Shopping Heaven: the Best Malls in Southeast Asia

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In the United States, malls are relics of a bygone era. These retail complexes were popular in the ‘80s but, now, they are on their way out. American malls are dying because of store closures across the country.

In 2019 alone, retailers announced more than 8,600 closures. Reports estimate that by 2022, between 20 percent to 25 percent of malls will disappear. No doubt the pandemic will negatively affect the survival of malls in the U.S.

In Southeast Asia, however, malls are at the center of social life. Southeast Asian consumers spend hours of their day shopping, dining, watching movies, or hanging out with family and friends inside malls. Malls are important to the economy of many Southeast Asian countries and play a role in the lives of every Southeast Asian.

The region is an underrated shopping haven. Anyone can find something for them regardless of their budget.

Here are some of the best malls in Southeast Asia that every shopaholic should visit at least once.

Singapore’s Jewel Changi

Singapore may be a small island compared to its neighbors, but there are numerous malls in the city-state. However, for one of the best and unique shopping experiences, you would not have to leave the airport.

Changi Airport is not just a transportation hub. It is also a lifestyle mall. At Changi, shopping is unavoidable. There are hundreds of stores, restaurants, and bars from around the world. Whether you need a comfortable pair of shoes or grab a designer handbag, you can find it here.

Some of the most notable brands you can find in the facility include Adidas, Calvin Klein, Coach, Kipling, Lacoste, Muji, Nike, Pandora, and Victoria’s Secret. Local brands such as Irvins X Salted Egg, Charles & Keith, Pedro, and others are also worth checking out.

Jewel Changi Airport has been named the Best Luxury Shopping Mall in Singapore.

woman shopping

The Philippines’ SM Megamall

Filipinos love their malls. You can find malls almost everywhere across the country. There are a few that shopaholics should visit when in Southeast Asia, but here is one that will satisfy your cravings to consume.

SM Megamall, located in the City of Mandaluyong in Metro Manila, is one of the biggest shopping malls across Asia with 5,100,000 square feet of retail space. It also has hundreds of stores — both local and international — to suit every taste. As the mall’s tagline says, they’ve got it all for you.

SM Megamall is home to several international brands such as H&M, Mango, Zara, and Uniqlo. Homegrown brands Bench, Bayo, Gingersnaps, and Kultura are also present.

The best time to visit SM Megamall or other retail complexes in the Philippines is Christmas. Filipinos celebrate Christmas like no other. The country, including its malls, transforms into a holiday wonderland when the “ber months” (from September to December) rolls around.

Thailand’s CentralWorld Mall

Thailand also has its own grand retail complexes. When discussing shopping, the CentralWorld Mall (formerly World Trade Center) in the capital city Bangkok has to be mentioned.

CentralWorld is the eleventh largest shopping mall in Asia, boasting 5,920,150 square feet of retail space. It has more than 500 stores, 100 restaurants and cafes, and 15 cinemas. The layout of the complex was inspired by shopping streets where shoppers can see all storefronts and what they are offering at a glance. It also utilizes a lot of natural daylight to give the illusion of walking outside while being inside.

You can find the flagship stores of international brands such as Zara and Timberland in CentralWorld. The Japanese brand Uniqlo and English brand Next also made their first foray in Thailand via CentralWorld.

If you ever find yourself in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve, CentralWorld is where you have to go. The mall hosts the city’s official New Year countdown party at its outdoor square.

Malaysia’s 1 Utama Shopping Center

Malaysia’s 1 Utama Shopping Center is a must-visit. It has been around since 1995, and it has become an icon in the nation. It is the largest mall in Malaysia and the ninth largest mall in Asia. It has six floors with over 700 retail stores.

1 Utama is located in Damansara, the central commercial hub of Petaling Jaya, also known as the twin sister of the capital Kuala Lumpur. It receives between 60,000 to 90,000 visitors daily on weekdays and more on weekends.

1 Utama is home to both local and international brands, including Sephora, Asus, Calvin Klein, Hush Puppies, and a lot more.

Mall culture is alive and well in Southeast Asia. The region is a prime location for some retail therapy. If you are visiting Southeast Asia anytime soon, make sure to explore one of its shopping malls.

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