The city is underrated.
While there is much to love about an outdoor adventure, some people may not recognize how exciting a city getaway can truly be. Not only do you get to bask in the electrifying atmosphere of a new environment, but cities also house innumerable delights to rival Mother Nature – from architectural gems to traditional and cultural experiences, there is so much to discover! These are the seven city wonders of Asia Pacific; much has been said about these urban hotspots, but not many have truly experienced their charm. Here’s how to appreciate them in their fullest glory.
The Bund, Shanghai
Travelers seeking a balance between the traditional and contemporary will find all they’re looking for at The Bund. Known as the “Museum of Buildings,” the Bund is iconic for its preservation of colonial buildings from the 1800s, in one of the world’s most metropolitan cities. One of the best places to capture panoramic views of the scenic area is the promenade – with an eco-friendly mobile charging station at the photography point, you won’t even worry about your phone running out of battery. You’ll be snapping all day!
Where to stay: Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund
What better way to experience this urban wonder than by indulging in a luxury stay on the Bund itself? Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund is a prime location for guests to enjoy convenient access to top attractions, as well as to catch a spectacular view of the Pudong skyline.
Temple Street Night Market,
Head to one of Hong Kong’s most vibrant meeting points, Temple Street Night Market. An agglomeration of all things old and gold, you’ll find yourself surrounded by wares such as jade ornaments, tea paraphernalia and antique trinkets. Don’t miss the chance to seek authentic cultural experiences by enjoying a Cantonese opera performance or having your palm read by a fortune teller. Pro-tip: always haggle! Locals themselves tend to offer 30 to 40 percent of the original price, so that’s a good place to start.
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Hong Kong Mongkok
Located minutes away from Mong Kok MTR station, Hilton Garden Inn provides the perfect respite after a day’s adventure.
Sydney Opera House, Sydney
One cannot possibly visit Sydney without stopping by the Sydney Opera House, an architectural marvel. Did you know that there are 1.5 million tiles across the sails on the roof? Every five years, a team of six abseilers conduct a “tap test,” where they manually tap each tile to check if it is still secure. The whole process takes them six weeks! The next time you head to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll certainly have new-found appreciation for this modern beauty.
Where to stay: Hilton Sydney
Situated in the downtown area of Sydney, Hilton Sydney is on the doorstep to all of the city’s favourite attractions such as the Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour and Bondi Beach.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok
With more than 15,000 stalls, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest. If you are running short of time and cannot explore the entirety of this eclectic matrix, head directly to Zone #2. This area is a hipster paradise, which houses the trendiest fashion and handicrafts. Prices may be a bit more expensive, but the items are more unique and better quality. Don’t shop until you drop – keep hydrated. Coconut ice cream helps!
Where to stay: Hilton Sukhumvit
Surrounded by Bangkok’s business, shopping and entertainment facilities, Hilton Sukhumvit is located a mere 5-minute walk away from Phrom Phong BTS station.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s pride and joy, is a futuristic park home to more than 160 species of trees and plants. Set in the middle of the city, it transports visitors into a garden paradise like no other. Walk among giants at the SuperTree Grove, which is not only an aesthetic icon but also functional – some SuperTrees serve as solar cells, while others are air exhaust receptacles! Also, be sure to check out the seasonal exhibits at the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, two cooled conservatories that showcase flowers from all over the world.
Where to stay: Hilton Singapore
Hilton Singapore is only a stone’s throw away from Singapore’s iconic shopping district, where guests have easy access to a myriad of shopping and dining options.
National Museum of Natural
Manila recently introduced a latest addition to its list of urban attractions – the National Museum of Natural History. Housed in a magnificent, neo-classical building, this six-story museum houses an array of fine art and works of cultural and national heritage, alongside life science exhibits that celebrate the country’s diverse flora and fauna. Take a ride in the DNA Tree of Life, a double-helix structure that rises into a canopy for the courtyard and doubles as an elevator! There aren’t any written handouts or location maps to refer to, so keep your smartphone handy to do some in-the-moment research.
Where to stay: Hilton Manila
Nestled in Manila’s biggest integrated resort, Hilton Manila offers guests with all-day entertainment; complete with a resort-style outdoor pool, fitness centre and various dining options.
