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Dunkin Donuts and Chamchuri Square

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When I was in High School, I was on the local city swim team. Our team was pretty hard-core, and in addition to working out every day after school, we were in the pool practicing 2 or 3 times per week in the mornings before school started. After burning thousands of calories during morning practice, on the way to school, my friends and I would be starving. Our favorite breakfast stops were Hardee's for their awesome biscuits and cinnamon rolls, and Dunkin' Donuts.

One day my health-conscious father gave us a ride from the pool to school, and we convinced him to take us to Dunkin' Donuts. We told him they had nutritious things too, like croissant sandwiches. We ended up eating jelly donuts anyway and I remember him fussing at us a bit for having such a bad diet. Maybe we weren't such hard-core athletes after all.

I was thinking about this as I ate my breakfast this morning at Siam Square... at Dunkin' Donuts. They have whole wheat glazed donuts on the menu now. That's healthy, right? I am not sure about that, but I do know they are delicious. I also had an egg and ham croissant, which was amazingly good. It was much better than the egg and bacon croissants that I have been eating lately at Au Bon Pain.

As I sat at Dunkin' Donuts, reminiscing about high school and enjoying my healthy whole wheat donuts, I gazed across the street at the gleaming glass facades of the newly remodeled Siam Center and brand-new Siam Paragon shopping malls, with the waterfalls and fountains and huge screens playing pop videos and commercials. None of that was there when I moved to Thailand 5 years ago. Siam Center was there, but it was run-down and looking it's age (over 30 years old, by the way). Bangkok certainly has changed a lot since I've lived here, at least on the surface.

New malls and new high-rise condos office buildings are popping up everywhere. One in particular that I've been watching is the new Chamchuri Square shopping center/office building/apartment building combo that has been going up near my office at the Sam Yan subway station. It will be connected by an underground passage to the subway, which is definitely cool.

chamchuri.jpg

I am looking forward to a closer, air-conditioned place to eat lunch, instead of having to walk all the way over to Silom if I am not in the mood for the street vendors and outdoor markets in this area. (And yes, sometimes I want to be pampered in the AC!) And even more exciting, is that I have heard that the Chulalongkorn University bookstore will move here, creating Thailand's largest bookstore. I am looking forward to checking that out.

I hope they have a Dunkin' Donuts, too!

All Things Asian and Dasa Bookstore

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I might have mentioned a while back that I was asked to contribute an essay or two about my trip to Burma for an upcoming book from "All Things Asian". The editor of the book, a fellow named Don Gilliland, found my site through Google and asked me if I wanted to participate. I immediately agreed. Now I just have to actually write something and send it to him!

I enjoy reading books about Thailand and about Southeast Asia, and it looks like this book about Burma will be a good one. Several months ago, I visited the Dasa Bookstore on Bangkok's Sukumvit Road and picked up a couple of interesting books on Buddha images and Thai history. I haven't been back in a while, because unfortunately book stores always sucker me in to buying more books than I have time to read.

I do love reading, however, and I try to read a few web blogs from people living in Thailand. Most of them are not very interesting to me, but a couple of months ago, I found a great one called Bangkok Dazed. It is one of the best-written and most interesting blogs about Thailand, at least from a farang perspective.

You might wonder where I am going with this post, so let me get to the point. I finally put it all together and realized that Don is not only the editor of the upcoming book on Burma, but also the author of the Bangkok Dazed weblog and the owner of Dasa Bookstore!

I stopped by the bookstore to meet him in person the other night, and really enjoyed our short chat. A couple of days later I received the Dasa Bookstore newsletter and he had kindly directed his readers to my site. So thanks, Don! I heartily recommend your site and your store as well. (And I promise I will get you an essay on Burma soon!)

Chakri Day at Siam Paragon

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Today was a the Chakri Memorial holiday in Thailand. Schools, banks, and government offices were closed to celebrate the founding of the Chakri Dynasty in 1782. (The current King of Thailand is the ninth ruler in this dynasty.)

So what did many Thai people do with their day off? Go shopping of course! I just happened to go to Siam Paragon and was amazed at the number of people who were there. But then I realized that hardly anyone was actually shopping, at least on the first floor with all the high-class shops.

There were two customers in Hermes. There were two more in Salvatore Ferragamo. There were none in Versace. And Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana? Exactly zero and zero.

And how many were on the ground floor at the food court? I'd guess somewhere in the neighborhood of four million. Ok, so maybe there weren't that many, but there were definitley thousands of people there. MK and McDonald's were both packed, and there wasn't a table to be had in the 40 baht noodles and stir-fry area.

The owners of Paragon were smart to include eateries for us "normal" folk, because it sure seems like the ground floor food court is the only thing that is going to keep that mall in business.

Continuing with the Home Improvement theme from yesterday, the bedroom set that I ordered from Index last week arrived today. I bought it from the brand-new Index branch near my house on Ekkamai.

I junked the old bed with a hideous fabric-cushion headboard, the sad old dresser and matching "entertainment" center. In its place is now super-cool dark wood furniture. I think it matches the butter-colored walls very nicely.

The best thing about buying furniture in Thailand is that you don't have to assemble it yourself. The bed, two dressers, two night stands, a small "makeup" table, and an entertainment center all arrived in boxes at my apartment yesterday, along with 6 able-bodied Thai boys. They were amazing: everything was put together in about 45 minutes. It would have taken me literally all day to put together 7 pieces of furniture. Not to mention I don't have any tools.

