Jul 05, 2012|
More than any other continent, Asia develops at a breakneck pace, with trendy spots popping up and closing down (or, worse, going out of fashion) in a matter of months. So to help you plan your next trip, we’ve tracked down a couple of the coolest—at least for now—hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and arts spaces in locales from China to Indonesia. They’ve all opened their doors in the last year, so the been-there-done-that excuse just won’t fly this time. So what are you waiting for? We recommend requesting some leave ASAP.
The buzz: This painstakingly renovated complex (which’ll have a hotel within its grounds soon) has a 600-year-old history, but the chatter about it is all contemporary.
The facilities: An award-winning restaurant and the gardens, along with the main hall of the temple and four rooms used for functions and exhibitions, are all open now, with a boutique hotel on the way.
The deets: Set in an atmospheric hutong, the property has a storied past. Different parts have, at various points, acted as ancient halls of worship, a printing workshop for imperial texts, the living quarters of prominent Buddhist figures and a canvas for Cultural Revolution-era Communist slogans. The site was discovered in ruins in 2007, and it’s taken since then to restore the 3,500-square-foot swath of land. Most notably, TRB, Temple Restaurant Beijing—serving upscale, French-inspired European food in what used to be a television factory—has got critics swooning.
Perfect for: Fans of architecture and Chinese history, or anyone who appreciates the fine art of using old spaces in new ways.
The buzz: This is a rooftop bar/restaurant/lounge with enormous windows showcasing stellar vistas of the city. It’s so brand-spankin’-new that only the first of the three parts is open right now. Despite its slow roll-out over the next two months (the restaurant formally opens in July, the bar in August), city residents are raving about it as THE place in KL to grab a drink with a view.
The deets: The architecture is all glass and metal beams, allowing for an unobstructed view of both the city and the iconic Petronas Towers. The bar’s where you can sip a cocktail while lounging on plush red couches with comfy pillows and rocking out to the in-house DJ. In contrast, the forthcoming lounge offers a more intimate (read: classy) atmosphere for those whiskey-and-cigar-filled nights. Two Italian in-house chefs will helm the high-end restaurant, serving up hearty classics
from veal to pizza. Based on the photos we’ve seen, the sunset is stunning, but Marini’s is also open every night till 4am for all you night owls.
Perfect for: Suckers for a bar with a view.
Level 57, Menara 3 Petronas, Persiaran KLCC, Kuala Lumpur 50088, Malaysia, (+60) 3-2161-2880, www.marinis57.com.
The buzz: Luxury accommodation in China usually means big-brand hotels, huge, flashy buildings and lots of gold light fixtures. Not so at Naked Stables. Located in a nature reserve three hours outside Shanghai, it’s a super-laid-back, multiple award-winning spa and horse-riding retreat in the hills of Moganshan.
The facilities: 121 rooms, a horse-riding center, conference facilities, three swimming pools, restaurants, a kid’s playground and daycare center and a spa.
The deets: It’s all eco-friendly and back-to-nature here: accommodation in the 60-hectare resort is made up of treetop villas or earth huts, which are well appointed and made with sustainable materials. A major focal point is the Naked Leaf Spa, which offers a huge range of all-natural spa treatments, with many of the ingredients originating from the reserve’s own farm. Yoga, Pilates, mediation and tai chi classes are also offered, and if you want to embark on a full-blown health program, there are nutritionists on hand to offer consultations. Oh, and did we mention that there’s a riding center where you can grab a steed and explore the surrounding forest on horseback? (OMG ponies!) However, if you’re not a horse fan, there are plenty of other activities, such as trail walking, mountain biking, fishing, tea-picking and even calligraphy workshops.
Perfect for: A seriously secluded indulgent weekend that’s only a stone’s throw from home.
Reservations office: 2/F, 8 Lane 31, Huating Rd., Shanghai 200031, China, (+86) 21-6431-8901, www.nakedretreats.cn.
The buzz: This bohemian community is a haven for artists, entrepreneurs and those who love them. Housed in a converted warehouse (where else?), this motley crew of creatives has been kicking around since 2010, but a few newcomers have moved in this past year, including Craft MNL, Lil’ Whims and Mochiko.
The facilities: Bars, galleries, mom-and-pop restaurants and cafes, an organic grocery, craft, design and novelty collectibles shops, boutiques, and fashion and design studios.
