Siam BTS: the centre of the skytrain universe
All skytrains lead to Siam, so it’s no surprise this station is easily the largest in terms of area, and, of course, easily the busiest. No matter which of the lines you are on, you will at some point either be travelling through the Siam station, or alighting there to find your way onto another BTS rail car to continue your journey.
The Siam area is described as ‘the epicentre of all things hip, fashionable and trendy…’ Whether it’s shopping (of which you could easily slaughter an entire day or two and still not do it all), entertainment, or dining, then Siam offers it all in a series of closely-packed giant malls, top-end cinemas and nightclubs.
The largest of the nearby shopping malls is Siam Paragon. Apart from the shopping, a variety of fine and fast food dining options, and a 16-screen Cineplex, it houses what is often claimed to be the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia.
Located two storeys underneath the mall, Siam Ocean World is the size of three Olympic swimming pools and has more than 30,000 sea creatures brought from around the world.
Although there are 250 shops, Siam Paragon is not aimed at the budget conscious, its focus is on cashed-up Thais and expats as well as foreign tourists searching for that special item.
Opened in 1986, the nearby MahBoonKrong (MBK) shopping mall spreads over eight floors, 89,000 metres, and about 2,000 shops selling everything you could ever want and plenty you’d never consider. Prices are reasonable and plenty of bargaining takes place at almost every shop stall and counter. As with any shopping centre worthy of the name, there are also plenty of food outlets catering to all tastes and budgets.
Also nearby is the Siam Discovery Centre. Yes, another shopping mall, it also has a franchise of the famous Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Visitors are permitted to ‘interact’ with the wax exhibits, being able to get up close and sort of ‘personal’ with most of them. According to some reports, former Chinese strongman Mao Zedong gets more attention from visitors than Queen Elizabeth II or Princess Diana. For anyone interested in the Chakri dynasty, the Royal Room features waxwork figures of the father and mother of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. This is the only room where visitors cannot touch the exhibits.
Set away from the Siam BTS, but within easy walking distance is the long-established Hard Rock Hotel franchise (Siam Square Soi 11). Opened in 1991, the Hard Rock quickly became popular with expats and tourists, and while it might arguably be a little dated, it’s still a ‘foreign’ oasis in a sea of modernistic development.