Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Shopping in Bangkok's Terminal 21
You’d think the last thing Bangkok needs is new shopping malls, but it seems the Thai passion for consumerism in air-conditioned comfort is insatiable. The most recent offering is Terminal 21, located on Sukhumvit Road between Soi 19 and 21, right near Asok BTS station. This is a Disney version of a shopping mall, a themed nine-storey, 600-shop extravaganza with the theme ‘Travel the World’. The idea is for all the great shopping streets of the world to be represented under one roof, with a different theme for every floor.
From the outside, the glass and steel facade resembles an airport terminal; the lobby is the arrival hall, with electronic display boards resembling flight information, and the receptionists at the information desk wearing air hostess uniforms. It’s quirky and a little wacky - and bizarrely very Thai, even though the host country is not represented. Hang onto your hats, folks, you’re in for quite a journey...
The lower ground floor is your beach holiday in the sun - welcome to the Caribbean, complete with beach shacks, anchors and a gigantic lighthouse in the middle of the floor. Here you’ll find a gourmet food hall; and even the toilets have a beach theme, with fishing nets suspended from the roof. (NB - these toilets perhaps qualify for the best in Bangkok, with heated toilet seats and bidets a la Japan. At the very least, pop in for a whistlestop...)
With Sistine Chapel murals and some classical statues, the ground floor has been transformed into Rome, which plays host to standard international fashion names such as Nike and Levi's. Travel up the criss-crossing escalators and you reach Paris, the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees standing guard over other fashion brands.
But it’s on the middle levels that things start to get interesting. Here, in Tokyo, London and Istanbul you’ll find small stalls featuring local designers, with the 1st floor dedicated to innovative women’s fashion, the 2nd floor to menswear and the 3rd floor to gifts and accessories. All presented, of course, amongst statues of sumo wrestlers, a London bus, and the glitz of a Turkish souk. And like a souk, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of stalls, each one enticing with unusual and quirky designer goods.
On the San Francisco floor - replete with a replica Golden Gate Bridge - there are restaurants and cafes, while there’s an excellent food hall on the 5th floors’ Pier 21 recreation. And of course, what mall would be complete without a cinema complex - presented in true Hollywood style under the gaze of a giant Oscar and the Hollywood sign.
It may sound a little cheesy, but the interior of Terminal 21is thoughtful and amusing, with great shopping and loads of bargains the icing on the cake. It’s just another reason why Bangkok is rightfully considered one of the great shopping destinations of the world.
(Pics: Julie Miller 2012)