The deets: With a second branch in Quezon City, Craft MNL is a craft store-slash-workshop with frequent courses that you can sign up for on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CraftMNL). Past courses include postcard and poster screen printing workshops and slab pottery/glazing workshops, where participants learned how to make mugs, teacups, teapots, tumblers and wind chimes. Classes are small and fill up quick, so hurry and grab a spot! If photography is more your thing, Lil’ Whims (www.polaroidph.com) specializes in analog cameras (mostly Fuji Instax models), film, accessories and display paraphernalia. And if you need a snack break, head to Mochiko (www.facebook.com/mochikomochi) for some iced or regular mochi in all shapes and varieties (cat shapes and Oreo flavors are just some of the pickings).
Perfect for: The art-fashion-design maverick who craves off-the-beaten-track hideaways, and then some.
7274 Malugay St., San Antonio, Makati, Philippines, www.facebook.com/thecollectivemanila.
The buzz: Referred to as the 798 of Chengdu, the “park” is actually an abandoned electronics factory that, as a result of a government initiative, has been transformed into a creative hub.
The facilities: Bars, clubs, cafés, restaurants, galleries, shops, offices, hotels and an IMAX theater.
The deets: The former industrial buildings that house the various venues listed above were renovated such that many elements remain intact—from huge pipes that run above the ground to an old train permanently parked on a stretch of railroad track (photo opp!). There’s even the occasional graffiti; it’s unclear whether it’s some sort of Communist propaganda slogan or intentionally avant-garde art. Other elements, like discarded metal parts, were turned into outdoor art pieces. The complex also has office space for music entertainment companies and a whole area devoted to digital music production; there’s a big piazza for public performances. One of East Chengdu Music Park’s most well-known tenants, Xiong Mao
(www.xiongmaoclub.com), is an electronic music club packed on weekend nights.
Perfect for: Those willing to make the trek out east from the city center, especially hipster types who think old pipes make for cool décor and those who like to dance the night away at clubs.
Jian She Nan Zhi Rd., Chengdu District, East Chengdu, China.
The buzz: Located behind the historical buildings dotted along the Huangpu River, the Rockbund is a privately owned and operated oasis of culture in the otherwise uber-touristy Bund.
The facilities: Four floors of gallery space, with a café on the top floor/roof and a gallery shop opening soon.
The deets: Inhabiting what was originally the Royal Asiatic Building, a 1930s-era center of intellectual exchange and academic pursuit, the Rockbund runs exhibitions, tours, lectures, screenings and other programming centered around contemporary art as well as various social issues. An exhibition of Italian artist Paola Pivi’s installations, performances, paintings and photography is running through September 9; previous exhibitions include work by Michael Lin and Zeng Fanzhi. An entrance ticket costs RMB 15 (about $18).
Perfect for: The contemporary art aficionado who’s been-there-done-that with MOCA Shanghai and wants to see something new—and anyone who enjoys perusing works in a setting with a historical backstory.
20 Huqiu Rd., Huangpu District, Shanghai 200085, China, (+86) 21-3310-9985, www.rockbundartmuseum.org.
The buzz: Years in the making, this eagerly anticipated private island resort has both untouched beachfront beauty and an environmentally friendly mission.
The facilities: Villas, in-house F&B, a spa and a marine reserve.
The deets: Just a 30-minute speedboat ride from the coastal city of Sihanoukville, this resort rests on two footbridge-connected islands called Song Saa (which means “the sweethearts” in Khmer). The setup comprises 27 intimate villas built from sustainable materials and modeled after Cambodian fishing villages—so expect thatch roofs, rough-hewn natural timbers and driftwood furnishings. An on-premise spa offers Khmer treatments using local herbs, sand and iron-rich stones. There’s also a marine reserve home to dugongs and seahorses. Rates start from $4,000 per person per night (includes meals and drinks, laundry, minibar, transfers and leisure activities).
Perfect for: Honeymooners and luxury lovers with deep pockets and the desire to stray far, far off the beaten path.
Koh Ouen, Sihanoukville, Cambodia, (+85) 52-3686-0360, www.songsaa.com.
The buzz: A world away from Bali’s all-too-common sand-dusted beach bars, Mama San is a stylish, two-story bar, restaurant and cooking school that encourages patrons to linger all day—and stay late into the evening, too.
