Lessons from China I'm writing from Guilin, mid-way through a four-day trip to China organized by Shangri-La . (Lemme tell ya, the fact that this travel columnist gets to actually TRAVEL for once instead of ogling resort photos from her desk—it's uber-exciting!) Watch this section for a full-on travel story soon, but in the meantime let me share a few gems I've learned during this whirlwind jaunt. 1. In Guilin, people are obsessed with things that look like other things: mountains that look like body parts, and vegetables arranged to look like limestone karst formations (see above). There's also a mild fixation with neon. 2. The pandas in Ocean Park are super lame compared to Chengdu's. They do more than eat and sleep, plus you can even hold one (see photo, squeeee)! 3. China likes its spectacles. So when trying to get seated for Olympic opening ceremony director Zhang Yimou's show in a packed outdoor amphitheater that seats 3,500, sometimes you just have to suck it up and follow the tour leader with the flag like those mainland tourists we make fun of. 4. Shangri-La hotels smell amazing. In official parlance, the signature scent used in the lobbies and so on has hints of vanilla, sandalwood and musk as well as notes of bergamot (a citrus fruit) and ginger-spiced tea. But to me, it just smells like vacation. And tranquility. Amen to that. Singapore's New Nightspot Our colleagues over at I-S Magazine in the Lion City just announced their Reader's Choice Awards, and whaddaya know, a watering hole with our fair city in its name took top honors in two nightlife categories: Best New Bar and Best Cocktail Bar. 28 HongKong Street, according to I-S, earns the following verdict: "Never mind that it was all hush-hush when it first started operations, the cocktails here are potent stuff." It's speakeasy-ish, akin to 001 here, but the coolest thing is that you won't find any Smirnoff (or Belvedere, or Grey Goose). Every liquor on the shelf is from smaller, independent distributors, making the cocktails—and even a simple bourbon—drinks you won't find just anywhere. 28 HongKong St., Singapore, (+65) 6533-2001, www.28hks.com . Summer in Tokyo If you think you can stand the heat, head to Japan this summer. United Airlines has a roundtrip special for $3,370 (excluding taxes and fees, which are $1,500-plus) for travel between July 20 of this year and August 23 of next year (if you're good at planning ahead). United has flights that leave Hong Kong at 10:15 am and return from Tokyo at 5:25pm every day. Book at www.united.com or via a travel agent. In my view, though, this deal isn't all too great a bargain, so I'd also consider Hong Kong Airlines' current summertime promotion to Tokyo, which gets you a with-tax fare of about $2,775. (You must book at least 21 days in advance, though.) Their daily flights are similar to United's, leaving HKG at 11:30am and departing Narita at 5:40pm for the return leg. With the money you'll save, consider bunking at the newly opened Palace Hotel Tokyo , a 290-room luxury property beside the Imperial Palace with beautiful views of the moat and gardens. Rooms start at $4,850 per night; visit www.palacehoteltokyo.com to book. Email me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter: @HanaRAlberts .