Exploring Five Asian Cities With Five Luxury Hotels

Your concierge recommends

Every frequent traveller worth his or her salt knows that the trick in gaining familiarity with a city is to have a chat the hotel concierge (or resident manager). By the very nature of their jobs, the concierge teams selected here are clued in with their carefully honed connections, and have their fingers on the pulse in their respective locations – Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. So whether you’re looking for a hip bar to nurse a cocktail at or dinner on a private yacht, these, certainly, are the right people to speak with.

Kevin J. Abramowicz, General Manager of Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok
What are the elements that shape your city’s uniqueness?
Bangkok is a city of sophisticated luxury. On the surface, the city is now a modern Asian metropolis with towering steel and glass skyscrapers, and has a justified reputation for traffic and smog, but scratch through the veneer and a gentler, peaceful and very oriental face is revealed. Our hotel’s design reflects this concept, making the Metropolitan By COMO, Bangkok timeless and modern. Kathryn Kng, the Singaporean architect, used materials and influences from East and West – with serene and sophisticated spaces. Kng creates sophistication through the unconventional combination of materials. She focuses on natural properties. The lobby, for example, features Makha wood from Thailand, combined with oxidised brass panelling.

Also, the hotel complements Thai street food culture with nahm, its lauded Thai restaurant.  David Thompson revived authentic Thai cuisine for fine dining through his commitment to maintain traditional Thai recipes and ingredients spanning his 30-year career.  Thai food enthusiasts hail from all over the globe to taste nahm’s signature dishes.

What are your top five recommendations for guests?
Hyde & Seek is well-known among Bangkok’s affluent set for its evening cocktail scene. It recently launched a new American brunch menu, served on weekends at 11 am – 5 pm. Celebrity chefs and mixologists create memorable cocktails and dishes.

The rod fai markets in the city are authentic open-air bazaars that sell vintage souvenirs, clothes, and mementos from the ‘50s and 60’s. Street food stalls are abundant. The market comes alive after sunset and is packed with locals and visitors until midnight, Thursday – Sunday. The original Rod Fai Market is located on Srinakarin Soi 51. This bazaar has a “Warehouse Zone" that offers abundant products all in vintage style. Premium items are displayed at the converted factory-type building known as “Rod’s Antiques." There are more than 2,000 stalls here.

Victory Monument is one of Bangkok’s main transportation hubs, with buses and vans coming through the monumental roundabout each day. The Thai word “soi" is defined as small neighborhood streets. ‘Sois’ in Victory Monument are a collection of restaurants, street food stalls, and snacks. The roundabout’s northeast side is home to famous Thai boat noodle stalls.

Iron Fairies is Bangkok’s most lauded bar.  Located in Thong Lor, an upscale district, Iron Fairies is decorated in the style of a Dickensian and Victorian factory-themed shophouse. Ashley Sutton, the designer and manager of the bar, hired craftspeople to create actual iron fairies.

Asiatique the Riverfront is a night bazaar and mall, combined to create a destination offering more than 1,500 boutique shops and 40 restaurants under a replica warehouse compound.  Entertainment options feature the Calypso cabaret, live Muay Thai, and Asiatique Sky – the highest ferris wheel in Thailand.

On how to experience Bangkok in signature Metropolitan By COMO fashion
We identify the guest’s preferences before recommending each activity. We create tailored experiences for the guests. Luxury malls compete with a sea of boutiques and markets, where you can treat yourself without overspending. Central Embassy Bangkok the city’s ultra-luxury lifestyle mall. It’s home to designer stores, fine-dining restaurants, and sleek cinema screens. The mega-mall, built at the cost of THB18 billion, reinforces Bangkok’s status as one of the world’s top shopping destinations.

ECHotelConcierge_HK1Indira Pun, Chief Concierge of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
What are the elements that shape your city’s uniqueness? 
Hong Kong is an amazing city where you can see skyscrapers, all of the world’s best boutiques and Michelin star restaurants and by walking just a few metres down the road, you will find traditional shops, a temple and local eateries. Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is a legendary establishment in Hong Kong known for history, heritage and services for over half a century; and when guests step in, they feel and see modernity blended harmoniously with the hotel’s traditions.

