Travel Journal: Bangkok, The Mall Culture

Duration of stay: 3 nights.

Date: 28-31 October 2012

Flight: Direct 7 hours flight on Gulf Air Bahrain-Bangkok + Thai Smile for internal flights.

Purpose of trip: Transit after our holiday in Phuket + shopping.

Hotel: Siam Kempinski. It was the most interesting part of our stay in Bangkok. I can say that it was one of the best hotels i’ve ever stayed at and deciding to stay there was a wise decision. Mainly because most Arabs who visit Bangkok stay at Intercontinental and we didn’t want to go with the flow. The location was also great, right next to Siam Paragon shopping mall. What i loved about the hotel the most is the high ceilings that gave it a grand feel and of course the beautiful colorful flowers all around. It was a pleasure to the eye to see those gorgeous unique flowers every time we walkied in and out of the hotel. The breakfast buffet was good enough and the overall service was very good. The only negative thing about it was the concierge. When we first arrived we wanted to have Thai food for dinner, the man behind the concierge desk said that everywhere closes by 10pm but there is one place that closes at 10:30. We had to walk for 20 minutes to reach that place to find out that it was already closed by 10:15! (the owner + waitress were extremely rude). I also asked him about any local markets other than the Floating Market and he said that this is the only market. I didn’t bother to do my usual research as we were on a tight schedule but i later found out that there were other markets (the Night Market for example). Another thing is that i was keen on visiting malls with local brands in addition to the international ones that were mentioned in many brochures. He also said that those were the only malls available. I don’t know if it’s because of the language or that he really wasn’t familiar with the city. I didn’t trust his answer and asked around and found out about two of the most interesting local malls in Bangkok, MBK and Platinum. However, everything else about the hotel was perfect.

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Malls:

Walking around the streets in Bangkok was not so pleasant. If you put the humid and hot weather aside, the roads are smelly and not clean. We got a feel of the city when we took that 20 minutes walk to the closed restaurant, other than that we spent our stay jumping around from a mall to the other. I see Bangkok as a huge mall. Because that’s the only convenient thing you can do over there.

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1. Siam Paragon: Was my favourite. It’s huge with lots of international brands of all kinds. The best part about it was the restaurant area, especially the Food Hall part. All kind of restaurants spread around in a beautiful random way. Not in line or in blocks. It felt like each restaurant walked in and selected its own space without previous planning. I loved it and we had few meals there because the variety of restaurants was very interesting. We dined in Four Season Restaurant (Chinese, average food), Coffee Bean by Doa (the food looked interesting but we had dessert and it was nice), there was a Thai restaurant that had a long Thai name and served casual Thai cuisine which was average, and the Fish & Chips (Cafe Fish) was very delicious although it was the least busy place for some reason.

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2. MBK:

Just like an indoor market that sells local products; t-shirts, shoes, clothes, hair clips, bags and few souvenirs too. My discovery here was finding out how Food Courts operate in Thailand. The usual food courts that we know about consist of different restaurants, whereas in Thailand it’s one huge court with different types of food that operates under the same restaurant (like one huge restaurant with different units). One unit serves noodles, the other serves rice, and another one for juices, even Halal food had its own unit. How it works is that you buy coupons at first and then use them to place your order. It was an interesting experience to try it although the food was not that good. Another thing that grabbed my attention was a huge box for collecting used books.

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3. Emporium Mall:

Mainly international shops and a department store with posh Thai brands. Size wise it wasn’t as big as the other malls, but you can find what you’re looking for and finish shopping in an hour or two. It didn’t seem to be a tourists destination as almost all the people there were either housewives or students with their uniforms on. I was so happy to see one of my favourite bookstores Kinokuniya there. We also enjoyed tea & scones in TWG tearoom that had the longest tea menu i’ve ever had to go through.

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4. Platinum Fashion Mall:

This was the kind of mall that i was looking for. Local designs at cheap prices. It is very crowded and tight that you will suffocate and push people to manage to move but it’s worth it. They have some trendy funky outfits but you have to have the energy to search to find good pieces between all the piled clothes. Most people walk around pulling a huge pully to put all the shopping bags inside. Luckily they sell those pullies there and i got one which made shopping there much more practical and fun.

5. Discovery Mall: A small shopping center with few shops that i didn’t find interesting. I love the Thai bag brand Naraya and there was a big shop there that i enjoyed shopping at. There was a store that sells funky stationary and home accessories which was interesting. One of the girls didn’t feel like shopping so she spent an hour having a massage somewhere in the mall. There is a nice Starbucks there too.

