A gust of wind tickles my face as I step out onto the verandah of my one-bedroom suite at the Chatrium Hotel Riverside, Bangkok. The breeze from 20 floors up is a welcome reprieve, considering that the temperature in the Thai capital is soaring above the 32 degrees Celsius mark.
Retreating to the comfort of my abode – a luxurious 70 sq metre haven, appointed with contemporary furnishings – would be easy if not for the sight in front of me: a breathtaking panoramic view of Bangkok’s skyscrapers along the Chao Phraya River. As spellbinding as the view is though, I have to tear myself away and put on my most comfortable sneakers; I am, after all, here to explore the shopping mecca of Asia.
Bangkok is paradise for shopaholics – and after just a day here, I am on the verge of becoming one! The sprawling metropolis is filled with all kinds of everything – from floating and flower markets to vintage boutiques, and stalls with a mindboggling variety of clothes, shoes, bags and home décor trimmings. If this doesn’t draw you in, the wafting aroma of Bangkok’s street food, will.
I start my shopping spree at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of Asia’s biggest and most well-known outdoor markets. I’m happy to discover that the hotel offers its guests a thoughtful convenience: a free shuttle boat service from its pier across the Chao Phraya to the Saphan Taksin Pier, right next to the BTS of the same name. From here, it’s an easy ride to Mo Chit BTS (the stop for Chatuchak) at an affordable THB 44 (USD1) per person.
When I arrive, the size of the place renders me speechless. Stretching over 35 acres, its 15,000 stalls are spread over 27 huge sections – fashion, food, antiques, art, books, fresh produce, plants and even pets! At this point, I’m thankful I’d had my fill at Chatrium’s River Barge Restaurant’s buffet breakfast, with its spread of waffles, fresh fruits and salads, steamed dumplings, noodles, and a variety of cereals to name a few. The extra energy comes in handy. Amazingly, the grueling heat doesn’t seem to deter the throngs of people flooding Chatuchak’s narrow alleys, each bargaining for better prices – a required skill when shopping in Bangkok.
I’ve barely explored half the market when I realize that I need to save some baht for my next adventure: scouring Platinum Fashion Mall. Since it is touted as the largest wholesale fashion mall in Thailand, I’m giddy with excitement at the prospect of increasing my current wardrobe of five shirts. Comprising three buildings (six floors in every one) and each floor dedicated to one type of fashion item, be it shoes, handbags or accessories, there’s so much to see, and with little time before the mall shuts its doors at 8pm, I take mental snapshots of what I will come back to Bangkok for in the future. One could spend half a day walking its alleys and still need more time!
I head back to Chatrium to dine at Silver Waves – the hotel’s multi award-winning Chinese restaurant. Located on the 36th floor, it offers an expansive, jawdropping view of the city. The menu is just as impressive with an exhaustive list of tantalising offerings including wok-fried tiger prawns with salted egg, stir-fried curried crab, Peking duck and roasted suckling pig. I opt for the Chef’s Recommendation – and one I will never regret. The divine offering consists of perfectly seared scallops on a bed of cod-flaked rice cakes, served with sweet gingko nuts and drizzled with homemade XO sauce.
The wait staff at Silver Waves graciously point out the attractions that can be seen from our vantage point, including the brightly-lit Ferris wheel, the location of my upcoming shopping escapade – Asiatique the Riverfront. Malls like MBK, the mammoth-sized CentralWorld Bangkok (which houses more than 90 brands, about 100 restaurants and 15 cinemas!) and Siam Paragon, known for their array of high-end luxuries by Prada, Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Bvlgari and Mont Blanc are easily accessible from Chatrium via BTS stations but Asiatique the Riverfront is only a 10-minute walk away. Standing at 200 feet, the Ferris Wheel is its most recognizable landmark, and an apt introduction to the open air market built on the concept of fun fare-meets-market where more than 1,500 fashion and home décor boutiques, open-air bars, as well as restaurants line its beautiful cobbled-stone streets.
Chatrium really does enjoy a fabulous location, with great connectivity to all the best shopping action. And, as I savour the splendid view of Bangkok from my plush king size bed later that night, I think how wonderful it is that tomorrow brings yet another day of shopping in this bustling city.
For THB1,500 (approx. USD46), chefs from the River Barge Restaurant will give you an immersive, one-on-one class on how to cook some of Thailand’s quintessential eats like green curry, pad Thai (stir-fried rice noodle dish) and tom yum (spicy and sour soup). The best part? You get to choose which dishes you want to cook!
Address: 28, Charoenkrung Soi 70, Bangkholame, Bangkok 10120