Asiatique: A riverside tourist trap even the locals can love
Asiatique the Riverfront, a massive new shopping and lifestyle complex beside Bangkok's Chao Phraya river, is set to become one of the city's top entertainment destinations for tourists.
With a design inspired by Bangkok's days as a riverside trading post during King Rama V's reign, from 1868-1910, Asiatique resembles a tradional pier with rows of warehouses. Suitably, it's actually on land once owned by the Danish East Asiatic Company and some of the original architecture, over 100 years old, has been retained.
For now it's packed with locals, many of whom can't help but compare it to the dearly departed Suan Lum Night Bazaar. And with good reason. Open from 5 p.m. to midnight, Asiatique has some of the same shops that were at the Night Bazaar, and the traditional Joe Louis Puppet Theater and Calypso -- the famed ladyboy cabaret -- will be moving in next month.
But that's where the similarities end. Asiatique is far more contrived than the gritty night bazaar, which closed in early 2011 after its lease expired.
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The upside is that Asiatique infuses a huge shot of action into the stale Chao Phraya River, which in recent years has become little more than a destination for dinner cruises, five-star hotel guests or an occasional seafood dinner.
Asiatique has four zones, filled with shops, bars, restaurants and even a couple spas. (Keep in mind a few of the dining venues aren't set to open till June.)
One of the zones, Chaoroenkrung District, has 1,000 shops and an entertainment theater. In the Factory and Waterfront districts, set back closer to the river, are a mixture of upscale bistro-style restaurants, an Irish pub and a wine bar, serving Thai, Japanese, French and Italian.
The Town Square has a beer garden and outdoor activity square covering an area of over 2,000 square meters.
If you can, avoid taking a taxi to get there. Traffic is jammed on Charoenkrung Road nightly, with locals all keen to check out the new attraction. The best way to get there is to hop on the free shuttle boat that runs regularly from the BTS Thaksin pier.
Bangkok's Anantara Riverside hotel, right across from Asiatique, has already started offering a free ferry to the attraction for guests. Rumor has it more riverside hotels will follow suit in the coming months.
2194 Charoenkrung 72-74 Road, Bangkok
Open daily, 5 p.m. to midnight
+66 (0)2 108 4489