BANGKOK The Thonglor neighborhood has become a beehive of retro-cool shops. Retail spaces of all forms are found at the new H1 complex (998 Sukhumvit Soi 55; 66-2/714-9578), which houses interior shops (try Anyroom), art bookstores (like Basheer), even an emporium of garden- ing tools (Geo). • Two blocks down, in a wildly colorful seventies-style bungalow called Kitsch by Chompol Serimont (57/1 Sukhumvit Soi 53; 66-2/662-5163; www.kitschykitsch.com), FIT graduate Serimont peddles his hip, retro-styled ready-to-wear lines for both men and women. • For silk pillows, rattan wine holders, and other housewares, head to Sop Moei Arts (49/9 Sukhumvit Soi 49; 66-2/712-8039; www.sopmoeiarts.com), which brings re-interpreted ethnic crafts from a hill tribe near the Burmese border to the big city.
SINGAPORE Chinatown has become Singapore's epicenter of interior design stores. Babuyo Furniture & Decoration (8 Ann Siang Hill; 65/6225-9036) sells Laotian textiles and Cambodian silk pillows, among other Southeast Asian imports. • Exit Design (83 Club St.; 65/6221-4998) specializes in Modernism and includes furniture by Eames and Vitra, as well as original pieces by the shop's owner. • The Touch House of Art & Design gallery (38 Bukit Pasoh Rd.; 65/6325-4990) stocks Scandinavian household objects.• Handsome modern teak furniture is displayed at the John Erdos Gallery (83 Kim Yam Rd.; 65/6735-3307; www.johnerdosgallery.com), a renovated 19th-century house where Erdos creates functional pieces from reclaimed Indonesian teak. • The center of Singapore fashion is Orchard Road, with no fewer than a dozen mega-malls carrying all the big names. The best of these is the recently redesigned Paragon (290 Orchard Rd.). Elsewhere, find antique maps of Asia at Antiques of the Orient (Tanglin Shopping Centre, second level, 19 Tanglin Rd.; 65/6734-9351) and Chinese antique furniture at Just Anthony (379 Upper Paya Lebar Rd.; 65/6283-4782; www.justanthony.com).
Guided Shopping in China Hong Kong gallery owner Karin Weber runs a two-day antiquing trip (from $290 per person) to Dinghu, China, where a 40,000-square-foot warehouse is packed with artifacts.
Browsing at Night
Modern Thai ceramics and puppet theater are just a sampling of what's to be found at Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok (Witthayu and Rama IV Rds.; open 5:30 P.M.-12 A.M.). • Anything edible—from pressed duck to plum sauce—can be had at Singapore's Chinatown Food Street (Smith St.; open 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, until 1 A.M. Fridays). The streets off Smith are full of bric-a-brac: lacquer bowls, silk place mats, coconut-wood chopsticks.
TOKYO The nine-gallery Mori Art Museum (Roppongi Hills; www.moriartscenter.com; 81-3/6404-6100) is not even a year old, yet it's already establishing itself as Tokyo's heart of contemporary culture. Part of the Roppongi Hills development, it was designed by New York-based architect Richard Gluckmanand features a teaching academy and an observation floor with 360-degree views of the city. A new exhibit, "Colors: Viktor & Rolf & KCI," examines 400 years of fashion history and runs through December 5.
SEOUL Fierce nationalism and pride in local culture merge with creativity to make Seoul a contender for art capital of Northeast Asia. At the city's center is the Kukje Gallery (59-1 Sokyuk-dong, Chongro-gu; 82-2/735-8449; www.kukjegallery.com), anchoring a cluster of exhibition spaces across fromthe Gyeongbokgung Palace. In addition to launching locals such as Lee Bul and exhibiting the work of more established figures like Bill Viola, the eye-catching three-story building serves as a magnet for Korean arts-types, with a trendy restaurant and a slick café for green tea espressos.
HONG KONG Think of it as culture, Hong Kong-style—the city now has an answer to Hollywood's Walk of Fame: the Avenue of Stars, in Tsim Sha Tsui. Besides honoring celluloid heroes such as actor Jackie Chan and director Wong Kar-Wai with plaques, it's part of a newly landscaped waterfront promenade that meanders from the Star Ferry past the InterContinental Hotel, offering stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline.
GOLDEN TRIANGLE The Mae Fah Luang Foundation has cut the ribbon on a unique, world-class museum: the Hall of Opium (Golden Triangle Park, Sop Ruak, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai; 66-53/784-4446; www.goldentrianglepark.org). Housed in a series of caves in this mountainous region, it examines the centuries-old opium trade, withexhibits on the poppy flower and the Opium Wars, among others.
BANGKOK Theater and dance are the focus at the Patravadi Theatre (Soi Wat Rakang, Thonburi; 66-2/412-7287; www.patravaditheatre.com), where traditional forms such as the mask dance (khon) and other folk dances are explored along with more modern, experimental works. Friday and Saturday nights, the theater troupe performs dance works based on Thai literature on an open-air stage. Every April, the theater sponsors the Bangkok Fringe Festival, showcasing international performers.
SINGAPORE One hundred and seventy-seven years after it was built, Singapore's Old Parliament building has been renovated and turned into the Arts House (1 Old Parliament Lane; 65/6332-6900; www.theartshouse.com.sg). In its new incarnation, it functions as a cultural center, with performance spaces for theater and music, a screening room, and several bars and restaurants, including Café Society and Restaurant 1827 Thai, whose patios have views of downtown. • Designed by Briton Michael Wilford, the geodesic, spiky dome of Singapore's Esplanade Theatres on the Bay (65/6828-8377; www.esplanade.com) opened in October 2002. The multi-functional hall puts on every type of production imaginable, from hip-hop dance workshops to chamber music and classic Italian operas. The grounds include an outdoor arena for free concerts.
SEOUL Korea's newest import—live jazz of all varieties—can be heard at the New York City club spin-off Blue Note Seoul (82-2/3477-0202; www.bluenote.jazz.co.kr). Also: check out the beautifully designed Tool Pub (125-16 Cheongdam-dong; 82-2/541-0122).
SHANGHAI The city trades neon lights for crimson banquettes and stiff drinks at JZ (639 Hua Shan Rd.; 86-21/6248-1118), while wallpaper made from green tea leaves contributes to the mellow vibe at the retro-Oriental Zenzibar (Xintiandi Plaza; 86-21/6385-6385).