What are your top five recommendations for guests?
Trek up to Victoria Peak Garden, on the top of Victoria Peak, above the Peak Galleria area. Here, exceptional views abound, it’s serene and peaceful. A photographer guest was very happy with the shots she took from there. We have also organized picnics for couples to enjoy a romantic evening at Victoria Peak Garden.

Enjoy sumptuous fresh seafood and explore by taking a boat trip to see the amazing rock formations off the islands from Sai Kung. On one occasion, a couple came back after exploring Yim Tin Tsai island with no inhabitants and a solitary church It was incredible to find such a hidden attraction, a place where tourists would usually not have gone to see.

There are dai pai dongs (outdoor casual local eateries) in most localities in Hong Kong. Nearby the hotel, there is one on Cochrane Street. Our guests who are fascinated by local traditions and food enjoyed these dining experiences not only because of the exciting food and flavours but the activity around these businesses teach a lot about the culture of Hong Kong itself.

It is interesting for visitors to explore the wet markets of Hong Kong. The wet markets are completely different to the usual images that Hong Kong is known for – its cleanliness, its organized structures and its modernity.

Kowloon Walled City is a place steeped in incredible history – it’s still a very densely populated area, and there used to be a largely ungoverned settlement here, filled with crime and dealings with the black markets. The area has now been changed with relocations and development, and has been converted into a park. However, its history is still very much talked about.

On how to experience the Hong Kong in signature Mandarin Oriental fashion:
For a day of luxury, take off on a 30-minute helicopter ride over Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in the morning, followed by relaxing spa treatment in the afternoon at The Mandarin Spa, and to complete the evening with a dinner at our Michelin starred Man Wah Cantonese or at French restaurant Pierre. Or, let us organise a private yacht cruise where our Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky can cater a Michelin starred dinner in the middle of Victoria Harbour with the panoramic city as the backdrop.

Masako Ito, Chief Concierge, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo
What are the elements that shape your city’s uniqueness?
It’s shaped by the coexistence of tradition and modernity. This applies to Tokyo and The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, the latter of which encompasses a modern Japanese style.

What are your top five recommendations for guests?
On Takeshita Street, there are stores selling miscellaneous character and idol goods, popular among teens, are lined up along the street.

Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza is one of the most popular sushi restaurants in Japan. Many Japanese as well as tourists love to visit this eatery; however, it is usually difficult to score a reservation. The chef, Jiro Ono, is 90 years old, and a legend in the world of Japanese cuisine.

109 is a fashionable building that symbolizes Shibuya as does the pedestrian crossing in front of the Shibuya Station Hachiko Exit. It is very popular with young women, and has a large variety of shops and merchandise. Foreign celebrities can often be seen shopping here.

The Tokyo Sky Tree is a broadcast tower for television and radio. It’s 634 metres in height, the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest structure in the world. It was designed in the image of a big tree stretching up into the blue sky.

Studio GHIBLI a museum related to animations made by director Hayao Miyazaki, is extremely popular with both locals and tourists.

On how to experience Tokyo in signature Ritz-Carlton fashion
Drive to the heliport, and take off on a spectacular night flight to see Tokyo from the sky. To complete the evening, guests may enjoy dinner at the one Michelin star Azure 45 with window seats reserved for an uninterrupted view of Tokyo’s skyline and the iconic Tokyo Tower. After dinner, hop over to The Bar to enjoy the city’s best cocktails or partake in a whisky tasting session with our beverage experts.

Rajagopal Rajkumar, Chief Concierge of Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
What are the elements that shape your city’s uniqueness?
Singapore is a garden city, literally and metaphorically. The Singapore Botanic Gardens was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015, a milestone that we are immensely proud of. With the opening of Gardens by the Bay, there is no shortage of beautiful and exotic flora to discover.

Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore complements the garden city concept with its 15 acres of land right in the heart of the city. Guests love the urban concept where the hotel’s grounds are so idyllic yet guests enjoy the near proximity of main shopping belt Orchard Road. Additionally, we will soon launch a self-guided Orchid Walking tour on our grounds. This coincides with the unveiling of the new The Orchid greenhouse, set to house over 600 varieties of orchids.

