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Hong Kongers like to refer to their city as the Gateway to Asia, and with good reason — it is ideally located, making it only a few hours’ flight from sun, sea and sand if you’re in the mood to unwind. But if you’re looking to challenge yourself with culture, food or heritage, there are several major metropolises within easy reach to explore.
Phuket is a no-brainer for a quick beach break, but look beyond the mega-brand resorts and you’ll find breathtaking new spaces that offer relaxation for mind, body and soul.
Stay: Keemala is a relative newcomer, having only opened in December 2015, but it already has won several awards and it’s not hard to see why. A truly mesmeric resort, Keemala offers 38 villas and cottages set in the woodlands. As well as the stunning setting, there are plenty of spa treatments and holistic programs to try.
Eat and drink: Raya House and Baan Rim Pa excel in island specialties. Outside Asian cuisine, make sure to try Italian eatery Acqua.
See: Away from the beaches, the Chinese- and Portuguese-influenced charm of Old Phuket Town is worth checking out. The Big Buddha and Wat Chalong temple are also worth a visit.
Food-obsessed Taipei is just under two hours away by plane, making it the perfect place for those looking to indulge.
Stay: If you’re able to make a booking, VVGB+B is one of the most eye-opening boutique hotels in Taipei, if not Asia. Featuring just two suites, VVGB+B is a truly private experience with attentive staff. The hotel is also linked to a bookstore, a DIY boutique and three restaurants, making it a total lifestyle experience.
Eat and drink: A trip to Taipei isn’t complete without a visit to one of the famed night markets, where locals chow down on excellent street food well into the night. For fine dining, RAW has rave reviews, and for retro charm, there’s bento place Fei Qian Wu.
See: Taipei 101 looms large over the city and it is worth a visit for the stunning views. Taipei is also surrounded by stunning nature, including Mount Keelung and the Golden Waterfall.
Only three and a half hours from Hong Kong, Seoul is an ideal city break before or after Filmart. Bursting with youthful energy, there are music, fashion and food options aplenty.
Stay: With only 170 guest rooms, J.W. Marriott Dongdaemun is the closest thing to a boutique hotel in Seoul, with the interiors showing more than a dash of flair. The three-year-old hotel is famed for having both a well-appointed pool and a rooftop bar, both still a rarity in Seoul, as well as its own bakery.
Eat and drink: Seoul is more than just Gangnam, but undeniably it has some of the best restaurants in town. For authentic Korean food, check out Gae Hwa Oak, or for a molecular gastronomical twist, try Jung Sik Dang.
See: The almost-hidden Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is a real must-see. There are world-class works from the likes of Anish Kapoor, Francis Bacon and others, as well as the best contemporary artists from Korea.
It’s often overlooked, but staying put in Hong Kong is a great way to spend a few days eating, drinking and relaxing.
Stay: The Peninsula is an obvious choice, but then there’s a reason why people call it the best hotel in Hong Kong, if not in Asia. A truly remarkable hotel steeped in history, The Peninsula offers foreign guests a brief glimpse of colonial-era luxury. There are seven restaurants as well 80 retail outlets, so there’s plenty to do inside the hotel.
Eat and drink: If you’re staying Kowloon side, then Spring Deer is popular with locals. Nanhai No.1 has stunning views from its 30th-floor location and is attached to Eyebar, which serves excellent cocktails.
See: Filmart falls in March, the busiest cultural month in the Hong Kong calendar. For foodies, there’s the Taste Hong Kong festival (March 16-19) and for art lovers there’s Art Central (March 21-25) and Art Basel Hong Kong (March 23-25).
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Taraji P. Henson