Luke

Luke Stapylton-Smith

The bulk of my childhood years were spent growing up on the outskirts of London. Crucially, this was broken by a two-year relocation to Singapore at ages 11-13 which turned out to be life-changing – embedding a fascination with all things Asia, which still holds strong to this day.

Most of my adult life has been spent away from the UK, working, and living across the continent of Asia. Aside from a few outliers – Bangladesh, North Korea, the ‘Stans – I have been fortunate to spend time in every country across Asia at least once, including three further temporary relocations to Kathmandu, Seoul, and Hong Kong.

I love trips with plenty of adventure and exploration, preferably to new destinations, but balanced with a healthy amount of down time – there really is nothing better than an afternoon in the sun with a good book. Diving into local cuisine is also an absolute must.

Q&A with Luke our Asia Specialist

What is your favourite childhood travel memory?

Sitting up front as chief navigator in the family hire car during yearly trips to smaller, quieter Greek islands.

Your most annoying travelling habit?

Over-planning and over-researching. Travel geekery definitely has benefits but being in the present and embracing spontaneity is also one of travel’s great joys!

What 5 things do you always travel with?

A set of packing cubes (a godsend for packing geeks like myself), a reusable water bottle, decent camera, and at least two good books.

What is on your bucket list?

Returning to Japan for a self-drive tour of wild, rural Hokkaido which had been planned but was cancelled due to Covid-19. More trekking in the Himalayas is also in the diary.

You are stranded on a desert island with 2 famous people, who are they?

Anthony Bourdain to assist with discovering local cuisine and nightlife, or alternatively – a non-celebrity – my wife, as we have been fortunate to share many happy travel memories thus far and plan plenty more for the future!

My Favourite Destination - Japan

Like stepping onto a different planet. In some ways, Japan is remarkably like the UK – size, climate, population – but culturally as different as could possibly be. I have been lucky to visit three times and would go back every year if I could, as there is always more to see. Just fascinating.

Which Asian country has the best food? – Malaysia

A tough call as it is all so, so good, but my recommendation is Malaysia. The multi-culturalism – an equal mix of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Arab, and indigenous Malay influences – means the sheer variety offered in one day’s eating is unbeatable.

Are there any areas of Asia you think deserve more attention?

I spent a couple of years living in South Korea and passionately believe it is Asia’s great undiscovered destination. You could spend a week in Seoul and not run out of areas to explore, plus there is the countryside, hiking, historical sites, and – of course – the food…

Luke's Recommendations

Throughout my travels there are some experiences and memories which stand out. I would like to share these recommendations with you for some travel inspiration..

  • Sri Lanka

    Favourite Island – Sri Lanka

    A bit of a cheat as is it a large island, but Sri Lanka. It just has everything. In one day you can trek in the rainforest, visit an ancient temple, see elephants grazing along the side of the highway, choose from a string of deserted beaches to relax on, and finish up with an ice cold Lion beer and a mountain of ‘rice and curry’.

  • Oberoi Grand in Kolkata, India

    Favourite Hotel - Oberoi Grand in Kolkata, India

    I have been fortunate to stay in a few half-decent places during my time in travel, but for an absolute knock-out, nowhere beats the Oberoi Grand in Kolkata. A majestic heritage hotel which oozes class and character…and then you step outside and are immediately in the thick of Bengali bazaar madness!

  • Borneo Rainforest Lodge

    Favourite Safari Lodge - The Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley

    The Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley is a proper once-in-a-lifetime place. A genuinely stunning setting, two hours’ drive through dense primary rainforest from the nearest town, and absolutely teeming with tropical wildlife.

  • Hong Kong

    Favourite City – Hong Kong

    Asia has so many greats to choose from, but I would have to opt for Hong Kong. While living in Hong Kong I spent most of my time wandering up and down its ridiculous hills, soaking up the Bladerunner vibes, and working steadily through its long list Michelin-starred hole-in-the-wall cheap eats.

My recommended trips