Asia

6 of Asia's best secret gems

Secret gems are little-known, slightly different boltholes, which provide a truly lovely off-the-radar experience for travellers. From quirky estates in Southern India to English country cottages in Burma, we’ve rounded up six of our favourite hideaways which will be sure to offer something a little special for your next holiday… Secrets are for sharing after all!

Amara Mountain Lodge, Kalaw, Burma

Picture this – the quintessential English countryside cottage, surrounded by clipped landscape gardens, organic vegetable patches and abundant fruit orchards. This beautiful and charming hotel in the heart of Burma, typifies exactly this scene. The colonial cottage from 1909, built in a mock-Tudor style, was lovingly restored in 2002 and now provides a boutique hideaway for those looking to hike the stunning Burmese hills in the Shan State. It is also a great stop for those wanting to visit the Green Elephant Camp. Cosy four-poster beds, open fireplaces which are lit in the winter, an inviting terrace where you can enjoy al fresco dining in the warm summer sun… this charming hotel provides the ideal home-from-home refuge.

Amara-Mountain-Lodge-Burma

LUX* Tea Horse Road, Lijiang, China

A long and ancient trade route, carving its way through the mountains of Southwest China, the Tea Horse Road is one of the world’s great romantic journeys. High mountain peaks, lush valleys, deep gorges, the rich and diverse cultural history – the old trails are a delight to behold. And what better way to absorb the evocative stories from a bygone era, than to stay at the intimate boutique hotel of LUX* Tea Horse Road. Opening a window to one of China’s untouched wonders and tucked away in the Old Town of Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, this charming hotel provides the ideal location to connect with the ancient town, its magnificent surroundings and fascinating history.

Tea-Horse-Trail-China

Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki, Japan

The historical town of Kurashiki is one of the most picturesque in Japan. Once a prosperous market town, today the beautifully preserved Bikan Historical Quarter gives way to a network of meandering willow-lined canals, old warehouses, merchants’ storehouses and traditional Japanese-style buildings, creating its special appeal. Stretching out along the canal and incorporating several beautifully restored Edo-period buildings, Ryokan Kurashiki is the essence of all that is refined and elegant about Japan. With five spacious yet modest bedrooms, subtly decorated with a wonderful array of antique furniture, there is nothing ostentatious about this ryokan. The unsurpassable cuisine serves seasonal ingredients and delicacies from the Inland Sea, with a menu of an exceptional quality. The whole experience is one of Japan’s finest examples of ‘omotenashi’, a uniquely Japanese approach to hospitality.

Ryokan-Kurashiki-Japan

Chamba Camp Thiksey, Ladakh, North India

Sumptuous tented accommodation awaits in the captivating Buddhist region of Ladakh. Located just 30km away from the relaxed capital of Leh, Chamba Camp, part of The Ultimate Travelling Camp, is a collection of Silk Route inspired tents nestled at the foot of the iconic Thiksey Monastery. Deeply luxurious four-poster beds and teak bathrooms, the tents effortlessly recreate the magic of old world charm, and provide the perfect base to explore this magical mountain kingdom in unsurpassed luxury. The culinary delights of the camp are simply outstanding, and the best fine dining you will experience in the wilderness. This luxurious tented camp, provides a privileged window into the heart of Ladakh and is a true gem to behold.

Chamba-Camp-Thiksey-India

Rajakkad Estate, Dindigul, South India

Surrounded by the verdant rolling Palani Hills, tucked away amongst lush green forests and coffee estates, lies the lovely boutique Rajakkad Estate. Built over 250 years ago, this intimate, home-from-home hotel is deeply influenced by local Keralan architecture. Simplicity and comfort are at the forefront, and decorated with stunning original antiques it is an Indian boutique property at its finest. Rajakkad is also home to over 200 migratory and indigenous bird species, an utter paradise for bird lovers, and a number of these can be seen around the grounds and gardens. Each of the seven bedrooms leads directly out into the lush garden which is bursting with colour and the quiet peace of the surrounding wilderness.

Rajakkad-Estate-South-India

Taylor’s Hill, Kandy, Sri Lanka

As one approaches this grand colonial building, located on the undulating hills of Deltota just an hour from Kandy, one immediately senses the important history and legacy of tea in Old Ceylon. Built over 100 years ago by a British tea planter, the name attributes itself to James Taylor, the man who pioneered commercial tea production in Sri Lanka at the neighbouring Loolecondera estate. Inside the manor, five eye-catching contemporary rooms are individually designed with quirky touches and heritage ornaments. Here, you can easily slip into the languid way of life, keeping yourself entertained amid the acres of manicured lawns and gardens. Indulge in genteel pastimes such as croquet, tennis and badminton, or relive an authentic colonial tradition with a game of billiards with the original 150 year-old billiard balls and cues.

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James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel.

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