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Central Embassy Mall in Bangkok

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Gucci, Prada and Paul Smith – they’re all at Bangkok’s newest luxury mall ‘Central Embassy‘. It opened on May 9, 2014 on Ploenchit Road – within walking distance to at least three similar high-class shopping malls. Though I’m not sure who needs yet another mall with stores for the super rich, the architecture is fascinating.

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Most of these pictures were taken simply looking up at the seven floors of the shopping center in its atriums. All in all, the space is vast – and that’s probably the biggest luxury in a crowded city like Bangkok.

And since Central Embassy isn’t a mall where they just play muzak, there were even some flautists and a string quartet taking care of the entertainment the day I was there.

Written by Thorsten

May 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Macau’s Venetian Hotel is Venice on steroids

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The Venetian Hotel, MacauMacau’s Venetian Hotel isn’t your quiet little neighborhood Bed and Breakfast.

With its 40 stories, 3000 suites and 980 000 square meters, it’s the fourth largest building in the world by area.

According to the Venetian website, the hotel is large enough to hold ninety Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

And after having visited the Venetian myself, I think that’s probably not even exaggerated.

This hotel is mind-blowing

Macau’s Venetian Hotel is gigantic. It totally floored me. After a few hours in this huge hotel, casino and shopping complex, I was gasping for air.

Even though I was in many ways fascinated by this artificial, alluring, air conditioned environment, I just wanted to get out and get back in touch with the real world.

At Macau’s Venetian Hotel, everything is on a super-human scale. The hotel corridors are as wide as highways. Walking down these long corridors, I felt dwarfed by the dimensions.

signs help hotel guests find their wayThe hotel is so confusingly complex that there are signs everywhere pointing visitors the way. Otherwise the guests would just get lost.

The hotel has to  supply visitors with hotel maps to help them find their way in this super-structure.

As you wander these hallways and look at all the gold plated ornaments and crystal chandeliers, you get an impression of how much money the casinos must generate.

Because, after all, it’s the casino money that pays for all this nouveau riche splendor.

According to Germany’s stern magazine, the Venetian cost more than two billion US dollars to build. That’s a lot. But it may not take the Venetian long to pay off that huge investment.

Another Macau hotel, The Sands, cost some one billion Euros ($ 1.35 billion). And it took The Sands only eleven months to get out of the red, writes Germany’s renowned Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Big casinos mean big money

Macau has surpassed Las Vegas with regard to revenues from the casinos.

Macau’sVenetian boasts the largest casino in the world, with 3400 slot machines and more than 800 gambling tables. And the casino is never empty – it’s one of the busiest places in the whole hotel complex.

Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed in the casinos, so I couldn’t take any pictures in that part of the hotel.

indoor canals in the third floor shopping mall

Shopping in an air-conditioned version of Venice

Unlike the casinos, the shopping mall on the third floor of the Venetian doesn’t seem to generate a lot of revenue.

When I was there, it was virtually deserted. Only a few people strolled around luxurious fashion and jewellery stores.

But it seemed to me that everyone just looked, and no one bought anything. I hardly saw anybody with shopping bags.

The main attractions of the shopping mall at the Venetian are the canals and the gondolas. It’s an indoor Venice with eternal blue skies and air-conditioning.

Chinese gondoliers Some of the gondoliers are really imported from Europe or America, but many are Chinese.

And just like the real Italian gondoliers in Venice, these Chinese copies serenade the tourists with schmaltzy belcanto opera arias.

It’s really pretty absurd if you think about it: Chinese men, costumed as Italian gondoliers, pretending to stoke a motorized gondola through fake canals on the third floor of a hotel complex in Asia.

Does life get any more bizarre?

Written by Thorsten

May 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Stores stay closed in Macau

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closed stores in MacauOne thing I still haven’t figured out about Macau is why you see so many closed shops downtown.

It seems that at all times of the day, at least half of the stores have their metal shutters down or iron grates drawn. Or both.

There’s no information about opening hours, no sign ‘Out to lunch’ or any indication whether these shops will ever open up again.

half the shops are closedIt seems that on any downtown shopping street, at least half of the stores will be permanently closed.

Is this due to the current financial crisis? Were all these shopkeepers forced out of business?

Or do they just open at such irregular hours that I never happen to chatch their stores open?

Things are different in Macau than in other Asian cities

The Macau shop-opening hours are definitely in stark contrast to practices on the Chinese mainland.

closed shop in MacauStores in Beijing or Shanghai, for instance, seem to be open for business almost around the clock.

The same applies to cities in other Asian countries like Vietnam or Cambodia.

I wonder why.

But whenever I’ll think of Macau in the future, I’ll remember it as the place with the drawn shutters.

Written by Thorsten

May 15, 2009 at 7:21 am

Beijing bric à brac

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Old market seller at Panjiayuan fleamarketWhen grandpa Zhang in Beijng cleans out his attic, he’s likely to find different stuff than grandpa Smith in Smalltown, USA.

No tacky 1950’s coffee pots, no freaky 1960’s hippy outfit, no funky 1970’s rugs.

Instead, your average Chinese might find propaganda pamphlets from the Cultural Revolution, some creaky old chairs that could have belonged to an imperial concubine or blue-and-white pottgery that may just be from the Ming dynasty.

You can find all of these things at Beijing’s Panjiayuan fleamarket. It’s open every weekend and it’s Beijing’s best place to look for antiques and handicrafts.

