Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chiang Mai Malls

Thais love their malls, and a new batch of shopping wonderlands has recently sprung up in Chiang Mai, as Kristie Kellahan discovers.

What a difference a year makes. Since my last visit to Chiang Mai, no less than three new mega-malls have opened in the city, more than doubling the choices of retail centres to spend time and money at. Add to these the existing malls at Kad Suan Kaew, Airport Plaza, Curve and The Harbor and you have an abundance of retail therapy. (When I first lived in Chiang Mai, back in 2001, there was only one shopping centre worth going to).

Of the newbies, MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center has arguably the best location. Taking up a prime position on the corner of Nimmanhaemin Road and Huay Kaew, it is close to the trendy Nimman district and Chiang Mai University.

Resembling a glittering spaceship from the outside, it offers floors of fashion and lifestyle stores including outlets for Oakley, Birkenstock and Guess. Gigantic shoes positioned around the floors provide ample photo opps for snap-happy Thai shoppers. SFX Cinema on the 5th floor screens latest release films in English and Thai, while MAYA Fantasia is an interactive playground for kids of all ages (I had a go at Guitar Hero).

Nimman residents have welcomed the much-loved Rimping supermarket at MAYA. Stocking Western and Asian hard-to-find products, it has cult status among expats in the city.

Likewise, the cake shop at Dhara Dhevi Resort is known to have THE best macarons and sweet treats in Chiang Mai. The only trouble, it was always a trek to get to if you didn’t have your own wheels. Hallelujah, the clever folks have opened Dhara Dhevi Patisserie at MAYA; a macaron fix is now within easy reach.

Promenada Resort Mall is a little further out of the central hub, but most taxi and tuktuk drivers know how to get there, and there is a shuttle service operating from the centre of town. Rimping fanatics make the trip for the supermarket’s flagship store (not to mention must-haves like Vegemite and Dr Pepper), while parents are giving the thumbs up to the enormous ToysRUs store and Kids@Play playground. SF Cinema City has opened a state-of-the-art cinema, and there are plans for a 20-lane bowling alley, karaoke rooms and a Skate Park. Promenada positions itself as an open-air resort-style mall (don’t worry, the shopping floors are air-conditioned).

CentralFestival Chiang Mai rounds out the new mall openings with recreation activities aplenty. I could lose (and have lost) an entire day in here without even shopping. There’s the Major Cineplex cinemas, including a towering IMAX screen, a brand-new ice rink, with English-speaking coaches available and a sprawling fitness centre. Melding Lanna architecture and decor with shiny new design, CentralFestival has become instantly popular for its food courts, restaurants, many chain stores and specialty retailers.

Pics: MAYA shopping mall by Kristie Kellahan

With the malls coming fast and furious, Chiang Mai may soon resemble a smaller version of Bangkok. Good or bad? As the Thais like to say, that’s up to you.

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