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Mapping Asia: Insider guides to Hanoi, Hong Kong, Shanghai and more


Across Asia, savvy, in-the-know locals are creating handy maps that uncover their cities’ hidden gems, from savory street eats to the best in fashion and design. By Naomi Lindt

Published on Dec 20, 2011

During a yearlong, round-the-world trip, Swiss-Chinese Yuan Yao found that conventional guidebooks and tourist maps just didn’t do the trick. Together with best friend Jan Gerber, a fellow global traveler, Yao created A la Carte Maps (€8.90 each;, an artist-designed series of “highly opinionated” guidebooks-meets-maps that compile locals’ knowledge for 15 major cities around the world, including Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore (four more, including Beijing, are in the works). Content is generated by long-time residents—writers, entrepreneurs, actors, teachers, lawyers—or simply “people that truly breathe and embrace the spirit of the city,” Yao says. In addition to shops, restaurants and key sights, the maps feature quirky tips like “coolest seasonal activities” (think Art Basel Miami) and a “tour de chocolate cake” in Shanghai. There’s also an online database with more than 100 extra listings.


With its harrowing traffic and chaotic street life, Hanoi can be daunting for even the most seasoned traveler. Enter Xin Chao! Map of Hanoi (VND150,000; a colorful map created by two long-time expat friends and neighbors, Julie Torreton and Isabelle Der Hagopian. The duo rode motorbikes around the bustling city to discover its charms, jotting down everything from their favorite shops and markets to monuments, parks and gorgeous trees. As word spread of the duo’s coveted tips, they decided to launch their own annotated street map. The guide covers 10 of Hanoi’s main districts, offering transport advice, food descriptions, walking tours, hidden temples and historical info, including legends of the city’s famed emperors and heroes. Look out for a new edition in mid-2012, published by Nancy Chandler of Bangkok map fame.


This visually enticing, user-friendly map sets out to prove that Hong Kong is much more
than a brand-name paradise—it’s also home
to galleries, design shops and intriguing
places off the tourist map. “We wanted to produce an easily accessible but intelligently designed, well-informed map that better represented Hong Kong's creative side,” says Louise Wong, a former journalist, who developed Creative City Hong Kong (HK$28; with Danielle Huthart, founder of design consultancy Whitespace. One side homes in on six districts, with recommended places to “Stash,” “Savour” and “See”; the flipside points users to public art, heritage sites and cool architecture. Folks in fashion, design, architecture, writing and art provided input for the more than 150 picks. “These people represent what a melting pot the city is and how inspiring it is,” Wong says.

Available at the 123-year-old Central Market, the ARCH Earth Guide ( highlights Kuala Lumpur’s heritage buildings, many of which can be viewed during self-guided walking tours outlined in an accompanying map. The 47 buildings span unusual architectural styles, like the iconic, Moghul-inspired Sultan Abdul Samad Building and lesser-known gems, like the Victorian Fountain, which is covered in Art Nouveau tiles.


For the latest in Shanghai’s ever-changing creative scene, pick up Shanghai Detour’s ( duo of free maps. Launched in 2009 by Berliner artophile, Eike Stratmann, and updated every other month, the Art Map details the city’s best international galleries, private collections and independent art spaces. The Fashion Map, launched in 2011, is the first to provide an authoritative guide to around 50 of Shanghai’s chicest boutiques, designers and showrooms.


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