping malls, I did not include places like Chatuchak Weekend Market, Chinatown, Suan Lum Night Bazaar and Patpong Night Market anymore. I also intentionally did away with malls outside the touristy areas (like those in Bangkapi, Ramkamhaeng, Srinakarin, etc.) because they are not convenient to skytrain or subway routes.
So if you’re ready to shop to your heart’s delight in Bangkok’s air-conditioned shopping places, then ready, get set, GO!