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Let’s Hear it for the Girls

Asia has always been replete with strong females. And visitors to the region can benefit from the skill, creativity, and wisdom of women via a range of contemporary experiences.

From scaling Everest in the company of Nepal‘s top woman mountaineer to discovering the intricacies of Korean temple cuisine with an iconic monk chef, here are some of the top women-led encounters in Asia.

Jeong Kwan’s Seoul Food

The link between eating well and spiritual happiness is clear to many gastronomy lovers. A living manifestation of this connection is Jeong Kwan, a South Korean Buddhist nun and revered chef. She lives in the Chunjinam Hermitage at the Baegyangsa Temple where she cooks for fellow nuns, monks, and visitors. Her temple cuisine, rooted in Zen principles, elevates simplicity to an art form. She crafts dishes like bibimbap using fresh seasonal vegetables and rice, and delicate temple-style tofu, infused with subtle flavors. Kwan’s cooking emphasizes the sanctity of ingredients, transforming humble vegetables into transcendent culinary experiences.

A deep dive in Japan

Diving for maritime morsels in the seas off Japan’s Mie Prefecture used to be considered a man’s work. But by the 18th century, female divers — ama or “sea women” — outnumbered their male counterparts.  Several explanations exist for the shift. One is that a significant number of men died at sea due to war or fishing accidents in the 17th Century. Another theory is that women are better equipped physiologically for diving: an extra portion of subcutaneous fat and a higher shivering threshold give them the edge over the blokes. Whatever the reason, the ama have become a potent icon of girl power in a country where patriarchal Confucian traditions tend to be the order of the day. Visitors can learn more about ama culture in Mie in a diver hut where they can observe and don the characteristic garb, chat with the friendly ladies, and enjoy a banquet of fresh seafood.

Community spirit in Muscat

Oman has long been regarded as one of the most progressive nations in the Middle East. The strength and creativity of Omani women is celebrated in Muscat via the efforts of the Sidab Women’s Project which has helped foster female empowerment and entrepreneurship in the city. Operating within the Sidab neighborhood, the initiative helps housewives express themselves through skill development, particularly in crafting handmade bags and baskets from recycled materials. These endeavors not only bolster the local economy but also showcase Omani artisanship. Visitors to Sidab can immerse themselves in traditional Omani hospitality, enjoying coffee, dates, and henna decorating while supporting local culture and experiencing the warmth and creativity of the community’s women.

Hit heady heights with Seven Summits

Climbing Mount Everest is one of the world’s ultimate bucket list goals. The highest mountain in the world boasts some awe-inspiring statistics. Its peak reaches 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) skywards, and from the basecamp, it’s approximately 20 km (12.5 miles) to the summit. To achieve the summit is a mountainous goal to accomplish, and intrepid explorers can climb the peak in exalted company courtesy of Seven Summits: an all-women mountaineering group. The collective’s leader is Nepal’s most famous female climber and has scaled the peaks of the highest mountains on every continent. Even if scaling the highest peaks on earth is not a goal, visitors can find out more about Seven Summits—staunch supporters of humanitarian efforts in Nepal—with a lunch or dinner appointment with the group leader, depending on availability.

A taste of Hoi An courtesy of Miss Vy

Hoi An is famous as one of Vietnam‘s culinary centers. And at the heart of all this delicious manna is Miss Vy, who has become synonymous with the town’s vibrant food scene. Her renowned restaurants, such as Morning Glory and Vy’s Market Restaurant & Cooking School, offer a delectable journey into Vietnamese cuisine. With a passion for preserving traditional recipes and techniques, Miss Vy has elevated street food to gourmet status. Her establishments showcase the diversity of Vietnamese flavors and serve as educational hubs, where visitors can learn the intricacies of Vietnamese cooking. Although she doesn’t teach students herself, visitors can absorb her culinary wisdom via the tutelage of some of her most skilled lieutenants.