Beautiful crowds yelling "Wooooo!" Local and foreign celebrity appearances. Social media overload with pictures being uploaded every five seconds. Glitz and glam adding to the fanfare. And of course, massive traffic congestion in the surrounding areas.
No, this isn't the scene on the red carpet at a Hollywood awards show. This, my dear readers, was the commotion caused by the reopening of Siam Center last week.
"Siam Center?", you may be asking, while scratching your head in confusion and biting your bottom lip as you're prone to do (yes, I like to go around to various coffee shops and watch your expressions as you read Guru).
"Surely this can't be the Siam Center mall, right? Why would the reopening of a shopping centre have an extravaganza of this magnitude? It must be some kind of important heritage site or cultural museum, right?" you continue to wonder, while furrowing your brows with puzzlement and tilting your head to the side.
Actually your first instinct was right. This is the same Siam Center shopping mall that's been around since 1973, and recently spent about B1.8 billion in its most expensive renovation yet. But the B200 million that was put into the two-day opening - an exclusive preview last Wednesday and the official launch to the public last Friday - has taken the standard of mall inaugurations to a new unparalleled high.
Forget the days of cutting a measly little ribbon; last Wednesday saw appearances by Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody and Korean celeb Kim Bum, along with performances by American R&B singer Keri Hilson and the Black Eyed Peas rapper Taboo.
Last Friday's grand opening featured Gossip Girl stars Ed "I'm Chuck Bass" Westwick, and Queen B herself, Leighton Meester, with a concert by British singer Taio Cruz. Local stars in tow included Ananda Everingham, Burin Boonvisut, Araya "Chompoo" Hargate, and loads more.
On one hand, props to Siam Center. This majestic opening may be causing all the other luxurious malls in the area to shake in their Christian Louboutin boots. Never before has Bangkok been graced with a launch this star-studded and fabulous, and it's cool to think that our fair city can attract such a high caliber of guests, even if it's just for a mall opening. As a result, Siam Center has certainly raised the bar for new department store openings, in my opinion.
However, when all the flashing lights have been dimmed, and all that's left is the faint scent of visiting celebs past, one must ask: This entire hullabaloo just for a mall opening?
Sure, Siam Center is a business, and obviously it has to stay relevant in Bangkok's flourishing and highly competitive retail industry. If that means B200 million for a much-hyped gala opening, then by all means, bust out the beluga fish-eggs and I'll be there with my caviar fork.
But by playing right into the consumerist Bangkokian mentality, and giving us an opening that's more glam than many of us have experienced here, it seems our level of materialism is poised to go through the chandelier-studded roof.
Malls in Bangkok are already judged by their ability to be everything but a typical mall. They have to include areas of entertainment, fancy gimmicks, educational sectors, advanced technology displays, and of course, prime spots for a gaggle of teens to have their photo-ops. Malls are where children are raised, where dates are had, where friends converge, and now, as demonstrated by the Siam Center reopening, where the trendy and fabulous come to play.
All this may help elevate Bangkok to a "Hub of Fancy Malls", as other shopping centres will most likely follow suit and up the glam factor in their future events. On the positive side, we may see more big-name celebrities here in the future endorsing our venues, which is great for our easily star-struck population.
But this is just one more nail in the dusty coffin for museums, libraries, and other places of educational importance, as Bangkok slowly transforms into one big shopping mall and the gilded facade continues to shine its blinding glare over the city.G
About the author
- Writer: Sumati Sivasiamphai
Position: Guru Editor