Steve and Jemjahn go to Thailand, 2003
For a country with an annual average income only a fifth of Americaís, shopping centers in Thailand are an astonishment.
Not just The Malls chain scattered through the countryís larger cities. If clean all-weather shopping is your aim, The Malls hit the target.
But I also saw in Bangkok, just a few minutes from our hotel, two shopping buildings unlike any Iíve seen in America.
Remarkably, they were across the street from each other. I wonder what the first storeís owner was thinking as the second building across the street was going up.
Both buildings were five or six stories high. Their front doors welcomed you to enter and explore, and escalators made moving between floors easy. The more high-scale of the two had wide walkways lined by a variety of stylish shops, some of which surprised me. One had nothing but sheet music. Another just pianos. Some were art galleries, some were book stores. High quality Thai-style furniture was in the same building as a bowling alley.
My threshold for walking a mall in America is measured in minutes. These malls I walked for hours. It might have been I needed a break from the noise in the street, maybe a change from the two weeks in the countryside. Whatever it was, I spent a couple of enjoyable hours walking and window-shopping.
Thatís what I observed most of the Thais doing, too. Walking and window-shopping. I didnít see much buying going on.
That was in great contrast to the huge shopping area called Mo Chit in Bangkokís north end. www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3Vpcdece8w
Mo Chit is an outdoor market but its stalls all have permanent roofs overhead. Looking down on it from the SkyTrain, it appears to spread a dozen acres or more. Itís so large, in fact, that electric chauffer-driven carts are constantly trolling the market's streets offering free rides, whether to another area or back to the main gate, for those tuckered out from the heat or the walking.
The market appears to be new Ė Iím sure it wasnít here back in the Ď60s Ė and has been laid out to make strolling enjoyable. Similar-type shops are often located together, making shopping easier. Three used bookstores, for example, are almost side-by-side and have as good a selection as most bookstores in America.
One of the best things about the market is that itís right at a SkyTrain station, the last one on the Green line.
Even if one returns to the hotel at the end of the day with empty hands, this market is one of the more interesting places for a tourist to visit.
I don't want you to think shopping should be the only reason to visit Thailand, but if you're going anyway, try this: www.bangkok.com/shopping.htm.