Well, last weekend the Diplomat, Isla, Joshua and I decided to saunter over to the latest consumerist venture in Bangkok – Central Embassy. This is a mall with more space than retail that connects to the older Central Chidlom store on the corner of Ploenchit Rd and Soi Langsuan. It’s accessible from either Chidlom BTS or Ploenchit BTS ( a new connection has been made to the BTS/Skywalk for it). Oddly the connection from Central Chidlom is on the third floor, you then drop down to the second floor level for the covered walkway and then ascend again to the 3rd floor…finding yourself right next to a great Dean & Deluca. The exit from Central Chidlom has a ramp that’s almost 1:2 – loads of fun for wheelchair users as you’ll find yourself hurtling down an escalator if you don’t veer off left or right about five metres from the end of the ramp…headfirst into the Food Emporium magazine racks. The corresponding entrance to Central Embassy has a large staircase of about fifteen steps. But, in this case, there are two smartly dressed attendants leaping to hand to carry a pushchair or wheelchair up to the top. Biceps of steel.
The mall is very high-end. For those who know Bangkok, think “Gaysorn on Ratchadamri”. I.e. Gucci, Prada. Yet, for all Bangkok’s stores this one is proud to boast one of the very few Bangkok Harrods. There are even two Parisian ballerina emporiums. This is a venue that is not only exclusively catering for ‘Hi-So’ Thais but also prices out most farang tourists. That said, it is nice to have a browse around. We found a milliners! Not often you get one of those. Here are some of the store windows:
On one floor there is a rather fine “art bookshop”. It’s a bit more than that as it has an eclectic range of pricy tomes on Thai history, Asia’s multiple cultures, cookery, the glitz of movie stars as well as a palette of art books. At the back of it is a small gallery where there is a display by the artist Atipong Padanupong. Largely self-taught this 43yr old Thai has generated his art from extensive travels in the Himalayas and studies of Tibetan thangka paintings in Dharamsala, India. The pictures are narrative works in the style of a storybook illustrator. Episodes from the Thai epic – Ramakien – clearly have captured the fascination of this painter with his portraits drawing on the beautifully crafted masks used in traditional Thai khon performances. Standing there for a few minutes I can observe that his compositions are filled with chaos, his characters expressing emotions through posture, their faces are very child-like. Within the paintings it seems as though the figures know they are on a stage, their surroundings are theatre…yet the knowledge of impermanence is present. Oh dear…Brian Sewell, anyone? Take a look for yourselves….
A fussy Joshua and bored Isla dragged me away from my favourite pastime of book shopping. We head upwards on the escalators – more to come about those! The top floor is about to boast a “Diplomat Complex” – basically more cinema screens which is both karma for us and closer than the glut we see down nearly Central World. The floor below is all the eateries; there’s even a Water Library restaurant! For those of you who haven’t been to one I’ll say no more but urge you pay a visit if you’re ever in the area. There was also a “Paul’s” two floors down – artisan bakery – and all the food places (bar a Starbucks) are delicate scenes of gastronomic perfection. Your meal isn’t presented in one of these places…it’s crafted. Almost a case of “take a photo before you eat” written all over the visage of the glaring chef.
You can see what I mean…
We pass through the entire mall in about 40 minutes. As you’d expect early on a Saturday (Thais never get to malls before 11am) it’s pretty empty; even so, most of the shops don’t entice us in save a few of the alluring shoe emporiums for the Diplomat. We are content to literally window shop, settle into Dean & Deluca – who do the best toasted tuna sandwich in Bangkok with a New York-style lemon soda – and note the fact that this newest of malls hasn’t quite yet managed to get the air conditioning working. Oh well.
I’ll leave you with the observation that this is a great place for a escalator-fetishist to indulge himself or herself. Whilst the longest escalator is still the prize of Terminal 21 mall this is quite amazing. Don’t take my word for it…here’s the evidence…
Is this what diplomacy is all about?