Asia is one dynamic region to be in right now, with sights, sounds and sky-high bars to impress and experience. There are quite a number out there to choose from, and I am sure I barely scratched the surface with my experiences. However, the following is my take on fabulous Asian perches that will take your breath away.
Lobby Lounge, Park Hyatt Shanghai
No list of rooftop, or at least sky-high bars, would ever be complete without an entry from Shanghai. Now, personally, I am split by 2 fantastic viewpoints in this skyscraper city, but if based on my criteria, the Park Hyatt Shanghai gets my top billing for the city.
Located in (what is for now) the second tallest building in Shanghai, the Lobby Lounge is both intimate in scale and impressive in views, offering an unparalleled view of this megacity. While the observation deck and bar of the Shanghai World Financial Centre (a.k.a. Bottle Opener as I like to call it) is higher, this one feels more luxe.
The drinks are good, the cocktail selection expansive and the tea, oh the tea! You cannot go to China and not have that nectar of the gods that caused so much intrigue in the 19th century. The Bar is more intimate, but The Living Room makes this residential-style retreat that more elegant.
View: North-west towards The Bund and west bank of the Huang-Pu River. Unobstructed by any supporting structures, safety recesses or buildings, definitely one of the finer views of Shanghai.
Drinks: decent selection of drinks, reasonably priced.
Price Point: re above. Reasonable. USD 20++/drink
Feel: Posh yet not pretentious. Comfortable and cosy.
Address: 100 Century Avenue, Pudong, Shanghai, China
Tel: +86 21 6888 1234
Nearest Station: Lujiazui
The Lounge & Bar, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
This entry had a close contender as my pick for this list. Located in (for now) the highest hotel with the highest lobby in the world, all the way on the 103rd floor of the International Commerce Centre, this perch has a sweeping view over Victoria Harbour, Victoria Island and Island-side. Expect unobstructed views of Victoria Peak and the sheer concentration of skyscrapers that make Hong Kong the Manhattan of the East.
An extremely cosy spot, this perch is popular as a spot for business deals or a place to impress. For me, I just love the height and the view. While not as intimate as the Park Hyatt Shanghai, its large-ish dining area does make this feel like a generic hotel lounge at times in the evening when the view is not as clear due to indoor light reflection.
Drinks selection is pretty good, and the coffee is decent for a quick pick-me-up. The men’s room is truly interesting. Sorry, ladies, but I doubt you can come in to the men’s room for the urinal with a view.
View: 180* view of Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour. Nothing can possibly block this view, except the occasional fog or smog.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, with pretty stiff drinks.
Price Point: For the view, they could charge a premium, but drinks are reasonably priced at the USD 15+ point.
Feel: This is a somewhat popular place, for both locals and visitors. The feeling is relaxed, and while not strictly enforced, you do feel the social pressure to wear business casual.
Address: International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2263 2270
Nearest Station: Kowloon MTR
Helipad at Heli Lounge, Kuala Lumpur
Located on the, well, helipad of Menara KH, on the 34, this spot is not for the faint of heart. While the Skybar at the Traders Hotel gets the best unobstructed view of the Petronas Twin Towers in KLCC, how often can you say ‘oh, yeah, I drank on a helipad, waiting for the helicopter that never came.’
It brands itself as KL’s Best Kept Secret, but I doubt that is the case now with all the adverts on it. However, it is still a nice place, with fantastic views of Kuala Lumpur, with perfect views of the Twin Towers, KL Tower and suburbs beyond. When the other towers of KL start sprouting up, this spot will definitely be the spot.
View: 360 views of Kuala Lumpur, since, well, this is literally a rooftop.
Drinks: decent selection of drinks, reasonably priced, and not a ridiculous premium involved.
Price Point: re above. Reasonable. MYR 30++/drink
Feel: come by before 9pm and you can enjoy the view in shorts. However, the live band can be distracting after 10pm.
Address: 34th Foor, Menara KH, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2110 5034
Nearest Station: Raja Chulan Monorail Station
Spago at Marina Bay Skypark, Singapore
This particular spot is in the middle of the Skypark on top of Marina Bay Sands. With reasonably priced food and carefully hidden behind bushes to shield guests at the Marina Bay Sand skypool from patrons (or maybe the other way around?), this spot is a perfect place to chill while looking out towards the Singapore Skyline.
While a bit of a chore to get to (Use the lifts at Tower 2, and change lifts at the spa), it feels like a suspended beach bar in the middle of a city. In fact, the design and foliage makes it a nice urban oasis, with hints of the Singapore CBD towers reflected against the pool. Surreal.
View: Depending where you are seated, you can get fantastic views of Singapore or the Harbour.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, and a few interesting options to choose from.
Price Point: This is Singapore, so expect to pay a premium. However, prices here are comparable to bars closer to ground. SGD 30++/drink.
