Who needs digital navigation? The best city guide is still flesh and blood and gets around on two feet. Here are some experts who can show you around Asia's big cities:
HONG KONG: This city's history usually gets forgotten amid the neon glare and cell-phone chatter. But not by local historian Jason Wordie, tel: (852) 2476 5057. He reveals WW II shrapnel scars on the famed lion statues outside the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. headquarters and still functioning gas lamps atop Duddell Street. At times on his tours, he holds up photographs shot from the same spot many decades ago an effective way to reveal the march of time.
BANGALORE: All those call-center workers blow off steam somewhere and you can find out where on a wobbly pub-and-history tour with BangaloreWalks, tel: (91) 988 067 1192. If bar crawling is not your thing, take one of the neighborhood walks revealing scenes rarely glimpsed by outsiders, including local temples, street markets and dhobis (washermen) at work.
MELBOURNE: Known increasingly as a foodie paradise, Melbourne is a shopper's one as well. Hidden Secrets Tours, tel: (61-3) 9329 9665, guides you on a spending spree in the form of a three-hour Lanes and Arcades walk. Bust your credit limit in specialty shops, boutiques and quirky galleries while taking in plenty of architecture and history. The tour includes lunch.
SINGAPORE: Geraldene Lowe-Ismail, tel: (65) 6737 5250, smartly times her tours of the Lion City to coincide with festivals and other cultural events. When better to explore Hindu heritage than during Thaipusam in February? That's when thousands of devotees walk miles between temples carrying kavadi, or offerings, which can be as simple as a milk jug on the head or as elaborate as a frame with peacock feathers and body-piercing spikes. Ramadan is the time to explore the old Muslim area of Kampong Gelam, and the Moon Festival is a great time to discover Chinatown's folklore.
SEOUL: Seoul is noted for its high-rise, high-tech living, but 600-plus years of history can't be completely eradicated. For help with where to look, turn to architect Cho In Souk. Sponsored by the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, her tours, tel: (82-2) 3290 7042, run once a month (except in winter) and reveal hidden historical alleys, shrines and neighborhoods that have somehow escaped modernization, like the charming Bukchon area. Cho grew up in Seoul and her personal observations add much to the tours.