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6 Emerging Asian Neighborhoods

Michael Weber A customer listening to music at Playground!, in Bangkok's Thonglor district.

Photo: Michael Weber

TAIPEI
Da-An Road
Taiwan's designer enclave

THE SCENE The narrow lanes shooting off of Da-An Road every 20 yards or so are dotted with dilapidated buildings from the 18th century and the 1895–1945 Japanese occupation. This is where a fashion-forward crowd (clad in imported name-brand jeans), television stars, and young Taiwanese on shopping tears all take a break from the motorcycle-clogged streets of Taipei.
THE EPICENTER The tiny, weekends-only lounge Eden (11th Floor, 98 Zhong Xiao E. Rd., Section 4; 886-2/6638-9988) is stashed inside Bistro 98, a steel-clad building and nightlife hub. On the first Saturday of every month, the club hosts one of Taipei's best parties, called Deep Inside.
SHOPPING Jamei Chen (132 Da-An Rd., Section 1; 886-2/2776-4235), who crafts flowing ready-to-wear pieces, moved her studio and store here 10 years ago amid the noodle shops and run-down flats. Now her neighbors include Isabelle Wen (118 Da-An Rd., Section 1; 886-2/2771-9021), the Betsey Johnson of Taipei, and Shiatzy Chen (140 Da-An Rd., Section 1; 886-2/ 8773-1729), who makes delicate, feminine women's wear. Newcomer  Gray Area (3 Lane 116, Da-An Rd., Section 1; 886-2/2711-8891) sells furniture and colorful silk-sheathed pillows. At Gallery Su (19–21 Tun-Hua South Rd., Section 1; 886-2/8773-1108), the glass shelves are chockablock with elegant, hand-painted ceramics from Europe and the Americas, much favored by the local style set. There's also Bella (85 Da-An Rd., Section 1; 886-2/2751-0117), one of a handful of tiny specialty shops that carry hard-to-find labels such as Nude and Barbara Bui.
RESTAURANTS Isabelle Wen has taken the same playful sensibility she uses in her store and applied it to her Old Shanghai–inspired restaurant and lounge, Fifi (Second Floor, 15 Ren-Ai Rd., Section 4; 886-2/2721-1970; dinner for two $40). The glamorous crowds that alight from the bistro's green-neon escalator often come straight from their studios, launch parties, and runway shows to pair earthy Taiwanese braises with Veuve before heading to the bar.
NIGHTLIFE Coffee is a newfound passion on the island, and Chicco D'Oro (135 Da-An Rd., Section 1; 886-2/2777-2366) serves lattes to the Mac-toting graphic artists who sit beneath the aluminum pendulum lamps. Health-conscious ladies who lunch head to Acqua (4 Lane 238, Tun-Hua South Rd., Section 1; 886-2/8771-8069), a water bar with a list sourced from across the globe.
GALLERIES The Side Flower (First Floor, 38 Tun-Hua South Rd., Section 1; 886-2/2773-2733) artists' studio is housed in a semi-derelict storefront with a teak terrace where lovably iconoclastic Ming-Hsing Wu paints his Lucian Freud–like portraits. Though it's technically private, visitors (and potential collectors) are welcome.

SHANGHAI
Julu Road
A new-world spin on Old Shanghai

THE SCENE In the twenties and thirties, before the rise of Communism, Julu Road was known as Rue Bâtard—an address highly sought after for its stone row houses and its gardens, which you can still glimpse near the corner of Hanshan Road. The strip fell into disrepair as Shanghai slumped through the eighties; until just a year ago, it was best known for the beer-soaked girlie bars—which are finally being pushed out, one by one. Restaurateurs, besotted with the magnificent buildings, are now luring architects, creative media types, and an increasingly diverse group of foreigners to this burgeoning restaurant row, which has helped spark Julu's second golden age.
THE EPICENTER Weekend brunches at Mesa (748 Julu Rd.; 86-21/6289-9108; brunch for two $36) have become an institution, thanks to the terraced outdoor seating (reserve a week in advance). Black-clad Chinese women and expats crowd the former bank cafeteria for Steve Baker's daily-made sausages and eggs Benedict. After hours, the adjoining Manifesto Bar (748 Julu Rd.; 86-21/ 6289-9108) pours Shanghai's best caipirinhas in a warm space with lipstick-red walls and banquettes.
RESTAURANTS Julu Road's ethnic diversity is best experienced through its food. Rich clove-infused curries, a Himalayan answer to gougères (Burgundian cheese puffs), and a mutton-and-chile stir-fry are the signature dishes at Nepali Kitchen (819 Julu Rd.; 86-21/5404-6281; dinner for two $40). Spicy noodles and galangal-scented Thai curries are presented in a leafy garden at Coconut Paradise (38 Fumin Rd.; 86-21/6248-1998; dinner for two $45), and fiery Hunan cuisine draws an A-list crowd to Guyi (87 Fumin Rd.; 86-21/6249-5628; dinner for two $20). Perhaps the most memorable spaces in the area are Shintori Null 2 (803 Julu Rd.; 86-21/ 5404-5252; dinner for two $65), a Japanese food palace with soaring ceilings, and People's 7 (805 Julu Rd.; 86-21/5404-0707), the glass-encased bar next door that looks out on an enclosed bamboo garden.
SHOPPING Spin (758 Julu Rd., Bldg. 3, first floor; 86-21/6279-2545) sells the same Japanese-inspired earthenware that gives Shintori Null 2's table settings such a distinctive minimalist style. The well-edited textiles at Brocade Country (616 Julu Rd.; 86-21/6279-2677) are dyed with indigo and have simple graphic patterns; they're made by the Miao people in Guizhou province.
PAMPERING Hidden among nameless boutiques peddling vintage silk qipao you'll find Magpie (685 Julu Rd.; 86-21/5404-3867). Try to time your aromatherapy massage or Chinese pedicure so that you emerge from the salon at sunset, when the street lanterns shine on the Parisian-style plane trees and dim yellow lights flicker in the pre-war brick apartment buildings.

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