Best Expat Bars in Asia

The expat drinking scene in Asia has come a long way since the days of Somerset Maugham. While it may still be the done thing for tourists to sidle up to the Raffles Long Bar and order a Singapore Sling, expats are looking for something edgier. Which is not to say that hotels in Singapore and other destinations don’t still provide a home away from home for many. But with new bars opening almost daily in cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, drinking options are practically limitless. Taking their cues from local hipsters, expats are seeking out new bars in droves. Of course there are the old standbys – but as Asian cities become more international, expats are embracing the new vibe.​

Divine Wine Bar
Parkview Square lobby, 600 North Bridge Road, Singapore

Rumour has it that the opulent Parkview Square was built to improve the city’s Feng Shui. At a cost of around $70 million AUD, that’s some serious divining. If rumour be true, it was all worth it, however, just for the Divine Wine Bar. So it’s a little gimmicky, and like all bars in Singapore, it’s definitely on the pricey side. But for expats with money to burn, it’s definitely the place to be. More than 3,000 bottles of wine are housed in a 12-metre high cooler that rises up behind the bar. When you order one, a server dons a sparkling tutu and wings, hooks herself to a pulley, and ‘flies’ up to retrieve it. As you nestle in your leather couch, wine in hand and live jazz playing, you’re bound to feel a little blessed.

Photo credit

60 Wyndham Street, Hong Kong

Solas, like many of the city’s best expat bars, is located on Wyndham, just above the Lan Kwai Fong club and pub district and not far from some of the best hotels in Hong Kong. The owners may be Irish, but this isn’t another run-of-the-mill Irish bar. For starters, the décor is red, not green. With a relaxed vibe, Solas is not particularly scene-y, and represents a great place to kickstart a night on the town.

Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong – Photo credit

132 An Ting Road, Shanghai

The original Cotton’s may have closed but the Shanghai institution has been resurrected in a beautifully converted old house in the French Concession. Whether lounging around the garden on a summer afternoon or snuggling by an open fire on a chilly winter’s evening, whether for happy hour or weekend brunch, Cotton’s remains one of the most popular bars in Shanghai. With well-mixed drinks and a convivial vibe – proprietress Cotton Ding welcomes everyone to her namesake bar – it’s easy to see why.

Pudong skyline, Shanghai – Photo credit

4/F Twin Towers, B-12 Jianguomenwai Avenue, Beijing

Lan’s Philippe Starck makeover certainly gives it that instantaneous wow factor. With rhino heads, Hindu deity art and velvet chaise longues, it’s high-end kitsch in the best possible way. Happily, the drinks are spectacular. If you get hungry, Western and Szechuan snacks abound and, above all, remember to look up at the art-plastered ceiling.

High Five
26 Polestar Bldg., 4th fl., 7-2-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku

Located in Tokyo’s Ginza district, not far from the Imperial Palace, this low-lit bar is an understated classic. Attentive touches like warm towels make High Five a special experience but the star of the show is master mixologist/owner Hidetsugu Ueno. The boss barman’s cunning creations are lauded the world over by serious cocktail geeks. With just 18 seats, the bar is tiny. Get there early.

Vertigo & Moon Bar
61st floor, Banyan Tree Hotel, 21/100 South Sathon Road, Sathon, Bangkok

This aptly-named bar is located high above the humid streets of Bangkok’s Sathorn, on a former helicopter landing pad on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. While Bangkok has seen a plethora of top-of-the-world bars spring up, Vertigo is the cat’s meow.

View of Bangkok from Vertigo – Photo credit

Q Bar
7 Nam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

With a primetime spot in the basement of the Opera House and opposite the Caravelle Hotel, Q Bar is one of the coolest spots in Ho Chi Minh City. Take a seat outside for some of the city’s best after-dark people watching or squeeze into a booth for a little surreptitious boozing. A great place to start or end off the night in Ho Chi Minh City.

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6 Comments for "Best Expat Bars in Asia"

Doug says on February 16th, 2011 at 8:14 am:

I don’t know much about the cities listed but do know or anyway about a year ago Q Bar, while listed in tour books as being hot and on here but it’s anything but that, just an expensive and boring, little dark place.


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