Forget restaurants and eat at these fast, cheap and tasty mall outlets instead

Terminal 21 Food Court (BK PICK!)

The vibe: Time may have taken the shine off your fave old food courts, like the classic at MBK. But the relatively new one at Terminal 21 offers cheap bites and a whole lot of fun thanks to the faux buildings that engage with their Pier 21 fishermen’s wharf concept. You get some scenic views of Bangkok, too, if you can snag a table at one end of the food stations.
Eat this: The prices here are ridiculously cheap at a time when it’s hard to find a B25 bowl of noodles on the street. The most popular are the guay tiew nuea Go Hub, khao gaeng (rice with toppings) at around B27 and the khao nah ped (rice topped with roast duck, B40) at Dragon X. Finish things off with dessert at the popular Cheng Zim Ei.
5/F, Terminal 21, Sukhumvit Rd., 02-108-0888. BTS Asoke. MRT Asoke. Open daily 10am-10pm.

Siam Center Food Republic (BK PICK!)

The vibe: The new kid on the block is very lively with its chic signage, lighting and cool crowds. The atmosphere is the least food court-like on the list and really more like an active market place, though quite stylish.
Eat this: The food stations, too, are fun and creative. The Hor Jia stall seems to be particularly popular, as you get to choose how you want your dish by picking from different ingredients. One portion of vegetables costs B15 and meat B25. Otherwise, pull up a seat at the Xpress Teppanyaki with its live cooking. Prices start from B109.
4/F, Siam Center, Rama 1 Rd., 02-658-1000. Open daily 10am-10pm.

Central Food Loft

The vibe: With its black and steel grey décor, its large windows overlooking Sukhumvit and its army of staff who hold your table while you saunter off to order your food, this is a bit of a hybrid between a traditional food court and a sit-down restaurant (and can sometimes be a bit confusing). You’re unlikely to get too many private moments, though, as the place is usually pretty hectic.
The selections: Externally contracted restaurants serve international cuisine: Indian by Indian Spice, Italian by Gianni’s and many more. This was probably the food court that kicked off the card swiping system, and it’s remained pretty hi-so ever since. The prices, too, are not low, and a dish will cost you around B120. Do note that the food court on the G/F is also pretty nice.
7/F, 1027 Ploenchit Rd., 02-793-7070, 02-793-7777. Open daily 10am-10pm. BTS Chit Lom

Empire Tower Food Court

The vibe: If you think it’s hard to get a seat at Paragon’s food court, try here. More often than not diners use their office ID cards to claim tables before wandering off in search of food. The atmosphere is pretty typical but one of the good reasons to drop by is for the cute office workers lining up in front of you.
Eat this: This is sweet-tooth heaven. Dessert ranges from the decent nam taan sod (coconut palm juice, B20) to the big chunky maprao kati (coconut in coconut milk, B35). There’s also plenty of shakes. As for the savory options, there’re the popular khao mun gai Pratunam (rice topped with chicken) and khao gaeng Pantip (rice with toppings).
G/F, Empire Tower, 195 South Sathorn Rd., 02-670-2000. Open Mon-Fri 6:30am-7:30pm.

The Platinum Fashion Mall Food Center

The vibe: Bustling with tourists so be prepared for plenty of musical chairs and a lot of background noise.
Eat this: Quite a lot of options. But it’s the crepe stall that attracts most hungry shoppers looking for a hearty snack on the go. If you feel like more serious eats, try the somtam tord (deep-fried papaya with spicy salad, B45) at stall P25.
6/F, Platinum Fashion Mall, Petchaburi Rd., 02-121-9999. Open daily 9:30am-8pm.


And now, those that did not make the cut...

