Oct 20, 2021
AT THE PANDEMIC’S PEAK, I spent much of my free time in bed, scrolling through Netflix — and signing up for other streaming sites when I eventually tore through my watchlist — for a glimpse of normalcy and a dose of escapism. While some regions have flung open their doors to eager tourists, with reopenings across Southeast Asia on the horizon, I am sure there are many like me, who still feel a slight reluctance to enter back into the world post-Covid. For those of us still spending most of our time at home, here is a list of recent TV shows with beautiful shooting locations that will satisfy your wanderlust while serving as inspiration for your next travel experience — whenever that is…
BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER
With obvious inspiration from Anthony Bourdain — the pioneer chef-cum-travel-journalist credited with introducing real food in Asia to Western mainstream TV — David Chang’s second Netflix show, “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner,” takes viewers to four different parts of the world to explore a city’s unique dining scene. Each episode features one of Chang’s celebrity friends who actually had a say in the filming location of the episode: Have Seth Rogen guide you through his favorite hometown haunts in Vancouver; visit Marrakesh‘s souks and lamb-roasted pits with Chrissy Teigen; dine and drive across Los Angeles with Lena Waithe; and explore the “uncharted territory” of Phnom Penh with Kate McKinnon.
Travel back in time and witness the City of Angels like you’ve never before. “The Serpent” does an amazing job of showcasing Thai architecture, culture and fashion from the 1970s (think scenes of Bangkok before any of the Sukhumvit skyscrapers emerged, but somehow with eerily similar present-day rush-hour traffic). The crime drama traces the true story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who moved to Bangkok and preyed on young, vulnerable Western tourists during the hippie trails of South and Southeast Asia. Principal photography mostly took place in Thailand, with many scenes filmed in Bangkok and Hua Hin, a beachtown three hours southwest of the capital.
THE WHITE LOTUS
It’s probably been a while since many of us found ourselves in any kind of luxury accommodation, which is why “The White Lotus” serves as the perfect lockdown content. Created, written and directed by Mike White, this HBO satirical-comedy series revolves around the stories and mishaps of a group of hotel guests staying at The White Lotus, a five-star resort in Hawaii. There is intense drama. There is rolicking laughter. And there are stunning scenes of Hawaii’s coastline and bustling island life, along with the beautiful backdrop of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, where the majority of the show was filmed.
GOSSIP GIRL (2021)
Spotted: the new generation of Manhattan’s elite on the Met steps. “Gossip Girl” returned in 2021 with new storylines, a more diverse cast (thank god) and plenty of teen drama. Ever since the original CW series launched in 2007, “Gossip Girl” — like “Sex and the City” and “Friends” before it — has been a great homage to New York City. From limo rides and private-school scandals to Central Park-view penthouses and exclusive underground clubs, the new and improved show makes the most of the ever-delicious opportunity to see the Big Apple through the eyes of the 0.5 percent.
NINE PERFECT STRANGERS
The pandemic stopped “Nine Perfect Strangers” from being filmed in California’s Bay Area where the show is supposed to be set, but Australia’s Byron Bay substitute still makes for an idyllic location. (Further inspiration to travel to Oz can be found in the fact that so many stars of the cinema and TV have moved there during the pandemic.) This Hulu original starring Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy and Bobby Cannavale takes place in a boutique health and wellness resort that promises to transform its guests both physically and mentally. Without spoiling the plot too much, the first few episodes of this show will make you want to book a detox program and schedule an acupuncture appointment, stat — though maybe solo.
STANLEY TUCCI: SEARCHING FOR ITALY
Courtesy of CNN (2)
As if you needed more reasons to visit Italy. Academy Award-nominee Stanley Tucci joins forces with CNN to deliver a fun-filled food and travel show. With “Searching for Italy,” Tucci explains how his fascination with his Italian heritage led him to the conception of the series, where he plans to explore all 20 regions of the country to learn about traditional cuisine and the stories each dish tells. If the stunning landscape, vibrant streets and small towns don’t inspire you to book a flight right away, then the food surely will.
THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
The plot for HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant” is an automatic cliffhanger: An alcoholic flight attendant (played by The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco) finds herself in a Bangkok hotel room (shot at Anantara Siam Bangkok) one morning with a dead man next to her but zero recollection of what happened. The memories come back to her in flashes throughout the season, and in trying to solve the murder mystery, we get plenty of travel itinerary inspo, including scenes of the two enjoying breathtaking sunset views while cruising the Chao Phraya River. Other notable shooting locations in Thailand include Pratunam Pier, Jumbo Market, Suvarnabhumi airport, and the lush scenery of 137 Pillars, a boutique hotel in Chiang Mai.
While most watch “Killing Eve” for its fiendishly delightful showcase of Jodi Comer and Sandra Oh’s on-screen chemistry, its cat-and-mouse game takes the actors — and viewers — all over Europe, providing much-needed escapism during this time. The TV series has scenes in some of the continent’s most iconic landmarks (UNESCO World Heritage Site Villa Adriana, Paris’s Place Vendôme, Amsterdam’s red light district, you name it) as well as lesser-known areas offering ample inspiration to travel. Keep an eye out for Barcelona, London, Paris, Rome, Tuscany, Bucharest, Amsterdam and more.
A SUITABLE BOY
Directed by Mira Nair, this TV adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel is nothing short of magical. The story follows the lives of four Indian families after the Partition era that saw the split of India and Pakistan. Viewers can expect a captivating story line that examines India’s history and culture through Nair’s careful lens. The series is shot entirely on location in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, featuring majestic Indo-European architecture that will leave you wonder-eyed.
The beautiful island of Ibiza acts as the backdrop for this riveting series from the creator of “Money Heist.” When the body of a DJ is discovered decades after his mysterious disappearance from Ibiza, his sister returns to the island to investigate what happened. What she finds is a thrilling underground world of dance clubs, drugs, lies and cover-ups. Between the beach party scenes and the crystal clear waters of the Spanish isle, “White Lines” will make you wish you were back in college, living it up on spring break.
Ask any tourist visiting Asia what’s on their to-do list, and you’re sure to find something along the lines of “experience local cuisine” or “enjoy street food.” Despite its popularity, though, street food has often been overlooked in the high-culinary sphere. It wasn’t until 2016 that the Michelin Guide gave out its first star to a food stall. When Netflix launched “Street Food” in 2019, the docuseries aimed to change that. Through TV interviews with the most popular street food chefs (watch this space for a Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia exclusive cooking lesson with chef Jay Fai, pictured above), each episode offers the best kind of inspiration to eat, taking a closer look at how influential street food is in their native country. Volume 1 is set in Asia, with episodes on Bangkok, Osaka, Delhi, Yogyakarta, Chiayi, Seoul, Saigon, Singapore and Cebu, while Volume 2 takes place in South America.
The glamorous lifestyle and landscape of France’s Côte d’Azur add to the thrilling drama of “Riviera,” a series that follows the aftermath of a fatal yacht explosion. As shooting locations go, there aren’t many places that can rival the glitz and glamour of the southeastern coast of France up to the Italian border (Cannes, Monaco and Nice are a short drive away from each other along the Côte d’Azur). This television series is an exciting mix of sun, sex and sports cars, which sounds like a pretty sweet vacation to us.