- Hong Kong,
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See + Do
French Concession (Luwan), China
In the area around Huaihai Lu, a street known for its department stores, boutiques, antique shops, and cafés, lies the marvelous old French Concession. In 1854, this area was designated to the French, who opted out of a move to combine all the foreign settlements in the city. Many of the French Concession's Tudor-style mansions—complete with colorful flower boxes—still stand on the tree-lined streets off Yan'an Lu. Vestiges of the Japanese occupation (1937–1945) also remain, alongside the buildings of what used to be the Jewish and Russian quarters. Fuxing Park is a tree-lined green oasis in the French Concession that dates back to the early 1900s. Early in the morning, people stroke the air in the smooth patterns of tai chi. Later, women sing Chinese opera, old men gamble at tables beside the main pavilion, and couples waltz to piped dance music. Go here for a typical—and marvelous—slice of Chinese life.
See + Do
Yu Garden, China
Shanghai 200010, China
Tel: 86 21 6326 0830
A lot of history resides in this little garden and its City God Temple. They were commissioned in 1559, built over the course of 19 years, destroyed in 1842 during the first Opium War, and later rebuilt and reopened to the public in their current incarnation in 1961. Pathways wind through rock gardens and bamboo stands, and stone bridges cross pools filled with bright carp. The word yu translates to "peace and health"and the park was certainly designed with tranquility in mindbut today, especially on weekends, swarms of tourists get in the way of the garden's serenity.
Garden open daily 8:30 am to 5 pm. City God Temple open daily 8:30 am to 4 pm.
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In the 1930s, Shanghai was covered with blocks of shikumen (traditional stone-gated structures). Today, most of these narrow middle-class houses, which typically featured five rooms upstairs and down, have been destroyed to make room for glitzy high-rise buildings. Xintiandi is a preserved neighborhood—one of the city's best (and only) examples of old Shanghai architecture—now transformed into an upscale mall, boasting a collection of swank restaurants, bars, and shops. For a glimpse into the life of a typical 1920s middle-class family, don't miss the Shikumen Museum, formerly a residential property that has been restored to its former charm and decorated with artifacts found in nearby houses (25 Lane 181, Taicang Lu; 86-21-3307-0337). Wash the taste of capitalism from your mouth with a visit to the nearby Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which pays homage to the party's 1921 founding with a wax tableau of the first meeting and a brief tour of the humble brick lane house where it all started (374 Huangpi Nan Lu, by Xingye Lu; 86-21-5383-2171).
Lost Heaven, China
Shanghai 200031, China
Tel: 86 21 6433 5126
Dark, moody, and sleekly sophisticated, Lost Heaven serves a rich fusion of regional Yunnanese and Burmese cuisines with a noticeable Thai kick. The three-floored interior is dressed in dark woods, red lanterns, Southeast Asian artifacts, and Yunnanese stone face masks. A two-floor shrine on the back wall is made from dried pu'er tea leaves. Unsurprisingly, it's a see-and-be-seen hot spot for local celebs and visiting movie stars from Hong Kong. An extensive menu has garlicky and lemongrass-infused seafood and meat options. For extra spice, try the Burmese curried vegetables, and for regional authenticity the flavorful dishes incorporating Yunnan's famed mushrooms. The first-floor Mask lounge offers ambient DJ tunes, boudoir chamber beds, and more spot-lit stone masks.
Open daily 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
Grand Hyatt Shanghai, China
Shanghai 200121, China
Tel: 86 21 5049 1234
The Grand Hyatt Shanghai takes up the top 34 floors of the monolithic 88-story Jin Mao Tower—the fifth-tallest building in the world—so you can imagine the views: vertigo-inducing panoramas over the city's skyscrapers and streets, abetted by the ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling windows. (Request a west-facing room for views of the Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and the rest of the Shanghai skyline's kitschy excess.) If you can tear your gaze from the neon spectacle outside, you'll find the hotel's interiors are pretty sumptuous: All 555 rooms have contemporary furniture (lots of glass, lacquered wood, and velvety neutral-toned upholstery) accented by traditional Eastern artwork. The marble baths have multiple-head "shower towers" that engulf you in water and mist; if these aren't enough of a full-body experience, you can head to the steam baths and hot tubs at the on-site spa. The hotel's dozen restaurants, bars, and clubs include the Patio, a 33-story atrium where you can listen to live jazz; Cloud 9, on the 87th floor, where the views will make you dizzier than any cocktail; and Club Jin Mao, where you can sample local specialties, such as deep-fried eel with honey soy sauce and braised bean curd with hairy crab roe. While the Pudong location is oriented more for business than pleasure, the Line 2 Metro station is just a five-minute walk away, and a horde of cheap cabs waits outside to whisk you across the Huangpu River to the Old City.
See + Do
Symphony of Lights, China
Hong Kong, China
Every evening at 8 pm sharp, the world's largest light and sound show turns Hong Kong's urban jungle into a futuristic beauty pageant starring 44 of its waterfront skyscrapers. Discerning locals watch from the Star Ferry, Tsim Sha Tsui harborside promenade, or restaurants like Aqua and Huton, agreeing that the disco lights make even imposing structures like Sir Norman Foster's Bank of China building look rather groovy. The crowd swells considerably on holidays, when China's best pyrotechnics add extended sparkle to the otherwise 15-minute affair. If the whole thing sounds a bit over-the-top, it is. But it's still one of the must-see events in the city.
See + Do
Outlying Islands, China
There are more than 230 Hong Kong islands, a handful of which make great day-trip destinations from the Central city district. Take the Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island (852-2367-7065; www.starferry.com.hk), or sail on a traditional Chinese junk with Jubilee International Tour Centre (852-2530-0530; www.jubilee.com.hk) to check them out.
The largest of the outlying islands, Lantau is about an hour by ferry from Central. And while the newish Hong Kong Disneyland (opened in 2005) takes up a big chunk of the island, Lantau is its own natural wonderland. A national park covers half the land mass, and Hong Kong's longest beach (Cheung Sha, almost two miles of sand), its highest mountain (2,700-foot-high Lantau Peak, a terrific hike), and the rare Chinese white dolphin are all found here (well, the dolphins are actually swimming offshore). You'll also find the world's largest Buddha statue and Tai-O, a 300-year-old fishing town filled with traditional canal-side stilt houses.
Tiny Lamma is just off of Hong Kong Island's Aberdeen district, close to Stanley Market. Thanks to a ban on cars and buses, it's an authentic dose of old Hong Kong, complete with quaint fish farms, unfussy seafood restaurants, and scenic cliff-side trails.
This small island, about half an hour from Central, has a charming clutch of traditional fishing villages and seafront restaurants. It's also got nature parks, Buddhist temples, and calm-watered, tropical-feeling beaches.
See + Do
Hong Kong Museum of Art, China
Hong Kong, China
Tel: 852 2721 0116
Right on the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, this museum mounts fine temporary exhibitions and has a huge permanent collection of more than 14,000 Chinese antiquities and objets d'art. The artworks here are not only beautiful; they often help visitors understand Hong Kong from a cultural and historical context. This is especially true of the prints and paintings from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, which show scenes of daily life in the city.