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Think Thailand 2022 — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, PJ

The Hubs and I recently paid a visit to Think Thailand — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival — which was held from 26 May to 6 June 2022 at Tropicana Gardens Mall in Petaling Jaya. Organized by the Thai embassy in collaboration with several major Thai companies as well as SMEs, the festival featured over 50 booths showcasing the best Thailand has to offer, from food and drinks, to products and services. There were also scheduled performances and cooking demonstrations throughout the 12-day event.

Here’s what went down during our visit!

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Live cooking demo in session
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Thailand is known for its abundance of snacks. We saw a few that looked familiar, but also many new ones.

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Sweet basil seed drinks are popular in Thailand, with purported benefits such as helping to cool the body. They come in a variety of flavours, including pomegranate, honey, grape, orange, and more. We got a few bottles to try. Maybe it’s because our taste buds are spoiled by sugary drinks, but these tasted very mild. They were refreshing though!

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Traditional Thai clothing on display. Visitors were welcome to try them on and take photos as a souvenir, for a price.
Fun fact: traditional Thai clothing is called ‘chut thai’ — literally ‘Thai outfit’.
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There was an outdoor area as well with an open-air dining area, with booths selling street food such as som tam (salad), grilled meats, and beer. The stalls were divided into halal and non-halal sections. Food was a bit pricey, but I liked the atmosphere as it reminded me of the street food vibe you get in Thailand — the smells of food from the grill, smoke from the cooking, animated conversations wafting across the warm tropical air.

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My must-get while exploring Thai night markets — iced tea! Thai milk tea has a distinctively orange colour as they use orange blossom water, which is water distilled from the essence of flowers from orange trees. Some vendors substitute it with food colouring. There was also green tea, which is different from Japanese green tea, as it is mixed with milk and sugar.
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Staff preparing somtam, or Thai papaya salad.
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Stalls selling Thai beer like Singha and Chang.
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Chicken skewers fresh from the grill
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Thailand’s iconic Tomyum Mama noodles
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Deep fried baby crabs
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We had a great time checking out the stalls, and returned with a few packets of snacks in tow: a crispy baked rice cracker snack with salted egg and chilli squid flavour, as well as a crispy enoki mushroom snack that featured very fine, deep fried strands of mushroom that served as an excellent condiment with rice.

I’m happy to see that events are being held again after two years. Hopefully this is a sign of a better economy to come!

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Things to Do@Tropicana Gardens Mall, Kota Damansara

Malls these days follow a cookie-cutter formula – if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.

Once in awhile, though, you find neighbourhood places like Tropicana Gardens Mall in Kota Damansara. Despite being a stone’s throw away from well known malls like IKEA Damansara, 1Utama and The Curve, Tropicana Gardens holds its own with a unique mix of offerings and cool tenants; most notably Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki, as well as the largest Starbucks Reserve in Malaysia.

Although it’s far from my house, I’ve been here a couple of times, mostly to visit Donki, but also coz it’s a nice mall to shop at, with everything under one roof.

If you haven’t had the chance to visit, here’s what to expect!

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The mall spans five floors, and has a star-shaped layout. It’s fairly new (the mall opened in February 2021), so the upper floors are quite empty – but there’s plenty to explore on the lower floors. A golden tree takes centre stage at the main concourse, and they spruce it up with different decorations for every season (this pic was taken over a Christmas visit).

SHOP FOR JAPANESE SNACKS AND GOODS AT DON DON DONKI

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One of the mall’s highlights is, of course, the Don Don Donki. This is the second Donki outlet in Malaysia and also the largest, covering nearly 4,000 sq m across two floors. There is a wide variety of goods to shop for here, from fresh produce and snacks, to cosmetics, gym equipment and toys imported from Japan. You can read a more detailed post here.

DO SOME READING AT BOOK XCESS

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Lifestyle bookstore Book Xcess, which sells most of its titles for half the price of what you get at normal bookstores (they’re able to do this as they sell remainder books — books that were overprinted and weren’t taken by conventional bookstores, but are brand new), has a branch on the 2nd floor. If you’re a bibliophile, you can wile the hours away browsing, or just soaking in the store’s cosy aesthetics. I especially like the floor to ceiling ‘wave’ book shelf that stretches from one end of the shop to the other.

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GRAB A BITE

Tropicana Gardens Mall has a fair selection of F&B tenants, from fast food chains to chic cafes. There is also an area called Pitstop which is inspired by the food truck concept — with food truck-shaped kiosks, open seating, and gas station-themed decor.

