RIMOWA's latest "Engineered for Life" campaign highlights values and legacy of each of its creations.
(RIMOWA)

I remember my first RIMOWA purchase. It was May 2019 and my then editor-in-chief asked me along to the RIMOWA boutique at Mandarin Gallery after a meeting with a client. He wanted to check out new ones in preparation for an upcoming trip—he already owned a couple of aluminium RIMOWA suitcases then—and thought I should get into the brand.

“It’s an investment,” he proffered, rather convincingly. He has a real knack for persuading someone, just about anyone really, to buy that embroidered Dries Van Noten shirt or that pair of Celine boots that adds a few centimetres to your stature—all me, by the way.

To be fair, I was already contemplating on getting one. I had a few work trips lined up and had a long winter vacation to the States to look forward to, so it wasn’t so much a push into my first purchase as it was a gentle nudge. I went home with an Essential Check-In L in Gloss Green. The polycarbonate construction was a no-brainer because it’s incredibly lightweight and sturdy, and the green... well, I didn’t want to be too boring nor too flashy.

It has been five years and the suitcase has seen its fair share of cargo holds, boots of Uber rides, and hotel rooms. We made it to Italy at a time when you had to fill up pages of forms and undergo Covid-testing to get in and out of the country; it was my companion on my first multiple-transit flights to Egypt; and it saw me through my first full fashion weeks in Milan and Paris.

(RIMOWA)

I’ve added more into my own RIMOWA family since. An Essential Trunk Plus in a Gloss Slate Grey, and most recently, my first aluminium suitcase in the form of an Original Cabin in Silver, have both become quite indispensable travel essentials. I might have entered a cult; I’m not entirely sure about that yet.

But if it’s a cult—it’s not, this is purely a haha I’m a witty writer kind of thing—I’m in it for life. In 2023, RIMOWA introduced a lifetime guarantee for all of its suitcases purchased from 25 July 2022. It means that a RIMOWA customer can easily rock up to a RIMOWA boutique and get any of the functional aspects of a suitcase fixed for the entirety of its lifespan.

“Behind every RIMOWA case is a symphony of German engineering and the dedication of our community—the skilled artisans, passionate owners, and the meticulous repair technicians. Together, we create cases that aren’t just built for life, they truly become a canvas for the enduring spirit of those who journey with us,” says Emelie De Vitis. The senior vice president of product and marketing at RIMOWA is referring to “Ingenieurskunst”, a German word that translates to “the art of engineering”.

Now, RIMOWA isn’t saying that its German engineering is the best there is but rather, that it’s an artistic philosophy that manifests itself in every RIMOWA suitcase. It’s this craftsmanship and know-how honed since the brand’s founding in 1898 that allows each suitcase to be a lifelong companion in whatever journey one goes on.

There’s little doubt that a RIMOWA suitcase can live for multiple lifetimes, as evident from the brand’s many exhibitions that have showcased pieces dating back for more than a century and still remaining functional. A RIMOWA suitcase is engineered for life, able to go through every natural wear and intentional personalisation so it’s not really about how long a suitcase can live for, but rather the life it can live through. The lifetime guarantee aids in this quest for the ultimate luxury item that’s a symbol of a life well lived from the moment it leaves a boutique.

(RIMOWA)

It’s like us going through life. We hit a bump in the road, we pick ourselves up, go through a process of reflecting and fixing what needs to be fixed, and then continue through life again—an applicable cycle for a RIMOWA suitcase.

I haven’t felt the need to send in my suitcases for a fix just yet. They’re still functioning as swimmingly as when I first got them. When the need arises though, I’m confident that any member of my RIMOWA family will be back with me journeying through life without missing a beat.

“It’s an investment.” I hate to give it to him, but he was right.

(RAKXA WELLNESS & MEDICAL RETREAT)

“I’d rather gnaw a bean than be gnawed by continual fear.” 
- Odo of Cheriton 

Let us consider Arthur Schopenhauer’s view that all life is suffering. As a student of Kant and Buddhism, Schopenhauer said that as all living creatures are possessed by a will, there is a constant drive to satiate one’s needs to survive. This “striving” is what Schopenhauer refers to as “suffering”. We work to earn a paycheque; we struggle with our self-esteem in our social lives—the latest trend to adopt; how to look appealing; fitting into society’s parameters. And when we do get what we want, it’s not enough. Life’s fleeting nature pushes the boulder back down the hill and, in our efforts to survive, we roll it back up again. Repeat as needed until our ticker runs down. 

Schopenhauer’s solution to limiting our suffering was by limiting our desires. “Those who, with too gloomy a gaze, regard this world as a kind of hell and, accordingly, are only concerned with procuring a fireproof room in it, are much less mistaken. The fool runs after the pleasures of life and sees himself cheated; the sage avoids evils.” 

