MBK Center, Bangkok

Thailand 2009: Day 9 – MBK, Siam Paragon… and ‘little Arabia’?

Date: Dec 22nd, 2009

Woke up at a reasonable time after sleeping properly for the first time since I arrived in Thailand a week ago.  I wondered what to do today. I still had sights to go see but looking at the battery power left in my camera made me realize I need to get my charger fixed or at least find a new one (my Canon 7D batter charger had gotten wet in Ao Nang) before I could click again.

So I decided to head back to MBK Center and visit the Canon showroom I picked up my camera from.

Bangkok grafitti BTS Skytrain Nana
This was taken from the Nana BTS station

I took the BTS, got off at the Siam stop and reached MBK by around 10am. Stores were just opening for business and the Canon store unfortunately wasn’t going to open until 11am. So I decided to explore all the levels of MBK Center to kill time.

MBK was once the biggest mall in Asia. Even though it has long lost that title, it still remains one of the most popular shopping centers in Thailand. Mostly because you get a good mix of branded stores and independent small ones selling stuff you probably find in less-posh street stores or at flea markets.

Like I mentioned in the last post, just because you find something in a small store or a flea market, doesn’t mean you got a good deal. Case in point, the 80 litre bag I picked up from Ao Nang. When I bought it for 1500 baht/Rs. 2000 (bargained down from 2000 baht), I thought I got a good deal. Until I saw it for 890 baht (Rs. 1,200) in one store on the ground floor at MBK 🙁

Oh well.

MBK center Bangkok
MBK Center (Taken on the Nokia E72)

MBK’s fourth floor was dominated by mobile phone stores. Be it handsets or accessories, there were plenty of them. Selling everything from the genuine to even the fake Nokias and Apples. You name the brand, they had it. You want customization options, there’s plenty to choose from. Worth checking out if you want to deck out your mobile.

As I entered the 4th floor though, I smelled something sweet in air and I followed the trail which led to this:

MBK breakfast pastry

I tried the pancake with coc0nut filling and had coffee. Funny thing is, the coffee cost more than the pastry!

Done with “breakfast,” I had some time to kill before the Canon store opened. So I went to the 5th floor which had the food court on one side and (mostly) clothes stores on the other. Like Chatuchak, you had stores selling all sorts of gear for more or less the same prices. I picked up some more t-shirts and then went around looking for good deals on PlayStation 3 games.

MBK video game store BangkokTrouble is, finding original games in Thailand is very, very difficult. Pirated discs pretty much rule the home entertainment market and very few stores stocked a good collection of original video games.

By 11am, the Canon store opened and I went to meet Kosin, the sales guy I mostly dealt with. He saw me and even remembered my name. I told him what happened to my battery charger and asked him if I could get it repaired.

Canon showroom Fotofile MBK
Inside the Canon showroom at MBK

I had Thai warranty on the camera and even though water damage isn’t covered, he still took me to the service center which was behind the showroom and gave it for service. They said they couldn’t promise anything because the Canon 7D was so new that they didn’t have the parts for everything just yet. But I still filled up the papers and was asked to come back in the evening.

Since there was a good chance I wouldn’t get the charger repaired, I wondered if I could get a new one. Kosin told me they hadn’t received stock of the new charger so I decided to head to Pantip Plaza and try there.

I took a taxi and made my way to Pantip, which is around 2 kms from MBK.

Bangkok schoolgirls
Saw more girls in uniforms than boys

I had written about Pantip in my Day 1 post but for the sake of a quick reminder, Pantip Plaza is pretty much the most popular IT destination in Bangkok (and also famous for being the largest grey market mall as well).

I went around asking every camera equipment store if they had the particular battery charger in stock but none did. So I ended up having to buy a third party battery charger for 600 baht (Rs. 830) — which is a lot cheaper than what the genuine Canon charger costs.

I went back to the room, put my battery for charging and prayed that the third party device wouldn’t blow up.

Since I had to wait a while before the battery had enough charge for use and that it was already noon, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do any of the sight-seeing I had planned for in Bangkok while the sun was still up. So I headed back to MBK.

I had lunch at the food court and decided to watch ‘Avatar‘ in 3D. My take on the film? Technically brilliant, visually stunning… but so damn cliched and predictable that it got boring and some what annoying after a while. Sorry James Cameron, I still like you but ‘Avatar‘ wasn’t really worth all the hype and years of anticipation. (And it totally doesn’t deserve all the critical praise and record-breaking financial return its getting!)