MBK FOOD CENTER

Vibe: Narrow and crowded as it sits in the middle of the building with no views on the outside world, the court’s use of bright colors and lights does little to save the day. There are flat wide-screen TVs at every corner to catch up with the news or some boring documentary, but the most annoying thing is the cash-back counters located a hundred yards away. Are they hoping we won’t bother?
Selection: The food ranges from a la minute stir-fries to shark fin soup but most importantly, this is one of the rare food courts where the stalls have legendary reputations that rival those of street food.
Cleanliness: The cleaners do a surprisingly quick job of clearing dishes and cleaning tables despite the crowds, with plates getting whisked away as soon as you finish them. Utensils and the counters in front of stalls are not always as clean though.
Cost: It’s not street cheap, with dishes starting from B40 and climbing up to B70 even for simple Thai dishes. But it remains incredibly affordable.
Top Stalls: The beef noodles, the Khamoo St.Louis, the somtam, phadthai, hoithod and Thai dessert stalls...
6/F, MBK Center, 444 Phayathai Rd. BTS National Stadium. Open 10am-9pm.

Central Ladprao,
Tops Market

Vibe: Since the big revamp of Central Ladprao, the food court’s atmosphere is ten times better. The brand new table sets are in a lovely eggshell tone and the overall color palette is cloudy grey. Too bad the seating is very limited, compared to the abundance of food stalls. We even saw some customers having to share their table with strangers—the horror!
Selection:Lots of Thai options, with decent choices for Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Western food. The stall selection ranges from very ordinary tam sang (stir fries made to order), to a kebab place and a hi-so Italian chain, Scoozi, that does pastas starting at B100. Rarely seen in any other malls, Crepes & Co. and Chokchai Steak Burger also have outlets here—B120 for a pork burger.
Cleanliness: Everything is clean and pleasant. Although, with seating spread out over three different areas, the cleaning staff has a hard time getting to all the tables.
Cost: Not “food court cheap” but definitely cheaper than standalone counterparts.
Top Stalls: Tue Huan Ladprao 64, Krapor Pla Yaowarat and Vegetarian Food by Major General Jumlong Srimeung.
Basement, Central Ladprao. 1691 Paholyothin Rd., 02-541-1111. Open daily 10am-10pm. MRT Paholyothin.

Fifth Food Avenue (MBK)

5/F, MBK Center, 444 Phayathai Rd., 02-620-9814. BTS National Stadium. Open 10am-9pm.
MBK’s 5/F is one of the more style-savvy food courts; its black chairs contrasting with smooth white tables elevate it to more of a restaurant feel. Kiosks serve Thai (try Thai Fusion Cuisine’s stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts for B80), Indian (such as Indian by Chutney’s lamb masala), Mexican (Burrito Loco’s quesadillas for B85), Italian (Angelo does a seafood spaghetti for B80) and many more. And although in most food courts, you can see who’s cooking what, here it feels more like a collection of open-air kitchens because everything’s neat and orderly. For the most part, everything’s a bit more expensive than B100 but, it’s probably one of the best semi-affordable inter meals you can get in the ‘hood. Our faves? The Tamarind Tree cooks some fantastic vegetarian Thai food, sans MSG; and Sultana’s halal Thai food.

Central Food Loft

7/F, Central Chidlom, Phloen Chit Rd., 02-793-7070. Open daily 10am-10pm
With its black and steel grey décor, its large windows overlooking Sukhumvit and its army of staff that holds your table while you saunter off to order and brings you your food, the place is a bit of a hybrid between a traditional food court and a sit-down restaurant (which can sometimes get confusing). Externally contracted restaurants supply international cuisine: Indian by Ind Spice, Vietnamese by Dao Vien, Italian by Gianni’s, Japanese by Hou Yuu and much more. Instead of coupons, they have a card swiping system, though the protocol between self-service and table service is a bit ill-defined, so there can sometimes be confusion. That, and the place is always packed to the gills at mealtime, making it a bit of a market place rather than a hi-so chill-out zone.

