Night shopping at the bazaar by the Chao Phraya River
Asiatique has successfully combined two of the most popular shopping experiences in the city: a night bazaar and a mall. Ten minutes downriver from Saphan Taksin BTS station this once-bustling international trade port has been transformed, with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex. Open from 17:00, spending an evening here is no problem: you’ll have good fun browsing the boutiques, picking up gifts or something for yourself; you are guaranteed to find something you would like to eat and if this isn’t enough entertainment, shows are performed nightly: Calypso ladyboy cabaret and soon, a classic Thai puppets performance.
The easiest and fastest way to get there is via boat. Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin and jump on the free shuttle at the end of the pier. It only takes ten minutes, and the boat runs until 23:00. Taxis are not recommended as the traffic can be terrible in this area. From the boat you step off onto a long boardwalk which runs for 300 metres that looks romantic once the sun has set. Wide streets run between each warehouse and Asiatique provides retro props for photo opportunities: a reproduction tram car, anchors and a push cart. The decor does feel a little overdone on occasion and not quite in keeping with the designers’ plans to evoke nostalgia for the 1900s but it’s so well planned, clean and spacious that the lack of history doesn’t really matter.
Once you enter the hangars, you appreciate the design even more; this is probably the only market in Bangkok where you can find a stall by looking at a map. Asiatique is split into four categories to help you find what you are looking for without too much hassle.
The Charoenkrung District is where you will find the majority of the small boutiques (over 1,000 in four warehouses) selling souvenirs, handicrafts, jewellery, and clothing. The little storefronts are attractive, the displays are interesting and there is a wide range on offer too, from fashionable Thai brands to affordable stores selling merchandise similar to those on offer in places like Chatuchak and MBK.
The focus at Asiatique is more on cutting-edge fashion and gadgets in the Factory District, including an Apple store. Upscale dining selection can be found in the Waterfront District, with smart Italian, Thai and seafood restaurants. The Town Square district has bars and outdoor space for events. Some independent cafes are dotted around selling strong drinks and decently priced Thai food. Asiatique also has branches of KFC, Pizza Company, Au Bon Pain and MK. As well as all this food and shopping, the two biggest entertainment draws are the Thai puppets by Joe Louis Theatre and Calypso Cabaret, one of Bangkok’s celebrated ladyboy shows. Both these shows have been attracting large audiences for years, and Asiatique is the perfect new surrounding for them, offering so much more than just a performance.
The selection of shops is interesting, with a good range of unusual brands rather than row upon row of tourist trinkets. This bazaar is busy but isn’t overrun by tourists; crowds of locals enjoy coming here too. Asiatique is definitely worth dedicating an evening to.
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