Toyosu Fish Market
Move aside, Tsukiji, the Toyosu Fish Market is in town. Twice the size of its predecessor, the Toyusu Fish Market has expanded to include markets for seafood, fruits and vegetables. As part of this expansion, there are also dedicated observation decks to view the bustling live tuna auction! The lower observation deck is so coveted that you have to apply for a spot one month in advance, so be sure not to miss the deadline.
Where to stay: Hilton
On top of being in the heart of Tokyo’s shopping and entertainment district, Hilton Tokyo is also ideal for guests to experience modern Japan – with attractions like Harajuku, Ginza, Akihabara and the Tokyo Skytree just around the bend.
7 Must Visit Sites in Chiang Rai
“Chiang Rai is steeped in culture and tradition, with so much to explore and a lot to be discovered,” says Tobias Emmer, Camp Manager at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, “Don’t leave Chiang Rai without seeing these sites!” These seven must-do experiences journey through the culture, tradition and rich history of this region.
Hall of Opium: Located close to the very fields where millions of poppies once bloomed, the Hall of Opium museum offers a comprehensive look at the historical opium trade in the region, the characters involved, and the lives of addicts. “The dark reality of this period in Chiang Rai’s history and revival is brought alive through modern interactive displays and multimedia presentations,” explains Tobias.
Royal Legacy Tour: Home to the Princess Mother’s Royal Villa, these beautiful grounds are a horticultural masterpiece, with over 70 species of cool-climate flowers flourishing alongside native plants and trees. The garden blooms all year round, forming a splendid hillside tapestry that changes with the seasons. With the recent addition of the Tree Top Walk, guests can stroll along a 30 metre (90 feet) high walkway, bordered by lush treetops and exceptional views.
Golden Triangle Excursion: This experience begins with a cruise down the majestic Mekong River on-board a traditional, custom-designed long-tail boat. Making its way to the heart of Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge, the spectacular view that encompasses three different countries are unmatched. “Guests can soak in the sights and sounds of the Golden Triangle, as they get from one place to another like a local, hopping onto a ‘songtaew,’ followed by a tuk-tuk, to visit a vibrant local market and a revered ancient temple, Chedi Luang. Our Camp Guides are very knowledgeable and will relate fascinating stories and interesting facts along the way,” says Tobias.
Colour of Chiang Rai: A curated experience by Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, guests can explore the vibrant culture of Chiang Rai through its most striking sights. “We recommend to start your journey at the Chinese Temple (Wat Huay Pla Kung), a dragon-flanked staircase leads you to a nine-storey golden pagoda, while a massive white statue of the Buddha offers blessings,” he shares. Next, guests can discover the bizarre beauty of the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), designed by renowned Thai visual artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. “This is one of the most visited temples in Chiang Rai!” confirms Tobias. At Singha Park, lush greenery takes center stage: guests can stroll through tropical gardens and rolling plantations, while enjoying a cup of coffee. Before returning to the Camp, witness three countries coming together on the banks of Mekong River and enjoy the view of the Golden Triangle.
Doi Mae Salong Chinese Village & Tea Plantation: The Mandarin speaking residents have preserved their cherished customs for generations, such as the cultivation of ‘high mountain oolong tea’ – perfectly suited to the high altitude and cool climate of their village. “Your Camp Guide will reveal the fascinating political history of the region as you drive through the gorgeous mountain scenery that gives this areas its other name ‘Little Switzerland’,” explains Tobias.
Chiang Rai Kaleidoscope: Besides vividly-coloured temples, this curated itinerary includes other intriguing spots. “Guests can marvel at the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten), an intricate masterpiece wrought in blue and gold which remains hidden from most tourists,” says Tobias. Guests can then take a tour of the Black House (Baan Dam Museum), a cluster of 40 black ‘houses’ showcasing a private collection of provocative art. At Doi Din Dang Pottery, guests get a up-close-and-personal experience with potters at work, while browsing their lovely wares, made from the red clay, native to this region.