Some 3000 sellers offer anything from embroydered silk to stone buddhas and from ancient chinese porcellain to Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.

Panjiayuan fleamarket is a treasure trove for collectors of Asian antiques and for souvenir hunters.

But what always amazes me is how different the buying and browsing behavior of the Chinese is from that of the Westerners.

You’ll often see old Chinese men huddled over pottery sherds that look like they were just picked from a trash heap.

Yet these Chinese connoisseurs closely examine the sherds with magnifying glasses, they hold them against the light, weigh them, discuss their artistic value. I guess they’re hoping to find real Ming or Qing Dynasty treasures.

Did Mao really drink Coke?Westerners, on the other hand, are mostly fascinated by the colorful handicrafts from remote Chinese provinces, by Ming-style paintings and revolutionary kitsch from the Mao era.

But beware:  at Panjiayuan not everything that looks antique is really old.

Something tells me that many of the things on offer were definitely made after the revolution.

But who cares – Panjiayuan is a great place to browse, to bargain and to buy.

Written by Thorsten

March 29, 2009 at 4:29 am

A mall for young designers

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Idea Market at Kamphaeng Phaet Subway station in BangkokI was ready to head back to my hotel after having walked around Chatuchak Weekend Market for the better part of the morning.

I was tired and looking forward to my hotel swimming pool, a nice cool drink and some relaxing music from my i-pod.

But when I got to the lower level at Kamphaeng Phet subway station, I was in for a surprise. And that surprise made me forget the pool, the drink and the music for another hour.

Idea Market at Bangkok's Kamphaeng Phet subway stationHere in this subway station was the entrance to an underground shopping mall. An Idea Market that is only open on weekends.

A mall especially for young designers

Some of the designers at Kamphaeng Phet already had their own shops where they sold their own lines of fashion, gifts or perfumes.

The Idea Market at Kamphaeng Phet Others, however, were just getting started and obviously couldn’t afford renting a store yet.

They had spread out their goods on the floor in front of them – pretty much like kids selling old toys at a flea market.

Some of these vendors were selling interesting stuff that they were making themselves on the spot: designer bags , jewelery, hand-sewn teddy bears or knit sweaters.

Young designers at the Idea Market at Bangkok's Kamphaeng Phet subway stationI never studied design at school, but I thought that some of those people at the Kamphaeng Phet Idea Market were pretty talented.

And the prices were very reasonable. I bought a pair of designer shorts at one men’s fashion store, which cost me the equivalent of four dollars. Can’t really complain about that…

Written by Thorsten

December 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Shopping at the world’s biggest market

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Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokI’ve been to Bangkok dozens of times – it’s the hub I always have to go through when I’m travelling to another Asian country on business.

But if I thought I’d seen all the major sights in Bangkok, I was proven wrong on this stay.

I finally managed to head out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. So far, I’d always thought it would be too far out (way in the north of the city). But I guess I must have had things a little wrong.

Yes, the weekend market is on the outskirts of Bangkok, but the city’s new subway has a stop right in the center of the market.

Actually, you can choose between two different subway stops if you want to get to Chatuchak – that might give you an idea how big this weekend market is.

It’s billed as the world’s biggest market

You can reach Chatuchak Weekend Market by getting off the Chatuchak Park subway stop or by getting off at Kamphaeng Phet Station. I’d recommend the latter, because that lands you right near the market’s entrance gate one.

Map of Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokGate one is a good place to start because this is where you can pick up a market map. And believe me: if you don’t want to get lost or risk missing the best parts of this huge market, it’s a good idea to take one of those maps along.

Chatuchak is the only market I know that actually publishes a map. This market is really almost the size of a small city.

To make life on the shoppers a little easier, the market is subdivided into streets and 28 sections. In some sections, you’ll find t-shirts, in others handicrafts, pets or antiques.

There’s no way to say how many vendors sell at this market. I’ve seen numbers published from 10 000 to 15 000 stalls.

The selection is overwhelming

I think you should be able to find any product made in Thailand on this market. And at great prices.

Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokI couldn’t believe how cheap Thai souvenirs were at Chatuchak.

(Sorry if I’m beginning to sound like an info-mercial, but I was really overwhelmed by this place.)

Whether it was Thai silk, wood carvings, mother-of-pearl or porcelain – everything I saw here seemed much cheaper than at retail stores throughout the country.

I guess you pay something close to the retail price at Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Facts and figures

O.k. – after all the raving, here some fast facts for those among us who love numbers and figures: Chatuchak is supposedly number one in the world when it comes to weekend markets.

Other sources are a little more cautious and just say it’s “…one of the world’s largest weekend markets.”

Chatuchak covers some 28 acres and has over 200 000 visitors each Saturday and Sunday. The large majority of those visitors (approximately 70 %) are Thais.

Water lilies on sale at Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokSo you see that this isn’t your average  “let’s rip off the tourists-market”.

It’s a place where the Thais come to shop (which explains some of the sections of the market: furniture, plants, pets – I guess you wouldn’t carry any of that home in your backpack after an Asian vacation…

Oh, and two more interesting trivia: Chatuchak Weekend Market has its own little electric train that drives shoppers around the market for free.Miniature train at Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok

And – unlike markets in Europe or the US – it also has booths that offer foot massages for those who just can’t take another step.

Written by Thorsten

December 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm

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