RE­BIRTH OF A LAND­MARK

Kempin­ski Ho­tel Bei­jing Lufthansa Cen­ter has un­der­gone an ex­ten­sive re­vamp to match the needs of the new- age trav­eler.

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KEMPIN­SKI’S 480 ROOMS AND SUITES HAVE BEEN COM­PLETELY OVER­HAULED, REIN­TER­PRET­ING ITS DUAL CHI­NESE AND EU­RO­PEAN HER­ITAGE. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit kempin­ski.com/ bei­jing @ kempin­skibei­jing

When it first opened in 1992, Kempin­ski Ho­tel Bei­jing Lufthansa Cen­ter broke new ground – it held the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first Eu­ro­pean- run ho­tel in modern China. To­day, the iconic prop­erty de­buts a stun­ning new look af­ter com­plet­ing the first phase of the most sub­stan­tial ren­o­va­tion in its 26- year his­tory. Kempin­ski’s 480 rooms and suites have been com­pletely over­hauled to the tune of US$ 30 mil­lion, rein­ter­pret­ing its dual Chi­nese and Eu­ro­pean her­itage while ex­press­ing im­pec­ca­ble per­sonal ser­vice and the best of both Asian and West­ern hos­pi­tal­ity. The new port­fo­lio of rooms and suites dis­plays a decor that aims to con­vey the con­tem­po­rary el­e­gance of China and its cul­tural in­flu­ence. Eu­ro­pean sandy, clas­si­cal beige col­ors and hues adorn the walls and fur­ni­ture, while art pieces, an­tique dec­o­ra­tions, and col­or­ful vases add breath­tak­ing brush­strokes of Asian iden­tity. Those stay­ing in Deluxe rooms and above will find Shang­hai Tang ameni­ties, while Pres­i­den­tial Suite guests will en­joy Her­mès ameni­ties, give­aways, and Sten­ders bath salts. Re­wards and ben­e­fits for top-tier guests are al­ways evolv­ing just as the list keeps grow­ing... Busi­ness trav­el­ers should opt for the ex­ec­u­tive floor rooms, which come with 24- hour but­ler ser­vice and ac­cess to the brand- new Lounge 15. Here, break­fast buf­fets, af­ter­noon tea, happy hour drinks, and din­ners are served in a pri­vate and tran­quil set­ting with a view of Bei­jing’s ever- chang­ing sky­line. Taken in tan­dem with its hos­pi­tal­ity stan­dards and mas­sive pil­lar-free ball­room, all these up­grades be­fit Kempin­ski’s sta­tus as a pre­ferred MICE des­ti­na­tion for high- level diplo­matic and em­bassy events, of­fi­cial govern­ment sum­mits, and state vis­its. The ho­tel re­mains a prom­i­nent venue on the Bei­jing so­cial scene, host­ing some of the cap­i­tal’s big­gest Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions, galas, and Vi­enna Ball – held in part­ner­ship with the City of Vi­enna and the Am­bas­sador of Aus­tria to China.

morn­ing pickup in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The west­ern New Ter­ri­to­ries may not fig­ure on the radar of most vis­i­tors, but there are plenty of hid­den gems and laid­back lo­cales to dis­cover. Eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by bus, the Mediter­ranean-in­spired sea­side de­vel­op­ment of Gold Coast is cen­tered on a name­sake ho­tel and ma­rina be­side an invit­ing stretch of golden sand. Hik­ing is also pos­si­ble here with Stage 10 of the 100-kilo­me­ter-long MacLe­hose Trail close by, lead­ing east­ward to scenic Tai Lam Chung Reser­voir in Tai Lam

Coun­try Park. If you’re hik­ing in a group, do like the lo­cals and de­scend to the neigh­bor­hood of ShamTseng for a hearty post-work­out meal at Yue Kee Roast

Goose Restau­rant, a fam­ily-run busi­ness that has been in the area since 1958. Yue Kee has a long­stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion for serv­ing up some of the best roast goose in Hong Kong; birds are sourced from the restau­rant’s own farm in neigh­bor­ing Guang­dong, mar­i­nated overnight, and air-dried for sev­eral hours be­fore be­ing roasted in char­coal-fired ovens. Farther north in­Yuen Long, the Ping