BIG C Rachaprasong Food Park

Vibe:  This extra-large space has a tropical forest theme so green, brown and white colors dominate the place. Walls are decorated with both fake and real green plants, and there’s a large pond with a fountain at the center. They’ve overdone the mixing and matching with the furniture, but we like the idea of their open-air area, and also the views afforded by the tall windows. For better or for worse, there are flat screen TVs as well.
Selection:  Sectioned into three categories: rice express, international and noodles. Inter includes Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese. The guaytiew Sukhothai is lovely, but the fish balls in the kanom jin by Khun Lek taste like boiled flour.
Cleanliness:  Since the mall was recently renovated, everything looks very new. The staff seems to be a bit inactive, leaving some of the tables a mess for long minutes. We once spotted hair on a spoon—eek!—but other than that, the utensils look fairly clean.
Cost: 5/5. Cheap!
Top Stalls: Guay Tiew Sukhothai Mae Boon Rod
4/F, 97/11 Ratchadamri Rd., 02-250-4888. Open daily 9am-9:30pm

Central Rama III Food Park

Vibe: The décor has an underwater theme, so white and ocean blue are the main colors. The proportion between seating and empty space is not too cramped, and apart from regular tables and seats, there are also hi-so looking tables with black leather chairs which are set up along the glass-window corners offering a great sky and city view. There’s a toddlers’ ball pit and decent amount of arcades in the area, so expect screaming and noise. Tutors and high school students make up half the crowd.
Selection:  Choices are limited and mostly Thai with a few basic international additions like Japanese katsu curry rice and EZ sausages and steaks. The place does offer some interesting snack choices like the cold Japanese crepe and takoyaki. All dishes are priced under B100.
Cleanliness:Stalls and utensils are sufficiently clean, but dirty tables don’t get noticed right away by the staff, so you may eat your meal next to a table piled up with leftover food.
Cost: 3/5. Average, but you can still fill up on B100.
Top Stalls: Guay Tiew Yhib Yum, Kamoo Nakorn Pathom and Cold Crepe.
6/F, 79/3 Satupradit Rd., 02-673-5555. Open daily 11am-9pm.

Emporium Food Hall

Vibe: The eating area is open, with natural light coming from the huge windows that showcase a scenic view of Benjasiri Park. The faux book case along the walls and plants on every corner give it a homey, library feel. Unfortunately, it’s even more cramped during lunch hours and it’s hard to find a place to sit. Be ready to fight for your seat.
Selection: There isn’t much choice: you can get combination seafood plates for B80-B100, noodle soups (B50) and rice noodles with shredded duck (B60)—not that they’re any good. If you’re into sweets, they have ruam mit, a traditional Thai dessert where you can choose from an assortment of jellies and syrups, cherry, coconut milk, or regular (B25 for two desserts, B10 for each additional one).
Cleanliness: Maybe it’s the nice lighting and decor that makes it all seem cleaner than most mall eateries, but staff is also quick to clear tables.
Cost: You’ll pay B60-B100, rarely more, rarely less. Kind of pricey, but it is Emporium.
Top stalls. White Kitchen does a mean fried rice with Thai sour sausage (B65) and garlic meat or combination seafood dishes (B55-B75). There are also more elaborate creations like their tom yum goong spaghetti with shrimp, squid or a combination of both (B90-B100).
5/F, Emporium Shopping Complex, Sukhumvit Soi 24. BTS Phrom Phong. Open daily 10am-8pm.

Paradise Park Seri Market Food Court and Food Bazaar

Vibe: Paradise Park has two food court options on the ground floor. One is the original Seri Market and another is called Food Bazaar. Seri Market has an old market theme with wooden signs on the top of every stall and a seating section also resembles an old wood house. Gift shops that pop up along the food section are a bit of an annoying distraction, though, and we’re on the fence about the dim lighting. The Food Bazaar, on the other hand, is new and boasts a bright and colorful decor. The good thing here is you don’t have walk around looking for a coupon counter as all the shops take cash.
Selection: Prices here start at B30, and there are several popular franchise stalls like Rod Dee Ded and Guayjab Bangrak at this section. The Food Bazaar too has famous downtown shops: Khamoo Roddee (B40) or our favorite Yentafo J.C. Silom, where prices are B50 and there are more options, like radna yentafo (B50), guaytiew lod (B45) and por pia sod (B45). Although it’s mostly a take-away sort of place, Food Bazaar also has a cute seating area called Food Bazaar Terrace.
Cleanliness: Staff is quick about clearing tables, and they do have clean utensils and tables. But the black, wooden chairs and lack of light make this place look a little gloomy.
Cost: Affordable.
Top Stalls: Somtam Ranraek, Guaytiew Tomyam and Roti Fahtima.
G/F, 61 Srinakarin Rd., 02-787-1000. Open daily 10am-10pm.

