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Travel
October 14, 2013

Bedazzled!

Text by Mala Vaishnav.

There are malls and then there are malls. And there’s CentralWorld and its extended family. Mala Vaishnav experiences the hypnotic pull of Bangkok’s premier shopping destination

Let’s make it an auspicious beginning, says my companion, eyes gleaming in anticipation. ‘So that when we step across the threshold, we find whatever we want.’ In the largest outdoor square in central Bangkok which hosts Fashion Weeks, photography exhibitions and art festivals among other events and is a much feted venue for the New Year’s Eve countdown celebrations, sits India’s most revered god, the pot-bellied Ganesha. A steady stream of worshippers, locals and tourists, approach the idol with offerings of marigold garlands and 16 sticks of incense. Thirty-nine if the prayer is a desperate plea. A few yards away is the Trimurti Shrine, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, which is held in awe, especially by young Thais who place roses, candles and joss sticks at the base of the raised platform, in their quest for begetting true love and happiness. My companion lays down her nine red blooms with a smile on her lips and together we enter through glass doors into an almost fantastical universe.

CentralWorld, the largest lifestyle shopping complex in south east Asia encompasses more than 500 stores, over 100 restaurants, 15 cinemas, an ice skating rink, the five-star Centara Grand, convention and learning centres, a 45-floor office building, Thailand’s biggest bookshop, B2S, two huge department stores, Zen and Isetan, and the largest supermarket in Asia. Prepare to get spoilt for choice with the latest collections and eclectic offerings from international labels, all placed in an almost competitive playing field of designerwear, accessories, toys, furnishings, home décor, high tech gadgets and the like. Wander into Vintage Passion and get transported into 19th century England with its quaint wardrobes, patchwork rugs and painted chests. Check into the dreamy interiors of Namu, the Korean nail bar and emerge a blue taloned diva for the week. Swish into the trial rooms of the ever popular H&M with armfuls of bling to last the coming season;or stock up on delectable treats from Central Chidlom’s exclusive gourmet fare. Then take a morning break for some tempura and takoyaki topped by steamed egg custard at one of the many specialty restaurants.

Central Chidlom plays fairy godmother in this shopping paradise. Fashion stylists will flutter around you at call with make-up and attire advice. A gift registry ensures that the ‘gifter’ and ‘giftee’ are in synergy; the Platinum Lounge beckons cardholders for massages, internet access, beverages, short power naps. There’s even a breast-feeding room on the sixth floor with all the privileges that a new mom and baby deserve. As for home deliveries and international shipping services, those are a given.

ZEN, the shopping haven that made a glitzy comeback in its new avatar last year, is spread over 20 floors whose hidden worlds may not be explored in a hurry. Spectacular colour palettes, mood lighting and wall textures separate each floor, setting the character and tone of the products on offer. White marble and dark purple lure visitors to Vivienne Westwood and Juicy Couture; Mirrors and metal reflect the smart and contemporary, showcased by Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein and Armani. Pick-up sticks and hanging lights highlight infant furnishings, a doggie day care spa and build-a-bear workshops.

At level 18, kick off your Ferragamo flats in the minimalist interiors of Japanese rooftop restaurant, Shintori, whose famed art cuisine took root in Shanghai and Taipei. Sip on a cool Gojira, a cocktail of sake, midori, lychee juice and mint while watching downtown Bangkok switch on the lights, through the transparent glass windows. Nibble on a sushi platter that lives up in taste to the purity of its presentation. Watch white-garbed chefs take chunks of imported meats and transform them into bite-size cubes and moist rolls that do a tongue-tickling tango with black olive sauce and a stinging wasabi. Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag has kept the lines clean and functional with a small stone garden and basic geometric shapes dominating the simple décor.

Designed to make the eyes pop from wherever you stand, CentralWorld is reminiscent of a shopping street that affords an expansive view of striking store windows at a single glance with natural light flooding the interiors through several skylights. There is a buzz on all the floors and even as we walk out, replete with Shintori’s special ‘desserts in a spoon’, rehearsals for a fashion show are being conducted. The complex promotes the belief that ‘every trip should be about the fulfillment of a desire to buy something that one loves, rather than regret what one cannot buy.’ Ganesha has led my companion in the right direction today. She is laden with goodies that she had coveted for long, plus innumerable thingummies that she didn’t even know that she wanted!

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