Shopping

Not-To-Be-Missed Shopping Malls in Bangkok

Bangkok is a cornucopia of sights and cacophony of sounds that has attracted travellers from all over the world. Filled with nonstop action, character, and some of the best (and remarkably delicious) cheap eats in the world, it is a frenetic steel maze of towering skyscrapers, multi-lane highways, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and busy pedestrians. For first timers, the capital city of Thailand presents an exciting invitation to urban explorers who are willing to get a little lost in its riveting chaos.

I almost never visit the same city twice. Yet, I was there this year, last year, and the year before it. My annual trips are regarded as pilgrimage to the food mecca (which says a lot, considering I was born and bred in Penang) and homage to the wealth of experiences this diverse city – an amalgamation of old and new – has to offer. It may be a bustling metropolis, but a stroll at the crack of dawn will have you go shoulder-to-shoulder with soft-spoken Buddhist monks draped in mustard robes on the streets.

Like the rest of Thailand, negotiation and bartering are a way of life – it is a norm and takes on a language of its own. To the uninitiated, it may seem discombobulating at first, but don’t let that dissuade you from witnessing one of the essences, which makes Bangkok utterly alluring, in action. If haggling at the markets or the chaos in general makes you weary, don’t fret – the city’s world-renowned shopping malls will give you just the respite (from both the scorching heat and human mob) you need while you shop.

Here is a list of the best shopping spots in Bangkok:

Terminal 21

A relatively new mall, Terminal 21 is a retail haven with popular chain restaurants and international retailers. Holding true to its name, this themed shopping mall has nine floors; each floor is inspired by a beloved city – for example, Rome on the Ground floor, Tokyo on the 1st floor, London on the 2nd floor, and Istanbul on the 3rd floor. Even the security personnel are in on it, dressed in a full-white air stewards’ uniform, whilst giving a salute to every visitor as they walk in.

Located at Sukhumvit Road near the Asok intersection, walking around in Terminal 21 is equal parts amazing and amusing, with its many sculptures and fitting decorations. Head to the upper floors and check out the market-style shops by local designers and artists who peddle their wares here. Some stores allow bargains while others come with fixed prices.

Once you have whetted up an appetite (shopping can be both an exercise and a sport), head up to Level 5 to the incredible food court with hard-to-beat prices. A piping hot bowl of tomyam noodles soup goes for 40 baht (RM4.90), while a delish plate of mango sticky rice is priced for 70 baht (RM8.50). Great taste, even better value.

Address: 88 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

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Central World

Bangkok’s biggest mall and the tenth largest mall in the world, Central World is the perfect place to shop, people-watch, and cool down from the afternoon’s oppressive heat. With 500 stores, 100 restaurants, 15 cinemas, and a mammoth of a food court, it offers you anything and everything you could wish for in one sweet spot.

The shopping complex boasts of more than 250 interactive LCD monitors, ever-ready to provide customers with information and shopping directories. For parents who’d like to enjoy hassle-free shopping, drop off your little ones at the Genius Planet Zone (a kids’ zone and learning centre) or Thailand Knowledge Park, which provides a fun ‘edutainment’ environment.

Author’s tip: On most days, there will be a tented street food market outside the mall. It is unpretentious and inexpensive (prices are only slightly steeper than the roadside stalls), and you can sample everything from fresh fruit juices, to pad thai, to grilled seafood on skewers there.

Address: 999/9 Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Big C Supercenter

One of the things I love to do whenever I am in a new country is to pay a visit to its local markets or grocery stores . It gives me delightful insight into the taste and flavours of wherever I am at, and it is probably my second go-to place upon arrival (the first being the hotel, of course). In Bangkok, no trip to the city should be counted as complete without a visit to a 7-Eleven convenience mart (fun fact: there are more than 4,000 in Bangkok alone) and Big C Supercenter Rajdamri.

Located just opposite Central World, Thailand’s largest hypermarket is a one-stop hub to endless variety of food products, toiletries, electrical appliances, and home decor. Patrons flock here to purchase snacks and tidbits for family and friends back home. It is my not-to-be-missed spot whenever I visit Bangkok, and it should be yours too.

Author’s tip: It would be criminal to leave without purchasing a packet (or ten) of Manora Fried Shrimp Chips. The brilliantly seasoned, highly addictive crisps are a terrific gift for co-workers; a delicious departure from the expected Koh Kae peanuts, Lay’s potato chips, or Pocky / Pretz biscuit sticks.

