Insiders of four cities reveal local secrets

1 May 2013 by ReggieHo


Insider: Jason Wordie, local historian (
The secret: Kowloon City – Crime-ridden Kowloon Walled City-internationally notorious for decades – was demolished in 1994 and replaced by a superb Jiangnan garden design (pictured). Mature trees, graceful pavilions and water-lily ponds complete the “Old Cathay” effect. Within, the restored nineteenth century Yamen (“Magistracy”), which survived nearly a century of surrounding slum development, showcases photographs, model displays and videos that bring the past alive. Nearby, the historic Hau Wong Temple connects contemporary Kowloon to the Sung Dynasty’s final collapse nearly 800 years ago. Close by, Nam Kok Road’s authentic Thai eateries are unmissable. Golden Wheat and its yom plaa dook foo (“Spicy Catfish Salad”) remains a long-time personal favourite.
How to get there: For added local flavour, take the MTR to Lok Fu, and walk down Junction Road for about 10 minutes until you reach the Hau Wong Temple; Kowloon Walled City Park is right across the road.
Costs: Free admission to Kowloon Walled City Park and Hau Wong Temple. A substantial Thai lunch anywhere along Nam Rok Road should cost about HK$150 (US$19) per person.

Insider: Byron Perry, founder and managing director of Southeast Asia local city website network
The secret: Phra Phradaeng (pictured) – Bangkok has a lot more green space than you might think. Surprisingly, one of the most undeveloped areas of greater Bangkok, Phra Phradaeng, lies right across the Chao Phraya River from the dreary industrial Khlong Toey Port. If you’ve got some time to kill and want to explore some greenery, rent a bicycle at Bang Kachao Pier, and spend a morning or afternoon cycling through a neighborhood where monitor lizards and pythons share space with families living in traditional wooden houses accessed by raised concrete paths through the jungle.
How to get there: Take a taxi to Khlong Toey Pier, only 5km from Asoke intersection. From there, catch a longtail boat across the river from Khlong Toei Pier to Bang Kachao Pier – it’ll take about three minutes.
Costs: Transportation fee is about THB3 (US$0.1). Cheap old bicycles are available for rent there for a THB100 (US$3.4) for a few hours.


Insider: Rita Goh, marketing professional and travel junkie. On twitter as @traveldivarita
The secret: The Intan (pictured) – this is a private and privately curated Peranakan museum. Peranakan people are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who married local Malay women from the Straits Settlements. The Intan showcases a collection of all things Peranakan – furniture, knick-knacks, altars, clothes, trinkets, jewellery and so on. The owner of The Intan is a Peranakan guy (of course), and the museum is also his house, where he lives upstairs. You can go to him for a 90-minute tour and it will include afternoon tea – with kueh (sweet puddings and pastries) made by his mother. You can also arrange for a dinner-and-tour package. Dinner is also cooked by his mother and up to 30 can be seated comfortably. Also worth a visit is D’Kranji Farm (which is also a resort and farm) – it’s so off the beaten track even many locals don’t know about it. But here you can get close to Singapore’s first reservoir and taste home-grown organic fruits and vegetables. A guided tour can also be arranged for a small charge.
How to get there: Intan – the location is in Joo Chiat, which is not far from town; as visits are strictly by appointment only, call +65 6440 1148 for direction; farm – Catch the Kranji Express shuttle bus from Kranji MRT Station for a quick connection to D’Kranji Farm Resort at S$3 (US$2.4, round-trip)
Costs: Museum – tea tour S$45 (36.5) per person, for minimum six, for 1.5 hours; lunch/dinner tour S$99 (US$80) per person, minimum 20, for about three hours; D’Kranji – S$8 (US$6.5) for farm tour and S$28 (US$22.7) for fruit tour.


Insider: Ben Johnson, guest experience manager, InterContinental The Strings Tokyo Hotel (
The secrets: Gourmet coffee in Tokyo – Omotesando Koffee is worth the effort to track down; Naples-trained barista Eiichi Kunitomo’s concept pop-up kiosk was so popular it became a permanent fixture and a perfect macchiato and koffee kashi (cake) can be enjoyed in the small garden. Craft beer and the city – Relaxed licensing laws have prompted a brewpub boom and DevilCraft in Kanda is one of the notable recent entries, with a menu offering 15 beers from Japan and overseas daily, including exclusive brews; the standout feature for me is the choice of Chicago deep-dish pizzas that are a perfect match for the full-flavoured craft beer. 
How to get there: Omotesando Koffee – Located in a room of a 60 year old house in the Omotesando backstreets, not far from Maisen tonkatsu (pork cutlets) restaurant and five to 10 minute walk from Omotesando Subway, Exit 2 (but have your concierge print a map, you will need it); DevilCraft – two minutes’ walk from JR Kanda Station, south exit.
Costs: Coffee – JPY400; beer around JPT1,000 a pint; pizza around JPY1,300-JPY3,000 each.


Nino Lin and Reggie Ho

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