From bustling street stalls to floating fruit markets, shopping opportunities abound in Thailand, but perhaps nowhere more so than the many shopping malls scattered across the Kingdom.
The plentiful shopping opportunities that abound in the Land of Smiles have cemented its reputation as a top destination for shopaholics in Asia.
Whether you prefer market stalls to haggle over local handicrafts or a designer boutiques to splash some serious cash, Thailand has it all.
In recent years, an increasing number of expansive shopping malls have also been developed – and these are not just limited to the capital. Islands like Phuket and Koh Samui also boast a whole host of opportunities for retail adventure.
Below is a selection of Thailand’s top mall experiences…
Bangkok's newest THB18 billion (US$559 million) shopping mall has been eight years in the making, but earlier this year, Central Embassy finally opened its doors to shoppers. A 222-room Park Hyatt, luxurious movie theatre and an array of designer boutiques occupy the 37 floors of the capital’s shiniest new mall, which leans towards the higher end of Thailand’s retail offerings. Situated on the site of the former British Embassy, the mall also boasts an exquisite offering of fine-dining restaurants for shoppers to enjoy between trips to Gucci, Prada and Chanel. The likes of Fred Perry, Oakley and Zara also make an appearance in the glittering line up of stores.
Paragon of Perfection
While Siam Paragon may not be quite as fancy as Central Embassy, it is still a shopping hotspot for visitors in need of a upmarket retail therapy. In addition to its magnificent department store and peppering of designer stores, Paragon’s Siam Ocean World and KidZania also offer a fun afternoon for those travelling with young children. The top floor of the mall also boasts one of Bangkok’s most impressive cineplexes – the perfect place to take a break from exercising the credit card while you kick back in comfort in fort of a blockbuster movie.
Fantastic Island Festival
Until earlier this year, markets and boutiques were as good as it got for shoppers on Koh Samui. Not anymore. In March, the island's very own Central Festival Mall opened its doors. Developed by Central Pattana (CPN), Thailand’s largest retail developer, Central Festival Samui is home to over 150 international and local fashion boutiques. Other offerings include large grocery supermarkets and the Central department store. CFS is also the first ever themed mall to be developed by CPN, so well worth a look for the unique design elements alone. The theme reflects the concept of Southern Thai lifestyle, and even features a quaint mock-up of a port, complete with restaurants, bars and dining options.
A hop across the Thai mainland form Samui to the Andaman Sea coast brings you to the famous isle of Phuket – and another Central Festival Mall. Situated right in the heart fo the island, not far from Phuket Town, Central Festival Phuket is the ideal one-stop shopping destination for travellers that want to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the cool cocoon of an air-conditioned mall. Like its counterpart on Koh Samui, CFP offers up more than 120 outlets that sell everything from designer fashions to electronics. It is also a prime destination for visitors that want to catch up on the latest movie releases after filling themselves up on a hearty meal at one of the mall’s many international dining outlets.
If you find yourself in Phuket's tourist capital, Patong, then Jungceylon is where you'll want to head for an afternoon of retail therapy. Like Central Festival, Jungceylon’s expansive floors are packed with a range of outlets, where shoppers can pick up anything from their favourite Lancôme moisturising cream to an entire new wardrobe of beachwear. If you ever get tired of shopping, Jungceylon also boasts its own Cinema City, and several colourful entertainment and gaming arcades, where kids (and even parents) can challenge each other with simulated Formula One races, video football and even virtual motorbike stunts.
by Wayne Hue