We arrived in Bangkok after travelling inexpensively through Cambodia and Vietnam. Well, that all changed here. After getting a fabulous room in the Pathumwam Princess, the first thing we did was go shopping in the giant mall extravaganza that is MBK. After one day of standard tourism, the temples and such, we found ourselves returning to the malls, discovering four more floors of MBK, and exploring Siam Square, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery Center, and all of the boutiques in this area. Yes, this is an entry about shopping. This area is also a teenage hangout spot, so if you want to get a view into the life of a middle-class Thai teenager, you could consider this an anthropological venture.
The MBK is connected to the Pathumwam Princess as well as to the skytrain and Siam Square. I think it must be the largest mall in the world with its eight floors. Certainly the largest I have ever seen, and I live in the States! Walk in, look up, and you still have no concept of its size. The first floor is primarily small boutiques and a food court. With a mall this size, there is also food on every level. The next two floors seemed to be primarily fashion, as well as a Japanese department store where we picked up some groceries. Subsequent floors were often themed: furniture, mobile accessories, handicrafts. Within the mall, there is a huge flea market section with inexpensive T-shirts and souvenirs.
On the uppermost floors, we discovered the entertainment portion of the mall. Karaoke studios, massive multi-player gaming, arcades, and a huge movie theater. You could truly get everything you need without leaving this air-conditioned sanctum. We were picking up everything from inexpensive clothing to handicrafts, and even shoes! Yes, on the seventh floor I found a shoe store selling the funky brands that sell for hundreds in my part of the world. I paid only $30 for my monster-size pink platform sandals.
Leaving MBK, you can walk around Siam Square to the three other shopping destinations. Next, we went to Siam Discovery Centre - an upscale mall. Westerners will recognize many of the luxury stores here. On the first floor, we found a great handicraft shop, but the prices were a bit high. We ate here, at the Au Bon Pain. If you remember my food-poisoning story, then you know that we were trying to stick to bland foods.
This is a small mall, but luckily it's connected to Siam Centre, a fashion-plate's wet dream. Many of the stores were having sales, and the clothing selection was so different from what we can buy in the States. Some of the stores are chain stores, and others were owned by designers. The sizes run small all over Thailand, but my slim friend was able to purchase many items. Her best buy was a floor-length velvet mermaid skirt that she now wears often.
Next, we wandered around the streets, going into an unnamed mall with dozens and dozens of tiny boutiques. Engrish-spotting would be a good hobby here, as T-shirt stands sport many amusing examples. The teen clothing here was adorable, and Alli got a little black Gothic Lolita-style skirt for only $6. The store names are also quite delightful in their idiosyncrasies. One fashion boutique had named itself "Boobs."
Best of all, everything costs less here. I can't remember the last time I walked into a mall where I could buy anything I wanted within reason. This was a great pleasure to me. But even more fun were the endless variety of boutiques, the funky fashion, and the buzz of this busy shopping area. It's also a side of Bangkok that you don't see when you're walking around Banglamphu - it's regular Bangkok people (mostly teens) going about their lives. It is rather pleasant to be completely ignored, actually, if you've just spent a week in a tourist destination like Angkor Wat.