High in the Vietnamese mountains, with rice paddy fields stretched out before us, my private guide led the way. Very few people, he explained, had taken this journey. It took until dusk to reach our destination – a small, hand-built wooden house on the edge of a cliff, the home of a Black Hmong family. Seated on the floor, the mother proceeded to show me how to weave the traditional garments her family had created for centuries. I may have been learning an ancient skill, but I was actually bang on trend. More travellers today want something different, inspirational – even life-changing – from their journeys.
Luxury travel is no longer about well-dressed butlers drawing you a bath; it’s about precious moments, such as plucking oysters and eating them at a dining table sat in the ocean in Australia or making momo (a type of dumpling) in Nepal.
“People still want high standards of service, accommodation and dining, but they also want an experience,” says Lucy Jackson Walsh, co-founder of Lightfoot Travel, one of Singapore’s first high-end travel companies. “In 2019, luxury travel is about unique experiences that can’t be easily replicated elsewhere.”
This desire for more personalised travel has seen the launch of bespoke travel concierges in Asia, set up to create out-of-this-world itineraries in unique destinations. And with more luxury hotels opening up in new, remote places, these same concierges are able to offer untouched locales to their guests.
Bespoke tour operator Scott Dunn Asia recently launched Signature Departures, a series of small group tours that offer everything from a dinner in the Jiaohe ruins on the old Spice Road to a pilgrimage through the spiritual heart of Japan.
Even high-street travel agencies in Asia are looking to respond. Chan Brothers in Singapore launched its Prestige division in November 2017 after an increase in requests for private tours. Its guests can now visit a wine cave at Inle Lake in Myanmar or forage for medicinal herbs with the Red Dao people in Vietnam.
My personal experiences in the lifestyle magazine industry back this up. It wasn’t the pillow menu or gold taps that made my trips memorable. It was the people I met and the things I did – like weaving with the Black Hmong family – that truly made a lasting impression.
Meet the travel agencies rolling out the bespoke carpet in Asia
Offers guests access to exclusive events. From riding a helicopter to a private cellar to sailing with an America’s Cup team, they make bucket-list experiences come true.
They have a Seriously Special package, which features over 70 extravagant ideas – such as ying in Michelin-starred chefs – for important celebrations.
3. Remote Lands
This Thai travel agency takes people to explore far- flung cultures. Want to trek the Mongolian steppes with a fifth-generation falconer? They can make it happen.
This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine