Many people were surprised by the success of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have been. The market filled a niche – a place people could go at night, eat and shop, without being offered sex shows or dirty vids. But even though it was open for several years more than was planned, Suan Lum was always intended to be a short term proposition.
However, given its success, it was only natural that people began looking for a replacement. There have been a few attempts. Siam Square’s effort seems to have been still-born. The operators of Suan Lum have promised a new market in a mixed use project on Ratchadapisek Road, but they’ve barely broken ground on the site. Paradise Park, far out on Sukhumvit, looks a little like Suan Lum, but it’s too out of the way for tourists.
Enter the just opened Asiatique, or to give the place its full proper name, Asiatique The Riverside. It’s certainly one of the more ambitious projects I’ve seen in Bangkok in recent years. For starters, it’s a renovation, something almost unheard of in Bangkok. The project is built in and around the old East Asiatic Company’s warehouses, which were first established back in the mid-nineteenth century, although the refurbished buildings date from the early 1900s.
The old buildings were restored and turned into a sort of market. Facing the river are some rather large and expensive restaurants, but behind these are small shops, a food court, a theater where the Joe Louis Puppet troupe will perform, and more shops.
It’s quite a large project, and unlike Suan Lum, it’s definitely permanent. The developers have plans to expand it, and they already have the space to do it. Plans apparently include an enclosed shopping mall and possibly a hotel.
With a good mix of shops, food and activities in a range of prices, Asiatique looks like it could be a winner with both tourists and locals. The location is on the river, of course, downstream from the Taksin Bridge, where the main express boat pier is.
There’s a free shuttle boat available from the Taksin Bridge pier to Asiatique, which operates about every 15 minutes. The place is open from 5 pm to midnight, and so shuttle boats only operate from 5 pm onward. Guests of the Anantara hotel, which is just a short way across and down the river, can use the hotel’s own shuttles to the Skytrain pier to get to Asiatique. You can check the Asiatique web site for more information.