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Formula 1, new clubs, world-class festivals and much, much more.

24th Singapore International Film Festival

Respected by film aficionados around the region for its eclectic programming, the annual Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF), which usually takes place in April, has a new team at the helm. You can expect a list of fresh, bold and cutting-edge films and events over its 11-day run. With a theme of “Watch/Different” the festival program includes the premiere of 3D documentaries alongside newly introduced fringe activities like a symposium by Lucasfilm Animation that’ll give budding filmmakers and enthusiasts a glimpse into the magic of movies.
Sep 15-25. Shaw Lido, 350 Orchard Rd., 6732-4124 and various venues, http://siff.sg

The Opening of Avalon

The glamorous Hollywood-based club sensation Avalon will become Singapore’s largest club yet (at 17,000 sq feet) when it opens at Marina Bay Sands’ Crystal Pavillion. The nightspot promises an endless onslaught of big name DJs and international acts—just check out the lineup when it officially launches on Sep 16: Massive Attack, The Chemical Brothers, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Benny Benassi, Sander Van Doorn, M.A.N.D.Y, Boy George, Sander Kleinenberg, Simian Mobile Disco, and The Toxic Avenger.

“Avalon’s one-of-a-kind space combined with our 20-plus years of experience providing nightlife at the highest level, should at least entice people to give us a try,” says creator Steve Adelman, somewhat modest about the club’s pull, considering that its original Hollywood counterpart has hosted after-parties for the Oscars, Grammys and MTV Music Awards. “Our offering will be multi dimensional and will include three separate areas—a bit of something for everyone.”

Pangaea, Avalon’s even edgier sister club, located on the first floor of the Crystal Pavillion, will open a few weeks later, so stay tuned for updates.
Avalon launches Sep 16, followed by an all-star lineup from Sep 21-25, including dance music festival Avalon at Large on Sep 21-23. Log on to http://avalon.sg to book your tickets and for updates.

2011 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix

Already established as one the most glamorous events in motorsport, the Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix returns for its fourth edition bringing with it an array of concerts, events, parties, shopping offers and more. Sebastian Vettel and the team at Red Bull Racing might have this year’s Driver and Constructor titles all wrapped up, but the allure and excitement of the night race remains as strong as ever.
Sep 23-25. Marina Bay Street Circuit. $38-1,288 (B935-31,717) from www.singaporegp.sg.

da:ns Festival

Besides traditional favorites like the sumptuous pirouettes and flamenco-inspired pieces from Ballet Nacional de Espana, the contemporary dance performances in Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother and 6,000 Miles Away with acclaimed French ballerina Sylvie Guillem will charm even the most clueless novices.
Oct 7-15. Esplanade, 1 Esplanade Dr., +65-6828-8377. $15-120 (B370-2,955) from Sistic. Log on to www.dansfestival.com for the full lineup.

Singapore Writers Festival

One of the few literary festivals in the world that is truly multi-lingual, The Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) celebrates its 20th year as a standalone event. The 2011 edition takes place from October 22-30 with “Transaction” as its theme. It delves into how pivotal commercial exchanges are in our daily lives—from our individual purchase and consumption of goods and services, including the arts, to the larger business dealings and trade that underpin the global economy today. The stellar line-up of literary talent taking part in this year’s festival includes economist Steven Levitt, journalist Andrew Sorkin, and novelists Vikas Swarup and Chen Guanzhong.
Oct 22-30. Various venues. Ticket details TBA. For more information and ticketing details visit www.singaporewritersfestival.com.

