While backpackers and expats always complain about “the last thing Thailand needs is more malls”, for locals they are no doubt a godsend, as an escape from the relentless heats of the city, as they bring a new lease of life to Korat in the daytime. And recently the Central Plaza Mall in Korat became the city’s largest shopping centre, which may seem a bit like overkill for a somewhat obscure Isaan city that boasts two massive malls already, but Korat is expanding, and being the Gateway to Thailand’s northeastern region, this only likely to continue (not to mention the high-speed rail connection penned for completion in 2021, which will make the city more relevant and convenient than ever expected). So having just emerged from weeks in Isaan’s seemingly endless rice fields, it was kind of an exciting day out for us as we journey into Korat shortly after it’s opening. However we never expected the opening to actually be on time, in November, as very few people did, so it was somewhat underwhelming as expected when we arrived to work-in-progress Christmas decorations, and emptiness. But we were literally the first people through the doors, at 10:00AM in the morning on a week day, so I guess this was expected. Then come early lunch time and Central Plaza is alive with energy and movement, and we can see why it is the most exciting place to be in Korat right now, and probably for a good while to come.
I know we shouldn’t compare Korat Malls to the malls of Bangkok, but Bangkok is where we know best, and the concepts of design are often similar between brands which is no different in Korat. Where “The Mall Korat” is not so different to “the Mall Bangkapi” for instance, and I feel Terminal 21 Korat even outdid it’s Bangkok flagship store which opened on our doorstep in Bangkok’s Asoke area just 5 years ago. So the Central Plaza Mall in Korat is somewhat similar to the Central malls of Bangkok, with its towering spaces, and therefore bares similar similarities to Central World and Central Rama 9 for example. And probably on the same scale as the latter. However there are newer touches to the wider interiors, being more curvaceous I guess than most, with some inspiration from the Emquarier maybe, with curves, spirals and angles. It also has a bit of an interior tropical feel, with indoor fountains and gardens, yet without the same fish and animal cruelty of like Malls. Again the finer detail of smaller spaces, the intimate alleys, a concept which was revolutionised by Terminal 21 in Bangkok (and I feel Siam Discovery these days) where even the toilets bring new experience and design. And while it may not be as selfitastic, lacking the overall theme, it is otherwise new and inspired in many parts, and while it may not add a whole to that of Bangkok, it really is quite exciting for Korat.
The Good Stuff
I do personally hate shopping, more than anything, and this is why I focus more on design and the creative spaces, as I really need something to keep me entertained and distracted while Fanfan spends our money (bar Pokemon). Although I do enjoy the energy and youth of these malls, and were you to remove all the shops, then I really might enjoy them. As the only shopping I do is for liquor at the anchored supermarket store (which is Tops at Central Plaza). So it is otherwise the food that keeps me motivated, as the carrot on the stick, and for me the food court is probably the most exciting part of any mall. And at Central Plaza the food court is the best of Korat’s 3 malls, or at least it looks the best, where Pier 21 of Terminal 21 is almost a direct copy of the original only without the surrounding highrise city views. It just looks more sophisticated and high-end. But foodwise we opted for Ramen and Okonomiyaki at one of the umpteen various food franchises, which took a lot of deliberation, as there’s just a lot of food. However we did plan to stay a while longer at Central Plaza in Korat, where Thor: Ragnarok was showing in the 4D cinema (SF Cinema listings here), but timing just wasn’t right, and I had a two-hour drive ahead, and had already been up since 05:00AM. But we will obviously be back at some point, although just not during the coming festive season, where the Christmas baubles look to be the best in Korat as I am guessing Central Plaza is now Korat’s equivalent to Bangkok’s Central World. Let’s just hope they bring a continental beer garden or two 🙂