Paris has Galeries Lafayette, Dubai has The Dubai Mall, Kuala Lumpur has Suria KLCC, Sydney has Westfield Sydney, and then there’s Bangkok, which has Siam Paragon. It is a grand mercantile establishment, which caters to a whole range of socio-economic patrons, to wit, it is where the aristocracy goes to renew their seasonal vestments, where the bourgeoisie buy investment pieces, and it is where the proletariat indulges in ephemeral treats. Simply put, it is as sociable as a tom yam soup.
But before we begin the virtual peregrination, a little history of this melting pot is called for: Siam Paragon was built on the former grounds of the iconic Siam Intercontinental Hotel; a whopping 26 acres city-resort with large, spacious gardens, renowned for its free-roaming peacocks – the screeches of which, substituted roosters for local Bangkokians. After its demolition in 2003, construction of the ritzy mega-mall began immediately; it was on a tight schedule. The imposing and identifiable glassy doors were officially opened for the public to idly promenade through on December 9, 2005. It has since then, become the center of taste, the meeting place of choice, and the mid-point on Patum Wan’s busy cross roads.
Emphasizing Siam Paragon’s centrality is its association with the BTS Siam Station – the interchange terminal for the entire skytrain system – which is connected directly to an entrance into the shopping center, thereby making it arguably the most active building ingress in Thailand; the sliding doors here are left perennially open during business hours.
Beginning with the basement floor, we have Siam Ocean World; an underwater world that is purported to be the largest in Southeast Asia. The glass tunnels and mammoth tanks are home to a plethora of sea creatures and a kaleidoscopic array of oceanic vegetables. Considered as an “edutainment” center (read: education plus entertainment), it has become a favourite destination for school trips, and a frequented spot by tourists from out of town and overseas alike.
Moving up the imposing structure, the ground floor is the next stop. This floor is indubitably the most visited stage in the compound; the reason being that the entire tier is a giant shrine dedicated to epicurism. Occupying the most space of this foodie’s land, is Gourmet Market – think traditional grocery store meets Harrods Food Hall – where fresh, quality, and import are words that best describe the profusion of moreish products arranged in an expensive display. A cultured food court nears this, offering Thai, Asian, and international cuisines for the ravenous organic machines to drop by and refill.
On the other side of the food court, are a score of individual eateries that compete ferociously for hungry consumers; from Indian curries to Mediterranean platters, this area makes even the most decisive person a little hesitant. For the more refined, there is an arcade sardined with consumable boutiques selling salties and sweets of the chichi European kind; from variegated macarons, cute cupcakes, delicate éclairs, and haute petit fours, to fancy gourmet sandwiches, savoury puff pastries, and other deli goodies.
The main floor of entry into Siam Paragon is the Mezzanine, and it is dedicated absolutely to designer shopping of the imperial class. From Parisian staple brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, and Hermès, to Milan’s most revered names, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, and Fendi, to Elizabeth Taylor’s choice of jewellers, Bulgari, Cartier, and Boucheron, to rococo timepiece makers, Piaget, Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe, all and other coveted brands can be found and called on here. To crown all, the various divisions of Paragon’s own department store can be accessed easily by using the escalators in the middle of the redolent expanse of the Beauty Hall.
Outside of the department store and on the first floor, international fast-fashion labels such as H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, GAP, and others of those ilk occupy the turf and make big bucks; toting the plastic shopping bags from these stores has become somewhat of a status indicator in Thailand. On the other hand of affordable, half of the second floor is dedicated to showrooms for the super cars of this world. Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and a few others with that gleam hold court there. Note however, that this is not like Siam Ocean World’s touch pool; as in, you can drop in to have a look, but you can’t touch.
The third level of Siam Paragon is home to the legendary Meguro-based bookstore, Kinokuniya; a paper galore with old and new titles sourced from around the world. On top of this, the fourth floor segregates itself into two zones. One side is dedicated for telecommunications and IT shops, whilst on the other, is reserved for more restaurants and stalls that sell eatables; think sushi bars, noodle soup joints, Thai-fusion spots, and more. Moving up, the fifth and final floor of interest, is Paragon Cineplex. With fourteen conventional screens, one IMAX projection, and a grand balconied theater called Siam Pavalai, it is the second abode to the Hollywood blockbuster fanatics; although some people just come up here for the popcorn alone.
And there you have it, a cursorary tour of Bangkok’s juggernaut of a shopping center. The next time you fancy a trip to this pizzazzy city, make sure you drop by to marvel and discover the full range of its grandiosity. Whether your objective is simply to browse and buy, or merely to watch and desire, Siam Paragon is one stop that needs to be included in your itinerary. For an easy commute to this institution, book into a good cost per value accommodation located near a BTS station, such as Mercure Bangkok Siam, so that carrying those Paragon paper bags back to the comforts of your room, is one ordeal less to be concerned about.