But Schopenhauer’s student, Friedrich Nietzsche, had a different take. Yes, life is suffering, but for Nietzsche avoidance isn’t the answer; it is to roll with it. Suffering and death are inevitable fates but you can make something of the experience. 

This is probably why Nietzsche > Schopenhauer. 


EVERY DAY, YOU ARE BOMBARDED by news of war; injustices; inflation. Worry leaves its trail on your face. Sleep becomes a distant land. The world can only cut you down so many times before there’s nothing left. A slow death by a thousand cuts. What can you do: you escape the city. RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat sounds inviting. It appears like some fabled sanctuary; Shangri- La peered through the mist. 

It is 50 minutes by car from Suvarnabhumi Airport, and the travel to RAKxa is a passenger window of highways, then buildings before it segues into residential houses and then green rural stretches. RAKxa is nestled at Bang Krachao, Bangkok’s Green Lung—a man-made conservation in the middle of the Chao Praya River. It’s an island that’s circled by mangrove trees and jungle foliage runs wild. 

You arrive at the pavilion, where you are greeted with a cool drink and a ceremonial sounding of the singing bowls. It feels like you’ve stepped into another world. Briefly, a thought about checking your work e-mails enters your mind before you’re whisked away to your villa. 

It’s a sprawling compound. Villas, frangipani plants and banana and casuarina trees zip past as you’re ferried by a buggy. There are three treatment facilities at RAKxa. There’s RAKxa JAI, the retreat’s holistic wellness centre. This is where traditional treatments are used like acupuncture or sound baths. RAKxa GAYA is a “medical gym” due to its diagnostic approach. Then there’s the VitalLife Scientific Wellness Clinic, outfitted with the latest tech-based equipment that can perform Light Therapy or cyrosaunas. VitalLife also excels in its anti-ageing treatment, which you take with a grain of salt. Unless you’re Benjamin Button or Paul Rudd, no one ages in reverse or stops ageing. You’re of the camp that you can only slow down the ageing process through exercise and a proper diet. Then again, you’re also of the camp that you’d be open to new experiences. 

It feels like the compound is larger than expected since you don’t see any other patrons. There are the staff that tend to the centre but they sort of melt into the background. You don’t quite notice them until you’re in want of something, then they appear. One can get around by the aforementioned buggy but walking is not too far out of the realm of possibility. After all, this is a wellness centre. Motion is health, goes the saying. 

The villa is spacious. Windows stretch from floor to ceiling, visually admitting the surrounding verdant landscape. An environmental monitoring system keeps the room at a comfortable temperature as your frontal cortex is assuaged by the warm earth tones of the interior. You could sink into your bed, cocooned by the hypoallergenic bedding but you’ll miss out on the private garden. Or sit on the terrace, nurse a kombucha and soak in the serenity of your little slice of Eden. You sort of forget that across from the horseshoe-winding Chao Praya River, the bustle of Bangkok’s city life continues unabated. 


(RAKXA)

(RAKXA WELLNESS & MEDICAL RETREAT)

HERE’S WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW: RAKxa was originally supposed to be a clinic with a room to stay at. But before she became RAKxa’s founder, Dusadee Tancharoen was a high-flyer until a medical diagnosis clipped her wings; and she turned her focus towards health and wellness. She saw value in the medical and holistic fields in the wellness industry. Reiki; ayurvedic; acupuncture; cyro sauna; hyperbaric chamber therapy; colonics (don’t snigger)... all these are serious fields held in high esteem. These and more are integrated into RAKxa’s programmes. While some treatment programmes are pre-planned, others can be tailored to return you to your optimal self. 

You’d undergo a consultation with several Health & Wellness Advisors. Then, an itinerary of treatments is drafted to match your needs. The consultants across the medical fields were mostly unanimous in their diagnosis: there’s something “stuck” in you. An obstruction. You run hot; there’s a wind in your tummy; there’s an imbalance; your energy is dammed by a blocked meridian point. It’s the same diagnosis repeated in different languages. 

And you know this. For far too long, the lack of sleep turns into a meaningless badge of honour. The suffocating stress feels like a hair sweater. What was intrusive has now become a bedfellow. A hairline crack that has widened into a gulf over the years. It has become so normalised that you need to detach from it; step outside of yourself as it were. Inhabit a third-person perspective that allows you to be open to what these treatments, no matter how new age-y they are, can offer. 

RAKxa’s treatments sound a little “out there” if you know what I mean. But you’d try anything once. Especially, when you’ve tried everything else. You lie through a session where your therapist’s hands hover over your body as a way to “heal you with energy”. You are bombarded with sonics from bronze bowls in an effort to align your chakra. A photo-light therapy blasts you with light energy to aid in skin and muscle regeneration. Super cold air bathes your body to improve blood circulation. Tiny needles dot your body to stimulate specific anatomic sites. 

