dumpling with chopsticks

Try your hand at dumpling making. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Learn Dumpling Making, Floral Arranging and More in 6 Unique Classes in Asia and Australia

Travel is about education, and one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture is by picking up or honing a skill while on the road. Instead of simply imbibing makgeolli, why not learn how to brew it? The choices are endless: flower arrangement, dumpling-making, history lessons in a haunted prison.

Here are one-of-a-kind classes to take while traveling in Asia and Australia.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Make Dumplings in Taipei

There’s no better place to make dumplings and milk tea than in Taipei, the city that popularized delicious street food. CookInn Taiwan’s “Xiao Long Bao and Beef Noodles” class starts with a morning walk through a historic market, such as Guangfu or Changchun, where students get an introduction to spices, sauces and seasonal ingredients.

Next, participants learn to fold xiao long bao, pork soup dumplings. This precise technique ensures the soup stays in the dumpling skins. Students then learn to braise beef and cook noodles with a side of seasonal vegetables and shake up a perfect bubble milk tea.

Master Floral Arrangement in Kyoto

japanese woman arranging flowers
Learn the art of ikebana. (Photo: Getty Images)

The ancient Japanese art of ikebana, or flower arrangement, is about connecting with and appreciating nature, and Kyoto, Japan’s cultural center, is a fitting place to study it. Once practiced by samurais and monks, the art can be perfected by anyone.

Ikebana lessons introduce beginners to the basics, including how to keep a clean work space and trim and cut flowers and branches, as well as the concept of negative or empty space.

Ami Kyoto — located in an old townhouse that also hosts tea ceremonies — teaches students to use three types of seasonal blooms. For a more intimate experience, WAK Japan allows students to practice ikebana at an instructor’s home.

Brew Makgeolli in Seoul

makgeolli in a bowl
Create a batch of makgeolli. (Photo: Getty Images)

Makgeolli is the glue — or the milky rice wine — that holds Korean society together. Served in a large bowl, sometimes with cut fruit floating inside, it is a communal drink shared among a large group of friends in a restaurant.

In Seoul, the Sool Company offers makgeolli brewing lessons to first-timers, as well as experienced brewers looking to start their own breweries — sool is a word used to describe all of Korea’s alcoholic beverages, including makgeolli, soju (a distilled spirit) and wine.

Founder Julia Mellor covers the brewing process, from washing rice to fermentation and filtering. Students can also take home their makgeolli in a jar.

Make Rice Wine Cocktails in Siem Reap

Coconut, pineapple, sugar cane, star anise, cardamom — these are just some of the tropical fruits and spices readily available in Cambodia year-round.

At Sombai, husband and wife duo Lionel Maitrepierre and Joelle Jean Louis infuse Khmer fruits and spices with rice wine to make bottled cocktails. They hold tastings at their two-story bungalow shop in Siem Reap, where visitors can purchase cocktails in beautiful hand-painted bottles.

Upstairs is the distillery housing hundreds of jars of rice wine with floating fruit — when the fruit sinks to the bottom, the cocktail is ready, a process that takes eight weeks. Sign up for a workshop to make delectable drinks such as a banana cinnamon or ginger red chili cocktail.

Cook Thai Food in Phuket

thai food in a bowl
Whip up tasty Thai meals. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s hard to say no to Thai food — its unique sweet-sour flavor achieved through a careful balance of herbs and spices has captured palates around the world. At Phuket Thai Cooking Class by VJ on Kata Beach, participants learn to make home-cooked Thai meals they can easily replicate in their own kitchen.

The day begins with a shopping trip to a morning market for ingredients. Then it’s time to cook pad thai, tom yum goong or green curry with chicken. Chef VJ teaches students how to make curry paste the traditional way, grinding chiles with a mortar and pestle. And for dessert, students will make mango sticky rice or sago with coconut milk.

Study Alternative History in Melbourne

Australia’s cultural capital is more than its facade — dig deeper and discover how Melbourne is a city shaped by crime.

Sign up for the “Ghost? What Ghosts!” tour with the Old Melbourne Gaol to learn about the inmates who lived there, from gangsters to the mentally unsound. The prison also executed some of the country’s most notorious criminals, including the outlaw, Ned Kelly.

Lantern Ghost Tours offers an “Old Melbourne Ghost Tour” starting at the Young & Jackson Hotel. A woman from the late 19th century is said to haunt the hotel’s pub. Participants will also learn about the life of the English-born Frederick Deeming, Australia’s first serial killer, whom some suspect to be Jack the Ripper.