The deets: Set in a groovy warehouse space, Mama San is a sister venue to the well-known Sarong restaurant. In addition to serving pan-Asian street food with a modern twist, Mama San’s cooking school teaches you how to prepare some of its gorgeously presented dishes for yourself. There’s also a cocktail bar upstairs with a cool yet comfy gentleman’s club vibe. The décor itself is sleek but not intimidating, with a (mercifully restrained) touch of chinoiserie. The cocktail menu sees fresh fruit added to classics (such as the mint julep) for refreshing tropical drinks that pack a punch—and not a cheesy cocktail umbrella in sight.
Perfect for: Design fanatics who want great food along with their cool interiors.
135 Jl. Raya Kerobokan, Br. Taman, Bali, Indonesia(+62) 361-730436, www.mamasanbali.com.
The buzz: One of those oddities of South Korea is that the major conglomerates (called chaebols) control a lot of stuff. To wit: Samsung, primarily known for electronics and home appliances, also has a fashion arm (who knew?), which launched a new, cool line called 8 Seconds earlier this year with two flagship stores. Their slogan is succinct: “Cheaper than Zara, trendier than Uniqlo.”
The deets: Think Gap meets Forever 21 meets an indie boutique. One of the flagship stores is on trendy Garosu-gil, a cute street with hopping boutiques, restaurants and cafés. Inside the stylish shop you’ll find everything form jewel-colored high heels and sequined skirts paired with cardigans to well-fitting chinos, polo shirts and V-neck sweaters for the gentlemen. Patterns and prints abound, and beyond wardrobe staples like tank tops and pajama pants there are more out-there pieces as well, like colorful sneakers, acid-washed jeans and studded bracelets. The other flagship store is in Myeongdong, of Seoul’s primary shopping districts, and in the first few months since it’s been around 8 Seconds has already opened more branches across the city—with ambitious plans for expansion abroad in a few years, too.
Perfect for: Lovers of bright colors, preppy folks with an edge and anyone with a penchant for hipster chic.
8 Seconds’ Garosu-gil store: 535-12 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, (+782) 70-7090-1144-6, www.facebook.com/8seconds.kr.
8 Seconds’ Myeongdong store: 50-1, Myeongdong 2 Ga, Joong-goo, Seoul, South Korea, (+82) 70-7090-2272-2275, www.8secondsblog.com.
The buzz: R2 is a new late-night dining and drinking venue in Tokyo’s achingly cool Roppongi district.
The deets: With a 1930s New York jazz club vibe (though we think it’s more modern and minimalist), R2 is decorated with stylish black-and-white photographs and statement art pieces. Local and international musicians are on regular rotation, while downtempo electronica, funk and jazz provide the backdrop to low-key evenings. Food-wise, expect gussied-up bar classics, including sliders, fries and buffalo wings, and international-via-Tsukiji plates for mains—think tuna carpaccio with wasabi mayonnaise, oysters fresh or baked and Japanese-inflected staples such as Caesar salad and fish n’ chips. Drinks-wise, you’re looking at a mammoth menu of every kind of martini imaginable, plus daiquiris, margaritas, caipirinha et al., all in a huge variety of flavors.
Perfect for: Gentle after-hours carousing before a 5am flight home (the club closes at 4am every day except Sunday, when they kick us party animals out at midnight).
1F Centrum Roppongi Building, 7-14-23, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan, (+81) 3-6447-0002, www.r2sc.jp.
The buzz: Having started out as an intimate pop-up concept store-slash-cafe in 2010, the little company made a permanent home in the trendy neighborhood of Tiong Bahru late last year.
The deets: Founded and curated by best friends Georgina Toh and Tan Chiew Ling, this multi-brand boutique stocks clothing, accessories and other miscellany by hard-to-find designers from all over Singapore (and beyond). Expect everything from sweet florals and bold, cut-out dresses to porcelain animals and neon, sky-high pumps. With its old-school, tiled floor and curios piled higgledy-piggledy atop wooden tables, you’ll feel more like you’ve walked into somebody’s cozy apartment rather than a shop. As part of the Tiong Bahru Commons, the shop shares a building with other quirky and creative types, too, which are worth checking out.
Perfect for: Shopaholics who are fed up with the Lion City’s luxury megamalls and prefer to take their retail therapy in small but eclectic doses, accompanied by leisurely sips of coffee freshly brewed by the store’s owners themselves.
01-02 79 Chay Yan St., Singapore, (+65) 9117-0430, www.nanaandbird.com.