If i’ll ever go to Bangkok again i will only go for shopping. Restaurants and malls close at 10pm so a group of girls will have nothing to do after that other than chilling at the hotel. I was expecting a variety of fine dining restaurants but the nearest restaurant that was open after 10pm (20 mins by car from hotel) was Eat Me and it was completely empty. It was a lovely restaurant and the food was good.

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Taxis are the best way to move around and they charge less than Tuk Tuks. The taxi drivers are not really friendly and they don’t undertand English. Some of them are bad with directions too.

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I think that i should visit Bangkok again to cover the tourist attractions starting from the Floating Market and cover the markets and malls that i didn’t get a chance to visit or didn’t know about this time. The shopping there was convenient and enjoyable and i can say that it’s one of the best cities for shopping. I would love to try other hotels too. The only thing that i don’t think that i’ll be excited about is the food. Since i only had sea food my options were limited and kind of tasteless. The supermarkets and bakeries were fun to shop at also.

If you’re a massive shopper i recommend Bangkok to you. If not, don’t bother..

When I Owned the World..

The discussion was over. I thanked everyone and got up of the chair that i was sitting on for an hour and a half. We gathered in circles to socialize, when suddenly, Khalid AlShaikh’s Atni Waad started playing in the background. I thought that i was hellucinating by hearing one of the soundtracks of my novel My Foggy Tomorrow right after the Book Club discussion was over. But i wasn’t. My cousin Narise played the song at the perfect moment in her Cafe, where we were having the book club. It was a Bahraini moment. A Bahraini book, a Bahraini cafe, and a Bahraini song.

The Book Club was the 3rd activity that was organized for my first novel My Foggy Tomorrow. The Book Launch was a dream, Bab Market was the fun part, and the Book Club was when i realized that i’ve done it!

I love the fact that my first experience with book clubs was to discuss my book!! I’m not a fan of book clubs as i don’t like committing to a certain book in a limited amount of time. But i think that i will change my mind about it after this beautiful experience. Every person that was present had his own opinions and views. Some opinions clashed, and some people argued, but that made me happy as i realized that I did it right. Because in fiction, no one is supposed to agree!

Most of the attendees, or maybe I can say all, were readers. And their input was extremely valuable to me whether i agreed with it or not. Sitting with them on one table and discussing my fears, expectations and what i hoped to deliver through this story was like living a dream. I can now say that i wrote a book. I can now feel it. Something that was only happening inside my head once upon a time, was being discussed by a group of people a few hours ago. Friends, family, relatives, other group members and people that i only met after writing this book were all analyzing some characters that I made up! Holding my book for the first time didn’t feel as good as today. Today, i felt like i owned the world. Because i touched people’s hearts with my story. Because i created a Bahraini book that is now being sold in Bahraini bookstores that barely sell any Bahraini books!

Serving your country doesn’t mean getting involved in politics. You can do it by simply being Bahraini, by being local, by being yourself. Do what you do best and market yourself. You will get endless support.

I’m speechless and i can hardly believe that all of this is real. But the only reality that i know is that nothing matters in this world more than being loved and appreciated by others. And for that, i am blessed.

Thank you all..

Quotes from today:

“I’m very happy that we have a writer in the family” Narise Qamber

“Your story is amazing and i’m very proud of you” Sana Qamber

“My favourite line was when she got two glasses & a bottle of ketchup!” Talal Al Absi

“I loved how the title of the story was a title of a chapter inside the story” Marwa Sharif

“Would you judge the author for having the guts to write about some culturally-unaccepted matters?” Dunia Mudara

“It was written from a woman’s perspective” Ahmed Taleb

“It exceeded my expectations” Mariam AlMannai

“It’s amazing how Marwan accepted Hadia as she was without being judgmental” Rana Rushdi

“I wanted to know how they got back together after Rashid’s incident” Rasha Yousif

“It was so emotionally exhausting, in a good way, that i just had to finish it to know what’ll happen in the end. I loved it.” Mai AlHamer

“I hate Marwan” Fatima Al Ansari

“You made me travel with them to different cities” Pakiza Abdulrahman

“I wanted to meet the author after reading the story” Mariam Al Awadhi

“The language was simple and beautiful” Ameera Nooriddin

“Look at the story as if you’re reading it chapter by chapter. As this is how it was written” Khalid Mohammed

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