Singaporean Mall brand CapitaLand has just branched out with yet another Mall in China, called the Suzhou Center Mall. Almost six years in the making, it is the awesome MegaMall company’s biggest and most ambitious Centre to date. For comparison, their biggest project in Singapore, ION Orchard (named after the famous, Mall-laden shoppers’ paradise Orchard Road), is three times smaller than the incredible new Centre. The opening ceremony was held today and thousands of eager Mall fans got the chance to enter this stunning behemoth for the first time.
Suzhou (pronounced soo chow) is a huge and ancient town located in East China. While it has no lack of decent Shopping Malls, it has never seen the likes of the Suzhou Center Mall. For many years, the Global Harbour mall in Shanghai was the big-boss Centre in the area, but now the region truly has a new contender. This mammoth has seven levels and contains over 600 stores - incredible considering that 10% of the Mall remains un-leased as of opening. As you approach the Mall, you get a clear sense of its size and notice that the roof seems to fall over the Centre like a table-cloth. This is thanks to the fact that this structure has the largest monocoque roof in the world, meaning that the roof of the Mall provides its structural support; this allows for huge open spaces within the Centre and it pays off nicely.
Standing right beside Jinji Lake, water is a definite theme in the Mall
The Mall's main entrance
This roof, containing almost 7000 sheets of clear and blue-coloured glass, is designed to mimic a pair of wings - this is to represent the industrialised manufacturing economy of Suzhou taking flight. We don’t know about all of that (these sort of high-concept musings rarely interest us!), but we can say that it certainly does resemble a pair of wings and, especially when illuminated in the evening, it is truly magnificent. All this is even before we take a look at all of the goodies to be found within this new Shopping Centre. There is plenty to see, buy and do inside Suzhou Center Mall.
Stores in the Mall include Japanese casual clothing brand Uniqlo, hugely popular fashion store H&M, Sephora cosmetics, a Tissot watch store, a Panum Rover luggage store selling butt-puckeringly expensive suitcases and storage boxes, and even a Harley Davidson store, selling leather goods but also containing a few shiny bikes over which you can drool. 120 of the Centre’s brands (including Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21) are in town for the first time - this means an entire average-sized Mall’s worth of stores are completely new to the area.
Opening day celebrations included traditional dancing dragons and lions
The Mall was packed on opening day
However, as with all modern Malls, entertainment is a huge factor because it is something online retail cannot touch - there is so much to do in Suzhou Shopping Centre; it is impossible to be bored. Also, you will not possibly be able to get through everything in one visit. The Mall contains the first CGV Cinema in China; this Korean movie house using cutting-edge technology and even has its own in-house chef! Of course, being a Singaporean Mall, there is an Olympic-sized ice-rink. On the third level you will find a giant Fankpekka childrens’ park, full of interactive digital games with which kids and their parents can play.
For kids of the older variety there is the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Gaming Centre, which is another Korean import. This is a huge gaming centre where contestants can grab one of the many computers and play the FPS video game against each-other. For those interested in buying some delicious Chinese goodies, there is a gourmet OLE supermarket, where you can find some of the highest quality Chinese delicacies, including gifts for friends and family for foreign visitors. Throughout the Mall you will find many green areas, including a bird park full of real and stunning exotic birds as well as a giant phoenix sculpture which seems to fly over your head.
Above the bird park flies a giant pheonix - a truly auspicious bird
As with so many Chinese Malls, the evening brings them truly to life
Food-wise, there is a seemingly endless food court stuffed with almost 170 different restaurants and eateries. Of course the majority are Chinese restaurants, there are many other American, Japanese and European-style restaurants for you to check out. The food court also includes a Songhelou restaurant - a hugely successful Chinese food brand with an over 200-year-old history (the very first restaurant is still operating in the Guanqian District of Suzhou), and one of only a handful of restaurants with a Chinese Emperor’s seal of approval. From Macdonald’s to Imperial court food, you are spoilt for choice.
The Centre is surrounded by various tower-blocks - including a hotel, four office blocks and two luxury residential towers - which are all beautifully interconnected, so you can easily get anywhere within the complex without ever being exposed to the outside world - unless of course you wish to enjoy one or more of the multiple green terraces overlooking the beautiful Jinji lake, which is highly recommended. We have aways spoken about how much we love a Mall which has a hotel attached to it - it is great popping back to the room to drop off shopping, take a nap or even have a midday soak in the tub before heading back out into the Mall. Bliss!
The Mall is truly enormous, with seven shopping levels
An Olympic-sized ice-rink is a must in any Singaporean Shopping Centre
Over 400,000 people visited the Suzhou Center Mall today and were treated to traditional dancing, with a dragon or two wandering around; all seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves as they partook of the entertainment and copious amounts of shopping. The Mall is perfectly located in Suzhou’s CBD - it is right on the stunning Jinji Lake and within walking distance of the traditional Suzhou city centre. Tucked deep within the bowels of the Mall are the linking tunnels, which are connected to the underground parking as well as the town’s high-speed rail service, so it could not be easier to get to. Singapore just ‘gets’ Malls - hopefully with their huge Southeast Asian success they will give the likes of North America, Europe and Africa a go in the very near future!