Samui Wining & Dining
Central Festival Samui is all about having a relaxed time – whether you go shopping or not.


Last year saw a new mall go up with the most incredible speed – it seemed to be ready before many people were aware of it, and ever since its doors opened, it’s been increasing in popularity. Everyone seems to like it, whether they are locals or holidaymakers. A lot more than the sum of its parts, in this article we take a look at what makes Central Festival Samui work so well.


Firstly though, you may ask why there’s a mall here at all. After all, it might seem a bit odd to have a modern, sophisticated mall on a tropical island. But it actually fits in very well with Samui’s laid-back vibe. For a start, the entire space is open air. Many malls, even in Asia, are mostly enclosed, and large as they might be, shopping in them is an indoor experience. It’s almost certain that on Samui you won’t want to waste time indoors, since the weather’s mostly sunny. So even if you spend a good few hours at Central Festival, you won’t emerge with the feeling you’ve spent too long under strip lighting, and have acquired an unhealthy pallor. It’s definitely got that island, holiday feel to it.


The mall was designed and built by CPN Property Development & Investment, a company that has quite a few big projects under its belt. They’ve built a number of malls throughout the country, all with the hallmark word ‘Central’ in their names. So look out for them when you’re travelling around Thailand. Since the company is so experienced, other developers tend to look at them to see how their approach works. And work it certainly does.


The mall’s success is partly due to its prime location, right in the heart of Chaweng, where it’s naturally going to draw shoppers and those wanting a respite from the sun. Although you cannot actually see the sea from the mall, it’s close by – just a five minute walk away. It’s therefore ideal for anyone who’s been swimming and wants a break from the endless heat. It’s equally attractive for shoppers who have been walking along the beach road (it goes on for kilometres) in search of souvenirs, clothing and a meal. Once inside the mall, you can get a pretty good idea of what’s on offer just by looking around without any need to walk a long way.


But the location is only part of Central Festival’s recipe for success. The mall seems to exude a certain relaxed feel from its every joist and brick. That’s because it’s been designed with relaxation in mind. It’s a commercial place, of course, but one that’s low-key, and is therefore all the more pleasant.


You’ll find the mall is quite a green place, literally, with whole trees growing in certain places. There’s even a maze in its centre, with hedges forming its walls. It’s easy to solve but an unexpected addition to a mall - when was the last time you saw a maze while shopping?


It’s spacious, too, with walkways all being wide and giving the entire place an uncluttered, untrafficked feel. And for those who live on Samui, it’s one of the few places where you can actually go shopping without having to worry about cars and motorbikes.


Parking a car – and sometimes even a motorbike – can be quite hard at times in Chaweng, where every single square inch seems to be put to use. But at Central Festival you can just drive your car into the massive basement parking area and leave it in the knowledge that it’s going to be safe. And just as good, parking is free – you won’t even have to make a minimum purchase.


The mall is open from 11:00 am until 11:00 pm, and on the ground floor you’ll find an international supermarket, a bookstore and stationery shop, a computer and mobile phone store, stalls selling souvenirs and accessories and plenty of places to eat and drink. Clothing is well-represented, with a gamut of attire ranging through tropical casual to edgy, urban designs at hypertrendy Psylo. 


There’s also a small area for children to play in – it’s immensely popular with its rope climbing-frame, slides and swingchairs. As with everywhere on Samui, children are always made welcome and they certainly seem to enjoy coming.


Unlike a lot of malls, you won’t find that the upper floor here is a semi-deserted zone occupied by the less visited shops. Escalators and lifts bring you to the upper level as well as staircases. Here you’ll find thriving restaurants and beautifully designed shops such as Nature Art Gallery, with its selections of semi-precious stones, jewellery and accessories. There’s also the irrepressible XD Theater, which guarantees adrenalin pumping excitement virtualreality style, as well as their Haunted House (very, very scary). Meanwhile, ranging over both floors, you’ll find Central’s own department store offering a plethora of goods, clothes and the island’s most extensive selection of children’s toys and clothing.


When it comes to food, be prepared to be spoiled for choice. A food court with numerous outlets awaits you, with dishes ranging from popular Indian treats, to Thai to international. Then there are the restaurants themselves and gastro bars – over 20 to choose from. You can opt for classical Thai, Japanese (three different restaurants), then international fare which includes steak, sea food, pizzas and pasta, barbecues and hot pot. If you just need a snack or dessert, there are sandwiches a-plenty, along with pretzels, ice-creams, doughnuts and very yummy cakes. Want a coffee? No problem – again there’s plenty of choice, with premium lattes, cappuccinos and ice coffees from Black Canyon and The Coffee Club.


A few hours at Central Festival will quickly go by, and will leave you feeling that you’ve just indulged in some well-spent leisure time, regardless of any shopping you might have done. You’ll probably wish there were more malls like this back at home, where leisure not commerce, takes priority.


 Dimitri Waring


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