From its nature and theme parks to its countless shops, irresistible gourmet foods and vibrant nightlife, ‘China’s Gate’ is endlessly enticing as a summer holiday spot. Make the most of your time here with May Guan’s colourful three-day itinerary
6PM Chill out with a bottle of Duvel or a pint of draft Hoegaarden at the 3D Bar, where true aficionados can start working their way through the eye-popping menu of more than 100 beers. This pub is a hot spot for expats so it’s not unusual to find travellers mixing with permanent and semi-permanent city residents. Beer not your tipple of choice? Demon Bar just steps away serves up memorably named cocktails such as the Screaming Orgasm in litre jars. A bar favourite is the Panda Cooler – a light and refreshing early-evening drink.
7.30PM Take Metro Line 1 to Windows of the World Station, transfer to Line 2 and alight at Haishang Shijie (Sea World Station). The journey takes about an hour – don’t worry, it’s worth it! – so pass the time by surfing the internet on your mobile phone using the local GPRS service. Upon arrival, take the Taizi Road exit and you’ll be at the city’s lively northern edge. Bookended by Prince Square and Sea World, Shekou (Snake Pit) is home to more than 100 restaurants.
Owned by the eponymous Italian, Trattoria Italiana Da Angelo specialises in Tuscan flavours. Have a salad, a brick- fired pizza and a glass of Italian house wine for only about S$40. The salads here are prepared using ingredients grown in the restaurant’s herb garden. When owner Angelo is around, you’re likely to be treated to his homemade Limoncello for free. Top off your meal with a sweet dollop of gelato (an Italian frozen dessert) or head over to Homey Dessert for a sweet treat.
If you’re feeling positively ravenous. you’ll get your money’s worth at Gaucho Garden Grill, home of the all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue at just S$20 per person. Alternatively, Hong Xiu Hang Bang’s Hongzhou dishes come in very small portions but are delicious.
10PM Get into party mode at the Terrace Restaurant & Bar. The house band’s enthusiasm is infectious so be prepared to switch into high gear the moment they hit the stage. Cool down on the breezy terrace and take in the eye-catching views.
MIDNIGHT End the evening with a Chinese barbecue or stir-fried noodle dish at the Seagull Restaurant downstairs, or keep the party going at nearby Coco Park.
MY PERFECT FRIDAY NIGHTHI HI
If I finish work on time, I like to dine out with my family at Mian Dian Wang, a no-frills restaurant with very good congee and fresh vegetables. I normally order the oak and kumara (sweet potato) congee. It may sound like an odd combination, but it’s delicious. In the summer, Dameisha Beach is the place for us. Or we go for a splash in the thermal swimming pool at Futian Sports Park. At night, we usually stop in at a small restaurant for bowls of noodle soup. The flavours are amazing.
Jenny Jian, business development manager
8AM Start the day with a healthy breakfast combo of congee and la chang at Xingji Noodles. La chang is a traditional Cantonese hand-made noodle dish. The ingredients are laid atop flour batter, which is steamed, rolled and served with various sauces. La chang noodles are tender and tasty and the dish, which tends to be cheap, is a popular accompaniment to hot congee.
9AM Pack water, snacks, sunscreen and swimsuits and make your way to OCT East, an eco-tourism spot featuring two theme parks, four resort hotels and two 18-hole golf courses. An old-fashioned train connects Tea Stream Resort Valley, Ecoventure Valley and Huaxing Temple.
10AM Ecoventure Valley offers a full day of fun for the type of amusement park enthusiast who is game for just about anything. Do the grand tour of the park’s five zones: Breakers Lagoon, Rapids Forest, Seafield Village, Adventure Canyon and Peak Highland. There’s even a Buddhist theme park at OCT East, complete with gilded statues and a Buddhist-themed hotel. Eateries throughout the complex serve a mix of fast food and sit-down meals.
3PM Take the forest train to Tea Stream Resort Valley. Have your camera ready to capture the views while strolling, cycling, pedal-boating, travelling by electric cart or even by hot-air balloon. Be back at the theatre by 4pm to catch a multimedia show that traces the history of tea. For a first-hand experience of China’s most time-honoured export, visit Ancient Tea Town. Sit in on the 80-minute tea-collecting and -panning workshop and take home your DIY Chinese tea. Or sign up for the less-challenging, 30-minute pottery-making class if you’re keen to make your own chinaware. Before leaving, quench your thirst with a glass of tasty soybean milk for just S$0.60.
