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FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
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Thai mega mall tops Instagram’s year-end list
Associated Press
A tourist takes a photo in front of Siam Paragon Department Store in central Bangkok December 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
A tourist takes a photo in front of Siam Paragon Department Store in central Bangkok December 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
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BANGKOK: Sure, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon have inspired many photographs. But a shopping mall in Bangkok has claimed this year’s crown as the world’s most photographed location on Instagram.

In its Top 10 year-end list, the app dubbed Siam Paragon as the planet’s most “Instagrammed” spot in 2013. It edged out No. 2 Times Square and No. 3 Disneyland in California on the list that also included New York’s Central Park and Dodger Stadium in L.A.

Paris’ iconic steel tower got bumped off the list. And if Siam Paragon seems like an improbable winner, consider this: Last year’s most Instagrammed place was again from Thailand – Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, which this year was at No. 9.

The luxury mall in the heart of Bangkok is not exactly a world-famous landmark. Sightseeing visitors to the city typically head first to the majestic Grand Palace or take in the serenity of Buddhist temples like Wat Pho. The mall is a trendy meeting place in Bangkok that claims more than 100,000 visitors a day. But why is it so avidly photographed?

“All the celebrities come here and post photos of themselves,” said Sayamon Srichai, a 33-year-old Bangkok office worker walking past Paragon’s tropical Christmas garden with an outstretched arm as she smiled for her smartphone. “Regular people like me want to walk in their footsteps.”

Thailand has long been called the Land of Smiles, but it could also be called the Land of Selfies. Thais love taking pictures of themselves, documenting their daily activities and uploading the images so friends know what they’re up to. The Southeast Asian country is also one of the world’s biggest users of social media, which could explain why a building that may not be the most photographed still ends up the most visible on Instagram.

“Taking Instagram pictures is sort of like a daily ritual,” said Jitlada Mahan, 18, another shopper posing with her phone at the five-floor complex. “This is how I communicate with my friends. Now they know where to find me.”

Combine that passion with Thailand’s love of malls, which offer air-conditioned refuge from the steamy outdoors, and the photo ops are endless.

Many shoppers treat Paragon like their personal catwalk: Visitors pose for pictures everywhere.

Historical sites can’t compete when it comes to uploads, said Suthasinee Tilokruanochai, a student eating at the food court.

“If you go to the Eiffel Tower, you go once. You take a picture and you leave,” she said “We come here every day after school.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 18, 2013, on page 13.
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