Feel: As it isn’t as popular (or hyped) as the other 2 rooftop bars on the Skydeck (I am looking at you, former Ku De Ta), it has a very pleasant, relaxed vibe. Again, think beach.
Address: 10 Bayfront Avenue, Level 57, Sands Skypark Tower 2, Singapore
Tel: +65 6688 9955
Nearest Station: Bayfront MRT Station
The Bar at Altitude, Jakarta
Jakarta is moving up in the Asia Pacific as a hip destination. Every time I visit Jakarta, I see something that reminds me to ignore all the occasional bad press that appears. This rooftop bar, located adjacent to Plaza Indonesia, can be a bit of a maze to get to. Just ask for The Plaza tower at Plaza Indonesia.
Once there, be greeted by an unobstructed view south of the giant metropolis, fondly known as the Big Durian. While not the highest bar, such as the one at Skyle Lounge, or with a fantastic terrace just 3 floors up in the same tower at Cloud Lounge, your view is at the very edge, facing the plate glass windows. Plus, it feels less like a fancy bar and more like a member’s only lounge.
View: Unobstructed views of downtown Jakarta, at this, the highest rooftop bar in the city. Even better if the weather and smog is cooperating.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, and the usual beers.
Price Point: Reasonable by Urban Asia-Pacific standards. IDR 100k++/drink.
Feel: Very dressed down and casual in the daytime. Relaxed atmosphere with chilled music just makes you want to do absolutely nothing but relax.
Address: The Plaza, 46th Floor, Jl MH Thamrin Kav 28 – 30, Jakarta
Tel: +62 21 2992 2448
Red Sky, Bangkok
Bangkok is the city for rooftop bars in my opinion. The options are endless, but this is arguably my favourite. Why? The drinks are stiff and good, and you have the option for a 360 view of Bangkok on the highest rooftop bar, in one of the tallest buildings in the city.
The entire place is a 2-storey collection of restaurants and bars, and the terrace itself is 2 storeys high, with the lower terrace a dining terrace. The best time to come by is around 5pm, as the sun sets in the City of Angels. Did I also mention there is a champagne lounge? Definitely one of my favourite rooftop bars.
View: 360 view of Bangkok, as far as the eye can see. Everything from the MahaNakhon to the Baiyoke, the Banyan Tree onwards to the Okura Prestige. The Grand Palace may be obstructed, sadly.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, and look out for the happy hour from 4pm to 9pm (best to double check the happy hour timing).
Price Point: Not as cheap as your usual Bangkok bar, but one of the more reasonable when compared to its rooftop bar peers. The Happy Hour will make you happy. THB 3,000++/drink.
Feel: Somewhat more relaxed than Sirocco at Lebua and does not induce a fear of heights as much as Vertigo. Will make you feel high.
Address: 56th Floor, Centara Grand at CentralWorld, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 2 100 6255
Nearest Station: Chidlom BTS Station
While these bars did not quite make my list, they are fantastic in their own right just for their settings:
The Penthouse, Park Hyatt Bangkok
Fantastic terrace both at the lobby terrace and the 34th floor ‘Penthouse’, overlooking the busy commercial district along Wireless Rd/Witthayu Road and Sukhumvit Road. Lovely bar, intimate and super friendly staff. With a rooftop terrace set to open in 4th Quarter 2017, this may jump up in future lists.
Address: 34th Floor, Park Hyatt Bangkok, 88 Wireless Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Thailand
Tel: +66 2 012 1234
Nearest Station: Ploen Chit BTS Station
More sky-high brewery than a bar, this spot has decent happy hours and great views overlooking Raffles Place, Marina Bay and the Marina Bay Sands.
Address: 8 Marina Boulevard 33-01, Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, Singapore
Tel: +65 6834 3133
Nearest Station: Marina Bay MRT Station
M Bar, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
The iconic Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong has a truly iconic bar at the top. It almost took my top billing, with its intimate setting, fantastic drinks and up-close yet not overbearing views of the skyscrapers of Central.
Address: 5 Connaught Rd, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2825 4002
Nearest Station: Central MTR Station
Rooftop Terrace, Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai
Located on The Bund, this storied hotel, a former property of the equally storied Sarkies Family, boasts one of the best views of Shanghai, overlooking skyscraper-central of Pudong. In the evening, sit back with your tipple and be amazed how crowded the riverfront promenade along The Bund can get.
Address: 20 Nanjing East Road, Wai Tan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Si, China, 200000
Tel: +86 21 6321 6888
Nearest Station: Nanjing East Road
What is my criteria?
-View: do I get a unique insight to the city? And is the view majorly obstructed?
-Drinks Selection: Beer? Wine? Cocktails? Variety helps with the view.
-Price Point: Rooftop bars are known to charge a premium, but is it reasonable?
-Feel: Now this is hard to quantify, but a fantastic view can be spoiled by that intangible thing called ‘feelings’
Jason is a world traveller and avid seeker of high perches, on a mission to capture the unique experiences that makes destinations iconic.