So now the furniture is looking better. Now I need to focus on renovating those bathrooms!

Piyawat and I spent the afternoon at Home Pro at Seri Center in Bang Na today, picking out fixtures for our two bathrooms. Luckily he is on school break now, so he has plenty of time to be my translator and negotiator. I definitely couldn't have done today's task without him.

The plan is to totally renovate the two bathrooms in my condo. I want to rip everything out: tile, shower box, toilet, tubs, sinks, counters and all the fixtures, and replace everything. It sounds drastic, but if you saw the way they look now, I think you'd understand.

We are using the Home Pro's "Design Service". The way it works is that you pay 2500 baht (about US$60) to have a contractor come out to your house to take measurements and pictures, then you pick out what you want at the store, and the design service will draw up floorplans and 3D views of what the renovation will look like. Then, if you buy the products at Home Pro and use their contractor, then you get the 2500 baht back in credit.

Unfortunately, 2500 is a small drop in the bucket compared to what I will be spending. All of the above for two bathrooms, except for the tile, will come out to about 60,000 baht (US$1500). I have never priced toilets, tubs and sinks in the US, but US$1500 for two new bathrooms doesn't seem too bad.

After all, I tried to keep prices low. My favorite toilet/sink set cost 30,000 baht alone. I did, however, splurge on the tub. I got the "American" model, which was the biggest one they had. (Interesting that they call it the "American" isn't it? No comment.) The tub I have now is small, so perhaps I went overboard on the new one. But, you know what? I don't care. I'm still excited to be getting the "American" tub!

So, now everything is picked out, and we just have to wait for the designs. Hopefully they can start work sometime next week.

Siam Paragon Grand Opening

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Perhaps only in Thailand will the opening of a shopping mall draw the biggest crowd in the country. Well, I don't actually know if the thousands of people at Siam Paragon yesterday was "Thailand's biggest crowd ever", but it was a remarkable turn out for a mall that is less than 50% finished.

But what was finished was fairly impressive: the 6 story atrium with a wall made out of tropical plants, the Lambergini, Masarati, and Porche showrooms, the gourmet grocery store, the biggest aquarium in Asia, the biggest bookstore in Thailand. I've been watching the mall grow from the Siam Skytrain station, and I have to say that the inside is much more beautiful than the outside.

It was also perhaps the biggest collection of VIPs Thailand has seen in years: bank CEOs, politicians, hundreds of big-haired khunying and more male and female models than I have ever seen in one place.

I didn't actually do any shopping, and so I don't know how the prices are, so who knows if I will actually shop there. The Paragon department store is the same as Central Chit Lom. And the food court contains the usual fare. Most of the mall, however, is of little use to me, as it is made up of luxury stores that seem to be aiming for the Asian tourist market. After all, how many Hermes or Prada stores does a developing country like Thailand really need?

In any case, it is a beautiful mall. I am sure I will visit now and then, if for the Kinokuniya bookstore and the easy access from the Siam Skytrain station.

For more details, see SIAM PARAGON: Bt15-billion mall set for grand debut from the Nation newspaper.

Fortune Town IT Mall

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I was so excited this afternoon when I realized I had a good reason to take the new Subway. I had a meeting scheduled at the Fortune Town IT Plaza, which is conveniently located at the Pra Ram 9 station.

I'm not going to go into too many details about the meeting, but I'll just say that me and a couple of work collegues are looking into some business opportunites in Bangkok. Don't worry, it's nothing dodgy, but I'm not going to say too much unless things progress further.

In any case, I spent some time wandering around the IT plaza. It was very similar to Pantip in the types of things being sold (hardware, software, DVDs, etc) but the atmosphere was much more relaxed. It was actually a pleasant shopping experience. And no one asked me if I wanted to buy "sexy vcd"!

Chatuchak Market

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My new home shopping binge continued yesterday at Chatuckak Market. Rupert and I spent 4 hours shopping through the thousands of stalls in the huge outdoor market. The place was packed (as usual), loud, and hot -- much like the rest of Bangkok but even more so here. We saw clothes, plants, silk flowers, food, birds, fish, ceramics, antiques, budda statues, wall hangings, electronics, kitchen supplies... I get the feeling, however, that we only saw a small percentage of what was available there.

Our load on the SkyTrain ride home consisted of: three plants, a pot, some planting soil, a sepak trakaw ball, candles, a wooden bowl, and two picture frames Damage: US$24 and two tired legs from walking around all afternoon.

orchidbuddha.jpgYesterday I was feeling adventurous (maybe my illness is over now) and so I played tourist. First I visted the Jim Thompson House. Mr. Thompson is credited with reviving the Thai silk industry. His house is a beautiful example of traditional Thai archetecture with Western touches.

Then I took the canal boat to an area called Bangkapi. My American friend Steiner told me that there was a swimming pool at the mall there. Well, the swimming pool turned out to be a big water park on the roof of the mall. I had a great time doing a few laps, floating in the Lazy River, and riding a few water slides. I met many Thai people here. Everyone was excited to practice their English with me and so they were all very chatty.

I finally left and rode the bus back home, utilizing the new bus map that I had purchaced earlier that day. It was my first bus ride and I have to say it was a good experience... a 45 minute ride door-to-door for 5 baht (about 12 cents).

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Shopping category.

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