Samui Wining & Dining
It’s always time to relax at Central Festival Samui – whether you’re there to shop or not.

It’s always time to relax at Central Festival Samui – whether you’re there to shop or not.Say the word ‘mall’ to almost anyone and ask them to describe what goes through their minds, and in all probability they’ll come up with an indoor experience. Blank, windowless boxes. Indeed, this was the way that the first malls were built. In the USA, in the 50s, when they first started popping up with the ease of corks on a lake, they were all indoors, with their backs turned to the outside. One of the main reasons was the entirely obvious one: climate. The cold, the snow and the rain were to be banished forever from an idealized, weatherless interior. On a tropical island like Samui, that doesn’t make so much sense. Gentle breezes blow across the land; the sun shines most days of the year.


When Central Festival Samui opened its doors in 2014, it was already a rather different sort of mall. Just from the exterior alone you could see it was an outdoor experience. It didn’t have any maximum security walls, and from the Chaweng lake road, you could actually see inside it. It wasn’t boxy on the outside and blinding with fluorescent lighting on the inside.


It’s run by those who built it, CPN Property Development & Investment, a group that is one of the nation’s foremost developers. They’re responsible for the entire Centara brand and you may well have stayed in one of their hotels. When they envisaged the mall they wanted to have, they thought about how it should fit into the island environment here. It shouldn’t look like an anonymous shopping centre, for a start, and it shouldn’t be on a geographical limb, miles out of town and accessible only by car. Knowing that many holidaymakers would visit – precisely the people who wouldn’t have carsIt’s always time to relax at Central Festival Samui – whether you’re there to shop or not. – they chose as their location the densest part of the island’s main town, Chaweng. What stood here before was a tight mass of buildings, tiny lanes and an impromptu zone of shops. What came next was a vast, uncluttered space as the mall was born;

it let in light, was a great place to walk around in, and for many it simply scored points as there were no cars to get in the way of shoppers. It slotted like a jigsaw piece into the areas around it, yet had borders that define it.


Once the design was decided on, the mall sprang up with unbelievable speed, and quickly became a fixture in Chaweng’s urban landscape. Today it still looks brand-new and unlike many a mall, people are in favour of it and it has a likeable presence. Nobody’s ever referred to it as an eyesore. Neither does it tower into the sky and aim to be visible for miles around. For a start, it only has a ground floor and a first floor, along with plenty of space right underneath for a subterranean-style car park. As malls go, it’s low-key and easy to move around in.


You can walk right in from Chaweng Beach Road or the lake road. If you’re coming by bike or car, then 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, so it fits in easily with most people’s timeframes.


Once you’re inside you’ll find yourself in a relaxed haven. The bustle of Chaweng has magically gone, along with the cars, bikes, vans and trucks. There’s plenty of space, so it never feels crowded. It’s on the big side, almost 200,000 square metres. Its centre features a green area with a small labyrinth of bushes, and elsewhere there are trees and vegetation, including entire palm trees.It’s always time to relax at Central Festival Samui – whether you’re there to shop or not.


It’s also child-friendly and has its own small area for children to play in, complete with climbing frame and sand pit. Children seem to enjoy coming here, and will certainly want to go on the bright carousel that’s close by. As with most places in Thailand, children are never left out. You’ll also find that there are special events every month, and again these tend to include all the family. In the heart of the mall on its ground floor there’s a special performance space and there are plenty of music, shows and other events.


Eating and drinking are always prime mall activities, and here you’re spoiled for choice. If you just need a snack or dessert, there are sandwiches a-plenty, along with pretzels, ice-creams, doughnuts and very yummy cakes. There are coffee shops and plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy a full-scale meal any time of the day. Cuisines range from Thai through Japanese to western. You’ll also find a food court and a Tops Supermarket. In the evening, if you fancy a glass of wine or a beer, then this is also no problem – you can take a seat at one of the bistro-style establishments and watch the people go by.


On the upper floor, you’ll find chemists, such as Green Health, along with a small clinic run by Bangkok Samui Hospital and beauty parlours. And there’s entertainment too with a 3D XD theatre, a cinema and a games arcade. There are also phone shops and internet providers, and on the ground floor, Banana IT, where you can go and buy the latest phone or electronic gadgets.


Clothing is equally well-represented, with a wide range of attire ranging through the casual to the über-urban designs at Psylo. You’ll also find a full-size department store, Central, offering a whole range of delectable goodies, from perfumes through to children’s toys.


Central Festival turns out to be a lot more than the average shopping mall. Hours go by with ease. There’s plenty to do and no rush at all. And chances are that you’ll be back, as it’s such a relaxed experience being here in the first place.


Dimitri Waring



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