Pantip Plaza is Bangkok’s most famous — and infamous — indoor IT shopping mall. At over 215,000 square feet, this technology-centered retail mainstay has painstakingly builta reputation of offering any and all electronic gadgetry known to mankind, as well as a vast and impressive assortment of software, games, DVDs and the like. These all come at basement prices, but the majorityof it is pirated and some of it in questionable taste. From computers, laptops and tablets to remote-control toy helicopters, XBox games and a dizzying array of mobile phones, Pantip Plaza has traditionally been a conscience-light techie’s paradise and an intellectual copyright-holder’s hell. All that, however, may be changing.As part of a new initiative to not just clean up its act but also to ensure it can compete with other IT super-hubs, Pantip Plaza is undergoing a multifaceted renovation that will, hopefully, makeover its image.

The Way It Was

plazaPantip Plaza’s reputation as an IT supercenter in Bangkok has been rivalled only by its storied reputation as something of a madhouse. Looking for a particular store? There was no directory to help locate it, nor did there seem to be much logic or method regarding how the place was organized. Stores kept random and ever-changing hours, even though the mall’s actual hours were set in stone. Alcohol consumption happened anywhere at any time, but it was piracy and pornography that solidly secured the mall’s reputation as a five-story house of ill repute.With most of the mall’s illegal offerings’ copyrights belonging to U.S. film studios and software companies, the U.S.declared Pantip Plaza a “notorious market” and put increasing pressure on Thai authorities to crack down, which they gradually did. Thus, raids on sellers with pirated goods became somewhat commonplace. As for the selling of pornography, vendors were seen as particularly aggressive, often coming out of their shops to accost customers.

Death to Piracy

For tourists and locals who sought out Pantip Plaza’s cheap DVD and software-based goods, prices are going to rise along with the mall’s efforts at respectability. As early as fall of 2013, purveyors of pirated goods will start to see their 30-year leases expire to make way for more legitimate ware-selling. While many are lamenting the change, Pantip Plaza’s developers and investors hope the move away from illegal activity affords them a more viable future in the IT-selling world.

The Virtual World Gets Smaller

Banking on predictions that electronic consumer behavior is going to continue shifting away from location-based desktop computers to more mobile devices, Pantip Plaza is focusing its overhaul efforts on the mobile lifestyles of the present and near future. A slated $300 million baht (over $9 million in USD) in renovations has already begun on the physical space to meet the challenges and changes of the coming years. Because consumers are using mobile devices more, last year’s sales at the mall saw a decline of 10 percent among Thai customers because notebook sales dipped considerably. To stay ahead of the curve, in this coming year, retail space dedicated to smartphones and tablets will double, meaning 20 percent of the stores in the mall will offer mobile devices, tablets and their accoutrements, while retail real estate dedicated to laptops and desktops will take up a mere 60 percent. This is down from 75 percent in years prior.

Is it going to work? The mall’s shop owners must think so. Those businesses lucky enough to keep a hold of their leases have already seen a six percent increase in rent with a further 15 percent expected after the renovations are complete.

Pantip Plaza Goes Higher-Tech

In addition to the physical changes being undertaken, Pantip Plaza’s website will go from being a source of information about the physical mall itself to being an e-commerce powerhouse and virtual mall for the same type of IT offeringsPantip Plaza has been selling for two decades, and hopes to continue selling in coming decades. The effort at online expansion is going to take two years, but by 2016, developers hope they will have succeeded in positioningPantip Plaza in the minds of consumers worldwide as a worthy destination site in Bangkok — and a worthy destination site on the Web.

Besides Pantip Plaza, Bangkok offers a lot to both the novice and seasoned traveler. Visit this page on to find out more about planning a trip to Bangkok.

Pantip Plaza staircase photo credit: dentarg / Foter / CC BY-NC

About the Author:Louise Vinciguerra is a Brooklyn native who dirties her hands in words on weekdays and in soil on weekends. When she’s not on social media, she can be found traveling.