Shan Her­itage Trail be­gins just out­side the MTR sta­tion serv­ing the new town of Tin Shui Wai. Soar­ing apart­ment blocks cre­ate an un­usual back­drop for the squat, three-story pagoda of Tsui Shing Lau, which dates from 1486. Just down the road lies a walled vil­lage, a pair of an­ces­tral halls that sport or­nately carved wooden beams, and two ad­ja­cent 1870s struc­tures dis­tin­guished by their ex­quis­ite crafts­man­ship: Kun Ting Study Hall and the one­time guest­house of Ching Shu Hin. At the trail’s end­point stands a well de­signed vis­i­tor cen­ter housed in a colo­nial-era hill­top po­lice sta­tion, built just two years be­fore its coun­ter­part in Tai O. The Septem­ber open­ing of the last phase of the Guangzhou– Shen­zhen–Hong Kong Ex­press Rail Link, which con­nects Hong Kong’s new West Kowloon Sta­tion (where Chi­nese im­mi­gra­tion pro­ce­dures are han­dled) with its coun­ter­part south of cen­tral Guangzhou, has cut the travel time by train be­tween the two cities to about 50 min­utes—though you’re still look­ing at spend­ing about the same amount of time by sub­way or taxi to get to down­town. There, you’ll find that China’s great south­ern gate­way has its share of modern ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vels, not least the peb­ble-like Guangzhou Opera House by late Bri­tish-Iraqi ar­chi­tect Zaha Ha­did, and the 604-me­ter-high Can­ton Tower, which briefly be­came the world’s tallest tower when it opened in 2010. The lat­ter is un­usual for its tapered hour­glass shape and a rooftop ob­ser­va­tion deck cir­cled by trans­par­ent pas­sen­ger cars, in a setup akin to a hor­i­zon­tal Fer­ris wheel.

Jaw-drop­ping views of the city are also a ma­jor draw at the Four Sea­sons Guangzhou’s 99th-floor Tian Bar on the op­po­site bank of the Pearl River. For a more down-to-earth ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s

Hope & Se­same ( ho­pe­and­sesamegz.com), a 30-seat speakeasy in the tran­quil, bo­hemian neigh­bor­hood of Dong­shankou. Tucked away in­side a make-be­lieve Can­tonese diner, the venue beck­ons with live jazz and in­ven­tive sig­na­ture cock­tails like Char Siu, a heady blend of ba­con­washed Chivas whisky, hua­diao rice wine, rose liquor, and gin­ger ex­tract.

It would be a shame not to have Can­tonese fare while in town, and the Ritz-Carl­ton ho­tel’s one-Miche­lin-starred

Lai Heen hits the spot. Sea­sonal pro­duce

and for­aged in­gre­di­ents are used to great ef­fect by ex­ec­u­tive chef Gor­don Guo in crowd-pleasers such as steamed crab cus­tard, flam­béed Yun­nan mush­rooms, and poached sun­flower chicken.

Guangzhou has also taken steps to pre­serve its built her­itage while adapt­ing those build­ings to the 21st cen­tury. The red-brick godowns at Taikoo Wharf

(Taigu­cang), the city’s busiest wharf in the 1920s and ’30s, is now a pop­u­lar din­ing and drink­ing venue for the young and hip. A sim­i­lar trans­for­ma­tion has played out at the Red­tory Art & De­sign

Fac­tory ( red­tory.com.cn), a for­mer canned food fa­cil­ity in Tianhe dis­trict that has mor­phed into a con­tem­po­rary artists’ vil­lage, draw­ing cre­ative-minded vis­i­tors with a chang­ing ros­ter of ex­hi­bi­tions and cul­tural events. Nine-hun­dred and seventy kilo­me­ters up the tracks from Guangzhou is Wuhan, which the high-speed train reaches in just over four hours. Strad­dling the con­flu­ence of the Han River and the mightyYangtze, the city serves as the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Hubei as well as China’s big­gest in­land port. As in Shang­hai, the later Qing dy­nasty years saw a se­ries of for­eign con­ces­sions set up along the river; that his­tory is ev­i­dent in the stately 1920s build­ings along Hankou Bund. Crowned with a clock tower, the old Cus­toms House in the erst­while Bri­tish con­ces­sion is now the Jiang­han Cus­toms Mu­seum.

If you’re up early, head across the Yangtze to Wuchang for the se­same- in­fused noo­dles re gan mian and other break­fast spe­cial­ties on at­mo­spheric

Hubu Xiang. Make a bee­line for nearby Snake Hill to soak up the panoramic views from the top floor of the Yel­low Crane Tower, an iconic 1980s rein­car­na­tion of a lo­cal land­mark de­stroyed in the late 19th cen­tury. Chi­nese his­tory buffs may re­call that Wuchang was the set­ting of an armed up­ris­ing that set off the 1911 Xin­hai Revo­lu­tion, which top­pled the Qing dy­nasty and ush­ered in a new repub­lic led by Sun Yat-Sen. Just down the hill, the Wuchang Up­ris­ing Me­mo­rial Hall ( 1911mu­seum.com) is cen­tered on a hand­some red-brick pile that once served as the Qing-era pro­vin­cial as­sem­bly.

Wuchang also hap­pens to have the largest in­ner-city lake in the coun­try. An af­ter­noon spent strolling the shores of East Lake or ex­plor­ing by bike is a must, as is a visit to the lake­side Hubei

Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum, which holds an enor­mous col­lec­tion of ar­ti­facts ex­ca­vated from an­cient tombs. Among its most prized ex­hibits is a full ensem­ble of bianzhong, or bronze bells, dat­ing back al­most two and a half mil­len­nia.

