Pattaya's shopping malls
My favourite of the 2nd road Malls is Central Festival. If you have time and enjoy the breadth of choice and well thought out comfortable environment this is the place. However Royal Garden Plaza can be useful if you need to quickly buy something and can’t cope with the noise and crowds of Central – say on a busy Saturday. Finally don’t discount Mike’s Shopping Mall. It has some work to do but improvements are on-going and you could just pick up a few bargains
By Belinda Wilson
When friends and relatives come to visit I love to see how surprised they are at the quality of shopping malls we have here in Pattaya. Certainly the introduction just a couple of years ago of Central Festival (in itself a Bangkok quality shopping mall) has made the other two malls along 2nd road get their act together and “raise their game”.
Six floors in Central Festival
The shopping mall Central Festival comprises a department store along with five floors of well planned, well thought out shopping mall. From the moment you arrive it is clear that this is a centre where each floor has been themed and sectioned by type of outlet with the shopper in mind. The car park can be accessed via either beach or 2nd road. There is enough space to quickly turn your vehicle up as many floors as it takes to get parked and there even is a ladies parking floor, colour coded, of course, in pink.
One slightly confusing point of difference is what is considered the Ground floor. Some of us are used to the term “Basement or Lower Ground” being used when a shopping floor is below street level and this being named as Ground Floor in Central Festival can lead to problems when arranging to meet up with friends.
The escalators at both ends of Central Festival together with lifts at the side of the building make navigating through the various floors really no problem at all. In fact as you come out of the car park into the lift lobby you will find some really quite useful little stalls such as shoe repairers and watch strap and battery replacers.
Banks and bras
I will not list all the shops available at this mall. You will enjoy the experience of wandering around (if it is your first time) and finding just how many of the brand names you notice. However, the newly opened Marks and Spencer on the ground floor is worth a mention as there was quite a pre opening buzz about it with many British expats getting excited about the nostalgia of finding their favourite sweets such as “Percy Pigs” and “Chocolate Covered Raisins” in the little food section there. If you are looking for a full on M&S Store you will be disappointed. What we have here is a tentative first step into the Pattaya market to see how the inflated (compared to England) prices work and which sections of Mark’s merchandise we feel worth paying the extra for. My personal view here is that the underwear – especially bra section will do well.
Its hard to find good stationery and greetings cards in Pattaya so B2S being in Central Festival is a particularly useful feature. Make sure, however that you don’t rush to buy your magazines from the display at the front. The headings on the magazine covers may be in English but the text inside is Thai. Be sure to check – we’ve all had that experience the first time at a hairdresser’s in Thailand. Instead, go farther into the store, past the book's section and you will find a stand marked “Foreign Magazines”.
For those of you who are “Crafty” there are also sewing, knitting and embroidery sets and everything from sewing machines to thread, wool and knitting needles in B2S.
Its also a good idea to open a bank account in Central Festival if you need to make transactions from the branch rather than use internet banking or ATMs. These banks have the longest opening hours of any in Pattaya.
Flat screens and flowers
If like me, you sometimes just can’t handle Tut Com and want to feel confident in your purchase – say if it is a present that you need a warranty for, you can find a great Power Buy, Canon and Apple Store here and men who don’t usually enjoy the shopping experience can spend ages in front of the newest TV models. Also the fifth floor Department store electrical goods is well worth going the extra level for. It stocks items that aren’t always easy to find such as coffee bean grinders and coffee machines. Also although I usually prefer real to artificial flowers, its not always easy to find them in Pattaya and real blooms can die rather quickly here in the heat, so the wonderful array of really beautiful artificial flowers on offer are really well worth considering.
Food and pleasure
If you want to eat upstairs rather than go downstairs where there is a very large selection of basement dining often crowded and noisy – opt for one of the eateries at the beach road end where you have the most fantastic sea view. The best way to see these is by using the glass lift – a great way to see the surrounding palm trees and beach front.
Or if you just want tea and cake, Secret Recipe with a really extensive selection of cheesecakes and brownies including the outrageous White Chocolate Cheesecake could be just the place for you.
Then if the kids want a go on to the Interactive video games there’s plenty to choose from and even as SFX Cinema and SF Strike Bowl which means that you really could spend the entire day in Central Festival.
Royal Garden Plaza for shoes
Royal Garden Plaza doesn’t have the same availability of parking as Central and also the parking has to be accessed by the underground entrance to the front on 2nd road – not great during the rainy season. However you also have the option of exiting on 2nd road or Beach road here and that is very useful with the one way system. My tip for parking at Royal Garden is that when you leave the car park to enter the mall make sure and take note of the shop you exited by for ease of remembering the way back into the garage.
A real effort has been made over the last two years or so with the introduction of high brand outlets like: GAP, I Studio – Apple outlet, Guess and Pandora.
Also the Coffee Club in Royal Garden Plaza is a popular meeting place at any time of the day.
The layout is not quite as well thought out as Central; throughout the mall there is a mix of different shop types but I do actually enjoy shoe shopping here as there are a few good stores such as Charles and Keith, Aldo Lyn, VNC and Hush Puppies all within easy reach of each other on the ground floor, and like in Central Festival it has an area (where the fountains are) to watch the occasional Thai interest events such as a fashion show or talent competition.
Pay electric bill on 1st floor
The franchise store, Pena House, on the ground floor deserves a mention. I have been to other branches of Pena and found them to be a complete jumble sale where it is almost impossible to find anything worth buying. At this branch, however, the merchandise is clearly laid out to show new stock, garments by type and discounted rails. Also because they operate a system of continuous markdown there is always a selection with 50-70% markdown so this could be your New Year’s Eve party outfit.
On the 1st floor – if you’ve not paid your electricity bill within the required 7 days at 7/11, there is an office where you can do so and this is a far better option than the previous method of travelling to the office in Naklua.
You can also find a Jim Thompson shop here with some lovely gifts such as make-up and toiletry bags, silk boxer shorts and a selection of different size bags in the distinctive Thompson prints. The girls here are very helpful and will gift box and bag your purchase.
Of course Royal Garden Plaza has a whole heap of entertainment to choose from. On its 2nd floor is Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Louis Tussauds’s Wasworks (Madame’s less talented nephew!) and the new attraction Sky Rider that offers a 360 degree panoramic view of Pattaya. Talking about great views the Starbucks here must surely have one of the best views of any Starbucks anywhere.
Mike's Shopping Mall
Towards the Walking Street-end of second road we have Mike's Shopping Mall. There used to be plenty of parking just outside but now because of the amount of spaces taken up by clothing stalls you will be hard pressed to find a space and have to go down to the rather cramped and dark basement car park.
Inside, due to some ongoing refurbishment, it is brighter and lighter but far too full of merchandise. There is so much stock crammed on the shelves that it cheapens even the better quality items and as you walk further along towards the beach road entrance you will find that the market bazaar and questionable brand items take over. Beware too if you’re uncomfortable with sales assistants calling out to you – there is plenty of “Hard Sell” here.
Best merchandise is on top floors
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf comes as a welcome oasis of calm before you hit the beach road exit which has been significantly improved. If you take the trouble to venture further up in the store to the higher floors you will see renovations are still ongoing. Watch your footing on some areas of uneven flooring and yet to be finished lighting. However, here there are better merchandised areas such as the menswear, childrens wear and particularly cute baby wear departments.
Right up to the 5th floor there is a promise of “coming soon extra eateries”. However the best and little known fact about Mike’s Mall is that if you step out onto the 10th floor there is actually a rather lovely rooftop pool open from 11am until 8pm.