Most of the current strength of A Square lies in that it’s not another multi-level mall; it looks and feels different from the rest.
Text & Photos By Paul Cypert.
Talk to someone who has lived in Bangkok for a longer time and you’ll hear stories about Sukhumvit 26 (Suk 26) being a canal of sorts in decades past. That’s part of the reason the congested little soi still floods in heavy rains today. Those who remember the canal days can tell you a long story about Suk 26, Sukhumvit’s constant re-inventor.
The little soi off the side of Emporium still has some of the old standards. The tiny veterinary shop is still churning out Himalayan kittens from the same exhausted mother. The little noodle shop halfway up the soi before you get to the Four Wings Hotel turn is still serving to a packed lunch crowd. And a quirky little used bookstore just around the end of the road is still selling off people’s books that were too heavy to pack home. Some of the soi remains unchanged.
On the other end of Suk 26 things are changing seemingly by the day. Newest to join the facelift is A Square. They tout themselves as a “new lifestyle space for urban dwellers. Whether you’re a gourmand, wine connoisseur, creative musician, sports enthusiast, IT fan, beauty queen, spa junkie or car lover…”
What’s “New Lifestyle Space” to one person is “strip mall” to this Texas-raised boy. But back home I say strip mall as a negative thing because it’s a set of ticky-tacky shops and restaurants, devoid of character. As A Square is actually deviating from the current trend of mini-Japanese malls every developer apparently felt Bangkok needed, it is actually kind of fresh and anti-strip mall.
Walking back into A Square you feel removed and detached from the city; that is if you don’t look up to see the modern condominiums slowly engulfing the area. With eyes down at shop level you’d almost feel like you were in some modern suburban area just outside a major metropolis. One where you still get a local restaurant and not another Olive Garden. And that’s where most of the current strength of A Square lies. It’s not another multi-level mall. It at least looks and feels different from the rest.
It’s still in early days though so it’s hard to see the full potential of what will come. Undoubtedly some of the shops will change ownership, intent, and/or focus but what it is now could be seen as early steps in Bangkok’s growing up. Or it could be just another retail area that doesn’t pan-out, Bangkok has its share of those too. We’d recommend checking in on the area and K-Village over the coming months though as there seems to be real momentum building at the back of the old soi that was once a canal.
A large number of people will have only heard of A Square as “that place in Suk 26 where they have the artificial wave.” Flow House Bangkok is Sukhumvit’s first artificial surf zone. Think surfing on a treadmill, but in a style that requires a lot more to stay on the board than traditional surfing. They sell packages though so you can come back and master the art of surfing in place.
An An Lao, despite using the name Lao and having a giant chicken on the front of the building, is in fact not a Laotian fried chicken place as one might assume but rather a Baytong food (Chinese/Thai Seafood) restaurant. The menu and pricing is very similar to the very popular Rama 4 seafood restaurant – Sornthong.
Gusto Music & Restaurant serves up Thai fusion food with Jazz bands and karaoke rooms much like the hip restaurants of 2006, but with a few modern twists in décor and they’ve updated the beer to Hoegaarden.
We love and are slightly afraid of the history of Wine I Love You – “Wine I Love You Bar and Bistro was never meant to serve bistro food, but rather to offer a fine dining experience. But as the chef considered himself and his style, food should be easy going, easy to appreciate.” A cynic would say it kind of sounds like the chef realized he couldn’t succeed in fine dining and threw in the towel. An optimist would say he wanted a life he enjoyed free from the bonds of satisfying a snobbish crowd as fickle as fashionistas. The decorations are some of the best in the enclave and most menu items will please any eater, casual or annoying foodie.
Boardwalk Restaurant & Flow Bar and GastronomBisto& Bakery are more or less packaged in with other locales and are best for a quick bite while enjoying the surrounding services of Flow and the Japanese onsen.
Health and Spa
While the kids are surfing there’s plenty of pampering available for the parent. None is more visible and impressive in content as the YunomoriOnsen Spa. Unfortunately we have yet to visit, but look for a review to come soon. Wariya Spa & Salon will serve all your hair and nail needs. There’s also the Beautiplex Anti-Aging & Laser Center.
Cyber Square’s stated goal of “One-stop shopping for the latest phones, IT products, and accessories by more than 200 vendors” unfortunately is yet to deliver but the shops are filling as we type. Right now the inside looks like a sad alleyway in the deep recesses of Panthip Plaza. Rockademy is Bangkok’s answer to the School of Rock’s ending scene school, except without Jack Black…though we have yet to officially confirm that Jack Black is NOT a teacher.
While we certainly don’t think these would be of interest for the casual tourist, you can stroll by and observe the latest model featured in a top racing game or on an episode of Top Gear at Zupercar, or get said car washed or detailed at Auto Smart or Grib.