I just recently accompanied a few friends to the Mall of Asia I keep hearing so much about. I think it's supposed to be the 2nd largest Mall in Asia. It just opened a few weeks earlier and it was still in a "soft opening" period with almost a 3rd of the shops already open. "Sprawling" is the first word that popped in my head when it first came into view. The place is huge! The fact that it was the only large structure in the reclaimed area by the bay also added to the effect. The mall even provided free tram rides around the complex for those people who are too lazy to walk from one end of the mall to the other. The trams looked nice but too bad I didn't had the chance to ride in them.
The big globe in the front was the first thing you will notice when you approach it from the main coastal road (well it used to be a coastal road before all the reclamation activities started). I was surprised to see the parking lots full. Fortunately they converted the empty lots beside the mall as temporary parking spaces so it didn't take too long driving around the compound before I finally stepped down from the car. It was a bit far from the main mall entrance though so I entered via the IMax theater side entrance. But before going inside, I ventured first to the back side mini park (where the breakwater of the bay is) to observe the families and lovers sitting by the rocks and enjoying the cool sea breeze thinking idly what it would be like out there when in the middle of a strong typhoon and huge waves are crashing into the breakwater. Hmm... that would be interesting I think.
At first glance, the mall looked impressive. It has an airy feel about it thanks to the partially "open" architecture. What I mean by "open" is that portions of the mall are not air conditioned allowing the sea breeze to go in and there's a lot of natural lighting from open areas inside the mall where garden "squares" are situated in the ground level with some sickly looking trees, which I suspect have been transplanted already fully grown, and some ornamental plants. It's not much to look at right now but I can imagine it turning into lush mini gardens situated all over the mall if properly tended. I think I can recall a mall who attempted something like this but eventually they switched to artificial trees when not one of the trees survived after replanting. Hopefully the ones in the Mall of Asia fares better. There's also a lot of wide open spaces like the amphitheater-like concert hall at the back overlooking the ocean, the full olympic sized ice skating area (for ice hockey and ice figure skating I think) and activity areas which was being used as a venue for a badminton tournament at the time. The concert hall looked particularly nice and at the time I was there, a band (like a marching band but they weren't marching - not like a band group... err, you know what I mean) was playing lively (and LOUD) music sponsored by a cellular network service provider. There were portions with centralized air conditioning also. I wonder if the stalls located inside the air-conditioned area pay more rent than their open air counterparts.
There were a lot of food establishments around the mall. Surprisingly however, almost all of them seems to be filled all of the time even during off peak hours (peak hours are around lunch time and dinner of course). The "food court" where there are many food stalls but with a common sitting area was too small for a mall this size. Since most of the other restaurants were full with people waiting in line to get seated, we decided to try the food court. Getting the food was easy but finding a vacant table was the challenge. We ended up waiting for about 30 minutes holding our trays keeping an eye for vacant tables before we were able to eat (but not before glaring and making growling sounds at a teenage boy who was about to occupy OUR table -- "My table... Mine! Grrr..."). After lunch I went to GoNuts Donuts, my favorite donut chain because they serve these nice mouth watering sugar free donuts. *Yum* *yum*! I think I'm craving for one of those donuts right about now :(
We also checked out the Imax theater. The choices were a film about Mt. Everest and a 3D documentary about NASCAR. We chose NASCAR because it was about to start in a few minutes. This was my first Imax experience and I was very impressed with the whole 3D experience. I think this would be very effective with horror/suspense films. The trailer of a documentary about underwater creature made me jump out of my seat (a shark suddenly lunged at a small fish swimming about 2 feet away from my face). I think a well made thriller can cause heart attacks. Hehe. The film was great but the 3D effect actually made me a little nauseous.
All in all the visit gave me a nice impression of the mall, well until right before it rained anyway. Suddenly the openness of the design doesn't seem so nice anymore. Mist began showering us near the amphitheater venue and people who were seated at the steps watching the band started to evacuate. It rained harder still and soon water was trickling down from above in earnest. The strong winds were blowing the rain into the gap between the roof and the walls. The band stopped and started to gather their stuff and take shelter. The mini garden squares I described earlier became muddy overflowing ponds. I don't think the drainage system was properly thought out. I was amused when service crew were actually bailing water from the 2nd floor to the "ponds" below using dustpans(!) and mops. I suppose they expected the rain to behave and fall straight down. Well nature doesn't really behave that way does it? The roof was actually leaking in some places. After the worst was over, a battalion of cleaning crews began descending on the amphitheater floor and the 2nd floor balconies to mop out and scoop up excessive water. It was a bit funny to look at hehe. I hope they get everything sorted out in time for the end of this month. That's the time when almost all of the rest of the stores will be opened. Best of luck to the management and crew of the mall. I think you really need it.