Craft Route: For an immersion into Northern Thailand’s rich crafts heritage – including textiles, weavings, carvings, silverwork and paper-making – Tobias recommends a visit to Doi Tung Cottage Industries Centre. “This is a Royal Project initiative, where artisans make mulberry paper and roast locally-grown coffee on site.” At the Doi Dung Daeng Centre, guests can witness the creation of stunning ceramics, “We’ll take you to an excellent local shop, renewed for its high-quality antique textiles, hilltribe artifacts, beadwork and carvings,” smiles Tobias.
Ten Trinity Square
Steps from the River Thames, the gentle hillside where Ten Trinity Square now stands was first populated over 2,000 years ago by the Romans, who formed the settlement of Londinium. This was the centre of the city, around which the great capital has grown.
Recognising the significance of this point on the river, William the Conqueror built the Tower of London nearby after his invasion of England in 1066. Today there is a sign in the lobby marking the distance of an arrow’s flight – the boundary where people had to stop or risk being shot by archers on the Tower.
During the Middle Ages, this became one of London’s most important neighbourhoods. As a royal residence, the Tower attracted the nobility and gentry to the surrounding area. With the city’s ongoing growth, this riverside location became the province of medieval merchants who set up their guilds to look after the interests of tradesmen and their families.
In 1666, much of the city was destroyed by the Great Fire of London, which started just west of the Ten Trinity Square site. The fire was witnessed by Samuel Pepys, the great diarist, who worked in the Navy Office adjoining the property and lived in the adjacent street, now Pepys Street. It is said that he rushed outside to bury his highly prized Parmesan cheese to protect it from the approaching fire, while Sir William Penn (later the founder of Pennsylvania) buried a bottle of wine. The location was the site now occupied by Seething Lane Gardens.
Growth Of Riverside Business
After the fire, London was rebuilt and the port extended downstream to the east. By the 19th century, London had become the beating heart of world trade, as ships offloaded their cargo. The docklands grew into a major source of wealth and power. Tea and pottery arrived from China, silks from Arabia, and coffee and spices from the East Indies.
The docks were being run by private enterprises, leading to many conflicting interests. In 1908, full control of the River Thames and docking management was given to the Port of London Authority, created by Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
Building Ten Trinity Square
The headquarters of the Port of London Authority was opened in 1922 at Ten Trinity Square. Designed by renowned architect Sir Edwin Cooper – who won the project through a design competition – the building was constructed at a then-astronomical cost of EUR 1 million.
Built in the Beaux-Arts style, which was fashionable for civic buildings in the Edwardian era, the quality of Ten Trinity Square represented the status of the organization. Its majestic façade hints at trade links going back to Roman times, while the original central rotunda was topped by a magnificent glass dome, created to emulate that of nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral. Rising atop the building at the front entrance, a sculpture of Old Father Thames stands proudly, holding his trident and pointing east, paying homage to the trade between nations.
In the peak days of the Port of London Authority, more than 1,200 people each day came to the rotunda to pay port dues for all the boats that were arriving in London. Such was the importance of the building that, in 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations held its inaugural reception here, in what is now known as the UN Ballroom.
A key feature of the building is its view of the lush greenery of Trinity Square Garden, laid out in 1795 as the setting for Trinity House. Ringed with pieces of the wall from the ancient Roman settlement, the garden was preserved as open space under a Special Act of Parliament in 1797. This unique sunken garden now features the Tower Hill War Memorial, including the WWI Mercantile Marine Memorial and the WWII Merchant Seamen’s Memorial.
During the Blitz in World War II, Ten Trinity Square was badly damaged by enemy bombing and the domed rotunda was destroyed. In the 1970s, after the Port of London Authority moved to its current location in Tilbury, the building was renovated and the central courtyard was filled in with office space. The building was then occupied by the European headquarters of the insurance broker Willis Faber Limited and continued to serve as offices until 2008. When Willis Faber moved on to a new location, the building lay vacant for several years.
Vision For The Future
Ten Trinity Square was purchased in 2010 by Reignwood, the Chinese investment company. The firm brings a deep respect for London’s history and culture, and began the process of restoring the building as a hotel and residences. It took six months to secure conditional planning permission before conversion work could begin on this Grade II*-listed building. (The “Grade II*” designation from Historic England reflects “particularly important buildings of more than special interest.”)
During excavations to support the original foundations, a number of significant Roman archaeological finds were made, including chalk-walled cellars, cesspits, animal remains and a well. All of these items were given to the Museum of London Archaeology.
