New in Town

7 08 2012

I did a quick scan of what was new in town since I had been in Bangkok last. As always, there was quite a lot. In this faddish city, novelty retail destinations and happening “in” spots pop up – and fade away – with startling regularity. Now that Thais have embraced foursquare, facebook and instagram (three of the top 20 instagram picture sites in the world are in Bangkok), the pace of change has only accelerated.

To start with, the rotating artwork in the alleyway outside WTF in Sukhumvit 53 has been overhauled – no more floating neon monks in space (which I loved), but now a flashing sign reading “Nation, Religion, King and Art” – plus a cute mural on the building opposite (which houses the event space “Opposite”).

Down the road at Ekkamai the new Gateway Japanese lifestyle mall had just arrived – in fact it was having its “soft opening” the week I was there in tandem with the Japanese star festival, Tanabata. The centre was done up with tanabata lanterns, colored ribbons on bamboo plants and impressive floating paper cranes. It was still fairly quiet though, except for large numbers of local schoolchildren who stood outside on the landing watching a car accident on Sukhumvit. There was an impressive selection of Japanese eateries and a Japanese bookstore, as well as other fashion and electronics stores and a really nice-looking roof terrace with frangipani trees which has not yet been opened.

There was also the MOCA (of which more below) and the big new opening in town: Asiatique. This is a Fisherman’s Wharf-style tourist development of old riverfront warehouses converted into upscale boutiques and restaurants. It opened around June and The Bangkok “in-crowd” are already enthralled by it. Artificial though it might sound, it is really very beautifully done, and I enjoyed my time there thoroughly. You hop onto a free shuttle boat heading downstream along the Chao Phraya River past Yannawa and get out in a hitherto-untouristed area five minutes away. I ate at an Italian place called Capri and had cocktails to die for. After that, there are lots of little Thai-chic boutiques to browse, a bit like the nicest parts of Chatuchak. There is nothing ┬ácomparable that I can think of in any other Asian city – a bit like Darling Harbour (but nicer and not quite as big) or Southgate in Melbourne.

Out by the airport a bizarre new resort seems to be taking shape, glimpsed briefly through a taxi window. It features Thai-style villas clustered around an artificial lake with a towering sculpture made of crisscrossed of canoes, plus a gigantic Hollywood-Golden-Era-South-Seas-style figure of a human head. I’ll try to find out more.

A surfing centre complete with lagoon and wave machine is apparently in the works on Sukhumvit Soi 22 -it would be fairly mind blowing to be able to surf in the middle of the urban jungle.

I was also excited to dine at “Above Eleven,” an open rooftop bar/restaurant (yes, another one) on Sukhumvit 11 (hence the name). This one though had the distinguishing feature of a Japanese/Peruvian menu ( ala the famous “Nobu” restaurant which found fame and fortune with Latin-tinged ‘Nikkei’ cuisine). Unfortunately though it was a bit disappointing. Stunning sunset view aside, the food was rather ordinary – go for a glass of shochu at sundown and a cerviche starter with leche de tigre, and then head on elsewhere I would say.

Finally, ‘Mansion7,’ the house-of-horrors themed zombie-mall has apparently also had a redesign, replacing its Victorian hospital premise with a ‘haunted hotel’ mock-up. I did not have a chance to go, but maybe I should, as my friend was full of dire predictions of its imminent financial failure. Its not pulling in the punters, apparently.

A shame, but then Bangkok will throw up something else intriguing in its place.

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