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Asia: Best hidden bars and speakeasies

By Alisa Chau 2 December 2020

Header image courtesy of Find The Photo Booth (via Facebook)

What you see isn’t always what you get—unsuspecting pedestrians may pass by these spots every day, whilst having absolutely no clue of the delectable elixirs the various storefronts and structures are hiding. From photo booths to refrigerators, here are the bars across Asia with the most interestingly disguised entrances.

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BLACK CAT MINI MART, Bali

Known as the Indonesian hipster central where all the cool, underground spots are lurking, Canggu is rife with unique bars and alternative attractions. That is precisely why this ‘convenience store’ sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the bustling nightlife. Observant visitors will notice the suspicious undertones of the messily scrawled “BROKEN” sign taped to the refrigerator. Daring visitors will go forth and open the fridge to find an entrance to a grungy bar showcasing glowing signboards, cheap drinks, and a pool table.

BLACK CAT MINI MART, Jl Subak Canggu , Canggu , Kuta Utara, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia | (+62) 813 3907 9783

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#FindTheLockerRoom, Bangkok

Possibly the most Instagrammed speakeasy in Bangkok with good reason, #FindTheLockerRoom is a bar that’s secretively tucked away behind a wall of semi-functional gym lockers. The genius of this place doesn’t just stop at its deceptive entrance design. The featured menu of drinks revolves around the theme of “past, present, and future”—delivering each well-known and well-beloved cocktail choice in three different variations.

#FindTheLockerRoom, 406 Thonglor Road, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand | (+66) 61 524 2689

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#FindThePhotoBooth, Bangkok

Founded by the same minds behind—you guessed it—#FindTheLockerRoom, the entryway to this bar is reached through a photo booth. Past the darkroom kept just visible enough with red-tinted lights, you will find an interior of plush couches evocative of luxury railroad train seats. Sway to the pulsing deep house soundtrack under the warmly glowing baubles while you sip on New York-style cocktails with a Thai twist. When you find your friends responding to your recap of the wonderful time you had there with confused glances, just whip out the printed strip of party pics you’ve taken at the fully operational booth as a rebuttal.

#FindThePhotoBooth, 14 Soi Sukhumvit 11 Road, Khlong Toei Nuea, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand | (+66) 2 117 2636

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

By Andrew Madigan 21 January 2020
4

PS150, Kuala Lumpur

Deep within the maze of the Kuala Lumpur China Town, in between the traditional pre-war buildings, sits a glass-enclosed shelf housing dusty looking plastic toys and figurines from a recently bygone era. A wooden bilingual sign engraved with the name “Cheng and Huang Toys and Co.” (大陳黃) proudly looms over the storefront—but notice the large spray-painted sign saying “PS150” that’s been haphazardly tacked to the wall under the cluster of electrical wire boxes. Push past the door and you will be led down a long corridor towards a wooden door that separates this Sino-Malay bar with a bold, Southeast Asian inspired catalogue of drinks from the outside world.

PS150, Ground Floor, 150, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | (+60) 3 7622 8777

5

BATTBONG, Phnom Penh

Almost impossible to find, but well worth the visit, this Phnom Penh-based gem is arguably one of the most interestingly disguised bars ever. With a secret switch that’s been elaborately obscured, the entrance of this tavern takes the form of an old-school, 1950s period Coca Cola vending machine. Inside, the exposed walls and rickety metal shutter-lined walls add to the “abandoned house” concept that underscores the bar’s mission statement—to make you “escape realities and lose yourself” in the comfort of their welcoming space. Go ahead and have another glass of their delicious craft cocktails—you’ve certainly earned it after having to sleuth around to find the entrance!

BATTBONG, Number.132Z, Street. 51 Phnom Penh, Cambodia 12302 | (+855) 69 291 643

6

Laundry Co., Shanghai

Ever stared at a spot to find something rather atypical about it? This shopfront that seems to be a boring old coin-operated laundromat is emanating a blue glow, causing the metallic surface of the washing machines to gleam in a strangely captivating way. Examine the machines closer and you will find that it is all actually a façade, which upon uncovering—reveals an atmospheric whiskey bar. Get your grainy, malted fix by the glass or by the bottle, and revel in the prohibition era style interior that is a world away from the futuristic entryway out front.

Laundry Co., 93-5 Xiangyang Bei Lu, near Changle Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

By Umesh Bhagchandani 5 November 2020
By Andrew Madigan 6 January 2020
7

Jean Frigo, Seoul

Posed as an unassuming fruit shop, this extremely photogenic two-storey bar is a favourite amongst the hip crowd of Seoul. Nicknamed the “refrigerator bar”—as it is the disguise that its main entryway takes the form of—this beautifully yet simplistically furnished cocktail lounge provides its patrons with a highly instagrammable backdrop. Its refreshing drinks are equally aesthetically satisfying to look at (and snap cute pictures of). The colourful stacks of fresh fruit under the glass windows aren’t just for display, but are also incorporated into the refreshments on sale. For an extra touch of novel fun, orders are placed by speaking through the vintage telephone that connects bar staff to customers on the second floor.

Jean Frigo, Toegye-ro 62-gil, Gwanghuidong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea | (+82) 2 2275 1933

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Foxglove, Hong Kong

Visually paralleling the tailor shop-fronted weapons artillery featured in the Kingsman films, Hong Kong’s Foxglove presents an umbrella shop—featuring similar suave interior stylings—that is hiding a vibey speakeasy. Hearkening back to the prohibition times, the cocktails here are carefully crafted using an array of exclusive liquors (some imported, some of which have stopped production) that brings customers back to the 1930s. Stroll in, push past the grand wooden entrance, then kick back and relax with a drink in your hand.

Foxglove, 2/F, Printing House, 6 Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong | (+852) 2116 8949

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Alisa Chau

Junior editor

Always down for an adventure, Alisa’s general approach to life (and anything, really) is to “just go with the flow.” She believes that the most unforgettable moments are the most spontaneous ones. One thing she will always be certain of, however, is her love for the band My Chemical Romance and potato-based food.

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