The National

They might have missed out playing in the Mosaic Music Festival earlier this year due to the calamitous natural disasters in Japan, but come Nov 6, fans will finally get their chance to watch the Singapore debut of American indie rock outfit The National. Expect tunes from their latest album, High Violet, but we can’t wait for a smattering of older numbers like “Fake Empire”, “Slow Show” and “Secret Meeting” from Alligator and Boxer. We advise you to knock back a couple of potent concoctions (preferably absinthe-based ones) and soak in Matt Berninger’s wry baritone about the squalor of urban disaffection and romantic disillusionment.
Nov 6, 8pm. Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Dr., +65-6828-8377. $40-120 (B985-2,955) from www.sistic.com.sg, on sale from September 1.

New Restaurants

One of Singapore’s biggest draws is its food and barely a week goes by without the opening of a new restaurant.

The Dempsey Brasserie (#01-03 Blk. 7 Dempsey Rd., +65-6473-4500) has quickly established a firm following with its laidback vibe and the menu echoes that sentiment with simple eats like the sausage board ($17 [B420]), as well as mussels and fries (from $20 [B493]). There’s also a good selection of booze.

The local coffee scene is enjoying an explosion of third wave artisanal coffee spots. The latest addition to an ever-growing stable of cafés about town is Jimmy Monkey (#01-51 one-north residences, 9 one-north Gateway, +65-6777-8470) which uses a house blend of Central American Rain Forest Alliance beans or single origin Guatemalan Antigua Finca Medina seeds to make truly addictive cuppas (from $4 [B99]).

Award-winning restaurant Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra (#B1-01A The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Ave., +65-6688-7295) proudly presents Punjabi food in a sleek and modern setting (after all, it’s in MBS). The menu is fairly extensive with unique items such as Norwegian salmon tikka ($35 [B862]) and tandoori foie gras with mango chutney ($45 [B1,110]).

Richard III

The Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) presents Richard III, the final play of The Bridge Project, a three-year collaboration between New York’s BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), London’s The Old Vic and UK-based indie production house Neal Street Productions. With Hollywood A-Lister Kevin Spacey of American Beauty fame playing the colorful tyrant and Sam Mendes directing, you can expect something saucy and special. Critics have been raving about the production. “It’s just one of the best theater productions I have ever seen,” says Charlotte Nors, the SRT’s Executive Director who caught the show in London. “It all comes together—great set, evocative score, standout performances and a compelling story.”
Nov 17-26. Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Dr., +65-6828-8377. $60-345 (B1,477-8,500) from www.sistic.com.sg.

Affordable Art Fair 2011

Started back in 1999, The Affordable Art Fair (AAF) does pretty much what it says on the tin and offers art works all for under S$10,000 (B247,000). Forget the art critics, dealers and auction houses with their pomp and circumstance; the AAF is all about personal taste, and offers more than just traditional options. “This year, we are looking to offer visitors different types of art such as media art in the form of lightbox installations, in addition to the traditional canvas or paper types of works,” says Alan Koh, the AAF’s marketing manager. Free talks will also be conducted by leading art experts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, as well as workshops about art techniques. Be sure to check out the Recent Graduate show, as it will be showcasing the latest bright young things from Singapore’s art schools.
Nov 18 and 20 11am-6pm, Nov 19 11am-8pm. F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Boulevard. $7-10 (B172-246).

Essentials

Getting There

Daily direct flights from Bangkok to Singapore are available from Singapore Airlines (from B7,745, www.singaporeair.com), Cathay Pacific (from B5,570, www.cathaypacific.com/th), THAI Airways (from B12,545 all inclusive, www.thaiairways.com), JetStar (from B5,400, www.jetstar.com) and AirAsia (from B5,040, www.airasia.com).

Where to Stay

The last year has seen a number of boutique and four to five star establishments opening around the city.

