Glitzy Malls of Asia – Bangkok

Central Embassy, Bangkok

BANGKOK

Ultra luxe Central Embassy

Central Embassy is Bangkok’s latest challenge in the luxury retail sector, not only to older malls like the SiamParagon but also to Singapore and Hong Kong as a retail destination.

It is big and spacious with very wide walkways to ensure that it does not get packed even on busy days. It positions itself as an “ultra luxury” mall. This means, among other things, that a movie ticket here costs upwards of 1,500 baht (US$45), prompting one blogger to wonder if it comes with butler service and gold-encrusted movie stubs.

The high-end cinema on Level 8, however, is one of the few distractions. Most of the mall is focused on just fashion and food. Fashion, in this case, includes not just the usual big international brands. More significantly, Central Embassy showcases a good selection of Thai designers. This is fully in line with the owner’s stated vision to “introduce Thailand to a global audience of taste makers and opinion formers.”

Also consistent with this vision, the sprawling 5,000sqm supermarket and foodcourt at the basement, called Eathai, features only Thai food, with cuisines from different regions clearly differentiated. There is also a section on street foods and a cookery school. Big, colourful murals, along with walls constructed from traditional Thai kitchen utensils, add to the ambience. Other cuisines can be enjoyed at standalone eateries on the upper floors.

The mall’s architecture is spectacular, although it takes some imagination to see how it is inspired by wats (temples) and other traditional Thai architecture. It is in the details, where traditional patterns, materials and fabrication methods are interpreted in a modern setting. The façade spans 200m and has a skin of three-dimensional ceramic tiles and protruded aluminum to project a different view with each step. Central Embassy is a sight to behold.

FACT FILE

•   Opened May 2014

•   Owner: Central Group

•   Architect: AL_A (Amanda Levete Architects)

•   Total area: 1.5 million sqf (inclusive of 37-storey hotel tower)

SiamParagon, Bangkok

Luxury and more at SiamParagon

SiamParagon redefines luxury to include more than just fashion, watches or jewellery. It means you can buy a luxury car too. Choose from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lotus, Lamborghini, BMW, Hammar, Maserati and more. Or how about a Bentley or a Rolls Royce?

For tourists and the Thai elite, this is the premier shopping destination. With a gigantic Paragon Department Store covering 50,000sqm over six floors, plus some 270 other shops, SiamParagon is ranked one of the largest luxury malls in Asia. But if you are not in the league for luxury goods shopping, there are lots more to do – so much more that one writer considers it “demeaning” to call SiamParagon a mall.

One big attraction is the Siam Ocean World. Occupying some 10,000sqm at the basement, this is one of the biggest walk-through aquariums in Southeast Asia where visitors can scuba dive to get up close and personal with sharks and rays. A new attraction called Kidzania allows children to get a realistic taste of adult careers, like being a dentist or a fire fighter.

Then there is theCineplex with 14 halls, one of which has the biggest screen and highest seating capacity in Asia. The Krunsri IMAX theatre, at 8-storeys high, is also one of the biggest in the region. There is also a 38-lane bowling alley, a karaoke, an outdoor park, an exhibition hall, an opera house, a section devoted to traditional Thai arts and the Royal Paragon Hall, a 5,000-capacity venue for concerts, conventions and other special events.

Plus, there is an incredible range of F&B outlets featuring cuisines from around the world, at prices that range from affordable to very expensive. Even if all you want is a Starbucks coffee, SiamParagon offers a choice of at least five Starbucks outlets.

FACT FILE

•   Opened: December 2005

•   Owners: The Mall Group and Siam Piwat

•   Architect: J&H Boiffils

•   Retail space: 400,000sqm