In 1965, the Chulalongkorn University invited certain tenants to lease specific parcels of land in the Pathum Wan district of Bangkok so that the university could accrue income from the resulting rentals. Several shops, restaurants and a few movie theaters duly took up the university's offer, and, although their businesses thrived, no-one could have foreseen that the area was to become Bangkok's most famous shopping district: Siam Square.
Although Siam Square is frequented mainly by the young local set, the complex has much to offer shoppers of all ages and people from all over the world come to Bangkok for a chance to visit the malls, shops and restaurants situated on the square.
Apart from the many designer and brand name clothing outlets, the square also features first rate electronics shops, jewelry stores, bookstores and music outlets. Available stores range from enormous retail venues that sprawl over several floors to malls containing bazaar-like collections of small stalls and booths.
The items on sale are such that the square will keep serious shoppers busy for days and will also entice casual shoppers to do more than just look. The square also features several banks that tourists will, no doubt, want to visit when their funds run low.
Siam Square is not just about shopping, however, and one of the reasons for the large number of highschool-age visitors is that the square also sports several specialized tutoring schools. Between searching the boutiques for that special item, students will attend classes in physics, mathematics or chemistry, and, when the day is over, they may even have enough energy left to visit the vibrant CM2 nightclub, situated beneath the nearby Novotel Siam Square Hotel.
The square also boasts two of the oldest single-screen movie theaters in Siam, the Scala and the Siam, and sleepy shoppers can treat themselves to a screening in these pleasant 1970s-style theaters before returning to their hotels.
The square is situated near several hotels and is easily accessible from venues like the Pathumwan Princess Hotel as well as the Asia Bangkok Hotel and the Bangkok City Inn, which lie just north and west of the square respectively.
As far as dining is concerned, the square has so many eateries on offer that visitors will not want to leave. Choices range from formal dining establishments to snack bars, fast food outlets, coffee shops and bakeries, and those not wanting to taste the exquisite Thai food on offer can have their pick of Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Italian food. Late night dining choices are somewhat limited, though, and the Hard Rock Cafe is the only restaurant that says open after 10pm.
Siam Square is close to several of Bangkok's other shopping centers, and visitors can easily access first-class retail outlets like the MBK Center, Siam Discovery Center, Siam Paragon and the Central World Plaza by using the Bangkok Skytrain or the air-conditioned pedestrian bridge.
The Skytrain is, in fact, the best way to reach Siam Square, which has its own Siam Station. Although this station is used by approximately 45,000 commuters every day, taking the train to the square is still the preferred alternative to parking in the square's designated parking areas, which are usually extremely congested.
For those do who wish to drive, or walk, to Siam Square, it lies at the confluence of the Phaya Thai, Henri Durant and Rama I roads. It's also within walking distance of the Ratchaprasong shopping zone as well as the famous Sukhumvit Road.
Siam Square has something for everybody, and no trip to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to this vibrant center.