6PM If you’re ready for an early dinner, head to the open kitchen-style Garden Café at the Oasis O City Hotel. Offerings include fusion dishes and selections from a wide range of international cuisines.
8PM It can get chilly at OCT East at night so why not take the opportunity to go for a dip in the Interlaken Spa’s hot pools? The spa is home to a staggering 22 outdoor pools, many of which are said to offer medicinal benefits. Naturists can even romp naked in the hilltop pools. And don’t miss the indoor facilities, where spa treatments are available until 2am.
From a dormitory-style room at the Cargo Hostel (built from retired containers), to a private room at the mid-range Otiqu Aqua OCT Hotel to a suite at the posh Interlaken OCT Hotel, there’s sure to be an accommodation at the OCT East Theme Hotel Cluster to suit your budget.
MY PERFECT SATURDAY
My perfect Saturday starts at around 9am. I slowly get ready with a brewed coffee and a pastry bought the night before at Simply Life. I’ll meet friends for a Cantonese dim sum lunch at Laurel, after which I’m ready for a good workout followed by a blissful full-body massage at the Ritz-Carlton Shenzhen spa and fitness centre. I might stop by the coffee shop there after my rejuvenation and read The New York Times on my iPad. Then it’ll be time for dinner with friends – a delicious vegetarian meal at the Summer Tea House. The food is great and cheap. An evening drink at the Grand Hyatt Penthouse is always great. I especially like the house Pinot Grigio along with the great views. If I still have enough energy, it might be off to clubbing at RichyBaby, followed by a late- night snack in Luohu.
Brent Deverman, founder of Shenzhenparty.com
10AM Enjoy brunch at the Interlaken Café next to Lake Interlaken. Feed the ducks and swans with your bread crusts while enjoying coffee and an omelette.
11AM Walk up to the hilltop and visit Huaxing Temple, where you can admire the famed four-facet Guanyin statue and relax to the sounds of chants and the temple bell. Pray for luck, read about Buddhism or simply enjoy the tranquil setting.
1PM While on the temple grounds, enjoy lunch at vegetarian restaurant Xiang Ji Zai. Meat-free diets have a long history in China and you might be surprised at how easily tofu can be used in place of fish, chicken and other meats. If seafood by the beach sounds more tempting, stop by Yantian Seafood Street. Si Gong Hui Seafood Restaurant is a popular spot, serving reasonably priced dishes made with freshly caught seafood.
3PM Head back to the shopping and entertainment hub of Coco Park for afternoon tea. Honeymoon Dessert is well- known for its creative, fruit-based goodies as well as for traditional delicacies made with sesame paste and peanut paste.
4PM Beyond its many bars, Coco Park is a trendy shopping area with stores selling a wide variety of products, particularly domestic and international fashion brands. There are fashion shows and performances on the central stage on weekends, so take a break from retail therapy to be entertained.
6PM Cool down with a refreshing drink at Club Viva, a bar with Latin flair. To the locals, it’s one of many popular “meeting places” where it’s possible to mingle with visitors or just keep your own company by curling up in a jumbo willow chair.
8PM Take the Metro to Lao Jie Station for a visit to Dongmen Street, a paradise of roadside snack outlets selling spicy and sour noodles, barbecued squid, fish balls and pearl tea. Visitors are bombarded with choices here, so get in the longest queues to sample the best that the area has to offer. If you prefer a sit-down meal, Ba Shu Feng’s Sichuan dishes are cheap and delicious.
10PM If the frenetic pace hasn’t worn you out, keep things rolling at V Bar, a sophisticated spot whose live band hails from the UK. Order a Rainbow – a cocktail featuring five liqueurs – and toss it back as soon as the bartender fires it up! It’s sure to add that final flourish to your weekend.
MY PERFECT SUNDAY
A perfect, relaxing Sunday should start late – about 9 or 10am. I always begin with morning Buddhist activities, which include mantra/sutra chanting at Huaxing Temple or Hongfa Temple, and then go into a brief meditation. Sunday means a late lunch for me (at around 1.30pm). The Xinfa Hong Kong Style Tea House’s delicious and authentic Hong Kong-style wonton noodles are perfect for me. The ideal afternoon would be hanging out with friends for a good chat or occasionally alone with a cup of mocca at Illy Coffee by the lake in Portofino. I love the Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine at Pokok Kelapa Melayu and especially the stir-fried beef noodles in gravy. For a fun night out, I head for the lively V Bar.
Henry Tay, Singaporean hotelier