Much like Nordstrom, SM started out selling strictly shoes. In fact, SM stands for Shoe Mart. Their stores tend to be a bit middle of the road, and I always thought of them as the Wal-Mart of the Philippines. Granted, their merchandise was more on the level of a JCPenney or Dillard's, but they way they dominated the Philippine retail landcsape was very much reminiscent of Wal-Mart's command of the US market.
The extensive layout of SM Mall of Asia. The blue and green portions are mainly enclosed, while the areas between the main mall and the SM Hypermarket and SM Department Stores are open air.
I was never a fan of the architecture of SM's malls. I always found the design of Ayala malls to be much more noteworthy. SM malls tend to be very tedious and boxy in appearance with only a few wavy elements, LEDs patterns and glass decor to break the monotony of their plain concrete walls. The inside corridors tend to traverse in a racetrack pattern with few variations. With this prejudice in mind, I was looking forward to finally visiting the Mall of Asia. I had high hopes that SM's flagship facility would have at least little more to offer in the originality department. I was disappointed to see that it was pretty much the same SM template but on an even larger scale.
1- The mall's main entrance facing Epifanio De Los Santos Boulevard. 2- A view of Manila Bay from the mall.
Being located in a densely populated country and city (Manila is by far the most densely populated major city on the planet) most malls are built vertically, with the smaller ones topping out at three levels while it's not uncommon to see the larger ones with seven or eight tiers. The Mall of Asia, however, was built on reclaimed land in Manila Bay, so there was plenty of room to spare (and apparently waste.) Thus, The Mall of Asia is a mere two stories with hardly any prominence and an obnoxiously huge footprint.
The Bayside Promenade on the west side of the mall.
Presently listed as the fourth largest mall in the world (it was the second largest at its opening), The Mall of Asia is about 4 million square feet in size. It includes an SM Hypermart, an SM Supermarket, several outdoor greenspaces, a 180 foot tall ferris wheel, a regulation hockey size ice skating rink and a 20,000 seat arena, amongst other amenities. It is surrounded by residences and offices, as well as satellite restaurants and supporting shops. It is, perhaps, the most American style mall in Metro Manila.
Panorama of the Mall of Asia from the Philippine Cultural Center.
Much like Ala Mona in Honolulu, I never made much of an effort to shop at The Mall of Asia. Being more oriented to the tourist market, I usually chose not to deal with the hassles when I could easily find everything that I needed (minus the mile long walks) at nearby malls like Robinson's Galleria and Shangri-La Plaza. But it was still nice for the occasional visit if for nothing more than to watch locals who never dealt with ice outside of a cup of halo-halo trying to stay upright on a pair of ice skates.