The Fullerton Bay Hotel (80 Collyer Quay, 6333-8388. www.fullertonbayhotel.com), is a striking member of the Fullerton Heritage precinct, right on the edge of Marina Bay. Spectacular views are to be expected. Rates start at S$368 (B9,120) a night.

With its facade retaining an art deco-style from the 1920s, Wanderlust (2 Dickson Rd., 6396-3322. www.wanderlusthotel.com) blends in nicely with the vibrant shophouses of Singapore’s Little India enclave. Each of the hotel’s four floors has its own theme created by renowned local design firms. Rooms are available from around S$189 (B4,684) a night.

On a site known more for its historical importance and open-air concerts, Hotel Fort Canning (11 Canning Walk, 6559-6769) opened late last year. Sophisticated (think TWG tea, Poltrona Frau furniture and Bowers & Wilkins iPod docks), the hotel is also where you’ll find the first Thann Sanctuary outside Bangkok. Rooms start at around $300 (B7,435) a night.

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...that you probably haven’t done before.

A quick 2-hour flight from Bangkok, Shenzhen is famous for its choice of super well-done knock-offs. But with world-class galleries, artist villages, amusement parks, mega-malls and even military museums, there’s a whole lot more to offer than fake designer bags.

Clamber around on a decomissioned Soviet aircraft carrier

Fans of military history should definitely make a trip out to Minsk World, arguably one of the strangest theme parks you’re likely to find in Shenzhen—trust us, that’s saying something. Minsk is the name of an old Soviet-era aircraft carrier, which is now docked here as a permanent exhibition space, showcasing various artifacts such as planes, helicopters and army kit. Visitors are free to roam around the flight deck and on certain floors of the vessel. For a small fee, you can even take a boat ride round the starboard side to get a glimpse of The Minsk in all its glory. Staff march around dressed in military-like uniforms, and stage musical performances throughout the day.
Jinrong Rd., Shatoujiao, +86-755-2535-5333, www.szminsk.com.

Ride the rollercoasters

Shenzhen’s answer to Dream World, Happy Valley is a massive amusement park divided into nine zones: Sunshine Beach, Shangri-La Woods, Typhoon Bay, Goldmine Town, Playa Maya Water Park (open in the summer only), Happy Times, Mount Adventure, Spanish Square and Cartoon City. There are more than 100 amusements here, including several large rides that are not for the faint-hearted. Our personal favorite is the River Rapids Ride, where you don a raincoat and get pelted by other visitors armed with water cannons as you float by. There’re also the obligatory street-side performances to watch out for, including acrobatics, extreme sports, break dancing and magic displays. Entrance is RMB170 for adults and RMB85 for children over 1.1 meters tall.
Overseas Chinese Town, Nanshan District, +86-755-2694-9184, sz.happyvalley.cn

Go nuts for knickknacks

Give your home a revamp by heading to mega mall complex Yizhan Centre for some stylish knickknacks and decorative items. These large multi-level shopping towers have virtually everything, from cushions, lamps, crockery and accessories to whimsical pieces, such as a life-sized horse sculpture donning a lampshade as a hat. Be sure to keep your eye on the prize because you can easily get lost in the maze of shops. Unlike Luohu, shopkeepers here are much more friendly and easygoing, but be sure to haggle down inflated prices.
Yizhan Centre, Meiyuan Rd., Luohu District, www.yizhanzx.com.

Enjoy a taste of Europe

You could lose yourself for days at OCT East—a massive entertainment theme park covering over nine kilometers of lush greenery in Dameisha, a beachy resort town in eastern Shenzhen. Combining two theme parks, three “scenic” towns recreating historic European towns (hence the full name: Overseas Chinese Town), and four resort hotels, a temple and an ancient Mandarin mansion to boot. For a break from the kiddie rides and swan-shaped paddle boats, go for a game of golf at one of the two 18-hole golf courses, take a dip in the onsite hot springs or unwind with a steaming cup of Chinese tea surrounded by a tea plantation inside the Tea Stream Resort Valley.
OCT East, East Dameisha, Yantian District, +86-755-8888-9888, www.octeast.com.