What are your top five recommendations for guests?
Horse’s Mouth at Forum Galleria: it’s a hidden bar behind a ramen restaurant. Guests have to go behind the curtain, down the stairs to find this cosy speakeasy-influenced den. It’s a comfortable and cosy bar, perfect for unwinding with a cocktail or two. Guests just love the hidden element and the Japanese bar food and drinks they get here.

Aura Sky Lounge at National Gallery offers a spectacular one-of-a-kind view of Singapore’s skyline. The venue is located on the 6th floor of the National Gallery. This is the perfect after-hours drinks venue with deluxe bar grub and a classic and unfussy drinks list. Guests who have visited just love the views and photo opportunities.

Whitegrass at CHIJMES: This new modern Australian establishment opened in February 2016. The establishment is helmed by Chef Sam Aisbett; the cuisine is inventive and modern Australian with a touch of Asian tastes. The decor is eclectic and beautiful.

Odette is one of the most-anticipated new restaurants that opened in the National Gallery, ex-Jaan Chef Julien Royer heads Odette with Asian-inspired French cuisine. The interior decor is elegant and much attention has been paid to detail, right down to the Atelier Perceval knives.

Bincho at Tiong Bahru: a unique restaurant set in an old kopi tiam (coffee shop) in a heritage neighbourhood. The kopi tiam still sells mee pok noodles by day, and at sundown, the space transforms into a cool yakitori restaurant. It’s very alternative and unexpected, a venue that only people-in-the-know would visit.

On how to experience Singapore in signature Shangri-La fashion
It really depends on what guests like or want. Sunset dinner cruises are very popular at the moment; guests take advantage of Singapore’s beautiful coastline and enjoy the waters while they wine and dine.

Nicolas Kassab, Hotel Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur
What are the elements that shape your city’s uniqueness?
Kuala Lumpur is a busy city with skyscrapers, colonial architecture and lush greenery. Home to the Petronas Twin Towers, the city is a shopping paradise with some of Southeast Asia’s largest shopping malls housing the world’s top brands; delicious and intriguing street food; and street markets filled with unique items. As the city’s most enviable address for the past18 years, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur provides guests with a rarefied taste of luxury in a contemporary setting.

What are your top five recommendations for guests?
The hotel’s multiple award-winning Spa Village, which has sparked off many trends and traditions in the world of wellness, has recently been rejuvenated. This urban oasis draws upon a rich heritage of ancient remedies, and features modern facilities complemented by steam rooms, outdoor baths and a beautifully landscaped swimming pool. Spa Village Kuala Lumpur continues to offer an integrated approach to a wellness journey with a menu of therapies and Asia’s only Sensory Sound Bath Room.

A pioneer in international luxury in Kuala Lumpur, Starhill Gallery , listed as one of “Asia’s most beautiful shopping malls”, and is immediately recognizable with its distinctive façade of avant-garde architecture, conceived by a world-renowned architect and an international team of designers. Constructed using lightweight steel and state-of-the-art technology, it features sleek, angular stone and glass panels of glimmering liquid-like effect.

Marini’s on 57 is Malaysia’s highest rooftop bar restaurant and lounge that offers the best panoramic views of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.

Nobu KL brings a new approach to the already vibrant Kuala Lumpur restaurant scene, known for experimentation and fluid incorporation of multi-cultural ingredients.

Also known as the Starch Factory Street, a reference to its roots as a tapioca-producing district, Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist spots in Malaysia, deeply rooted in Oriental culture and heritage. As the sun sets, the main market area known as Petaling Street, transforms into a lively and vibrant night market, filled with hundreds of stalls offering all kinds of exotic food and merchandise.

On how to experience Kuala Lumpur in signature Ritz-Carlton fashion
Transport body and mind to a state of perfect inner harmony at the Spa Village, with its one-of-a- kind combination of traditional healing practices. Men can sign up for an exceptional hair cuts and shaves at Truefitt & Hill. For pre-dinner cocktails, head to The Bar at The Smoke House, The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur to sample a connoisseur’s assortment of single malt whiskies, followed by a bespoke dinner at the penthouse in The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur.

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Published 25th March 2016