Personally, I would recommend Tendon Kohaku, which specialises in tempura bowls. Other notable restaurants here include Delay No More Crab Restaurant, Dodo Dimsum Bowls, Go Street Noodle, Ramen Bankara, Rakuzen, D’Italiane, and Sukishi. Don’t forget to check out the snack bars, cafes and bakeries such as Chizu, Park’s Bagels and Gula Cakery.

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GET A MAKEOVER

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The upper floors host a number of salons and beauty parlours where you can get your hair cut, washed and styled, or enjoy beauty treatments.

JOIN A DANCE OR SINGING CLASS

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Here, you can find Flow Academy, a creative school dedicated to the performing arts. They offer dancing and fitness as well as music and singing classes. Many of the academy’s students perform professionally, but you can sign up too if you’re looking to pick up a hobby.

PLAY AND BUY TRADING CARDS AND BOARD GAMES

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If nerdy stuff is more your thing (and I mean it in the best way, being a nerd myself), Invictus Force carries a wide selection of tabletop accessories, trading cards and board games. They also host events for games like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering.

CATCH A FILM

I haven’t been to the theatres for over two years now, and probably will not in the near future — but for movie-buffs, the mall has a Golden Screen Cinemas on the top floor.

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The upper floors are quite empty at present.

SING KARAOKE

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Another activity that I haven’t done for years is karaoke — my college mates and I used to go every other week, as it was relatively ‘cheap’ entertainment (20 bucks for 4 hours — but this was back in the 2010s :P). Now that we’re all working, it has been hard to go for such activities, and even if we have free time we end up at a cafe anyway.

If you’d like to sing your heart out and belt out some Whitney Houston, Loudspeaker is on the same floor as the cinema.

SHOOT STUFF UP AT THE ARCADE

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Or race some cars, play some drums, shoot a few hoops.

Last but not least…

GRAB SOME COFFEE AT THE STARBUCKS RESERVE

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The mall is home to Malaysia’s largest Starbucks Reserve (they’re essentially ‘high-end Starbucks’, carrying  ‘a selection of the rarest, most extraordinary coffees Starbucks has to offer’, prepared through different techniques such as Chemex, siphon and pour-over). I haven’t actually been inside (on my visits, I was always too full from eating at the other restos or stuffing my face at Donki, lol), but I’d like to drop by on my next trip. It looks impressive enough from the outside, where there is al fresco seating and an outdoor area with beautiful murals.

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If you have the weekend free, Tropicana Gardens Mall is worth a visit! There is ample parking (although the entrance is quite difficult to find — you have to go past the drop-off point in front of the mall, then make a U-turn when you’re almost at the exit), and alternatively, you can take the MRT and stop at the Surian station.

TROPICANA GARDENS MALL

29 No, Unit CC, 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Website

PS: This is not a sponsored post. Opinions here are entirely my own.

PS2: If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto!

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Largest Don Don Donki in Malaysia @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya

Earlier this year, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. It was very well received, with people queueing up for hours just to get into the shop on the first day. I visited the store a month after its opening (read about it here), and it was a great shopping experience, with lots of interesting things to see and buy.

Fast forward to December 2021, and Don Don Donki has opened its second store at Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya. Covering over 42,000 square feet and spanning two floors, this is also the largest Donki in the country. Plans are in the works for a dozen other Donkis, but in the meantime, let’s see what this outlet has in store!

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I came during a weekday, so there was no queue, and I was able to shop in peace without having to squeeze my way through crowded aisles.

The entrance to the shop is located on the first floor. You go up the escalator in the central area ,then make a U-turn to where Donki is. The signs are a bit confusing as they point to the far end of the ground floor, which is where the exit is.

Video here. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

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You’ll be greeted by CosmeDonki as soon as you enter the shop, which is a section that carries makeup, beauty, and wellness products. Not my thing, so I made a beeline for the food section next to it. This area has numerous dessert counters, with items such as souffle, pudding, jellies, mochi, sweet sando (sandwiches), basque cheesecakes served in cups, and more.

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Here, you’ll find Japanese condiments like bonito flakes and wasabi furikake.
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Onigiri with a unique packaging design! I assume it’s meant to be convenient, especially for salarymen on the go.
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We might not be able to travel right now due to restrictions, but you can still experience a taste of Japan, as Donki carries specialty items from the different prefectures.
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On this floor, you can choose from a wide variety of ready-to-eat meals, from sushi rolls and sashimi over rice, to fried gyoza, karaage (fried chicken), bento bowls, and more.

