Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mall Adjusted – Erich

In the U.S., I was never a big fan of going to the mall. It was crowded, which I didn't like. It was shopping, which I didn't like. It was laid out in some crazy fashion in which I could never figure out which way I had to go to get to the shop that I wanted, which I didn't like. I was not a mall man.

But when traveling, the mall can be quite a fascinating place. And here, the mall near where we live in Chiang Mai, it is. All the ways it is the same as our malls at home are interesting, but far more interesting are the many ways it is different.

The mall is tall. And the water will fall. Okay, no more rhyming.
Is that magenta? Poor kids, they don't even get to see it because they have to pose for a picture.
Outside the mall is an intricate fountain with spouts that squirt at different angles and to varying heights. Plus, at night, there are color changing lights that give the water fun hues.

The mall, on the inside, is many floors tall. There are shops from the basement through the sixth floor. And the arrangement of the mall is interesting. They group the types of shops by floor.

For example, the second floor is the fashion floor. It is all clothing shops. Whereas the third floor is electronics and banking. There are banks and cell phone stores (and plenty of cell phone cases sold in kiosks.) It makes it much easier for me to find at least the type of store I want, if I actually wanted anything. Well often I do, but usually that is food.

No problem because the fourth floor is all restaurants. (And the basement, we'll get to that shortly.)

A lot of the signage is all in English, including the names of most of the stores. There are some in Thai, or some with both, but if you entered without knowing which country you were in, you could walk around some floors and be certain you were in an English speaking nation.

In the basement there is a grocery store and many beauty supply and cosmetics shops. (And also other food, but we'll get to that shortly.) The grocery store is very accommodating to expats. Almost all of the products are labeled in English and Thai, some in English only, and very few in Thai only. They have some American products. There is peanut butter (in case you were worried about me.) Strangely though, there is only one brand of sliced bread, but bread isn't the same big deal here as it is in many Western countries.

But don't be fooled. There are still many products in the store that we would never see in the United States. Here's one.
You're reading that correctly.
Yes, that's uterus. It doesn't specify which animal it came from. Just uterus.

Like any mall, there are perfectly nice bathrooms, not much difference there. Except their signs for the men's room and the women's room, well, their icons are a bit more stylish than ours.
It's like the men are wearing wraps.
And I got a little too much flash on the picture of the women sign.
On the fifth floor (and part of the sixth floor) there is a movie theater. Why two floors? Well the box office and concessions are on the fifth floor. But once you have your ticket you go up an escalator to enter the theater from the top/back on the sixth floor. When the movie ends, you don't go back out the way you came in. Instead you leave through doors at the bottom/front of the theater meaning you are back on the fifth floor. And there is an employee who stands at the door and bows to each person as they leave.

As I mentioned, we are back on the fifth floor and let me tell you more about it. You know how sometimes at the movie theater there may be a screen near the box office that shows you previews of upcoming movies? Well, yeah, they have that. But that's just the beginning.

In addition to a big screen that shows all kinds of previews, there are stands, like tall kiosks, that have screens and below those a poster for one of the upcoming movies. But each stand is for a specific movie production company. There were four separate stands showing previews, spaced apart from each other so none of them would interfere with the other.
This screen only shows previews of Disney movies.

This one only shows previews of Paramount movies.

But Sony wouldn't want to be left out.
And hey, don't forget Universal.
And if that's not enough, in addition to the one big screen, the Disney kiosk, the Panasonic kiosk, the Sony kiosk, and the Universal kiosk, there is a touch screen preview station where you can select the movie preview you want to see. You just touch the thumbnail and drag it up to the center. Then a play button will appear and you hit that. This is major preview technology! (One downside, I tried to use the touchscreen preview station and it worked just fine. But everything it said was entirely in Thai, so while I got some good visual effects of upcoming movies, I'm not really sure what they were about. Except exploding things.)
Everything's written in English, but everything's spoken in Thai. I did not expect that.
I mentioned the fourth floor having restaurants. The entire fourth floor is about food. These restaurants include many that serve Thai cuisine, some that serve Japanese cuisine, and even one that serves American cuisine. (They even have A&W Root Beer. Root beer is not something we have seen a lot of in our travels.) Heck, there is even a KFC there.

But in addition to these restaurants, there is a section called the Food Lanni. Here you find these stations that serve various Thai foods for super low prices. You eat at a bench and sit on a stool and then return your plate and silverware to a collection station. Much of the writing here is in Thai, but some of the vendors speak English. And if they don't, you can always point.

It was in the Food Lanni that I bought a coconut. We just learned about coconuts. When they are young, the meat inside is very thin and not very good, but they have lots of coconut milk and coconut cream. I bought one and they cut the top open and insert a straw. And you drink the milk which is sweet, plenty of sugar and fat.
I didn't put a lime in it, so no need to call the doctor.
As the coconut gets older, however, the fat and sugar in the milk are used to grow the coconut meat. So when you have a ripe coconut, the milk is mostly watery and not very flavorful, but the flesh is thick and delicious.

In addition to the Food Lanni on the fourth floor, there is a similar area in the basement. This area they call Take Home. This is ironic for two reasons. First, you can, and we often do, eat there. There are high tables in the middle of this section with tall stools. You eat there and then just leave your plates and someone comes by and collects them. The other reason it is ironic is that if you want to take it home, which you can also do, you don't say “Take home” because no one seems to understand what you mean when you say that. You say “take away” which they all understand, even if they don't know much English aside from that.

This is very authentic Thai food. Some of it is quite spicy. And it is all very inexpensive. I could get a plate of spicy chicken on rice for 40 Baht, which is about $1.20. In fact, you can more economically eat here or at various street vendors than you could buy groceries and cook at home.

Also in the basement are some shops that sell dessert. There is an ice cream stand. There is a Mister Donut (and in addition to sweet doughnuts, they sell savory ones, kind of like doughnut pizza.) One of the other stores is a bakery, and check out what they have. A favorite dessert in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I last lived: the whoopie pie. But somehow it got lost in translation.
Chewbacca approved
One very unusual aspect of the mall is the night market. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, from about 1600 (4 PM) to maybe 2200 (10 PM) there is a market outdoors, right in front of the mall. Little tents are set up. On the east side of the mall, you can buy leather goods, jewelry, soap carving which is very pretty but smells overwhelmingly of soap, shirts, pants, blouses, socks, and shoes. On the south side of the mall, there are two rows of street vendors selling food and drinks.

This is strange because all of this must directly compete with the businesses inside the mall. In the States, it is hard to believe that this could be a regular thing three times a week without the stores inside freaking out about it. But here, night markets are huge. And things are very inexpensive too.

After about a year on the road, one of my three shirts (yes, I only have three shirts) started wearing out. I got a new one for about $7.50. I needed a new belt too. That cost me around $4.50.

And the food on the south side is incredible. I have discovered a new passion for pineapple smoothies. One of the ingredients in a Thai smoothie is coconut milk. (We're back to those coconuts.) And it's good. Though, the strawberry smoothie preferred by my children is also pretty darn delicious.

Let me leave you with one more feature of the fifth floor. There is a beautiful balcony that you can walk out to and get a gorgeous view of the mountain Doi Suthep and the city between the mall and the mountain. Well, the view is less gorgeous when it's raining, but you could still walk out there if you wanted to.
Chiang Mai and Doi Suthep
Yeah, that's the mall. I just might be able to get past my disdain.

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