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At the heart of Bangkok's Pathumwan district sits Siam Square, an entertainment, shopping and educational area packed with restaurants, cinemas, and hundreds of boutiques. While best known for its shopping, through the first half of 2010 this area was the heart of the Red Shirt protests that exploded into violence in May of that year. In the aftermath, the massive Central World shopping mall was gutted by fire and a number of other outlets were badly damaged. Siam has since rebuilt, though early 2014 saw a new wave of demonstrations in the area, this time from the Yellow Shirt side.
Siam Square itself overflows with retail outlets where designer boutiques jostle with knock-off shops and fancy restaurants abut streetside eateries. The area is popular with students, as the prestigious Chulalongkorn University makes up the southern border of the neighbourhood, and this is reflected in many of the student-orientated stores. If you're after a trendy and modern area that can feel like parts of Tokyo on a hot day, look no further.
The area is also home to a number of Bangkok's top shopping malls, from the more low-brow MBK Centre, where cell phones, clothes, and furniture are the primary offerings, to the more upscale Siam Paragon, where Lamborghini and Ferrari dealerships sit beside Prada and La Perla boutiques. An above-ground walkway beginning at Siam BTS station and connecting to Chit Lom BTS station allows you to stroll past a number of shopping and hotel complexes. Taken as a whole, the Siam Square area is the centre of Thailand's shopping universe.
Siam Square plays host to the greatest concentration of Bangkok's cinemas, including the vintage Scala and Lido, and the futuristic Paragon IMAX. Movies are much cheaper in Thailand than in the West, but remember to bring a sweater as they tend to be air-conditioned close to freezing point, and to stand when they play the anthem for the King.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 5th March, 2016.
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