Address: 97/11 Ratchadamri Rd, Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand.
Opening hours: 9:00am – 2:00am

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Siam Center

Outwardly, Siam Center is a four-storey structure with a seemingly foreboding interior, with plenty of dark surfaces and bright lights. A walk into the mall is reminiscent of a studio, only this one is filled with some rather cool modern sculptures, interactive displays that show you what outfits look like without needing to go into a changing room, and flashing LED-lit stairs to lead you to the loos.

The edgy, artsy space is a hit for the younger crowd, where one can find a plethora of local brands – from Thailand’s hottest fashion names, to up-and-coming designers – under one roof. If you are on a lookout for quirky pieces, hop over to the third floor, where you can find the work of famed designers like Fly Now III, Greyhound Original, and Senada Theory. Internationally renowned cosmetics brand, LUSH, opened its doors on the ground floor of the upscale mall in December 2016.

Author’s tip: A stone’s throw away from Siam’s BTS station, look out for the exit marked Siam Center when you disembark as the mall is attached to the station.

Address: 989 Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Siam Paragon

Directly opposite Siam Center, Siam Paragon is the best place to go for high-end luxury boutiques. The retail destination attracts a specific clientele consisting of Bangkok’s elite, and tourists with a seemingly limitless budget (this writer, not included). Located in the main shopping district with an adjacent BTS station, almost every famous, conceivable brand is represented here – Gucci, Chanel, Prada and Hermès for fashion and couture; Lamborghini, Porsche, Maserati and Bentley for car aficionados; and the list goes on. The multi-storey mall also houses the largest aquarium in South East Asia, as well as a 16-screen cineplex, an art gallery, and an opera hall.

The notable food court at the ground floor deserves a worthy mention – abundant choices and scrumptious food at reasonable prices.

Address: สยามพารากอน 991 Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Central Embassy

Centrally situated (pun totally intended) within the former gardens of the British Embassy along Ploenchit Road, walking into this opulent landmark is a step into how the other half of the world lives – extravagant brands (the likes of Christian Louboutin, Isabel Marant, Maison Martin Margiela, Tom Ford, and many more), international restaurants (Dean & DeLuca, Harrod’s), and a swanky cinema at Embassy Diplomat Screens (a movie ticket will set you back about THB 1,200 – approximately RM147.00).

Luxury factors aside, I was mostly taken captive by the unique architectural and design details of the mall – the 1.5 million square feet project seamlessly merges a seven-storey luxury retail podium and a 27-storey five-star Park Hyatt Hotel tower into a cohesive entity. A connecting bridge also links Central Embassy to the flagship Central Chidlom, one of Thailand’s best-loved departmental stores. My time at this posh mall was mostly spent on the sixth floor, where Open House, a trendy co-living space, was.

Designed by Japanese architectural firm Klein Dytham Architecture – the same team who was the brainchild for Youtube’s and Google’s headquarters in Tokyo – the vast area is an oasis with an easy-going vibe, cool ceiling patterns, a phenomenal 180° view of the city, and home to Open House Bookshop by Hardcover (which in my not-so-humble opinion, is the most beautiful bookstore in South East Asia).

The bookstore features an immense collection of books on modern contemporary and classic art, with more than 20,000 rare art books under the concept ‘Celebration of Print Culture’. Being a lifelong bibliophile, the stunning collection of books alone are enough to summon a return to Central Embassy.

Address: 1031 Phloen Chit Rd, Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

MBK

MBK is initialism for the mall’s full name, Mah Boon Krong, in honour of the parents of the chief developer, Mah and Boon Krong. The statues on the ground floor near the centre depict the namesake of the mega mall. An oldie but a goodie, this behemoth of a shopping complex has gotten a major uplift since my first visit fifteen years ago.

Strategically located at the intersection of Rama I Road and Phaya Thai Road, it is within walking distance from Siam Square, home to Siam Paragon and Siam Center. A short walk from the square will lead you to an elevated pedestrian walkway, which brings you right to the entrance into MBK’s second floor. Unapologetically chaotic and energetic, this mall has eight floors with over 2000 shops, and is segregated into small stalls which sell everything from knock-off designer goods to used iPhones, along with the usual offerings and apparel.

A spot favoured by both locals and budget travellers, many flock to MBK because of its low prices and terrific deals. As usual, a fair amount of bargaining is needed before any purchase is made. The renovation included the addition of several cool stores – Tokyu Department Store; After You, one of the best dessert spots in Bangkok; and Beauty Buffet, an adorable store with a wide range of beauty products for the skincare and beauty-obsessed.

Address: Phayathai Rd, Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

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