Very few regions in the world are as mall-crazy as Asia. In some cases, it’s out of necessity: some of the cities’ crammed streets and year-round hot and humid weather are simply not conducive to street-level shopping.
Commercial factors are also at play, of course. In Hong Kong, malls are one of property developers’ main sources of revenue. Indeed, at major commercial districts and ones connected by the MTR network, average per-square-foot rent of a shop can easily fetch HK$200 (US$25.8)-HK$250 (US$32.2). These shopping centres also encourage traffic and make the neighbourhoods they are in more valuable.
The “one-stop shop” concept has its appeal, and for business travellers, malls can also mean good places to swing by for some last-minute shopping before heading to the airport. We have reviewed three of the region’s newest and flashiest shopping centres for their accessibility, selections of shops and even clarity in signage.
• 2 Orchard Turn
• +65 6838 6520
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm
Aspiring to be the “centre of gravity”, this retail epicentre totals 66,000sqm and has injected new energy to the already-famous district. Other than shopping it also aims to promote works by contemporary artists from Singapore and other parts of Asia, with a 520sqm gallery space within the mall – the largest of its kind in the country.
The Singapore Airlines Service Centre has also recently moved here to offer ticketing services as well as self check-in kiosks for trips booked up to 48 hours before departure.
Transport: In view of the regular traffic jams in Singapore today, the easiest and most economical way to get there is by MRT (Orchard MRT station-North South Line). From there, it’s a 30 minutes ride to the airport. Use the ION/Wheelock exit.
Variety of shops: Most luxury brands can be found at ION, including Harry Winston. The concept of the mall is very practical: the street level and upper floors are where you will find your Bottega, Bally, Boucheron, Cartier and other high-end brands. The basements are where you get to shop for mid-range or local brands such as Charles and Keith. For sports fans, Li Ning is the outlet to go to, at basement two.
The underground is also where you will find the local food hall with no less than 80 food stalls that offer a combination of Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Western and a whole lot of local and international feast. More fine-dining options include Tastes of Paradise – my personal favourite – as well Alfresco Guston (previously known as Gusttimo Di Roma).
Layout: With five levels and four basements to navigate, time-strapped travellers are advised to get a shopping guide from the concierge before they venture further in.
Signage: Signage is available to indicate locations of the shops but it didn’t help me much, as I still found myself walking in circles just to get to the right place.
Neighborhood: There is no shortage of malls around ION Orchard. Borders Singapore across the street at Wheelock place; Isetan Shopping mall diagonally across has local ladies designer labels; and household items and the popular Tangs (www.tangs.com) are all within working distance from here.
Verdict: It is a good place for shopping from designer labels to mid-level brand, basically a mall that has everything that one needs. The only thing that I advise against is to visit the mall after office hours or weekends as you will find yourselves spending more time tussling with the crowds than shopping.
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
• 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
• +60 3 2118 8833
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm
Opened in 2007, this mall was something that Bukit Bintang really needed. Colourful as the area may be, if you are in a rush, it can be rather overwhelming. Pavilion offers a more organised place to shop and somewhere for people to escape the hustle and bustle in search of a good cup of coffee and even a massage.
Transport: The easiest way to get to Pavilion is via taxi. But if you are staying at Grand Millenium Hotel, the mall is right next door. It is also just across the street from The Westin Kuala Lumpur, Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur and JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur International Airport is located approximately an hour from here.
Variety of shops: The shops range from global luxury brands (Juicy Couture, Gucci and the likes) to mid range outlets including main tenant such as Tangs (www.tangs.com.my) and Parkson (www.parkson.com.my). If you need a quick bite to eat, I will highly recommend Food Republic at the basement where you can sample a bit of Malaysia’s local flavours at great prices. There is also an open-air area where you will find various international bars and restaurant. At the Urban Leisure wing and you can also treat yourself to a relaxing foot massage (or for the adventurous, Fish Spa) at Kenko. An oasis of spas and wellness specialists occupies the seventh floor, featuring outlets such as Adonis Wellness and New York Skin Solutions.
Layout: Couture Pavilion in the right wing of the second and third floor offers high-end retail outlets like Prada, Gucci and Versace, as well as Tangs. Levels four and five have mid range brands such as local shoe and bag outlet Vincci (good quality and design for the price), Forever 21, Adidas and G2000.
Level one, known as the Gourmet Emporium, consists of cafes and restaurants offering local and international cuisine. Home and lifestyle outlets as well as a wide variety of restaurants offering traditional Chinese, Turkish and even Lebanese food are available on the sixth floor.
Signage: The mall directory is colour-coded. For example, the Gourmet Emporium is yellow and the Couture Pavillion is purple. Each individual shop has a coloured square next to it to show in which section of the mall it is located, as well as the floor and shop numbers.
Verdict: It is a great place for last-minute shopping because of the variety of outlets. But there are setbacks: Most of the retail assistants do not speak English. It is difficult to get a metred taxi in Kuala Lumpur as cabbies tend to want to haggle. It is better to arrange pick-ups with a trusted taxi driver. One that has been recommended to me is Mr. Jamil (+60 1 2212 4212), an ex-prison warden whose taxi is spotless. More importantly, he is a good driver!
• 61 Srinakarin Road, Nongbon, Pravet
• +66 2 787 1000
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm
The project is an investment of MBK group, the same company that owns MBK mall and has stakes in Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery and Siam Centre. The first theme mall in Thailand inspired by “Oasis in The Eastern Bangkok”, this development was originally the Seri Centre and the renovation has transformed it into what it is today when it reopened in September.
Transport: From Suvarnabhumi Airport by taxi, it should not cost more than THB150 (US$5) and a shuttle service from the airport is slated to start by as early as the end of the first quarter in 2011.
Variety of shops: A good and even mix of local and international brands that suit a wide range of budgets. There are also Food Bazaar (with Thai food and international cuisines on offer for as little at THB30 (US$1), per serving), Cineplex and outdoor areas with lush gardens, fountains and waterfalls for added entertainment value.
Layout: The shops are conveniently clustered in theme zones, such as Digital World on the 2nd floor, and Watch Park, Thai Designers Selected and Beauty Park (cosmetics, perfumes and spa products) on the 1st floor.
On the ground floor, there is the biggest branch of Villa Market, a well-established high-end supermarket that sells products from all around the world.
Dining Paradise on the 3rd floor presents all-day dining with over 100 outlets. On the same floor is the Wellness Centre offerings spa treatments and massage therapies.
Signage: There are signs beside the elevators that clearly show the various zones on different levels. Information counters can be found on the ground and first floors.
Verdict: It’s great for last-minute shopping because of the variety and its proximity to the airport. It’s also very organised and reliable. You won’t have to worry about getting ripped off here.