Nothing in Bangkok compares to Tokyo for wacky youth culture, but the malls are outstanding nonetheless. If you’re short on time, tackling the Siam juggernaut is your best bet.
The development comprises three buildings, the glitziest of which is Siam Paragon. The ground floor is stacked with hi-so luxury brands like Versace, Chanel, and Rolex; upper floors have basic mall chains like Gap, H&M, and Uniqlo. Pretty boring stuff, unless you’re on the hunt for larger Western clothing sizes—in which case, it’s a lifesaver. Another Paragon bonus for you imported magazine hounds: the branch of Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya on the third floor.
For a fine meal at prices that won’t choke you, check out BOMBYX Jim Thompson on the ground floor of Paragon. Black walls and tall ceilings draped with silks drawn by abstract artist Ithipol Thangchalok (this is, after all, a Jim Thompson property) inspire an air of sophistication; this is matched by a creative cocktail list (try the Gin Khao, made with roasted rice, Thai gin, and Thai tea) and modern twists on traditional Thai dishes (like a deconstructed khao yam pak, a Southern-style salad made with rice, roasted sesame, chili, and herbs).
By comparison, Siam Discovery is lightyears more interesting, having received a futuristic makeover by Japanese design firm Nendo in 2016. Discovery’s flagship boutiques are hipper than Paragon (Beautiful People, Tsumori Chisato, Comme de Garçons) and the award-winning redesign dispensed of standalone shops on the upper floors. Instead, goods are grouped organically in eye-pleasing vignettes, which sounds confusing but actually makes for an awesome retail experience. It’s a pleasure to wander here because you never know what you’ll see—and a sad reminder of how pitiful American malls have become. (Okay, okay, so there’s a Madame Tussauds on the top floor. Pretend that isn’t there.)
At Siam Discovery, the floors are themed: Her Lab (ground), His Lab (mezzanine), Street Lab (1st), Digital Lab (2nd), Creative Lab (3rd), Play Lab (4th), and Retail Innovation Lab (5th). The M floor has a fragrance and skincare section that could double as a Yayoi Kusama installation. The second floor, or Digital Lab, is home to a sprawling outpost of Loft, a Japanese shop specializing in cool stationery, notebooks, folders, pens, washi tape, and calendars. (Why analog paper products are housed on the “digital” floor is anyone’s guess—Discovery’s themes are pretty much meaningless.) Beyond the pulp, Loft has a sizable apothecary section (the closest you’ll get to a Japanese drug store in BKK) and a unique line of two-tone square luggage.
The third floor of Siam Discovery is devoted to home goods and it’s one of our favorite sections. Objects of Desire is a groovy house and kitchenwares store featuring mostly Thai and Thailand-based designers. The merch is a little kawaii, a little Kinfolk. Go here for shibori-dyed indigo pillows from Slowstitch Studio, cement planters from R.Noo Studio and Mind Made Cement, wood-carved bowls and vases by Craig Anczelowitz, hand-painted ceramics by Mo Jirachaisakul, street-scene collages by Pariwat Anantachina, and new-world calligraphy pens from Picamede. The nearby ROOM Concept Store sells more catalog-ready homewares from established design houses, but the curation is MoMA-esque: Here’s where you shop if you want Maurizio Cattelan enamelware.
Exhausted yet? Take a coffee break at Brave Roasters, also on Floor 3. The seating is crowded and it can be hot as hell because the tables are pushed up against a wall of windows, but the baristas are really nice and the selection of Thai, Kenyan, Indonesian, and Laotian beans is aces. FYI: Bags to go must be paid for in cash.
The third leg in the Siam trinity is Siam Center. This mall wasn’t rehabbed as recently as Siam Discovery, but it continues to be popular with teens and twentysomethings. Loads of trendy Thai brands are sold on the third floor, including Baking Soda, Kloset, Gin&Milk, and Greyhound Original. Of course, nothing tops Flynow III in terms of bonkers homegrown fashion labels; Katy Perry would totally shop here. You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you spot wildly attired mannequins balancing oversized animal heads on their shoulders.
The Center is also home to our other favorite sit-down food option in the Siam universe: Tonkatsu Wako (Floor 6). The powerhouse Japanese chain does a mean crispy-fried pork cutlet. If you want a fattier, juicier piece, order the loin; if you prefer a leaner slice, get the filet. Servings are insanely generous, but attentive waiters are still quick to refill the sides of shredded cabbage and rice. Throw in a cup of vegetable-rich miso soup, a ramekin of tart Japanese pickles, and bottomless green tea and these tonkatsu sets are a major score (under $10 USD a piece).
The Siam BTS is the closest station to the Siam compound.
989 Rama I Rd., Pathum Wan, Bangkok, Thailand; +662-658-1000.