Get lost in geek heaven

SEG is the biggest electronics mall in the area. Be warned that means there’ll be a lot of hawkers out front determined to sell you pirated software and laptops. Once inside, you’ll find a large variety of more genuine products. The first two floors sell electronic components like switches, tapes and conductors—so stay away unless you’re a serious nerd. Instead, head up to the third to eighth floors for laptops and computer accessories like hard drives, memory sticks, GPS receivers and MP3 players. On the fourth floor, you’ll find products from big brand names like Samsung and Sony. Be warned: they aren’t necessarily as cheap as you’d expect. Don’t forget to bargain, bargain, bargain.
46 Huaqiang Bei Lu, Futian

Get a portrait made

If your walls at home are looking plain, hop in a cab and head out to the Dafen Art Village. Consisting of several blocks lined with galleries and workshops (some of which serve excellent coffee), this is the place to come for oil paintings for just about any occasion. You’ll find many reproductions of modern Chinese artworks as well as abstract pieces, replicas of works by everyone from Da Vinci to Liechtenstein, paintings suitable for kids’ bedrooms and landscapes. Don’t see something you like? You can have a painting commissioned based on a photograph or picture. Prices are extremely reasonable too.
Longgang, Buji (say “Dafen Youhua Cuun” to your taxi driver; it should take about half an hour from Luohu in a cab).

Sink a couple of pitchers

Local beer Kingway is brewed in Shenzhen, and unusually for a Chinese beer, a) there’s no formaldehyde in it and b) it’s drinkable. And at this open-air beer garden behind the brewery itself, the beer is incredibly cheap and sold by the pitcher. It’s a beer garden-cum-hawker center, with some decent basic food available to those who want it—but the beer definitely takes pride of place in between the satay sticks and the dice games. Getting there is a taxi ride and a bit of luck, as it’s actually in a large open space surrounded by buildings.
1 Buxin Dongchang Lu, Luohu, +86-755-2551-6328

Soak up some culture

A quintessential part of the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (O-CAT), this gallery is located right next to the renowned He Xiangning Art Museum. The 3,000 square-meter space, with a modern exterior made of hexagonal glass steel, was renovated from an old warehouse, and is one of China’s most prominent venues to showcase cutting-edge design ideas.
9009 Shennan Rd., Overseas Chinese Town, Nanshan District, +86-755-3399-3222, www.oct-and.com.

Get your drink on

A shopping complex in the city center, Coco Park is one of the hippest spots in town. Besides countless shops and restaurants, the entire east side of Coco is a bar street with massive open-air drinking areas, popular among youngsters and expats in town. You’ll have no problem finding bars of different styles and vibes; get some friends together and there will be a sizzling party that goes from a quiet post-dinner catch-up to after-midnight mayhem.
Fuhua 3rd Rd., Futian District.

Essentials

Thai Air Asia (www.airasia.com) flies from Bangkok to Shenzhen daily. A roundtrip ticket is from B8,900.

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Quick trips for when you feel like a break from the city.

i-City

i-City is a large property development project in Selangor which aims to be Malaysia’s version of Silicon Valley. But the real appeal of i-City is at night, when its large grounds are lit up with millions of different colored LED lights. Opened last year it’s a romantic spot for a stroll with your lover underneath an array of LED-lit trees? There’s a fake snow dome nearby as well if you want to cool down.
i-City Shah Alam, Selangor, +603-5521-8800. www.i-city.my

Astaka Morocco

Astaka Morocco is situated in the heart of the equally beautiful and serene Putrajaya Botanical Gardens. The vast, 18,000-sq-meter authentic Moroccan pavilion is made entirely of marble and was built as a symbol of the good diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Morocco. Most of the decorative details were carved and created in Morocco before they, and a number of the craftsmen, were flown over to Putrajaya to complete the final touches.
Taman Botani, Putrajaya, +603-8888-9090. Entry is US$2 for the park, and an additional US$1 to get into the Moroccan pavilion. www.ppj.gov.my