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To cater to Muslims, the store has a section carrying halal certified products.
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Aside from food, there is a section dedicated to sports and gym equipment, as well as hobbies and toys. Check out these adorable socks.

One thing I observed with this Donki outlet – they seem to be focused more on food. The Donki in KL has a wider selection of household products. But being a foodie, I’m not complaining! The aisles are also a little organised compared to Don Don Donki KL, in that they’re neatly sectioned according to category, so it makes it easier to shop. The design still has that characteristic Donki ‘feel’ though, with shelves piled high with products, loud and colourful posters and signages, and of course, their mascot Donpen.

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After buying your snacks or ready-to-eat meals, you can pay for them directly and enjoy the food at a dining area nearby. There’s more to explore downstairs, though, so this can be like a ‘pitstop’ to your shopping.

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Try your hand at a capsule machine!
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Just before the escalator is a section selling street food. I adore this concept as they’ve designed the stalls (yatai) to look like Japanese railway stations, with the signs at each stall displaying destinations like Tokyo and Osaka. Each stall also sells a street food that is famous from that region; for example Taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries with filling) for Tokyo, Takoyaki (octopus balls) for Osaka, and Tako Senbei (octopus crackers) for Kanagawa.

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On the ground floor, you’ll be directed past a section selling premium Japanese goods, such as handmade Ukiyoe soaps, frozen seafood from Hokkaido including giant hairy crabs and fat, juicy scallops, handmade crafts, teas, as well as kimonos.

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Also in this area is the kitchen, where you’ll be able to see through a glass window the staff prepare sushi and sashimi, to be sold at the store.

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You then exit from this small section and reenter through another entrance, which is where they have the fresh produce, such as vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood. Most of these are imported from Japan. Everything looks fresh and is beautifully displayed – but expect to pay higher-than-average prices, of course.

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Wagyu beef, thinly sliced for grilling or the hotpot.
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Of course, not to be missed is the fresh seafood section. Thick cuts of tuna, uni (sea urchin), salmon, tako (octopus) – you name it, they got it.

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Uni. Which I still haven’t tried to date, by the way, due to its expensive price tag.
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Sashimi cuts, complete with sauces for dipping.
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Fish roe
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Unagi (eel)
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Moving on from the fresh produce section, you’ll come to the snacks section selling dry goods, including snacks, ramen, biscuits, drinks, and more.

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Have you tried Ramune? I first had this carbonated drink in San Francisco’s Japantown, and the little glass ball in the bottle has always fascinated me. Apparently in the old days, before the invention of bottle caps, it was used to stopper the drink and prevent the carbon from escaping. In modern times, Ramune is a symbol of summer in Japan, where it is often enjoyed at festivals.

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Anime fans are not left out, as you’ll also find anime-themed merchandise here, such as these Demon Slayer-themed snacks.

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I was tickled to find the Sakeru Gummy candy, which was popularised by the hilarious series of ads featuring the Long Long Man character. And it was, indeed, true to the name, measuring 50cm. There was a short version too.

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More unusual products – giant serving of noodles
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A lot of thought goes into packaging and presentation when it comes to Japanese products. I, at least, feel tempted to buy (and keep) them just for their looks lol.

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After over an hour exploring the aisles, I finally settled on a couple of snacks, some chuuka idako (marinated baby octopus) and fried squid. Would have liked to get more, but my budget doesn’t allow for it. Check out was fast as they have multiple counters, and there are staff members to help you bag your purchases. But do note that they don’t provide plastic bags, so you’ll have to bring your own or buy their recyclable tote bags.

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The squid was a bit rubbery since it had been fried early in the day, but it was well seasoned. The octopus was excellent and came in a sizable portion, considering the price.

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And that was my trip to Don Don Donki Tropicana Gardens Mall! I actually enjoyed shopping here more than the KL outlet. Not only is it closer to where I stay, so I don’t have to brave KL traffic, they also have a larger section dedicated to food and snacks, which is what I prefer over household goods or toys anyway. Another plus point would be the organisation – it’s definitely more neatly organised than Donki KL.

To those planning a visit, I recommend coming early or on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Tropicana Gardens Mall is a good place to shop too, with lots to see.

DON DON DONKI (TROPICANA GARDENS MALL)

Lot CC-26, 27, 28 & Lot G-20, 20A, 21 Tropicana Gardens Mall 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah Petaling Jaya, 47810 Selangor

Open daily

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.