As far as we're concerned, this area is the center of modern Bangkok.
And we're not alone - the sleek, new Bangkok Skytrain has its Central
Station here where the Silom Line and the Sukhumvit Line join up. Just
north of the station - behind their Siam Discovery and Siam Center properties
- the Mall Group and Bangkok Intercontinental Hotels Corp. are planning
a huge, high-tech shopping playground to be called Siam Paragon - stand
on the Siam Square platform and watch it going up! Also here is the massive
Central World Plaza complex (formerly the World Trade Center) anchored
by the Isetan and Zen Department stores. Two of the classiest hotels in
Asia - Four Seasons Bangkok (previously The Regent) and Grand Hyatt Erawan
Bangkok - call the area home as well. Finally, sprawling Chulalongkon
University, the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, and the embassy enclave surrounding
Wireless Road complete the picture.
The area which is officially Siam Square is actually a rectangle,
comprised of several short soi's (small streets) running south off of
Rama I road between Phaya Thai and Henri Dunant roads. Though there are
a few covered "cut-through's" here and there, this is definitely
NOT a mall - the entrances for almost all of the individual shops are
outdoors. The Hard Rock Café is here, while the Novotel houses
the hip, active CM2 ("Siam Squared" - get it?) discotheque.
On the west side of Siam Square, there is a covered walkway which goes
over Phaya Thai road to the inexpensive, popular MBK (or Mah Boong Khrong)
shopping center and the Pathumwan Princess hotel.
Plaza (formerly the World Trade Center)
Down the street from Siam Square, near the Arnoma and Le Meridien
properties lies the imposing Central World Plaza. This is a rather large
seven level (eight in places) shopping mall with major department stores,
many high-end shops, movies theaters, dozens of restaurants, and even
an ice-skating rink. Modern and popular, get off at the Chit Lom station
on the Sukhumvit line.
from Siam Square are these upscale, trendy shopping centers. You can get
off the Skytrain at the Central Station and enter directly into the complex
- good to know if the monsoon is letting loose in October. Check out the
luxury movie theater upstairs with the huge, soft, red-velvet reclining
chairs - yes, we're talking Barcalounger stuff here. Convenient and fun
with many places to eat, cool coffee shops, and numerous chic designer
clothing outlets including Esprit, Benetton, LaCoste, Timberland, Guy
Laroche, Calvin Klein, Armani, etc. Check it out.
and Charoen Nakon Markets
Lest you think we are ignoring the traditional markets, you will find
terrific bargains galore (especially for clothing) at these three markets
next to the Amari Watergate hotel at the top-center of our map above.
There are literally hundreds of stalls with busy, cramped, narrow paths
winding between them under the semi-shelter of shanty-style roofs behind
the store fronts. Hot, busy, and active this IS shopping in Asia at its
core - a must, if you're a shopper. There are no signs, just look for
where people are going in and follow. After shopping, head across Phetburi
Road (go under the overpass) to Nai Lert Food Market for some of
the best, cheapest seafood around.
(Stations and lines in gray from left to right and/or top to bottom
on the map above.)
Sukhumvit Line: (Ratchathewi, CENTRAL, Chit Lom, &
Ploenchit Stations); Silom Line: (CENTRAL, Ratchadamri Stations)
Completed in December of 1999, the Bangkok Skytrain glides above Bangkok's
busy, busy streets quietly and relatively cheaply. The cars are new and
modern and the system can whisk you quickly about in air-conditioned comfort
- a must if you're out and about during rush hour, which is pretty
much all day! Here at Siam Square lies the only point where the two lines
cross - Central Station. We do have one gripe about the Bangkok
Skytrain, however. For some unknown reason, only a few of the stations
(Central is one of them) have escalators to take you up to the stations
some 60-70 feet overhead. On a typical, sizzling Bangkok afternoon this
inexplicable oversight (or was it the budget) is certainly less forgivable
as you stomp up the stairs. Still, this beats the old days of taking meterless
taxis (now, all taxis have meters) through permanently clogged streets.