Sunway Pyramid/Sunway Lagoon

If you’re done with sightseeing and shopping and simply want to cool off—or more importantly, if your kids do—then your best bet is to head to Petaling Jaya to splash about at Sunway Lagoon. The 80-acre water park, which is handily adjacent to a large shopping mall (see shopping), is a vast fun park which consists of an amusement park, a mini zoo and the water park with its faux beaches, death-defying slides and world’s largest beach, complete with a man-made 75 feet high volcano as a background.
Sunway Lagoon. 3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, Selangor, +603-5639 0000. Rates: US$27 for limited zones and US$33 for all areas. www.sunwaylagoon.com

Kampung Kuantan

For something completely different why not head to Kampung Kuantan, a small village in Kuala Selangor. Here, locals will put you into a small row boat that fits only 3-4 people, then row you to see the huge gatherings of fireflies along the dark, quiet river. You’ll be amazed by the millions of blinking lights that seem to hang from every bush and tree like Christmas decorations. Any time of year is good to go and spot the little glowing bugs.
Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor, +603-3289-1439, +603-3289-7046. Rates around US$13 for a 20-min boat trip of four people.

Batu Caves

Just a short train or taxi ride from downtown KL this limestone outcrop and its three main caves containing a series of temples and Hindu shrines is a hugely popular tourist destination. A large statue of the Hindu God Shiva protects the entrance to the caves, which are also home to groups of Long tailed-macaque monkeys. The best time of year is during the Hindu festival of Thaipusum (usually around Late Jan) when hundreds of thousands devotees flock to the site carrying kavadis or (burdens) in the form of jugs to show penance to the gods.
Kuala Lumpur Tourist Office Tel: +603-2615 8188 Tourism Infoline : 1-300-88-5050

 

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Our list of the top local designers and where to find them in KL.

Bernand Chandran

Haute couture fashion designer Datuk Bernard Chandran’s is best known for his trademark use of Malaysian-inspired influences, combined with modern twists. His star-studded clientele includes Estelle and Lady Gaga. Fahrenheit 88.

Amir Luqman

Amir Luqman might be known for his avant-garde fashion statements, but his line of women’s made-to-measure, ready-to-wear and accessories are still strikingly wearable. You can view Amir’s latest designs at Liberté @ Suria KLCC & C-0-9 Plaza Damas, 60, Jalan Sri Hartamas, 6201-4802.

Farah Khan

Creative director Farah Khan originally founded the label in 2003 as a solution to her jet-set lifestyle. A reflection of her unique style, passion and drive this line of glamorous women’s wear is now sold in over 4o cities. The Melium Galleria @ Suria KLCC.

Melinda Looi

The queen of boho-chic, Melinda Looi is now an award-winning fashion designer with three distinct brands to choose from: Melinda Looi Couture, Melinda Looi Prêt-à-Porter and MELL, which are now available in select boutiques in Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Melinda Looi Couture Showroom @ 280 Lorong Maarof, Bangsar, Bukit Bandaraya, 2093-2279, Melinda Looi Couture and Melinda Looi Pret-a-Porter @ Parkson Pavilion.

The Twelve

MIFA (the producer of the Malaysia International Fashion Week) have recently launched their huge concept store at Fahrenheit 88. ‘The Twelve’ is a collection of 12 Malaysian designers and brands all under one roof: TAS Iman by Tom Abang Saufi, Zero to Ten, PU3, uREKA, Jkhan, Bumiputra Designers Association (BDA), Young Designers Arena (YO DA), Radzuan Radziwill, Key Ng, Benson Chen, Sasha Rowena, and Shinju Pearls. Fahrenheit 88.

 

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Berlin Biergarten
For German beer alfresco. 

Celebrities Hall of Music
For live entertainment.

Dish Deli
For fuss-free comfort food.

Meatworks
If you love your meat.

Nathalie's Gourmet Studio
For Mont Kiara's best macaroons.

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