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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

Causeway Bay
A creative hub of café and consumer culture

THE SCENE Neon-lit and dense with high-rises, Causeway Bay fuses the essences of New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo into one bubbling urban stew, with teenage punks, media types, and celebrities all moving to the frenetic pace. Fashion magazines and filmmakers like Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love) have had offices here for years amid monster malls (see the skyscraping Times Square complex). But it was the arrival of the hotel JIA (1–5 Irving St.; 852/3196-9000; www.jiahongkong.com; doubles from $198)—with its discreet rooms outfitted in spunky white sofas and bright daffodil detailing by Philippe Starck—that established a permanent beachhead for the style set in 2004.
THE EPICENTER Get swept into the crowd under the towering SOGO department store sign.
SHOPPING High-end retail centers (including the newly renovated Fashion Walk, where Vivienne Westwood and Agnès B. have shops) and tucked-away boutiques make conspicuous consumption here a satisfying adventure. G.O.D. (Leighton Center, Sharp St. E.; 852/2890-5555) takes iconic Hong Kong scenes and pastes them onto notebooks, bamboo-trimmed sofas, and an enormous range of home accessories. At Island Beverley (1 Great George St.; 852/2890-6823), the four floors of boutiques no bigger than closets are filled with hand-painted and repurposed clothes crafted by young Hong Kong–bred designers. Going for that classic retro-chic fifties look?Browse the vintage-inspired skirts and blouses of Azalea by I'sis (G/F, Po Foo Building, 3–5 Foo Ming St.; 852/2808-4183).
RESTAURANTS Eating is serious business in Causeway Bay, where you can sample beef noodles in Swiss sauce at Tai Ping Koong (6 Pak Sha Rd.; 852/2576-9162; dinner for two $30) and even taste some great Italian at Da Domenico (10–12 G/F Sunning Plaza, 10 Hysan Ave.; 852/2882-8013; dinner for two $148), a miniature trattoria where every dandelion green, white bean, and branzino is flown in from Italy daily. Pumpernickel Café (G/F, Shop B, 13 Cleveland St., Fashion Walk; 852/2576-1668; dinner for two $35), a smoky hideaway for the literary crowd, serves rocket-fuel espresso and house-baked breads and pulses with great jazz tunes.
NIGHTLIFE At the salon-style café and lounge After School (2/F, 17 Yun Ping Rd.; 852/2983-2130), procrastinating stylists and writers gather around old grammar-school desks for citron tea and gin-and-tonics. Across the street and 27 floors up, film stars and business tycoons commingle on the gray couches of Shelter (27/F Henry House, 40–42 Yun Ping Rd.; 852/2577-1668) to watch the animated short films projected on the wall and take in the views of Hong Kong.

An artists' colony and collectors' haunt

THE SCENE The enclave first began to develop when a handful of
GALLERIES opened in the early nineties along with an oddly placed hat boutique, Lui Elle (100 Hwa-dong; 82-2/720-0309). In the past two years, a younger generation has moved into the area's streets—which wend past gable-roofed houses and the east wall of the magnificent Gyeongbokgung Palace—forcing Samcheong-dong to expand up the hill to the foot of Mount Bukhansan. Now you'll find writers scribbling quietly, Japanese and Korean tourists, and brooding artists and scholars sitting notepad to laptop in the ramshackle noodle shops and modern cafés with glassy new façades while sipping green-tea lattes and Shiraz.
THE EPICENTER The Café at Kukje Gallery (59-1 Sokyuk-dong; 82-2/735-8449; dinner for two $30) is an oasis of blond wood and lazy afternoon conversations. Regulars usually include Korean politicians hiding out and conceptual artists planning their next exhibition.
GALLERIES Art is the raison d'être for Samcheong-dong; the neighborhood's Kukje Gallery and Gallery Hyundai (80 Sagan-dong; 82-2/734-6111) continue to raise awareness not just of emerging Korean artists but of global ones as well. (Kukje plans to show the work of installation artist Lee Bul and has also exhibited Bill Viola's videos.)
RESTAURANTS have even gotten in on the art scene: Cook 'N' Heim (63-28 Samcheong-dong; 82-2/733-1109), a pocket-sized café and restaurant, has a gallery in the small rooms surrounding a courtyard, and Gallery Café (110-220 Palpan-dong; 82-2/734-9466; lunch for two $34), a wine bar lit by hanging paper lanterns, showcases rotating exhibitions of Korean painters.
RESTAURANTS Bar 0101 (124-2 Samcheong-dong; 82-2/723-1259; dinner for two $40) keeps its orange bucket seats full by serving simple Italian pastas and foamy cappuccinos. It's also a great place for people-watching. Quo Lai (110-230 Samcheong-dong; 82-2/720-3368; dinner for two $32) has Leonardo da Vinci–style frescoes on one wall, dark floors, and spicy dishes from all over China. Prefer something Korean?Ji Hwa Ja (11-8 Samcheong-dong; 82-2/733-5834; dinner for two $72) presents lengthy multicourse affairs of marinated meats, bamboo salads, and other Joseon Dynasty food.
SHOPPING Bring home earthenware vases, plates, and urns by celebrated ceramist Yang Gu from the artist-owned Boinhang (63-47 Samcheong-dong; 82-2/720-4421). First Flag Shop (28 Samcheong-dong; no phone) lays out its primary-colored, hand-sewn leather pumps, boots, and sneakers on circular rugs and low-lying shelves. And the pioneering milliners at Lui Elle are still the reigning retailers, selling out of velour top hats and flowery sun chapeaus in every size, shape, and color.


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