- Hong Kong,
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Bar Rouge, China
Tel: 21 6339 1199
Shanghai's classiest cocktail lounge draws a hip clientele with its sexy bordello-red decor and lively dancing. Behind the bar, skilled mixologists deftly toss and flip bottles as they pour mango mojitos and pepper-spiked vodka martinis. Be prepared for a lot of attention—Bar Rouge is known to be an international pickup joint (albeit an upmarket one). There's often a cover charge, and drinks are expensive...but the river view is priceless.
Cloud 9, China
Shanghai 200121, China
Tel: 86 21 5049 1234
Though the skyscrapers of Pudong hold little allure for visitors, they do have one major attraction: stunning views. Perched atop the world's fifth-tallest building, the Grand Hyatt's Cloud 9 is the highest bar in the world, where a dark and moody decor frames the vast floor-to-ceiling windows. Sip a drink from the well-attended, touristy, bar and marvel at the 360-degree panorama, so high that clouds sometimes obscure the view.
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Huangpu Cruise, China
Tel: 86 21 6374 4461
Winding through the heart of Shanghai, the Huangpu River is the city's primary artery, a freshwater tributary that leads to the Yangtze River and beyond to the East China Sea. The Huangpu River Cruise Company offers leisurely boat tours with tickets ranging from $6.25 to $13 (pricier seats come with better views and snacks). Glide up and down the murky waters, past one of the world's biggest and busiest ports—one third of China's trade flows through here—to the mouth of the Yangtze and back again. Catch a cruise at sundown so you can watch the lights glow on shore in a juxtaposition of old and new—to the west lies the historic Bund, to the east the skyscraper spires of übermodern Pudong.
Shanghai 200080, China
Tel: 86 21 6393 1234
Designed by in-demand Japanese firm Super Potato, Hyatt on the Bund's top-floor lounge bar is exotically styled as an upscale vineyard. Dressed in blond woods, bare bricks, and neon-lit fiberglass paneling, with wine bottles lining the entryway, Vue has a vibe that is both refined and playful. But it's the knockout views that stand it apart from most Shanghai lounges. A winding staircase leads to the 33rd-floor open deck terrace, with a whirlpool bath, daybedsand an unsurpassable Shanghai vista that spans out over the large U-bend in the Huangpu River, and is flanked by both the Bund and Lujiazui nightscapes.
Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 pm to 1 am, and Fridays through Saturdays 5 pm to 2 am.
JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai, China
Shanghai 200003, China
Tel: 86 21 5359 4969, Fax: 86 21 6375 5988
Soaring above People's Square in an angular 60-story building is this airy hotel, flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows. The lobby is on the 38th floor and the hotel continues 24 stories upward, so spectacular views over the city come as standard in the 342 rooms. Furnishings are Art Decoesque, but some touchesthe diamond-patterned hunter-green carpeting and rosewood paneling, for instancefeel a bit staid compared with the look of the city's newer hotels. Two lounges and three restaurants offer both Chinese and Western fare. None particularly stands out, though the 40th-floor Champagne Lounge is a good place for a nighttime drink with a view over People's Square. A spacious fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and a branch of the Mandara Spa tick all the boxes for modern luxury, while a central location between the Bund and French Concession wins points for convenience.
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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.
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Victoria Peak, China
At 1,810 feet tall, Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's highest and most notable landmark, as well as its ritziest residential area. Its well-heeled 19th-century residents were hand-carried up the mountain via sedan chair, but modern visitors can take the Peak Tram (the steepest funicular in the world) from Central Terminal at 33 Garden Road. The tacky Peak Tower shopping and entertainment complex is forever packed with the camera-wielding crowd. You can pop in and taste bottled waters from around the world at O Bar or sample dishes by Down Under celebrity chef Geoff Lindsay at Pearl on the Peak, but it's best to leave the crowds behind and explore the Peak on foot. Head for Mount Austin Road, which climbs through the Peak's public gardens to the actual pinnacle. Along the way you'll get sprawling views of Macau, the outlying islands, and the jostling junks and sampans of Aberdeen Harbor.
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Macau's gambling revenues may have surpassed those of Las Vegas, but cultural tourists and foodies can hit the jackpot here, too. The Portuguese colonized this small but strategic territory at the mouth of China's Pearl River in the 16th century as the first European settlement in the Far East. Today the high rollers head straight to casinos like Stanley Ho's Lisboa Hotel & Casino (24 Ave. de Lisboa; 853-2888-3888; www.hotellisboa.com), The Sands Macao (203 Largo de Monte Carlo; 853-2888-3388; www.sands.com.mo), Wynn Macau (Rua Cidade de Sintra; 853-2888-9966; www.wynnmacau.com), and the $2.4 billion Venetian Macao (Estrada da Baía de N. Senhora da Esperança; 853-2882-8888; www.venetianmacao.com/en), on the Cotai Strip between Taipa and Coloane islands.
Colonial vestiges remain in the stone facade of the wooden Saint Paul's Church (Rua de São Paolo), the pretty saffron Saint Dominic Church (Largo de São Domingos), and the residences around Lilau Square where the first Portuguese settlers made their homes. These settlers also left their mark on the cuisine of Macau, starting with the pastel de nata, or egg tart, that comes out of the ovens day and night at Lord Stow Bakery (1 Rua do Tassara; Coloane; 853-2888-2534; www.lordstow.com). Hong Kong day-trippers make pilgrimages for the caramel-crusted roast pork at Fernando's (9 Praia de Hac Sa; Coloane; 853-2888-2264) or to A Lorcha (289 Rua do Almirante Sergio; 853-2831-3193), which serves traditional Macanese dishes like deep-fried king prawns with chile and garlic.
Turbojet hydrofoils make the one-hour trip between Hong Kong and Macau around the clock (853-8790-7039; www.turbojet.com.hk), but those with the cash may prefer to cut travel time down to a mere 20 minutes by arriving via helicopter (Heliservices; 852-2802-0200; www.heliservices.com.hk).
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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).
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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.
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The Bund, China
Shanghai 200002, China
This stretch of Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu, on the western bank of the Huangpu River, was once home to the Wall Street of Asia. The grand mansions were built as headquarters for British, French, American, Russian, and Japanese banking institutions that had established themselves in the city following the Opium Wars in the 1840s, when Shanghai was opened up to foreign trade. The hodgepodge of architectural stylesArt Deco, Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, and neoclassicalillustrates the many foreign influences. On the promenade, locals gather at dawn to practice kung fu, qigong, and tai chi, as well as ballroom dancing. The rest of the day, snap-happy tourists take pictures of one another in front of the Pudong skyline across the water, or catch a scenic riverboat tour. The Bund underwent major relandscaping ahead of the 2010 World Expo, connecting it to river taxi stops that go to the Expo site and channeling traffic underground.
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2010 World Expo Site, China
Shanghai 200126, China
Tel: 86 400 181 6688
Hosting the 2010 World Expo left Shanghai a legacy of improved infrastructure, plus some visually striking Expo pavilions. The World Fair's centerpiece, the 207-foot-high China Pavilion, remains in place, as do the national pavilions of Saudi Arabia, Spain, Italy, France, and Russia. The most dramatic remaining structure is the oyster shell–shaped Mercedes-Benz Arena. Formerly the Expo Performance Center, it reopened in late 2010 as China's first sports venue with corporate branding. Inside the spaceshiplike building is an 18,000-seat arena for sports, musical, and theatrical events; an ice rink; a music club; a shopping mall; and an exhibition center.—Gary Bowerman