18 May Bangkok Shopping: Asiatique The Riverfront
‘Asiatique The Riverfront’ is a stunning open-air night time shopping and dining experience next to the river in Bangkok. The riverside complex opened in 2012 and features over 1,700 shops, 40 restaurants, a cabaret show, a puppet theatre, a glamorous Muay Thai show and a giant ferris wheel. It also has a 300 metre long boardwalk and a tram. The huge warehouse complex is very trendy right now and the cool Bangkok crowd come here a lot at the weekends. Here’s some key highlights Asiatique.
The main portion of Asiatique The Riverfront is a shopping area located in the old warehouses of the East Asiatic Company. Asiatique is themed on Bangkok’s past as a trading post during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Originally this was the pier where teak wood was traded and many of the original buildings have been retained. The name “Asiatique” honours the Danish “Asiatic” freight company, which helped construct the port at the end of the 19th Century.
Tourists who visited Bangkok previously, only saw the river when sightseeing boat tours, but the river is the essence of old Bangkok, more so than the malls and the terrible traffic, so people are increasingly drawn back here, and this explains the popularity of this exciting night time experience. While Asiatique The Riverfront is popular with tourists, it also caters to the style-conscious locals. Most shops are locally owned small businesses, but a few big names are found here as well including an Apple Store.
The renowned Calypso Cabaret has made its home here. Twice nightly, a glittering extravaganza is performed featuring Thailand’s talented transgender performers, singing out their hearts in stunning costumes. You will enjoy show tunes, Chinese love songs, Korean pop and Japanese Geisha dancing. There is something for everyone. Kids will giggle at the ladies dressed up as ostriches and the slapstick comedy, and grown ups will marvel at the talent of these Thai performers.
Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives
Also at Asiatique The Riverfront is “Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives”, which theatrically and energetically tells the story of Thailand’s famous fighting art of Muay Thai. Imagine a montage of fight scenes from your favourite Hollywood movie all performed metres away from where you’re sitting. The engaging plot and athleticism of the actors is inspiring. The show was created by the internationally acclaimed Ekachai Uekrongtham who directed the movie, ‘Beautiful Boxer.’ Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives show starts at 20:00 Tues – Sun (closed Monday) and runs for just over an hour.
The Joe Louis Puppet Theatre
The Joe Louis Puppet Theatre is also located at Asiatique The Riverfront and is a traditional puppet performance but with modern choreography. It will take your mind on a wonderful, mystic and sometimes funny journey of ancient Thai characters. Joe Louis was born in 1922 to parents who were both khon (masked drama) performers and puppeteers. Joe Loius himself performed from a young age in a Thai Folk Opera Troupe as comedian and a puppeteer. He started his own puppet troupe after Second World War, then in 1985 he formed the now famous ‘Joe Louis Puppet Theatre’ with his children, performing adaptations of epic Thai literature, such as the Ramakien. The Joe Louis Puppet Show is now run by his nine children at Asiatique.
Four districts of Asiatique
The Factory District
The Factory District is where the fashion shopping happens with over 500 small shop located in the old riverside warehouses. You find lots of cool fashion targeted at trendy Thais, designer items, handicrafts, home furnishings and there is also an Apple Store.
The Waterfront District
The Waterfront District is what you see when you first arrive by boat. You find upscale restaurants lined up along a boardwalk, including Thai, Italian, Korean and Seafood. This area is full of photo opportunities including the giant Ferris Wheel and live concerts are also held here.
The Town Square District
The Town Square District is a mixture of Thai & Western influences. There is a large sports bar, international food, and a live events area. Some independent cafes are dotted around and this area also houses KFC, Pizza Company and MK.
The Chareonkrung District
The Chareonkrung District is where you find more than 1,000 shops selling handicrafts, home decor, souvenirs and all sorts of other items from local vendors. The famous Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and the Calypso Show can also be found here.
How to get there
Take the BTS (skytrain) to Saphan Taksin station, then walk to the river. There you can take a free ferry boat to Asiatique The Riverfront which takes about 15 minutes. Enjoy the lovely view of the Chao Phraya river on the way. The free boat starts at 4:30pm and the last boat leaves Asiatique back to Saphan Thaksin at 11:30 p.m. The free boat is the easiest way to reach Asiatique The Riverfront on quieter nights, however the queue for the free shuttle is often long, in which case a taxi can get you there from Saphan Taksin BTS for around 70 baht.
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Images courtesy of Flickr – featured image by Prachanart Viriyaraks, Ferris Wheel at night and Shopping Street by Michael Saechang. Calypso Cabaret photo courtesy of Calypso Cabaret