Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom

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First published 29th September, 2005

Chid Lom skytrain station is close to some very big shopping complexes and landmarks where you can snap up everything from captive birds -- release them and get good karma-- to gold plated BVLGARI watches (if that $10 Rolex you bought stops working). The station is number E1 on the Sukhumvit skytrain line, one stop from Siam, the chief interchange station. The main road underneath the station is called Phloen Chit, and this is where most of the interesting things to see are located, particularly to the west. This area is quite farang-heavy and a bit upscale.


If you're a movie buff and don't mind paying Western prices, DVD Station has a small but well stocked shop on the ticket level of the station. Most of the titles here can be found at home, but it's worth checking out for some rare Japanese, Chinese and Korean imports.

Running north and south away from the station and crossing Phloen Chit are two sois - soi Lang Suan to the south, and soi Chid Lom to the north. On the corner of Lang Suan and Phloen Chit you'll find Fabb Fashion Cafe which has good jazz and great, if somewhat overpriced, food.

Stroll up soi Lang Suan if you're hungry. This soi is stuffed with good places to eat, from the ubiquitous Starbucks to Italian, Chinese and street stall food. It's a relatively clean and attractive soi to walk down, where some eclectic little shops and boutiques can be found as well.

If you ignore soi Lang Suan and walk west along Phloen Chit, you'll quickly come to several big structures. The first is Amarin Plaza on the left, where you'll find several floors of mainly tourist-themed shops. Some good buys are also possible on items such as clothes, art and furnishings.

Beside Amarin Plaza is the monstrous Erawan structure which houses the swanky Grand Hyatt as well as a host of restaurants and shops. Start in the basement and wander around, working your way up to the beautiful hotel lobby for a coffee.

Right on the corner of Phloen Chit and Ratchadamri is the Erawan shrine, a famous Bangkok landmark. When the present shrine was erected, a litany of accidents which had occurred in connection with the local construction site was brought to an end, bringing the shrine a reputation for providing worshippers with good luck. Consequently it's always packed with people making offerings of flowers, incense and food. Traditional Thai dancers will put on a show for a donation, and you can try your luck by buying a lottery ticket from a vendor outside (after you've prayed, of course.) Watch out for well-dressed men starting friendly conversations: nine times out of ten they'll try to get you to buy something.

Kitty-corner to the Erawan shrine is the massive Central World Plaza, formerly the World Trade Centre. This mall is too big for its own good, and the confusing floor plan and dim lighting don't help. It used to have a decent ice skating rink on the top floor but it has recently closed down, leaving little in this mall to attract shoppers, although renovations are underway. The Kinokuniya bookstore on the 6th floor does have a fantastic selection of both English and Japanese books and magazines.

Directly across the street from Central World Plaza on the east side of Ratchadamri is the huge Metropolis/Big C complex. The two standouts are the movie theatre on the top floor and a Big C store that carries everything from bulk boxes of Mentos to washing machines. Restaurants, a food court and various shops, stalls and boutiques are also scattered throughout the complex.

Like ants around an anthill, the area outside of both Central World Plaza and the Big C building is usually bustling with people after the sun goes down. Food and clothing vendors, motorcycle taxis, tailors, cobblers, beggars, tourists and the occasional elephant all jostle for their piece of sidewalk, making this a great place to dive right into Bangkok street life.

Walking back towards Phloen Chit and the skytrain line, you'll come to Gaysorn Plaza, on the northeast corner of this busy intersection. This sparkling all-white building is the place to come if you want to spend your life savings on clothes. Gucci, Omega, Hugo Boss and Armani, among a slew of others, can all be found here. It's mostly stores inside, but several cafes provide glamorous pitstops as well. This is also the place to shop for upscale Thai-inspired home decorations, with some surprisingly affordable items tucked away if you look carefully.

From inside Gaysorn, it's possible to exit onto the elevated skytrain walkway from the third floor. From here, you can either walk back to Phloen Chit station or enjoy a pothole-free walk all the way to Siam, the main skytrain station. If all that walking has made you peckish, be sure to check out Fogo Vivo on the ground floor of President Tower, directly north of the skytrain station. It's Bangkok's self-proclaimed first authentic churrascaria.

The last location of note is another huge department store, Central Chid Lom, connected directly to the skytrain station on the east side. One of Bangkok's better malls, its seven floors offer enough shopping to keep anyone entertained and those who aren't can take it easy at FoodLoft, their massive trendy food court, or Greyhound. The homewares here are particularly good.



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