Enjoy these Asian locales, from a speakeasy bar in Shanghai to a lush spa in Manila.
The Land of Smiles will keep you smiling even after your visit – if you know where to go. Here’s where to fi nd great shopping, unique culture and vibrant nightlife:
1. The Bookshop Bar
Bookworms will rejoice at The Bookshop Bar. You’ll be instantly transported into Wonderland, with its warped bookshelves hanging off the ceiling and staircases that lead to nowhere.
Try inspired cocktails like Latest Periodicals or Romance Novel.
Ashton Condominium, Sukhumvit Soi 38
2. Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roaster
Originally from Chiang Mai, Pacamara boutique coffee roaster is part of Bangkok’s emerging hipster culture – with its industrial-style interior, exposed brick walls and metallic lamps. Chat with the friendly staff to find out more about their coffees.
2/F, Rainhill, Sukhumvit Soi 47
3. Sook Sabai Health Massage
Traditional Thai massage is commonly called “yoga massage.” Head to Sook Sabai Health Massage for a proper once over.
Level 3 YJA Building, 23/13-14 Soi Saladaeng 1, Rama 4 Rd, Silom, Bangrak
4. Rot Fai Market
Already been to Jatujak Market? Pop into Rot Fai Market for leather jackets, chandeliers, action fi gures, Maoist paraphernalia and much more.
Ratcadaphisek Rd, close to Esplanade Shopping Mall
5. Fantasia Lagoon
Fantasia Lagoon rooftop waterpark is popular with locals for its huge pools and adult-size slides. Unleash your inner child here if you’re looking to stave off the heat.
Level 4, The Mall Bangkapi, 3522 Lat Phrao Rd, Klong Chan
It’s no wonder why Jakarta holds a notorious rep for having the world’s worst traffic congestion: It has more than 8 million people – and is the most populous city in Southeast Asia. Dig a little deeper for these gems in the Indonesian capital.
6. Markobar Cikini
A madly popular pancake stand owned Widodo’s son queues for its creations, try their cheese, Oreo, green tea KitKat or red velvet Tim Tam pancakes.
Jln. Raden Saleh Raya, No. 39, Menteng, Daerah Khusus, Ibukota
7. Koko Bogana
Koko Bogana serves faithful recreations of rice dishes from different regions across the country and is known for its Nasi Bogana, a pack of rice and assorted sides, served on or wrapped in a banana leaf.
Jln. Cipaku 1 No. 2, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta Selatan
8. Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa
After all of those long business meetings, you’re donezo. Head to Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa for traditional Javanese spa treatments like the three hour Seven Flower Ritual Treatment, which pampers your bod with the essences and extracts of seven flowers.
Jln. K.H. Wahid Hasyim No.133, Kebon Kacang, Tanah Abang
9. Giyanti Coffee Roastery
Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest producers of coffee, and it would be a pity not to grab a cuppa at Giyanti Coffee Roastery. It also claims to make the best apple pie in Jakarta.
Jln. Surabaya No. 20, Jakarta Pusat
10. Bharata Theatre
Watch Javanese and Hindu folklore come to life at a wayang orang (human puppet show) at Bharata Theatre from 8 p.m. on Saturdays.
Jln. Kalilio 1, Senen Jakarta Pusat
With a population of 23 million, this city is one of the largest in the world. Unlike Beijing, Shanghai was shaped by Western infl uences after the First Opium War and French Concession.
11. Speak Low
Shanghai had a flourishing jazz culture in the 1920s, similar to New York’s. Speak Low is a Japanese-styled speakeasy hidden behind a bartending equipment retailer. It spans four fl oors and prices rise with each level.
579 Fuxing Middle Rd
12. Mulan Huage Furniture
If you’re looking to add some spice to your home, Mulan Huage Furniture – essentially, a cluttered junkyard – may offer some treasures.
1788 Ji Yang Rd
When China finally opened its doors to the world, so did ShanghART, Shanghai’s contemporary art museum. It focuses on artists living and working in Shanghai.
50 Moganshan Rd
14. Lin Long Fang
Xiaolongbaos (traditional soup dumplings) originated in Shanghai. For an authentic experience, go to Lin Long Fang, where the prices haven’t gone up too much.
10 Jianguo E Rd
15. 1984 Bookstore
1984 Bookstore is a quirky cafe filled with obscure books, Art Deco chairs and shoegaze, or dream pop, music. Ring the door to be let in.
11 Hunan Rd
The Malaysian hub is home to many communities: Chinese, Malays, South Indians and natives from East Malaysia and more. As a result, it’s not uncommon to encounter, say, an Indian woman tossing wanton noodles while speaking fl uent Cantonese.
16. Sunway Lagoon
The popular Sunway Lagoon theme park has more than 90 attractions sprawled across six adventure zones over 88 acres.
17. Cameron Highlands
Escape the heat and drive up to Cameron Highlands, where the mild, mountainous climate offers a respite. Pick fruit or tea leaves while trekking through the picturesque terraces and fields.
Cameron Highlands, Pahang
18. Tamarind Springs
Enjoy contemporary Indochinese cuisine while sitting in a natural forest reserve at Tamarind Springs, an experience akin to entering Narnia without leaving the city.
Jln. 1, Taman Tun Abdul Razak
19. Bukit Tabur
Ascend Bukit Tabur for panoramic views of Kuala Lumpur from the north. Time it well, and perhaps you’ll catch a gorgeous sunset. Stick to the western section of the trail to stay safe.
Bukit Tabur, 53100, Selangor
20. Aquaria KLCC
The kids will love Aquaria KLCC ($15 and up), which is home to more than 250 species of marine and aquatic life from oceans freshwater rivers, coastal tidelands and dense kelp forests.
Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre 50088 Kuala Lumpur
The stark contrast between rich and poor, glamour and grit can oft en be overwhelming in the heart of the Philippines. Yet, it has much to off er curious travellers who are willing to explore its secrets.
21. Devarana Spa
Halo-halo is a popular Filipino dessert that is very similar to Singapore’s ice kacang. Don’t miss out on the Halo-Halo Body Scrub ($65) at Devarana Spa. It’ll leave your skin soft and smooth using sweet corn, red bean, banana and coconut.
Dusit Thani Manila, Epifanio de los Santos Ave, Makati
22. Treskul Records & Café
If you still own a record player or turntables (kudos to you!), visit Treskul Records & Café to add to your vintage vinyl collection.
641 Boni Ave, Mandaluyong City
23. Sip & Gogh
Paint and drink wine at the same time at Sip & Gogh. Just watch where you dip your paintbrushes!
1 Capitol Hills Dr, Capitol GreenStreet, Old Balara, Quezon City
25. Salcedo Saturday Community Market
Binge on street food, souvenirs and more at the Salcedo Saturday Community Market Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jaime C. Velasquez Park, Makati
By Hazel Joanne Vincent De Paul and Joshua Tan, The Finder, June 2016