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Like Harajuku is to Tokyo, the most famous shopping area in the Thai capital is a hive of youth culture and unashamed consumerism. Our guide to the commercial core of Bangkok
Siam Square is unquestionably “new Bangkok”. Although the grand edifice of Wat Pathum Wanaram supplies a degree of spiritual ballast, the main religion in this part of the city is shopping. At street level, hordes of youngsters brave the broiling heat and the noxious traffic fumes to peruse a warren of narrow streets lined with tiny boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. The area’s air-conditioned malls provide a more comfortable experience, many of which are linked by connectors which bypass the pandemonium below.
Don’t expect to find a traditional square or plaza: you won’t find one. Instead, the area Thais know as Siam Square is a labyrinth of lanes sandwiched in a square of land boxed in by Chulalongkorn University, Rama 1 Road, Henri Dunant Road and Phaya Thai Road. Although new malls in the area have encroached on the street vendors and stalls, the true essence of teen Thailand is still best sampled at ground level. Fashionistas will especially love the abundance of bargains and emerging Thai and Asian brands. Today Tomorrow Forever specializes in vintage designs. For music lovers, Doreme is one of Bangkok’s very best record stores.
Despite appearances, there’s more to Siam Square than just retail therapy. All that shopping works up an appetite, and food options here are plentiful. For a start, you’ll find just about anything you desire in the expansive food courts at the malls. Food Loft at Central Chidlom is located on the highest floor of the mall providing an elevated dining experience, with stalls serving a range of international cuisines, from Indian and Thai to French, Italian and Vietnamese. Other great options in the area include Ban Khun Mae and Som Tam Nua, famous for their excellent spicy green papaya salad.
While retail therapy is the number one pursuit around Siam Square, there’s a host of other attractions that should be near the top of any visitor’s Bangkok itinerary. It may be a little on the touristy side, but we are particularly fond of Jim Thompson House. The canal-side home of mysterious silk magnate Jim Thompson is now a museum and its Thai design and decoration is testament to the fine taste of its former owner. A short walk back towards Siam is Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), a modern complex that is a creative space for Thai artists. It also hosts major visiting exhibitions, as most recently, a major retrospective of work by legendary Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.