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Surpassed only by Manila in size, the Philippines’ second city combines colonial architecture and mountainous surrounds with a burgeoning cultural and culinary scene. As the gateway to both Bohol and Cebu Island, Cebu City impresses with chic rooftop bars and intriguing museums.
Baguio, perched high in the Cordillera Central Mountains, is a great place to escape the heat of the Philippine lowlands. Camp John Hay, originally built as a recreation area for U.S. soldiers, now is a full-fledged resort complete with a world-class golf course. Definitely stop at the city market, where you can buy almost anything (just be prepared to haggle).
Home to nearly nine million and powering an economy that exceeds both Hong Kong's and Thailand's, Osaka packs quite a punch. The confident, stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. It's an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region; Kyoto's World Heritage Sites, Nara's temple and Koya-san's eerie graves are within 90 minutes by train. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory.
Commerce keeps Nagoya’s downtown popping with life, but there’s more than just manufacturing to this industrial powerhouse. Nagoyans meet for plates of crisp-friend miso katsu; make weekend trips to nearby Shinto shrines; and count down the days to the city’s autumn Nagoya Festival.
Traditional homes lend historic charm to Takayama, where locals celebrate centuries of heritage at twice-yearly festivals. Hiking, mountaineering, and other fresh-air activities are beloved pastimes here, spurring an appetite for rich local foods that range from fried hida beef to charcoal-grilled rice.