The much-anticipated renovation of the former “Central Center Pattaya” a.k.a. “Big C North Pattaya” has been largely completed and as such the revitalized lifestyle and entertainment venue has recently reopened it’s doors just in the nick of time for Christmas under the rebranded name of “Central Marina”.
Personally the rebranding of the shopping center, makes a lot of sense given it’s past name similarity to that of “Central Festival Pattaya Beach” as it’s caused a lot of confusion with both locals, tourists and expats alike in the past.
The entire area of North Pattaya and more especially around the Dolphin roundabout is earmarked for unprecedented growth in the future thanks to the proliferation of upscale hotels in the area such as “Dusit Thani”, “Woodlands Resort”, “Amari Orchid”, “Holiday Inn” and more recently the “Siam-Siam” and “Grand Palazzo Pattaya” hotels. Yet another future addition to the area will be the ‘Terminal 21” shopping center made famous by it’s Bangkok equivalent, which must have at least partly pre-empted the facelift of the shopping center in the first place to keep pace with the expected increase in competition seeing as “Terminal 21” will only be around the corner.
The dated water-features and life-sized animal themed statues have thankfully made way for a more nautical theme with a touch of New England architecture thrown in for good measure. There is also no shortage of public toilets with a nautical theme and the overall shopping center is very wheel chair friendly. In fact they even have some wheel chairs stored behind the information desks for the elderly and disabled.
The old forecourt which formally housed the “KFC” has now been demolished to make way for market kiosks selling a variety of freshly cooked seafood, Thai desserts, fruit shakes and curios. There’s even an outdoor beer bar with comfortable seating and tabletop beer dispensers together with a converted VW camper van cocktail bar plus DJ bandstand with nightly entertainment to create a real carnival and market like atmosphere.
Clearly a great deal of emphasis has been spent on creating a family friendly environment that’s appealing to both the adults and kids alike. To illustrate this point there is a dedicated children’s play area on the 2nd floor right next to “Swensons” which is housed in stand alone shop shaped in the form of a boat, with it’s bow cutting through the waves. “Swensons” in turn is situated right next to a coin operated slot machine arcade with rides for the kids together with animal themed motorized scooters to keep the kids occupied. There are also numerous over-sized cartoon penguins in various poses scattered around the shopping center to keep the kids amused. In keeping with the nautical theme, the ladies behind the information counter wear a variety of nautically themed uniforms whilst they’ve erected a massive billboard in the shape of a lighthouse on the street facing side of Pattaya 2nd Road. Cleverly designed seating areas in the form of surfboards and whale shaped flowerpots together with decorative seagulls in full flight all serve to further enhance this nautical theme.
The recent facelift has been both aesthetic and functional; parking has always been an issue but thanks to the recent addition of a multi-story car park this issue has perhaps been addressed for once and for all, only time will tell. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the layout and design of the new shopping center with distinct shopping zones, such as the 2nd floor being earmarked for the electronic goods such as mobile phones, sports wear and banking whilst restaurants and pharmacies dominate the 1st floor. Recent additions on the 1st floor include a “Central Food Hall” selling freshly cut fruit, fruit juices, curios and hazelnut ‘Thai” themed chocolates for the tourists as well as a proper dedicated “Food Court” with a dedicated children’s play area in the form of a boat yet again in keeping with it’s family friendly emphasis. Sadly some familiar restaurants such as “Oishi Ramen” and “Fuji” are no longer in the shopping center. However on the flip side some new Japanese restaurants such as “Yayoi” & “Miyazaki” together “McDonalds” and “Starbucks” have recently opened their doors for business.
Also if you like Dollar stores there’s a Japanese equivalent called “Komonoyo” from Osaka, Japan that’s recently opened up on the 1st floor. Also many of the former stores such as “Boots”, “KFC”, “Levi” to mention but a few have been relocated elsewhere in the shopping center. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the recent addition of an entirely new wing, namely a 2 story food court area with a rounded bar area and elaborate light feature made up of upside wine classes in a wave like pattern which is accessible from dual footbridges on the 2nd floor of the main shopping center.
Similarly the shopping centers main chain store “Big C” has undergone some changes with the addition of it’s own food court. Aside from the reshuffling of the store they’ve added slopped escalators as opposed to normal step escalators, no doubt to be more shopping cart friendly as one moves from the grocery section on the 1st floor to the CD, stationery, electronic, kitchen and clothing departments on the 2nd floor.
To sum up, “Central Marina” is well worth the visit and overall it’s a great addition to the already numerous other shopping and entertainment venues that Pattaya has on offer.