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Travel Review: Bangkok Bling Beckons

Travel Review: Bangkok Bling Beckons

The Thai capital has more to offer than just cheap bargains, as Aarti Nagraj discovers.

A huge Gucci logo looms in front of me. As I move one level up and peer around the corner, I discover yet another big brand store. This time it is the Gulf’s favourite uber luxury haunt – Harrods.

One may be pardoned for thinking that I am talking about London, Paris, Singapore or even Dubai. But we are actually in the centre of Thailand’s capital Bangkok, in one of the city’s newest and (probably most) opulent shopping malls.

The glitzy-looking central embassy Bangkok – named after a British outpost that was once in this location – is relatively quiet during the day as we found out.

But come the night, an upmarket crowd begins to make its way to the mall, waltzing through the numerous popular designer stores, a plethora of F&B venues, and multiple entertainment options spread over eight storeys.

The mall, which opened last year, is the latest addition to the city’s rapidly expanding shopping scene, and is a key example of Bangkok’s aspirations to become a hub for bespoke and luxury shoppers.

Part of the complex, currently under construction, is Thailand’s first Park Hyatt hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2016. The ‘six-star’ hotel will eventually rise 37-floors above the structure and tower across the area.

Shaped in a sign of infinity, and designed to resemble the intricate details of the Thai silk cloth, the façade’s shimmering shingles glimmer during the day, and become a beacon to fashion- loving visitors by night.

It’s hard not to find a designer brand within its precincts. Prada, Chanel, Hermes, Givenchy and Versace have impressive boutique stores while Chopard, Rolex and Hublot tempt watch-lovers.

Sprinkled across the minimalist, white and well-lit interior are also a line-up of bridge fashion brands such as Zara, Kurt Geiger, Massimo Dutti and Lacoste, as well as leading Thai designers who have set up flagship stores.

In total, 35 per cent of the merchandise selections are brands launched for the first time in Thailand.

But the shopping is not restricted to luxury fashion. You also have home décor, technology stores, and financial services centres occupying substantial space at the mall.

My favourite at Central Embassy, however, was not a store. It was a unique Thai eatery concept, called Eathai, which combines over 36 restaurants under one roof.

For gastronomes, the spread at the food court is extensive, covering north, south and central Thai cuisines ranging from the traditional mango and sticky rice combo to exotic seafood platters. There’s also a vegetarian kitchen and in case you were wondering, the food’s authentic, sumptuous and yummy.

food

A separate section also caters to those seeking Bangkok’s popular street food delights, with stalls and carts selling a range of reasonably priced local delicacies in a more hygienic set-up.

Eathai, whose ambience reflects the rich culinary culture of the country, also hosts a supermarket, which sells food and other products, including souvenirs sourced from local producers.

However, if your taste buds are not craving Thai food, the mall hosts a mix of 33 other cafes and restaurants.

Central Embassy doesn’t disappoint on entertainment either. The exclusive Embassy Diplomat Screens has five cinema halls with extremely limited seating, offering private and bespoke cinema experiences complete with plush recliner seats, huge screens and the latest hits.

A single ticket costs around 1,500 baht ($46.5), starkly higher than regular rates, but you also get complimentary light snacks and can relax in a posh, swanky lounge outside the halls.
Those not in the mood for a movie, can opt to unwind and get a rejuvenating traditional Thai massage at one of the spas within the mall.

The stunning Dii Wellness Med Spa, where I had a short but relaxing shoulder and hand massage, promises a tranquil getaway from the mayhem outside, and even offers packages that stretch on for five hours.

Refreshed after the massage and ready to indulge in more shopping? You can head to Central Chidlom, one of Thailand’s most-loved department stores, which is connected to Central Embassy.
The flagship store of the chain, Central Chidlom is spread across a massive 68,000-sqm and features imported and local fashion items, shoes and accessories, beauty and cosmetics, jewelry, home décor, gifts and Asian handicrafts.

If the shopaholic in you is still not satisfied, barely 10 minutes away is Central World, the largest lifestyle-shopping destination in Bangkok.

The huge mall (and it’s huge even by Dubai standards) is a shopper’s paradise, with over 500 stores, 100 restaurants, an entertainment centre, education and learning centre, the largest supermarket in Asia, and the largest outdoor square in central Bangkok for big events.

Central World also features the trendy ZEN lifestyle store, which is spread across seven levels and aims to cater to a young and hip audience. With a retail landscape of 50,000 sqm, the avant-garde store sells everything from clothes to toys to household items.

If you are tired and bored of mall shopping, take a short walk outside. Alongside Central World are a series of small roadside vendors, who sell all kinds of knick-knacks and cheap t-shirts.

But steel yourself for an extended bargain, because they quote over double the rates, especially to tourists and foreigners.

At the end of a long shopping day, let your hair down at the Groove, a chic collection of various lifestyle bistros, bars and bakeries from all over the world, located within the mall (with outdoor seating).

If you are seeking some serious retail therapy, there’s no doubt that Bangkok presents a compelling getaway. And with its new luxury offerings, the reasons to visit the Thai capital just got stronger.

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