By the time the film was over, it was already past 5pm. I went back to the Canon service center to collect my charger and find out if they repaired it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t as they said they didn’t have the parts needed.

So I collected it and left MBK. I figured if there was no tourist attraction to see today, I rather just cross over to the other side and check out the place that now holds the crown for being the largest mall in Thailand.

MBK Center, Bangkok
MBK Center, Bangkok
Bangkok night traffic near MBK
Night traffic near MBK
BTS Skytrain Siam Discovery
Siam Discovery, one-third of Siam Center

Siam Center is now the biggest shopping complex in Bangkok, consisting of Siam Discovery, the Siam office tower and Siam Paragon, the newest and the most posh of the bunch. MBK and Siam Center are conveniently accessed by a large over bridge and a BTS station above that!

BTS Skytrain Siam ParagonBTS Skytrain Siam ParagonChristmas tree Siam ParagonSiam Center is your typical international standard mall. The usual big brands and using every major festival, like Christmas, to deck the place up all nice — even though Thailand is a Buddhist majority. Siam Center houses several well-known (and slightly more affordable) brands while Siam Paragon mostly caters to luxury goods.

Emporio Armani Siam Paragon
Inside Siam Paragon

So as expected, they was hardly anybody inside the shops.

I went down to the food court to catch some grub and was happy to see a Mos Burger outlet. Being a Japanophile, I’ve always wanted to try one.

Mos Burger Siam ParagonI got my takeaway and checked out the rest of the mall. Fairly standard international mall affair.

Except for this.

Maserati showroom at Siam Paragon
Maserati showroom at Siam Paragon
Lotus showroom Siam Paragon
Lotus showroom at Siam Paragon

This was the first time I saw a car showroom, and that too, luxury cars being sold on the second floor of a mall! There were a series of them. But the coolest of them was the Lamborghini showroom. Just two cars – an orange Gallardo and a white Murcielago SV (or it could have been the other way around, don’t exactly remember) – in an all black showroom. Sexy.

Sadly, photography was prohibited.

I headed home and on the way, stepped into a tour agency to inquire about how to get to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Floating Market, which were the sights I wanted to see. In the map, the Grand Palace seemed far off and the tour agency told me the Floating Market is a two hour drive away from the city (or at least from Sukhumvit). I went back to the room and had to decide which I wanted to see because I could only do one the next day. The woman who runs Thai House Inn told me I can just take a taxi to the Grand Palace for around 100 baht and assured me that it wasn’t as far as I thought it was.

I had only the day to spare, so Grand Palace and Wat Pho it was. I really wanted to capture the Floating Market on video but I just couldn’t take the risk of being late for my flight back to Bangalore later that evening. Disappointed, I decided to walk one final night instead of hitting the bed just yet.

And I was glad I did. Turns out the area I was in was popular with Middle Easterners and North Africans. There were so many restaurants run by Egyptians, Lebanese and other Arabs serving Middle Eastern cuisine (a favourite of mine!) as well as some Indian.

Bangkok Arab Middle Eastern areaBangkok Arab Middle Eastern restaurantsThere were joints popular with Africans and enough shawarma joints to go around. It was kinda cool. Reminded me of walking through the bylanes of Manama growing up. I picked up a mutton shawarma (which was tad spicy) from a Nigerian-run joint and went back after picking up some chocolates to take back to Bangalore.

Other posts in this series:

Getting ready for my trip

The day I left for Thailand

Day 1 – Suvarnabhumi, Pantip Plaza, Fotofile & MBK

Day 2 – Bridge over the River Kwai and Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua) in Kanchanaburi

Taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Day 3 – Maesa elephant camp, ‘long-neck’ tribe village near Chiang Mai

Day 3 (Part 2) – Chiang Mai Night Market

Day 4 – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai… and back in town

Day 5 – Leaving Chiang Mai for Phuket

Day 5 (Part 2) – One night in Phuket

Day 6 – Leaving Phuket for Ao Nang by bus (via Phang Nga)

Day 7 – Touring Koh Phi Phi (Maya Bay, Monkey Island & Bamboo Island)

Day 7 (Part 2) – Exploring Railay, Krabi

Day 8 – Flying from Phuket to Bangkok

Day 8 (Part 2) – Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Day 10 – Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Day 10 – Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and finally leaving Thailand

Figures, lessons learned, and things I couldn’t do

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