Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TRAVELOGUE

Bangkok Asiatique, The Riverfront Mall

Page 1302

From roadside rough and ready stalls at Patpong to the labyrinth-like jumble of Chatuchak Market to utility complexes like Mah Boon Krong (MBK) to shiny high-end shopping malls such as Siam Centre and the creative concept store Terminal 21, Bangkok is a shopaholic’s dream.

Asiatique has successfully combined two of the most popular shopping experiences in the city: a night bazaar and a mall. Ten minutes downriver from Saphan Taksin BTS station this once-bustling international trade port has been transformed, with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex. Open from 5 pm, spending an evening here is no problem: you’ll have good fun browsing the boutiques, picking up gifts or something for yourself and you are guaranteed to find something you would like to eat. If this isn’t enough entertainment, shows are performed nightly such as a classic Thai puppet performance.

Getting to Asiatique
There are quite a few ways to get to Asiatique but the easiest and most cost effective would probably be to take the BTS to Saphan Thaksin Station and take the free shuttle boat service at Sathorn Pier.

At the Sathorn Pier look out for platforms which are side by side and you will find boats that give you a free ride to the warm and shiny Asiatique Riverfront. The boat comes every 10-15 minutes, so the wait is not too long. Once at Asiatique you will be greeted with majestic lighting and the feeling of entering a new city.

A drop of Asian antiquity
After a 10-minute boat ride, we arrived at Asiatique, which reminded me of Singapore’s Boat Quay where obsolete warehouses were turned into restaurants and shopping arcades.

Asiatique sits on a site built during the 1900s as one of the earliest portals where the Kingdom of Siam (now known as Thailand) opened its doors to the Western world. The pier was used mainly as an export centre of Thai teak to Denmark.

Once you enter, you appreciate the design even more; this is probably the only market in Bangkok where you can find a stall by looking at a map. Asiatique is split into four categories to help you find what you are looking for without too much hassle.

The Chareonkrung District is where you will find the majority of the small boutiques (over 1,000 in four warehouses) selling souvenirs, handicrafts, jewellery, and clothing. The little storefronts are attractive, the displays are interesting and there is a wide range on offer too, from fashionable Thai brands to affordable stores selling merchandise similar to those on offer in places like Chatuchak and MBK.

The focus at Asiatique is more on cutting-edge fashion and gadgets in the Factory District, including an Apple store. Upscale dining selection can be found in the Waterfront District, with smart Italian, Thai and seafood restaurants. The Town Square district has bars and outdoor space for events. Some independent cafes are dotted around selling strong drinks and decently priced Thai food. Asiatique also has branches of KFC, Pizza Company, Au Bon Pain and MK. As well as all this food and shopping, there are entertainment shows. These shows have been attracting large audiences for years, and Asiatique is the perfect new surrounding for them, offering so much more than just a performance.

The selection of shops is interesting, with a good range of unusual brands rather than row upon row of tourist trinkets. This bazaar is busy but isn’t overrun by tourists; crowds of locals enjoy coming here too. Asiatique is definitely worth dedicating an evening to.

Food talk
From Arab to Thai, this place has everything. Personally I would recommend Bani Shanta for Thai food which is located just by the river. It is a 2 storey amazing dining option overlooking the Chao Phaya River.