If you thought that airports were shopping malls with planes attached, then Terminal 21 reverses the trend, becoming a destination in its own right. With over 600 stores, Terminal 21’s concept is to deliver floor by floor snapshots of world cities via familiar pop culture references that have imbued us over time. Expect to see red phone booths on the London floor, a Parisian Metro sign and a pretty neat Golden Gate Bridge traversing the upper echelons.
What sets T21 apart is its attention to detail. Inside the mammoth terminal cum mall, there are glitzy departure boards with current and upcoming events and information girls replete in stewardess uniforms. It’s a pity that as yet the Air Asia kiosks and the Aero-shop from a few malls east with its airline memorabilia haven’t made their way here. That would have provided the cherry on the top of a pretty impressive pudding. And speaking of cuisine, the food court contains a reasonable degree of global tastes for culturally inclined carnivores. Everything from Crepe Box, De Juice to Japanese chain Fuji, Red Mango and Swensen’s desserts.
From Japanese toilets with remote control armrests to state of the art cinema, Terminal 21’s strength lie not only in its ingenious nod to air travel but also integrating a typically Asian quirkiness in stalls such as Dress Garden and Happy Corset on the Tokyo floor alongside brand names like Nike and Levi’s embellishing the Roman show. Fashionista’s can revel in London’s mock Carnaby Street vibe of fresh t-shirts, jeans and sportswear while Istanbul captures its maze like Grand Bazaar in miniature. T21’s summit is an homage to ‘Hollywood’ – a state of the art 8 screen cinema, a spa and yet more shops, mostly pertaining to mobile phones and gadgets.
So what’s missing? Well one can’t help wonder why, in a shopping mall whose punchline is ‘the whole world is here’ and smothered in garments, Milan didn’t make it. Surely it would have made more sense for its obvious fashion credentials. And of the American cities, New York is a criminal omission. Then there’s Sydney (Australasia has no representation city here but that may be because a lot of Bangkok’s visitors are indeed Antipodean). Latin America and Africa are also overlooked. But wait, perhaps my global hit list misses the point. A slogan is merely that and as a shopping mall T21 does an impeccable job of presenting world city snapshots in all their pop culture glory. The splashes of pastel Caribbean colour light up what is normally the reserve of the concrete grey car-park and even the mock version of Paris conjures up enough romance for the most jaded of shoppers. Even more refreshing is the fact they even encourage photography.
2,88 Sukhumvit Rd Soi 19, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Getting there: Asok BTS (Sky-train) / Sukhumvit MRT (Subway)