Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Curse of the Paragon

If you hate shopping, whatever you do, stay away from the area of Bangkok known as Siam. I took my wife for a two-day shopping trip to Bangkok, and we "did" five malls a day.
The latest addition is what must be Thailand's largest mall, the Siam Paragon next to Siam Skytrain station, and also next to the Siam Center mall, which itself lies next to the Siam Discovery mall. On the other side of the Paragon, meanwhile, work is in progress on the renovation of the Central World department store, which should open in May.
So you get the drift, this must be one of the highest concentration of shops anywhere in Asia, and maybe the world.
But back to the new giant on the block, the Siam Paragon. A huge shiny Christmas tree and fountains which just pop up out of the ground at unexpected intervals were the major attractions outside for the Christmas weekend crowds. Inside, management has tried to make up for the absence of shops on the lower floors by showing off supercars such as a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Maserati Quattroporte, and so on. The shops that haven't opened yet are mostly the Western superbrands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. On the second floor, I also noted that Spain's famous Zara chain is planning a large store, the first in any Asian city I visited recently. Higher up inside the Paragon, there is a department store which includes all the brands that are famous in the West and in other Asian countries - like DKNY, Esprit, G2000, Jessica - and those that are present in any Bangkok mall: Greyhound and its affiliate Playhound, Flynow, Issue with its Indian-inspired dresses, Senada, Classic Model, Miphosis, and my wife's favorite, Pena House.
The last one is also present in at least two other malls. At the first one we visited, the Emporium, my wife bought a beige knit jacket. By coincidence, when we visited the Siam Center, the shop that won my wife's attention was again a Pena House, where she bought a Missoni-lookalike blouse and a white-blue-purple poncho.
For those not into pure fashion, most of Bangkok's malls also have pleasant stores full of typical handicraft, textiles, ceramics, cushions, bone china, wood products and anything you can think of with colorful and tasteful local designs. Exotique Thai at the Paragon and the Emporium are especially memorable, and then there's the famous Jim Thompson chain.
For modern design and simple goods, there's the name Propaganda, which sells modern knickknacks in various colors and sizes.
And finally on the topic of Bangkok malls, the hard-to-find 6th floor at the Emporium houses a design center with a library and occasional exhibitions.
All in all, Bangkok houses an amazing collection of shops and malls in all price categories, and if you do like shopping, then you need to budget at least two days to see it all. And before I forget, for those not into glitzy malls, but who don't mind haggling and the absence of air conditioning, there is also a place for you: the Chatuchak weekend market next to Mo Chit Skytrain station.


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