1. Villa Chandara, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cambodia’s countryside sunsets are pretty spectacular, but golden hour at this decadent private and unique dining destination is an extra special experience. You’ll be picked up from your hotel and whisked off to the West Baray, an ancient reservoir created to irrigate the Angkorian temples and farmland. After a boat cruise past the island temple of West Mebon, you’ll find friendly restaurant staff waiting with mojitos and prosecco in hand at one of Siem Reap’s most bucolic and charming village settings: A handsome wooden villa set inside lush tropical gardens that’s decorated with candles and fairy lights, and farmland peppered with tall sugar-palm trees. Try your hand at cocktail-making at the thatched-roof bar or learn to fold lotus flowers using palm leaves, before relaxing with a foot massage as a traditional Cambodian folk ensemble plays. A candlelit six-course dinner (the delicate fish amok and the moreish BBQ pork ribs are crowd-pleasers) with wine pairings is a great way to end the day, but the pièce de résistance of the Villa Chandara experience is watching the sun slip away behind a horizon of verdant paddy fields.
2. Cruise Kitchen, Hokkaido, Japan
In Japan’s idyllic, northernmost province, one can experience the country’s finest omakase cuisine – prepared by chefs from some of the capital city Sapporo’s most highly rated kitchens – against extraordinary outdoor backdrops. Groves of sakura (cherry) trees, corn fields, lakes, waterfalls, igloos, vineyards and even cliffs jutting out toward the Sea of Japan are a few scenes that this state-of-the-art mobile restaurant offers to private and group bookings throughout the year. Last winter, the team even set up a unique dining experience on ice, carving a rotating carousel out of a glacier to create the dining space.
3. The Steam House at Amanfayun, Hangzhou, China
Set on a 14ha plot amid Hangzhou’s UNESCO World Heritage site, West Lake, Amanfayun is a vision of an ancient Chinese village with stone pathways, tiled roofs and 47 stone dwellings, some more than a century old. At its heart is a 200-year-old former temple, around which winds the Fayun Pathway (named for the Budhhist monk), from which the resort takes it name, that takes travellers through a pilgrimage circuit of seven Buddhist temples. After taking in the breathtaking scenery of Hangzhou’s famed tea plantations, you can sign up for a cooking lesson at the resort’s Steam House, which specialises in dim sum. Here you’ll learn the history behind the Chinese style of steaming food so that the texture and nutritious value of ingredients are preserved. At the restaurant, you can sample not only the cuisine of Hangzhou, but also of its neighbouring regions. Its focus on simple village cuisine is a unique dining experience that allows a showcase of traditional cooking methods which are still employed today. Dine alfresco in the ancient courtyard, or watch your meal being prepared in the semi-open kitchen.
4. Kagaya Bettei Matsunomidori, Ishikawa, Japan
This luxurious ryokan (a traditional, usually family-run Japanese inn) overlooks the serene waters of Nanao Bay on the Noto Peninsula in western Honshu island – a region renowned for its oyster farms, top-grade seafood, strong artisan culture and its rugged, fertile countryside. Most ryokans are a complete experience in themselves – from onsen (hot spring) facilities to exquisite, all-inclusive kaiseki (multi-course) meals that highlight seasonal, and foraged, ingredients. But Kagaya Bettei Matsunomidori sets itself apart with a bona fide museum, showcasing more than 300 pieces of lacquerware by the late artisan Kado Isaburo. His art is displayed in the striking foyer and communal areas, and many of the ceremonial matcha tea and kaiseki dishes here are served in bespoke lacquerware inspired by him and made in the nearby town of Wajima. The ryokan’s seasonal menu features dishes such as burdock root, icefish and egg soup served in a delicate porcelain cup, or grilled blackthroat seaperch on a hand-carved wooden plate.
5. Anantara Chiang Mai, Thailand
Glide down the Mae Ping river on a traditional long-tail boat, provided by the Anantara Chiang Mai, and learn more about the river’s history and significance – it flows down south to eventually join Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river. The hotel, with its minimalist white and bamboo-clad buildings blending in seamlessly with what was once the 1920s British consulate, is just a 20-minute walk from the city centre, providing a peaceful retreat with riverside views. The cruise starts at Wat Chai Mongkol temple pier and runs for 45 minutes. Along the way, you can disembark at a herb and spice garden for a closer look at the region’s fresh produce. There’s ample time after for some delectable Thai high tea served on the boat, with offerings like seared scallop and grilled tiger prawn with a shallot, coriander and lime dressing; fried soft shell crabs with green mango salad and Asian tartar sauce; and Thai-style tuna rillettes in a crispy corn shell topped with smoked chilli mayonnaise.
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