Looking for places to visit in Asia? Here are some fun things to do in five Asian cities.
In the 1930s Shanghai was known as the “Paris of the Orient”. It is filled with grand European architecture and cosmopolitan vibe. But in more recent times, the rising skyline of this top Asian city, new entertainment precincts and proliferation of hip bars has earned it the moniker “Berlin of the East”.
There’s no doubt Shanghai is China’s hippest city. It’s a place where European culture and architecture has been entwined in the fabric of the city for centuries. The British built their settlement in 1843 and were followed by the Americans and the French. A visit to the French Concession is a stroll down memory lane into Shanghai’s 1930s heyday.
In Shanghai, east meets west and old meets new. The US$45 billion spent on preparing the city for the Shanghai Expo in 2010 brought new parks, roads, bridges, airport terminals and subway lines. Streets were repaved and entire neighbourhoods razed to make way for dazzling entertainment precincts.
Adding to the skyline of modern, Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture on The Bund last year, were brand new luxury hotels such as Peninsula Shanghai, Waldorf Astoria Shanghai and the reconstructed Fairmont Peace Hotel, which was the hotspot for Shanghai’s elite in the 1930s.
Wander around Xintiandi in the Luwan district for its charming traditional Shikumen (stone gate) houses and narrow alleys with cafes, restaurants and nightclubs. Tianzifang is a new art zone in Taikang Road with hip art galleries, design studios, craft shops and fashion shops.
City’s sexiest bar: 789 Nanjing Lu Bar + Lounge on the 66th floor of Le Royal Meridien Hotel for martinis and 360-degree views of the skyline.
Best Romantic Dining: Book The Cupola at Three on the Bund for a private dinner with amazing views and VIP treatment. The elite private dining venue was once a bell tower for the historic building and has hosted celebrities like Michael Shumacher, Beyonce and Tom Cruise.
Sensational Shopping: On Nanjing Road head to Plaza 66 for top international designers and Taobao City Market for handbags.
Don’t miss: Gosney & Kallman’s Chinatown. The racy three-storey burlesque club, located in a 1030s Buddhist temple, dazzles with music, dancing girls and floor shows.
Two multibillion-dollar Integrated Resorts, which opened in Singapore, have transformed the Lion City from a shopping and eating stopover into an electrifying entertainment hub and certainly one of the top Asian cities to visit. These days, Singapore’s new attractions make it a worthy holiday destination that stands firmly on its own two feet.
The Integrated Resorts – Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands – have turned Singapore into a magnet for celebrity chefs and glamorous international brands.
Resorts World Sentosa is on Sentosa Island. The former British garrison is linked by a bridge to the main island. It has six hotels, a casino, Universal Studios and the lively FestiveWalk entertainment precinct packed with restaurants and shops.
Board the Singapore Flyer for jaw-dropping views of Marina Bay Sand’s SkyPark, which is a 1.2ha tropical oasis that sits atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel towers, 200m in the sky.
SkyPark is the length of four and a half A380 jumbo jets and has landscaped gardens planted with 250 types of trees and 650 types of plants, a 150m swimming pool, restaurants and observation decks.
Even though the party is only just beginning, the Lion City is already a roaring success.
City’s sexiest bar: 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar for its sleek design and glittering 360-degree view of the city.
Best Romantic Dining: Equinox Restaurant for a top-of-the-world degustation on the 70th floor with jaw-dropping views and a fine Asian-inspired menu.
Sensational Shopping: The shopping hub at the junction of Orchard Road and Scotts Road for swanky upscale department stores like ION, Tangs, Wisma Atria, Shaw Centre and Wheelock Place.
Don’t miss: A soothing Singapore Flower Ritual treatment for couples in a garden pavilion of Spa Botanica on Sentosa Island.
UNESCO World Heritage treasures combine with Las Vegas razzle dazzle in the former Portuguese colony of Macau. In the 16th century, the Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries that settled in Macau turned it into a major trading and religious base.
Although Macau was handed back to China in 1999, its Portuguese past has left it with a substantial network of heritage buildings, plazas, churches and squares. Macau’s old town is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. St Paul’s was the largest Catholic church in Asia until it burnt down in 1835, leaving just the stone facade intact.
Wandering around Macau reveals a charming blend of Chinese and European architecture. Cobblestone streets are lined with pastel European-style townhouses. Chinese temples occupy streets with Portuguese names like Avenida do Coronel Mesquita and Rua das Estalagens. Don’t miss the A Ma Temple, which was built by fishermen in the 16th century to honour the sea goddess. Its traditional Chinese prayer halls, pavilions and courtyards are linked by winding paths and moon-shaped gates.
Macau is the only legal place to gamble in China. It rakes in more gaming revenue than Las Vegas. This astounding fact has well and truly earned this Asian city the title of Asia’s Las Vegas. The recent boom in casino projects is rapidly transforming the historic city into a thrilling destination with big-name casinos like Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Mirage.
City’s sexiest bar: Located on the north shore of Taipa island, 38 Lounge, on the 38th-floor of the Altira hotel, is a hotspot for cocktails, cognacs, wine and views of the Macau peninsula.
Best Romantic Dining: Antonio’s is the place for a quiet candlelight Portuguese dinner and a show of flamboyance when Chef António Coelho uncorks your Champagne bottle with a sword.
Sensational Shopping: The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian for luxury brands, entertainers wandering the streets and gondola rides.
Don’t miss: Eating a sweet egg tart, which was introduced to Macau by English expatriate, Andrew ‘Lord’ Stow, and can be found in local pastry shops.
A blend of Moorish, Islamic, British and contemporary architecture gives Kuala Lumpur (better known as KL) an exotic touch. The palatial domes in the administrative capital, Putra Jaya, are out of the pages of a 1001 Arabian Nights fairy tale. Their dreamy curves are a contrast to the gleaming 21st-century Petronas Twin Towers, which are some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. For stratospheric views, walk the sky bridge (on levels 41 and 42) linking the two towers or head to the top of KL Tower for a 360-degree panorama of the city.
Cleaner than Bangkok but not as orderly as Singapore, KL is an exceptionally affordable Asian hotspot city for luxury hotels, shopping and mouth-watering cuisine. At the time of writing, a room at the five-star Mandarin Oriental costs $160 a night.
KL’s enormous air-conditioned shopping malls sell everything from electronics to shoes. Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisine is delicious, inexpensive and can be found in restaurants, street markets and shopping centre food halls. A local favourite is nasilemak, a dish of chilli sambal, hard-boiled egg and cucumber served on a banana leaf.
For a break from shopping and eating, the Lake Gardens is a calm oasis in the city centre and home to KL Bird Park, the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary. Nearby, Butterfly Park is a tropical rainforest sanctuary with hundreds of species of butterflies.
There is plenty to do after dark including visiting Petaling Street’s night market in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown where haggling is de rigueur. Slurp a bowl of noodles at a market food stall before heading for a night out at the clubs, bars and pubs. The best nightspots are located around the Golden Triangle area.
City’s sexiest bar: Skybar on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel for lychee martinis and a magical view of Petronas Twin Towers.
Best Romantic Dining: Tamarind Springs for Indochinese cuisine served in a lush tropical garden setting.
Sensational Shopping:Jalan Bukit Bintang for its shopping malls including Berjaya Times Square, Starhill Gallery and Sungei Wang Plaza.
Don’t miss: Shopping for 18-, 22- and 24-ct gold jewellery. Reputable jewellery shops can be found in upmarket shopping centres. They sell gold chains, bracelets, rings and pendants by the gram at a fraction the cost compared to Australia.