Hello Kitty, Meet the Playboy Bunny

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The other day while in a Bangkok department store, I noticed this odd pairing of shops: Playboy Intimates is located adjacent to the Hello Kitty boutique. In face, about half of this floor sells lingerie and a quarter of it is the children’s toy department. I’m certainly not a prude but at the same time I have to wonder what messages are received by young children, especially girls, about self-image.

 

Terminal 21: Mall as Airport

In early November, a new mall opened in Bangkok.  Terminal 21, located adjacent to the Asoke Skytrain station along Sukhumvit Road, is a 9-story mall with 20 stories of serviced apartments and office space above the mall.  What sets this mall apart is that it is themed as an airport.

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By an “airport theme” I mean that there are many airport motifs throughout the complex.  These range from information boards that looks like the digital “arrivals” and “departures” flight information displays you see at an airport, to the escalator signage looking like they indicate the directions to different gates, to each floor being themed after a different international city.

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“Departure for Level 3” reads the sign above the long escalator that ascends from the mezzanine floor to a point halfway up the mall.  Given its fantastic location, the mall has been crowded since its opening several weeks ago, filled mostly with local sightseers, much like the international airport was when it first opened.

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Floors include Tokyo (left), Istanbul, Rome, and Paris (right) with each floor decorated in a manner meant to evoke the feel of the city.  Lots of visitors are stopping to take pictures with these decorative items, leading to the likely chance that you will walk through the frame of someone’s picture at some point or another.  Even the mall security and cleaning staff are uniformed appropriately for the floor on which they work.  Yes, that means that on the Paris floors the staff cleaning the toilets are dressed like French maids.

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The San Francisco floor has a miniature Golden Gate bridge spanning an atrium.  The only shops on this floor are restaurants, which seems appropriate for a city well-known for its food.  I’m not sure that the selection of restaurants would necessarily do the City by the Bay proud, though.

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With its location adjacent to both the Skytrain and subway stations, Terminal 21 is positioned at a literal crossroads of Bangkok, accessible to customers from many corners of the city.  The mall looks like it has targeted the middle of the market: there are many popular stores but no high-end ones and there are also a large number of smaller boutiques featuring local independent businesses.  Compared to other malls in the city, it is not nearly as fancy as Central Childlom or Siam Paragon but is much nicer than Platinum or MBK.  I suspect it will be a winning formula.

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The thing that I find terribly ironic, though, is that in a city with an airport that has been criticized for being too much of a mall (the picture above is of the actual airport, not Terminal 21), we end up having a new mall that has an airport theme.  To compare the two:

Suvarnabhumi Airport

Terminal 21 Mall

High end shopping

Local boutiques

Took 4 years after opening to get rail service, which is expensive and inconvenient

Served by rail service from the first day on both the Skytrain and Subway lines

Easily mispronounced Sanskrit name  

Easily pronounced English name

Confusing signage and endless moving sidewalks  Clear signage and quick escalators
Intolerable waits at immigrationBreeze through metal detector at entrance
Insufficient toilets, often dirtyPlentiful toilets cleaned by women in French maid outfits