Af­ter dark, go for some modern en­ter­tain­ment at the retro-in­spired quar­ter of Chuhe Han­jie (lit­er­ally “Chu River and Han Street”), where a lantern­shaped the­ater hosts The Han Show ( drag­one.com) by Franco Drag­one, the artis­tic direc­tor be­hind Ma­cau’s ac­claimed spec­ta­cle The House of Danc­ing Wa­ter. Show­ing five nights a week, it’s an ex­trav­a­ganza of aquat­ics and ac­ro­bat­ics fea­tur­ing gi­ant LED screens ma­nip­u­lated by robotic arms.

From Wuhan, it’s an­other 700 kilo­me­ters by high-speed rail (the trip takes about four and a half hours) north to the Chi­nese cap­i­tal, which jug­gles its im­pe­rial past and cos­mopoli­tan present with aplomb. Just south of Tianan­men Square, the hu­tongs of the 600-year-old Dashilar neigh­bor­hood have wit­nessed the emer­gence of hip lo­cales like Berry Beans, a third-wave cof­fee roaster set in­side a for­mer Qing dy­nasty brothel. Sweet-toothed pa­trons can pair a black su­gar cin­na­mon latte with home­made cakes like matcha, choco­late, or pas­sion fruit mille-feuille. For some­thing stronger, Jing-A

Brew­pub Xing­fu­cun ( jingabrew­ing.com) in the heart of buzzing San­l­i­tun has more than a dozen lo­cally brewed craft beers on tap, a va­ri­ety of sea­sonal and ex­per­i­men­tal of­fer­ings, and in­ven­tive cock­tails at its at­tached bar. San­l­i­tun is also a mag­net for Bei­jing’s literati, thanks to the pres­ence of 16-year-old in­sti­tu­tion

The Book­worm ( bei­jing­book­worm.com), a book­shop, li­brary, bar, and restau­rant that hosts lec­tures by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional au­thors. A five-minute walk away, 1949 - The Hid­den City ( elite

con­cepts.com) is a low-slung din­ing and nightlife com­plex in a for­mer fac­tory run by the Bei­jing Ma­chin­ery and Elec­tric In­sti­tute. Here, Duck de Chine spe­cial­izes in Bei­jing and Can­tonese cui­sine with a French touch. Try the suc­cu­lent Pek­ing duck roasted over a ju­jube wood–fu­eled fire, lauded for its aro­matic fla­vor, caramelized skin, and the chef’s own hoisin sauce. Call­ing ahead to re­serve a duck is a must. At the north­ern end of Wang­fu­jing, the city’s pre­mier shop­ping street, Guardian Art Cen­ter opened in May as both the head­quar­ters for ma­jor auc­tion house China Guardian and a new cul­tural venue, with ex­hi­bi­tion gal­leries com­ple­mented by restau­rants and an up­stairs ho­tel. De­signed by Ger­man ar­chi­tect Ole Scheeren, the cut­ting-edge struc­ture takes its cues from the sur­round­ing hu­tong al­ley­ways, whereas the cir­cu­lar aper­tures on its

lower lev­els rep­re­sent the 14th-cen­tury land­scape paint­ing Dwelling in the Fuchun Moun­tains.

While an ex­cur­sion to the Great Wall is highly rec­om­mended, it’s worth spend­ing some ex­tra time on the road to avoid the more heav­ily re­stored sec­tions closer to town, like Badal­ing, and the re­sul­tant crowds. A three-hour drive to the north­east of Bei­jing, the Si­matai sec­tion beck­ons with ru­ined watch­tow­ers and a mag­nif­i­cent wall that coils along dra­matic ridge­lines; its par­tially re­stored state means tourist num­bers here are strictly con­trolled and en­try is not guar­an­teed with­out a reser­va­tion. At its foot lies the idyl­lic re­sort vil­lage of Gubei Wa­ter Town ( wtown.com), built in re­cent years as the North­ern Chi­nese an­swer to post­card­per­fect Wuzhen. Tick­ets for both the wall and vil­lage can be booked on the Gubei Wa­ter Town web­site.

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Clock­wise from this pic­ture: In­side Lounge 15; an Ex­ec­u­tive Deluxe King room; the Kempin­ski Ho­tel Bei­jing Lufthansa Cen­ter in day­light.

Zaha Ha­did’s Guangzhou Opera House. Below: Pre­par­ing a sig­na­ture cock­tail at Hope & Se­same.

A sun­set view of Wuhan from the Yel­low Crane Tower. Bot­tom right: Ac­ro­bats in mo­tion at The Han Show.

Out­side the Guardian Art Cen­ter. Top left: Dusk at Gubei Wa­ter Town.

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