The sleek, spare corridors of PMQ are a stark contrast to what’s going on inside its 100-plus studios. Set in the middle of Hong Kong’s stylish Soho neighborhood, these former policemen’s dorms have been transformed into a chic retail center, complete with fashion boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Perhaps more important, PMQ acts as an incubator for homegrown designers, who pay discounted rent for a place to grow their companies and open them up to the public. (You’ll also find a smaller percentage of established labels such as Vivienne Tam and Herman Miller.) There’s the design collective Glue Associates, which makes quirky gifts such as dim-sum-shaped candles; Aly & Rachelle, known for its lacy little black dresses; and Flying Zacchinis, a purveyor of leather accessories for both men and women. Art Projects Gallery continues to champion emerging artists in its new location here, while chef Jason Atherton marks his third Hong Kong opening with the bi-level Aberdeen Street Social—a combination gastropub and modern British restaurant—in the former officers’ clubhouse.
In and around the Gulou district of China’s development-hungry capital, an enclave of hutongs—alleys formed by walls of traditional courtyard residences—has managed to dodge the wrecking ball. Determined to preserve the charm (and avoid the fate of hutongsin nearby Nanluoguxiang, now overrun with souvenir shops), entrepreneurs have moved deeper into these narrow streets. French-owned Wuhao showcases one-off furniture and accessories by emerging talents. At Good Design Institute, everyday objects get a twist, such as lampshades made of bed slats. Serk stocks carbon-fiber bikes—and doubles as a bar serving Belgian beer. For a more local tipple, head to Mai(40 Beiluoguxiang, Dongcheng), known for its craft cocktails.
These cozy dwellings with rice-paper walls and plush futons on heated stone floors—Korea’s answer to Japanese ryokan—have been frequented by non-Westerners for years. Now more upscale offerings are luring foreigners, with many popping up in Seoul’s 600-year-old Bukchon district. Some even host kimchi-making or dado (tea ceremony) classes. Chiwoonjung($$$$)—a house once rented by President Lee Myung-Bak—has been reborn as an inn with four simple, antique-filled rooms. Kundaemunjip($) mixes traditional architecture with modern touches (rain showers; frosted glass). At Rakkojae($$), one of the most revered hanok, the intricate sliding doors are by master carpenter Chung Young-Jin.
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