Rather than create reproduction interiors, Reignwood chose to restore and preserve as many surviving original features as possible. A team of stone-restoration experts spent years on the exterior stonework and carvings. Inside, specialist restorers have brought new life to the original plasterwork, wood carvings, marble floors, and the soaring grand staircase.
Following this six-year, multi-million-pound renovation – and now with the renowned management of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – Ten Trinity Square stands once again as one of London’s most desirable addresses.
Newest Family Travel Trend: “Skip-Gen” and “Gramping”
Multi-generational travel has been gaining popularity in recent years, and its latest iteration is on the rise as families continue to find new ways to create experiences and memories together. The trend of “skip-gen” travel – or more recently called “gramping” – focuses on grandparents bonding with grandchildren, without the presence of parents. Picking the right kind of vacation for playful kids and baby boomers may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider these suggestions from Marriott International for an unforgettable summer “gramping” experience across the Americas:
New York, NY – New this summer, the Statue of Liberty Museum opens in May and the final section of the High Line elevated park opens in June. Warm weather, new openings and major events make the Big Apple an ideal place for skip-gen travelers to spend a summer weekend. New York Marriott Downtown is situated in Lower Manhattan, close to the waterfront, with cool summer breezes and most of its guest rooms have views of the harbor and city. It’s walking distance to multiple attractions including Battery Park, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, several museums and the new shops and restaurants of Brookfield Place. Take a quick subway or yellow taxi uptown to see a Broadway show, explore Central Park and check out the Empire State Building, there are activities for all ages.
Boston, MA – Nestled in Boston’s scenic Seaport District, Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel is walking distance to the Boston Children’s Museum, The Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Greenway which has seven water features, public art, a carousel, and summer concerts and movies. Whether exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail on the red brick path throughout the city, taking a famous Duck Tour on land and sea, or enjoying a baseball game at Fenway Park (and don’t forget the Fenway Frank!) this iconic New England city is great for grandparents and grandchildren.
Atlanta, GA – The Aloft Atlanta Downtown is in walking distance of endless activities and attractions located throughout the city, such as a tour of CNN studios, marine life at the Georgia Aquarium, and the Fountain of Rings in Centennial Olympic Park. Giant twin pandas can be seen at the Atlanta Zoo and those familiar with Winnie-the-Pooh will want to explore the exhibit at the High Museum of Art.
Seattle, WA – With ideal weather, seasonal festivals and outdoor activities aplenty, it’s no wonder that Seattle shimmers in the summer. Situated amid incredible shopping and iconic attractions, The Westin Seattle offers easy access to celebrated attractions including the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57. There is no shortage of gorgeous views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, Lake Union and Cascade mountain range. Younger grandkids will be excited to hear that Sesame Street’s Muppets will be in Seattle in July, while teenagers may want to check out Google’s new campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Washington, D.C. – Located in the breathtaking waterfront destination of National Harbor, Maryland, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, has added complimentary, resort-only activities designed for all ages to enjoy. Active guests can experience nightly laser light shows, Silent Disco Parties, and a nature-loving scavenger hunt. More low-key activities include movies in its 19-story garden atrium, a “Campfire and S’more” experience, live music and more.
Vancouver, BC – What’s different about this Canadian city is how quickly you can go from hiking or boating to watching an outdoor movie in a park or exploring a pop-up market. No matter how energetic or active the group, there’s truly something for all interests, including restaurants for the family foodie. With Western Canada’s mountaintops as its backdrop, JW Marriott Parq Vancouver is anchored in the middle of it all. In between the stylish neighborhoods of Gastown and Yaletown, the hotel is at the epicenter of downtown Vancouver’s dynamic entertainment district, Parq Vancouver.
Lima, Peru – The trend of skip-gen trips is attributed to baby boomers who may be retired and have more time to take a far-flung trip with their grandchildren and Lima is a great option for these types of vacations. Popular attractions for all ages include Kennedy Park, the Indigenous Market and LarcoMar. Boasting an unbeatable location at Malecón de la Reserva with stunning ocean views of Miraflores, AC Hotel Lima Miraflores is located just a short walk from all of the above.
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