In May 2010, Bangkok was burning. The opposition Red Shirts had laid siege to the city, filling the squares and striking at the very heart of the conspicuous consumerism we love Bangkok for—the shopping district of Sukhumvit. Protests came to a climax with CentralWorld, Bangkok’s biggest mall, being set on fire. Completely gutted, it shut shop for extensive repairs and renovations. More than a year on, the mall’s back on its feet, and the Red Shirts are in power (no connection, of course). It is large, commanding 550,000 sq m of retail space—featuring indoor gardens, over 500 shops and boutiques (including top-notch Thai designers), over 100 restaurants and dozens of entertainment and recreational outlets. There’s even a shrine on the premises, to Phra Trimurti, the holy trinity, revered here as the ‘God of Love’. The mall also has a new attraction: the only open-air ice-skating rink in Thailand.

The Central Group, which runs the mall, looms large over Thailand’s retail landscape. They own a slew of brands, including Robinson and Tops, and last year clocked a massive 119,000 million baht in total sales. Who would think that this family-owned conglomerate has its origins in a small store selling baskets, set up by Chinese immigrant Tiang Chirathivat in 1927? In 1973, the company opened Central Chidlom, a new ‘one stop shopping’ concept—aka mall.

Central Chidlom is cosier than CentralWorld, and its swank interiors hide its age well. Constant renovations are key, the latest being a luxury men’s shopping zone. But, besides thoughtful touches like a breastfeeding room, what’s nicest is the Food Loft, an upscale food court on the seventh floor with sweeping views of Bangkok and a gamut of Oriental cuisines on offer.

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