The Promenada Mall and the Changing Face of Thailand’s Second City

This weekend saw the opening of Chiang Mai’s new Promenada Mall just off the Super Highway due east of the Old City. It tells a story that after failing to consult a map prior to setting out to visit this extravagant new project I at first navigated to the wrong mall. There are three huge shopping complexes under construction in Thailand’s second city right now alongside a mass of newly sprouting condominiums and hotels. It was quite an easy mistake to make!

In recent times Chiang Mai has been undergoing some quite drastic surgery to sculpt it into a modern day metropolis. Having myself only first arrived in the city under a year ago, how it is today is all I know. I am reliably informed however that parts of the city are unrecognisable to how they were 5 or 10 years ago. Chiang Mai is most definitely evolving at rapid pace. I’m sure I stand united with many others when I hope that such development does not have detrimental impact to a part of Thailand that so many of us arrive at and immediately fall in love with.

The Promenada Mall is actually a development of Dutch company ECC International Real Estate of whom can already be credited for a number of shopping mall success stories. In believing Bangkok had already grown to its fullest potential they see great prospects for Chiang Mai. Admittedly, the design render looked fantastic.

An artists impression of eco-friendly looking shopping complex Promenada Mall.
An artists impression of eco-friendly looking shopping complex Promenada Mall.

It was thanks to having this striking visual in mind that my immediate impression on arriving at Promenada Mall was complete disappointment.

The building is there in heart (and shell), but I am not over exaggerating when I say that Promenada Mall for the most part at this moment in time looks like a building site not dissimilar to the other under construction complex I had accidentally arrived at 30 minutes earlier. If it weren’t for car park attendants waving a steady stream of traffic into a very dusty car park and the various press releases, I would not have actually believed it was open.

Not as open for business as most were expecting!
Not as open for business as most were expecting!

After parking my bike as directed in ‘Building B’ it all then got a little confusing. There were no signs advising of where to go and the many new arrivals looked as bewildered as myself as we loitered around the car park staring at workmen digging into earth and laying down power cables. It then became apparent that local sangteaw drivers had been employed to pick customers up and shuttle them over to ‘Building A’ where the opening proceedings were taking place.

I did wonder what had inspired Promenada Mall to launch whilst seemingly 50% complete? Was it the commercial pressures of stores such as UNIQLO who had been promised a definite opening date and have billboards plastered around the city? Was it to try and establish themselves and their location prior to the launch of the two other competitor malls? I don’t know enough to establish whether this was the original plan, I just have never beared witness to an opening before of a building that for the most part isn’t open!

Having finally escaped the outdoor heat, once inside the air-conditioned foyer any grievances were quickly done away with.

Bright, open spaces one inside the Promenada Mall.
Bright, open spaces one inside the Promenada Mall.

Promenada it is no doubt impressive and is sure to be a popular place for the people to shop to their hearts content. Of course a resort style mall such as this one is not going to be very accessible to many locals whilst the average Thai wage still hovers around the 8,000฿/month mark. Promenada however will be sure to be in good company with the other emerging malls who are likely to cater for similar demographics alongside the pre-existing Central Airport Plaza. It could be argued that Kad Suean Keaw on Hauy Keaw Road might be the only city mall that is affordable for the average Thai worker. Admittedly though it is beginning to look a little dated.

Back at the new Resort Mall influence from the Netherlands is rife through many artfully decorated Dutch cattle statues. Some of these cows are in fact blank canvases for shopping centre to patrons to tag themselves. Whether these are long standing features or an opening art exhibit I’m unsure, but they naturally presented an opportunity that I was keen to take advantage of.

Getting horny with a cow.
Getting horny with a cow.
Did someone say free advertising?
Did someone say free advertising?

As this is Thailand an opening extravaganza would not be complete without a ladyboy dance troupe.

We were not left disappointed!
We were not left disappointed!

We were also treated to a few songs from this reputedly famous, extremely stereotypical looking and sounding Dutch singer.

Dutch Sinatra: It’s up to you Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai.. (He seriously sang that!)
Dutch Sinatra: It’s up to you Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai.. (He seriously sang that!)

Any ideas? Dutch readers let me know!

There was also an abundance of catwalk style fashion modelling.

Thai and western models… Something for everyone I guess!
Thai and western models… Something for everyone I guess!

Some of it was weirder than others.

Funky. But I’ve no explanation.
Funky. But I’ve no explanation.

All in all I had quite an enjoyable time despite the early dramas. I’m sure Promenada Mall is going to look quite the part once complete and will undoubtedly play a huge part in Chiang Mai strategy to try and convince shoppers that Bangkok is now not the only choice in Thailand for those who want to splurge and satisfy their consumerist urges. Its limited number of shops (and expensive ones at that) at present however means that I’m unlikely to become a regular at Promenada Mall anytime soon though I am keen to check out its new state of the art cinema.

From a foreign resident and tourists point of view I believe that for shopping fun, banter and bargains in Thailand we need look no further than its many quirky, vibrant market places. It is my hope that as the face of Chiang Mai continues to change it will not be at the expense of the small, independent, family run businesses that have helped to make it such a popular worldwide destination to this day.

Have you been to Promenada Mall? What’s your take on the all the recent development in Chiang Mai?

Comments

jmayel & sacha
Reply

This looks pretty cool. Did you notice if it had a cinema or a gym inside? also where is it exactly? Loving the free advertising!

Chris
Reply

If you head on past Big C and Makro on the Super Highway then it’s the next big turn off on the left.

Yeah the cinema is one of its main draws at the moment whilst there’s nothing much else there at the moment. I’m sure it’ll all be very nice on completion. Bit far out of the way for me though.

jmayel & sacha
Reply

i’m trying to work out if its closer to me than the C.A.P. I think I might roll down there in the old escort to watch a movie. Thanks

Oli Slow
Reply

This is a fairly common trick in Asia, to open things when they’re not ready. In Indonesia, a hotel “opened” on 11/11/11 (big ceremony, music, yadda-yadda), then promptly closed again and is still not a functioning hotel almost 2 years later.

Chris
Reply

That’s madness Oli!

I’m sure Promenada won’t fall by the wayside like that but it was just a little disappointing that it was only half a job.

A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
Reply

Interesting post, I can’t remember the last time I went to a proper mall.

Chris
Reply

Come to Chiang Mai next year. You’ll be spoilt for choice!

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