CentralWorld : the Largest Shopping Complex in Bangkok
While being the largest shopping center in town, the front of Central World does not offer a lot of distinctive features. Even the sign displaying its name is undersized.
There used to be a very large shopping complex at Rajaprasong Intersection called World Trade Center. A few years back the property was acquired by the Central Group, the largest developer of department stores in Thailand. While World Trade Center was quite an adequate name, the shopping complex was renamed Central World Plaza, and lately seems to go under the abbreviated name CentralWorld.
The shopping center has been renovated and expanded and has been relaunched and rebranded as the largest lifestyle shopping complex in Southeast Asia. It is not quite clear that Bangkok needed an even more expanded Central World, but that is what we (and foreign visitors who come to shop) got. Besides the shopping experience, there is also an office complex, and an hotel. One can not escape the impression that the management of the Central Group could not live with the success of its main competitor, the Mall Group, after they developed the successful Emporium Shopping Complex, and since end 2005 also closeby Siam Paragon. Siam Paragon in particular got a lot of press as being the largest venue in town. Now, Central World can reclaim that accolade.
As said, under the name World Trade Center, this shopping complex has been around for quite a while, and the basic structure of the building could not really be altered. From the outside, Central World looks like a rectangular large box. There is not much beauty involved or architectural achievement. The skytrain station at Chitlom is connected with a walkway to the shopping complex.
In front of Central World, there is a large rectangular square. In the evening, huge crowds often gather here to have a drink in the open air bars (during the 'cold' season).
In front of Central World there is a large (by Bangkok standards) plaza. With New Year's Eve (if the politicical situation allows) probably the largest gathering of Thai people can be seen there, seeing out the old year. Especially during the 'cold' season, the plaza turns into an enormous 'beer garden'.
Central World can be accessed at ground level from Rajadamri Road. This certainly was not convenient enough and two connections were created towards the skytrain that passes the Rajaprasong intersection to its main station at Siam Square. There is a long walking way from Chitlom station to Siam Square on the skytrain platform. When coming from Chitlom (closest) and walking towards Siam Square, one can turn right into the 'Sky Walk' connecting with Central World.
The Sky Walk really has been an excellent idea. It runs (behind a glass wall) along the lenght of Central World, with a good view on one side towards Rajadamri road and the traffic, and entries into Zen Department Store, and Central World proper on the other side. Zen Department Store (Zen is a separate brand name for this Department Store, operated by Central) is the first store you can enter. On the opposite end of Central World is another Department Store, called Isetan. Isetan is part of a Japanese chain of department stores. Unfortunately, when walking from the skytrain into Central World, one is not provided with a small map or any other documentation that may help you in navigating this huge shopping mall. Some guidance is truly needed, otherwise within a few minutes, you will not have any idea as to where you are. Just remember that Zen is at the skytrain end as an orientation. Just get a little booklet with maps of the shops at ground level, before starting your exploration.
Lacoste, one of the many brand name outlets at Central World, Bangkok
A booklet we obtained mentions that there are more than 500 shops at Central World, and no less than 50 restaurants. Famous international brands and Thai brands are well represented. Furthermore, there are quite a few smaller local brand outlets. Generally the stores are large. As is often the case in such a large shopping complex, Central World looks less than crowded, especially when you visit the upper floors.
Some highlights :
Supersports (really large shop) selling all kinds of sporting equipment and apparel is located on the 3rd floor. We are unhappy to report, that as many of its competitors, this shop does not sell regular standard bicycles, but only the ubiquitous mountain bikes.
Power Buy offering all kinds of electrical goods, is located one floor higher.
There is a really big Toys R Us store on the 6th floor.
SFW World Cinema is located on the 8th floor.
The 7th Floor houses the Central Food Hall. This seems to be a crossbreed between a regular (with a lot of gourmet food) supermarket, and a standard food hall, with smaller outlets and restaurants where you can have a meal. If you only intend to shop for groceries, the location is not really ideal. As a guideline for prices, we noted that the Salad Bar sells salads at 18 baht per 100 grams.
Comparative prices at other locations (Foodland 7 baht ; Tops 12 baht ; Emporium and Siam Paragon 25 baht).
Central Food Hall is located high up on the 7th floor.
B2S (Central brand) is located on the Isetan side of the shopping complex. We remember reading an article about how big a bookstore this was, so we needed to check it our, and came back rather disappointed. B2S is located on three floors (ground level to third floor). The ground level offers a good selection of music CDs, movie DVDs, and a True Internet Cafe. The second level offers mostly stationery. The third floor houses a large bookstore, though we did not have the impression it was larger than the Kinokuniya bookstore at Siam Paragon. If you are a book reader, we think you will not really be impressed.
There is a large collection of tabletop books (art and design, architecture, fashion, graphic design), travel books, computer books and the like, both in Thai and English language. However, literature left much to be desired. We saw a whole lot of John Grisham and Michael Connelly books, which is quite OK, but we failed to notice any interesting display of recent fiction and non-fiction. It looks like a statistical approach is followed in this store. See what is proven to be popular, then put hundreds of paperback copies of those books in store a few months later. Not exactly a store where you may go to have a look to see what's new. In our opinion, the Kinokuniya Stores and even Asia Books have little competition here.
We did not fully explore either Zen Department Store or Isetan Department Store. Let's just indicate that both of these department stores offer an upscale shopping experience, with Isetan more into Japanese products. Since October 2007, Zen also houses a branch of True Fitness. As mentioned before Zen Department store was gutted in 2010, and is being rebuilt.
With signage like this, Zen Department Store could hardly be missed (photo from before the arson attack)
Just a selection of brand names available at Central World :
Rolex, Swarovski, Tissot, Adidas Originals, Calvin Klein, Daniel Hechtler, FCUK, Liz Claiborne, Pena, Bata, Marks and Spencer, Apple Center, Guy Laroche, Playboy, Benetton, Chaps, Guess, Hush Puppies, Kipling, Morgan, Esprit, Giordano, Clarks, Nokia, AIS, DTAC, Starbucks, Auntie Anne's, Toys "R" Us, Modernform, Panasonic, Dapper, Lacoste, Swatch etc.
[in our opinion, there are less shops, but the concentration of very well known apparel and fashion brands is higher at Emporium Shopping Complex]
This map (part of a map that also highlights the surrounding shopping centers) can be seen at the Chitlom skytrain station, when walking in the direction of Central World. Good for basic orientation.
When walking about Central World, one can have the impression that the place is less than crowded. We also have that impression, by the way, when visiting Siam Paragon during the daytime.
For quite a few years there have been movie theatres at Central World. Operated as SF World Cinema by SF Cinema City.