Trip Ideas

Asia Grand Tour

You've picked the continent; now choose a city. We've got the lowdown on what to see, do and eat in six of Asia's best urban centers, from sky-high drinks in Bangkok to subterranean dumplings in Hong Kong.

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1

Bangkok

What not to miss
The Grand Palace: This wondrous complex of historic buildings and temples lives up to the hype. Prepare to be dazzled by sky-piercing spires, kaleidoscopic temples adorned with gem-colored tiles, and the truly impressive Reclining Buddha, a 46-meter-long statue wrapped in gold leaf and pearls.

What’s new?
EmQuartier: This luxe shopping mall is housed in one of the most striking new buildings in Bangkok. From the outside it looks as if it’s been woven from giant ribbons, and inside you'll find designer boutiques, hip restaurants and a 100-meter green chandelier spiraling down through a tropical garden atrium.

Where to eat
Nahm: If you want a taste of Thailand’s most lauded restaurant, be sure to book well in advance (we’re talking months for dinner and weeks for lunch). Try the sweet blue swimmer crabs with peanuts on rice cakes and delicate river prawns with crunchy pork crackling. And save space for one of Nahm’s dreamy desserts.

Where to drink
Moon Bar: Bangkok has more than its share of spectacular rooftop bars, but the most elegant of them all is the softly lit Moon Bar, on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Go there at sunset to see the city blaze into light.

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2

Hong Kong

What not to miss
Victoria Harbor: The Star Ferry crossing from Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon to Central on Hong Kong Island is one of the world’s most spectacular boat trips — and at around 25 cents a ride, it’s one of the cheapest, too. Aim for an 8 p.m. crossing to see Hong Kong’s nightly Symphony of Lights laser show.

What’s new?
New 'hoods: The newly extended West Line of the MTR subway system is helping to transform neighborhoods like Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town into the Williamsburg and Shoreditch of Hong Kong. Seek out leafy organic cafés and late night gin bars among the wet markets, egg roll shops and colonial-era red brick buildings.

Where to eat
Ho Lee Fook: The waving paws of 100 lucky cat ornaments welcome diners at this subterranean hot spot. Slide into a velvet booth and order classic Hong Kong dishes with contemporary twists — think juicy barbecue char sui pork with fluffy french toast and sticky wagyu roasted short ribs.

Where to drink
Ce La Vi: Spread across the top three floors of the new California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong, this restaurant-cum-bar-cum-nightclub is the place to see and be seen in 2015. Enjoy an upscale dinner in the rainforest-themed restaurant before moving upstairs to the club and Sky Bar for kaleidoscopic views of the city.

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3

Tokyo

What not to miss
Robot Restaurant: Forget the cherry blossoms, the Imperial Palace, the sumo wrestling, the synchronized crowds at Shibuya Crossing and the cosplay characters of Harajuku. If you haven’t been serenaded by a guitar-playing automaton and watched a kung-fu panda head-kick an alien at the robot cabaret show, you haven’t been to Japan.

What’s new?
Snoopy Museum: It seems Hello Kitty will get a run for her money when the new pop-up Snoopy Museum opens, in Roppongi in March 2016. Fans of the beloved beagle can expect to find vintage memorabilia and original artworks, as well as a themed restaurant and souvenir shop. Open through September 2018.

Where to eat
Takazawa Bar: It’s almost impossible to get a table at chef Yoshiaki Takazawa’s legendary French-Japanese fusion restaurant. But those in the know nip around the corner to his newly opened bar in Akasaka, where you can nibble on small plates of signature dishes, such as cod milt dumplings, karaage fried chicken and bamboo charcoal bread.

Where to drink
Shot Bar Zoetrope: If you think drinking in Tokyo is all about sake and karaoke, think again. At this teeny-tiny hideaway in Nishi-shinjuku, black-and-white films flicker across the walls while patrons work their way through the 300 rare and craft whiskeys.

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4

Shanghai

What not to miss
The Bund: A stroll along this historic promenade, lined with grand colonial-era buildings, evokes the golden age of travel. But don’t just stick to the center; venture to South Bund for traditional hutong neighborhoods, pretty parks and gritty street markets, and amble north for arty enclaves, Jewish synagogues and wonderful examples of 1930s Brutalist architecture.

What’s new?
Shanghai Natural Museum: Designed in the shape of a nautilus shell, this new museum is a cultural and architectural wonder that houses more than 10,000 artifacts from all seven continents. Marvel at the 100-foot-tall cellular walls, collections of Neolithic art, and the 140 million-year-old skeleton of the dinosaur mamenchisaurus.

Where to eat
Jia Jia Tang Bao: Shanghai’s foodie specialty is xialongbao, a delectable bite-size dumpling filled with gingery minced pork and soup, ordered by the basketful. Slurp them up at one of the city’s best-loved restaurants. There are several jam-packed branches across the city.

Where to drink
Glam: This gorgeous bar, adorned with vintage sofas, striking artworks and super Bund views, is the latest outpost from the fashionable (yet never pretentious) M on the Bund group. Featuring literary nights and poetry readings, it has quickly become the go-to lounge for Shanghai’s well-heeled intelligentsia.

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5

Singapore

What not to miss
The Supertree Grove: This assemblage of 25-to-50-meter high towers wrapped with flowering plants, greenery and solar cells is one of Singapore’s quirkiest attractions. Powered by the sun during the day, the treelike towers come into their blooming own in the evening, when the trunks and branches pulse in otherworldly shades of electric blue, violet and red. It's all very Avatar.

What’s new?
National Gallery Singapore: Two of Singapore’s most majestic heritage buildings have been transformed into a home for the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian artworks. Go to see oil paintings from the 19th century, 1950s black-and-white photography, and installations and video art pieces from the present day.

Where to eat
MEATliquor: Singapore’s hip young media types have taken a shine to this outpost of this beefy British chain. Mosey on down to Duxton Hill for comfort food classics like chili cheese fries, dirty chicken burgers and deep-fried pickles washed down with strawberry, pear and vodka cocktails.

Where to drink
Bang Bang: This playful little nightclub packs a big party punch with futuristic LED-lit walls, top-notch service and pumping dance anthems. Hit it on a Thursday, otherwise known as #Uncensored, when ladies enjoy free entry and free-flowing vodka from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m.

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6

Kuala Lumpur

What not to miss
Petronas Towers: At 452 meters tall, the iconic twin spikes of the Petronas Towers are hard to miss. Aside from gawking at the architecture, visitors can cross the glass-walled sky bridge that links the two buildings between the 41st and 42nd floors and swoon over views from the 88th-floor observation deck.

What’s new?
Ice cream: With the temperature hovering around the 100 degree mark most of the year, it’s easy to see why a trend for all things ice cream has taken off in this city. Go to Fatbaby for waffles stuffed with bananas, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. Or make for Morelli’s Gelato for purple sundaes sprinkled with pink meringue.

Where to eat
Precious Old China: Tucked away in a corner of Kuala Lumpur’s Deco-era Central Market, this charismatic little restaurant (all hardwood floors, marble-topped tables and swirling ceiling fans) serves traditional Baba cuisine, unique to the Malacca Coast. Try crispy "top hat" dumplings, smoky curries and butterfly pea blue rice.

Where to drink
Zouk: This KL clubbing institution was recently relocated and revamped to the tune of nearly $1 million and is bigger and better than ever. Slip past the velvet rope and you'll find dance floors, stages, bars and VIP suites spread across three acres. Look out for F1 drivers during grand prix week.