Because it’s so hot here year round, a lot of Thai life revolves around shopping malls. Two great reasons: free air conditioning and good eats. The city center here in Bangkok is thick with malls and they are massive.
We’ve probably visited a mall every day this week except one. They’re unavoidable in a way, clustered around a few key Skytrain stops and gigantic! Easily three times the size of the Beverly Center, and three or four times as tall. Think South Coast Plaza in Orange County but built vertically. There are two or three mall developing families here and they’ve got it down pat, creating ones that are trendy and are themed.
Terminal 21, where we had lunch on Monday, is named that way because it looks like a glitzy airport, complete with a security guard dressed in white captains costume saluting you at the main entrance. Each of the six or seven floors represents a major city, from London to Istanbul to San Francisco, complete with matching decor. That mall is less about big box names, more about small boutique designers, like you’d find in a night market, but more upscale.
We ate at the food court on the top floor. I picked a place based on the longest line, and then proceeded to burn my mouth off by eating a forbidden northern Thai bird chili. The smaller the chili, the hotter it is. Thank goodness for fruit smoothies to cool off the tongue (downed three of them).
I should mention something about prices here. In short, REALLY CHEAP. One of these smoothies was about 40 baht, or a little over a dollar. My lunch combo, two main dishes with rice, was around the same price. It’d have been less (27 baht) if I only chose one entree. Exchange rate is about 32 baht to the dollar.
After lunch, just for kicks, we went to an expat bar on Soi 11 in the heart of Sukhumvit. Sukhumvit is sort of like the Soho of Bangkok. Trendy, expensive to live, packed with expats.
The German beer bar we hit was deserted, but not unexpected for 3 p.m. The diners that were in the bar were few and far between, but four of them were white men, almost all of them older than 50 with young Thai women. Yes, it’s Thailand, but it still shocks me. Apparently there is a moniker people use to describe situations like these: T.I.T. “This is Thailand.”
We walked through Little Arabia, selling everything from fabric shoes to intricately decorated tea cups and soup bowls. But the sheer quantity of them in every other stall indicates they’re mass produced in the least authentic kind of way.
Ironically, there were also a handful of Chinese vendors with shops right in between the other ethnic stores. The Chinese vendors were selling fake handbags and useless plastic toys (of course). Reminded me of Chinatown in New York squeezing out all of Little Italy. You just can’t escape the Chinese!
More pictures from the malls here: