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.
We find shopping at CentralWorld not exactly a pleasant experience. The store is too big, and personally I often do not know where I am exactly. It would help if the signage was easy. I would suggest just calling different sections : North, East, South and West (and possibly Center). When entering from the skytrain one would enter from the south. Visitors could take it from there.
In front of Central World, there is a large rectangular square. During the 'cold' season the place is covered and transformed into a big beer garden. Coca Cola ads seem to be always present. We noticed it also on a picture we took about 10 years ago. Picture taken from in front of the new Apple Store.
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 Central Department Store, and Central World proper on the other side. Central Department Store (previously this department store went under the name ZEN) is the first store you can enter. On the opposite end of Central World was another Department Store, called Isetan, which closed in August 2020. 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.
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.
Apple Store on two levels in front of CentralWorld.
Some highlights :
Apple Central World : The largest Apple store and showroom in Thailand opened in front of CentralWorld on 31 July 2020. It is a multilevel store, with a striking architectural design. In is located on part of the plaza in front of CentralWorld. FYI, there is another large Apple store located at IconSiam, across the Chao Phraya River. The store here displays the standard Apple products and many copies of them. One gets the impression there must be many tens of different iPhones and iPads. We visited the store mid-September 2020, a few weeks after the opening. It was still during Covid-19 times, so entrance was a bit cumbersome. What was a bit annoying is that I could not walk freely in the store, but had a friendly attendant staying with me at all times. I felt like I was being watched as a potential phone thief. The Apple Store has its own connection with the BTS walkway, coming from Chitlom station.
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. Closeby Power Buy are expansive stores of Bangkok's three major mobile phone operators : Ais, True and Dtac.
PowerBuy on the 4th Floor occupies really a large area, so you certainly can find whatever gadget you are looking for.
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. For, we think, even more and better choices, you would be better off going to the Food Hall at Central Chitlom.
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 Central Department Store or Isetan Department Store. Isetan Department Store closed actually end August 2020. There is a large unit of Fitness First located on the third floor behind the old Isetan Department Store. Free weights, group exercises, boxing, cardio, yoga : it is all there.
ZEN is no more (2020), with the name of the department store now changed to Central.
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.
Looking Up : Decorative Umbrellas inside an Atrium at CentralWorld, Bangkok.
For quite a few years there have been movie theatres at Central World. Operated as SF World Cinema by SF Cinema City.