For us, culture includes the modern and the everyday. At least that’s our excuse for going to the mall and movies. Bangkok has a huge clump of malls in one area that take up several city blocks. There are footbridges between many, and the whole area is somewhat overwhelming. That you can reach the malls by skytrain adds to the feeling of simulation.

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The newest addition, the Siam Paragon, is apparently the "biggest mall in Southeast Asia." Jason says I utter this phrase in an excited valley girl accent. The Paragon opened before Christmas, and has this kind of breathless advertising around town that imply that mall’s opening is a divine miracle.

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Paragon itself is pretty upscale with the requisite Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, etc. It also has well designed fine dining restaurants. Seems like this is the shape of things to come in the world of fine dining in general, with L.A.’s good restaurants being in malls, and New York’s new Time Warner Center mall and it’s various five-star restos. I prefer old-school restaurants myself.

This mall has some design-themed stores on the top level, which I found interesting professionally. Most have all the housewares and furniture you’d see at such a store in New York.

The mall next door, Siam Square I think, also has many designy object stores. I saw some new things here — objects and furniture I haven’t seen at New York’s international furniture fair or anywhere else. Unique uses of bamboo in contemporary furniture, and other uses of fiber, wood and leather. And some signs saying "no photography." So I didn’t.

There are also a lot of cool stores with some unique clothes by Bangkok designers including the Grayhound and Friends one described earlier. There’s quite a scene here.

And on the top floor  there’s a shop called Loft, which is teenage girl paradise. It’s like a cool department store for teen girls with makeup and cosmetics, furniture and housewares, stuffed animals, luggage, a chocolate counter, jewelry, an extensive watch selection, an Oregon Scientific clock section, and cute electronics like a pig-shaped USB speaker with nostril-speakers. Delia*s take note!

All in all, Bangkok is a very hip, design-savvy city, and there’s a lot of spending power here.

At the next mall, Siam Discovery Center, we took in the Narnia movie. Before watching the movie we bought some candy — salty plum tablets, Japanese strawberry chocolate, and Pocky, at a vendor who, oddly, also stocked American health food store-type cereals. After extensive previews, a salute to the  king of Thailand came on screen — a long CGI film showing images from the time he was a child till now. Everyone stood for several minutes while the salute ran. This was an entirely new experience for us.

Then we watched Narnia, which, incidentally, was great.

Another mall has "over 250 cell phone shops," and they’re not kidding. Cell phones and accessories are a huge market here, and there are lots of extras for sale as well — cases, charms, straps, etc. The number of phones, plans, etc, available is stunning. You can even choose your phone number from a selection, as Thais believe certain numbers are more lucky than others.

Ronald is wai-ing you at McDonalds; a wai is a respectful Thai greeting. How’s that for local?

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