Terminal 21: Shop Around the World in Bangkok

I’ll admit it – shopping is not my thing. In my world, shopping is a targeted activity, where you decide you need something, figure out where to get it, then go get it. Piece of cake. No loitering around “window shopping” (did you know that the word in French – lèche-vitrines – literally means window licking) and no dilly-dallying around.

Malls just don’t do it for me, but if I have to trudge around in one – a situation I found myself in recently in Bangkok – I’d rather it was Terminal 21, one of Bangkok’s newer malls. In Terminal 21 you can shop around the world.

Terminal 21, located conveniently at the confluence of the BTS Skytrain (Asoke) and MRT Subway (Sukhumvit) stations, and coincidentally also at a crossroad of design retail experience meets a theme park setting.

Terminal 21, located conveniently at the confluence of the BTS Skytrain (Asoke) and MRT Subway (Sukhumvit) stations, and coincidentally also at a crossroad of design retail experience meets a theme park setting.

In a nutshell, the shopping center is designed with an “airport” theme, though loosely interpreted, with nine floors each featuring their own design theme, from the thematic restrooms on each level to the very last decor detail.

The ground floor is Rome. There were a handful of sports shops, including Nike, Adidas, Puma, and some fashion boutiques such as Jaspal and G2000. So far so same, save for the décor.

Roman statues casting a watchful eye over the sports apparel sale.

Roman statues casting a watchful eye over the sports apparel sale.

Shoppers resting their weary feet at the water fountain.

Shoppers resting their weary feet at the water fountain.

Impressive ceiling frescos and stucco detailing above the arches inspired by a fragment of Roman parchment.

Impressive ceiling frescos and stucco detailing above the arches inspired by a fragment of Roman parchment.

The interactive automated directory, a.k.a. “Check-in Information” kiosk; the information counter ladies were also dressed as air hostesses.

The interactive automated directory, a.k.a. “Check-in Information” kiosk; the information counter ladies were also dressed as air hostesses.

The M floor is where the walkway from the skytrain and subway stations connect with the shopping center, welcomed by the local punk-y fashion boutique CPS. I presume M stands for “Main” (rather than Mezzanine); it’s also “Paris” on this level, though I must say seemingly less thematic than other floors, save for a few cut-outs of French-related items (lamp posts, etc.) The massive H&M shop – complete with a guy’s section – was absolutely thronging with shoppers.

Long escalator from M to 2nd floor (bypassing the 1st floor).

Long escalator from M to 2nd floor (bypassing the 1st floor).

From Floor 1 – Tokyo upwards, the layout of the mall reminded me of a cleaner, air-conditioned version of the beloved (though sadly now defunct) Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Scenes from the floor of the rising sun: Japanese lanterns, maneki-neko, and sumo wrestlers.

Scenes from the floor of the rising sun: Japanese lanterns, maneki-neko, and sumo wrestlers.

Details such as the zebra crossing floor motifs are reminiscent of the Shibuya Crossingg.

Details such as the zebra crossing floor motifs are reminiscent of the Shibuya Crossing.

Rows of boutiques sell a variety of mainly ladies' fashion items on the Tokyo floor.

Rows of boutiques sell a variety of mainly ladies’ fashion items on the Tokyo floor.

While the first floor is quite girly in its offerings, the second floor – styled after London – has more men’s fashion. Zones are named after famed London landmarks such as Burlington Arcade. In terms of theme elaboration, this floor is probably my favorite.

Kitsch? Contrived? Maybe to some, but sure beats the standard window displays in traditional malls.

Kitsch? Contrived? Maybe to some, but sure beats the standard window displays in traditional malls.

Shops cleverly housed in London double decker rows.

Shops cleverly housed in London double decker rows.

A hive of local creativity, including this shop selling t-shirts printed with caricatures of everyone from David Bowie to Chairman Mao.

A hive of local creativity, including this shop selling t-shirts printed with caricatures of everyone from David Bowie to Chairman Mao.

By the time we arrived on the third floor, I was nearing the end of my shopping enthusiasm tether. The swarms of shutterbugs seem to thin out noticeably by this altitude as well. The Istanbul floor was less fashion, and more about fashion accessories and home décor.

The third floor draws inspiration from the colorful Istanbul Grand Bazaar.

The third floor draws inspiration from the colorful Istanbul Grand Bazaar.

The fourth and fifth floors are dedicated to food – food court, restaurants, fast food joints, coffee shops – and designed with a San Francisco theme.

Pier 39 sea lions, and my favorite installation of the Golden Gate stretched across an open atrium.

Pier 39 sea lions, and my favorite installation of the Golden Gate stretched across an open atrium.

The San Francisco floors even had a Chinatown influence, which I thought was quite detailed.

The San Francisco floors even had a Chinatown influence, which I thought was quite detailed.

My vote for the most unique location for an eatery – housed in a tram shell and (though you can't tell from this picture), cantilevering over an open atrium.

My vote for the most unique location for an eatery – housed in a tram shell and (though you can’t tell from this picture), cantilevering over an open atrium.

After a quick bite in San Francisco, we went upstairs to have a poke around on the top floor. It was the movie theater floor, and the theme? Los Angeles of course.

The movie theater floor, smelling delightfully of popcorn.

The movie theater floor, smelling delightfully of popcorn.

Dreaming of the movies – the sofa seats on the bottom-right look mighty comfy.

Dreaming of the movies – the sofa seats on the bottom-right look mighty comfy.

We made our way back down to LG basement floor, more to see what the theme was than anything else. The basement floor, a.k.a. The Caribbean, was anchored by a supermarket, a Mos Burger, and some other bits and bobs.

A lighthouse starting on the Caribbean floor and jutting up through the Paris floor.

A lighthouse starting on the Caribbean floor and jutting up through the Paris floor.

A palm tree next to a water feature on the Caribbean floor.

A palm tree next to a water feature on the Caribbean floor.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m by no means a mall convert, but I have to say Terminal 21 makes the retail experience easier (and dare I say enjoyable) for non-hardcore shoppers. It was very inspiring to see local designers and talents having a space to showcase their work alongside the traditional branded boutiques.

Shopping Essentials

What: Terminal 21

Where: Asoke intersection (with covered entry from both BTS skytrain Asoke station and MRT subway Sukhumvit station); within the same complex as Grande Center Point Hotel

When: Daily, from around 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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