They will put you on a vitamin IV drip to boost your immunity. Can you feel the cocktail of vitamins infused into your bloodstream? Do you feel better, albeit slightly? Is the tranquil scene of nature shown through the window helping you be centred? Or do you take this opportunity to answer e-mails and dink around on the laptop? 

No matter how far you run, you still can’t leave the world behind.


RAKXA’S RESTAURANT, UNAM, PUTS out surprisingly good food. Not that you went in thinking that there was a McDonald’s nearby to fall back on if the meals weren’t up to snuff, but the dishes punch above their weight. The menus are made from chemical-free ingredients that are supplemented with sustainable meats and seafood. There’s always a starter of kombucha, followed by the mains, then dessert. After your initial consultation, the restaurant will tailor the menu. Mention in passing that you don’t like ginger and they will excise the herb from the meal plan. 

“Health is wealth” is RAKxa’s motto. It won’t specifically cure you of your ailments, rather it is in the business to prevent calamities. But how else are you supposed to stave off the bad-ness if you’re already affected? Isn’t the solution then, to cure you? It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario and this thought runs laps through your mind as you’re lying in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. 

You’re undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy where pure oxygen is pumped inside a pressurised environment. Said environment is a horizontal unit, where you can lie down. The technician offers another less claustrophobic unit, one where you can sit upright during the process. But you opt for the “coffin”; you’ve always admired the dead for sleeping well so here’s a chance for that. 

Except, being in a pressurised chamber means you’re constantly popping your ears for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Then silence sets in, but your mind starts filling in the blanks and somehow you leap from RAKxa’s motto to musing if there was ever a scene of an accidental spark in an oxygen-rich environment in any of the Final Destination films. (Answer: yes, in the second instalment.) 

At RAKxa GAYA, a personal trainer puts you through a Functional Fitness assessment. Using state-of-the-art equipment to evaluate an individual’s fitness level and identify key risk areas that can lead to injury. The final analysis: your balance, stamina and strength check out great. Not looking fantastic: your flexibility. Still, the results are encouraging but while the physical is in the upper percentile, mentally, you’re thinking about next week’s work schedule. They offer several exercises to improve your mobility. “Yoga,” they say. You retort that it’s too slow-paced. The trainer looks at you as though he has heard that before. “You need to slow down,” he says as he glances at your chart. “Yeah. Tai Chi can do that.” 


YOU’RE FAMILIAR WITH TAI CHI because one of your core memories was of you as a secondary school student, passing by a basketball court filled with geriatrics every morning. Their glacier movements, all in rhythm to some unidentifiable Chinese instrumental blasting from some unseen radio. 

Now, it feels a little lackadaisical as a well-meaning RAKxa instructor puts you through the paces. You’re unfamiliar with this speed of activity. Your arms make soft and circular movements in a flowing form as your feet slide from one position to the next. The gestures are alien. You’re aware of your breathing, how languid you’re drawing in the air and the soft expulsion through your nose. There’s a mirror in front of you and you’re trying to hit your mark. 

Maybe you’re a little self-conscious. If your younger self sees you now, will they roll their eyes? Make a snide remark? You don’t know because the thoughts never enter your mind. Right, now you’re focused on the next pose. And the next. 

And then, strangely, you don’t think about them at all. Weirdly enough, you’re flowing from one movement to the next on instinct, much to the instructor’s surprise and elation. He is effusive with his praise, so much so that it borders on condescending. But for the next 20 minutes, the outside world seems far away. The weight of the smartphone in your pants pocket dissipates. Maybe the effects of the treatments are kicking in. Maybe this is what it has been needing: this forced retardation of actions. 

For the first time in forever, you find yourself where you’ve always needed to be at: present. 

Father's Day is coming up on Sunday, 16 June 2024. There's still time to figure out how to express the enduring love you have for Dad but here's an idea: a luggage. Not just any luggage though, but the Samsonite Proxis™.

The Samsonite Proxis™ is what great travel luggage should be. It's incredibly lightweight yet has a strong exterior at the same time, thanks to Samsonite's Roxkin™ material. The innovative multi-layered material is resilient and is made to withstand shocks and knocks—it essentially bounces back into shape.

Gifting the Samsonite Proxis™ is symbolic in more ways than one. The tough and resilient exterior is a stereotypically father-figure trait but a luggage can also represent possibilities of the future. Travelling opens the door to endless experiences and having the right accessory aids in that quest of making whatever tomorrow a reality. It's a way of thanking him for all that he's done and offering him a tool for all his tomorrows—much like how he's provided them for you.

Each Samsonite Proxis™ is designed with the same functionality; the only difference is in its colour and hence, the inherent personality of its eventual owner. We break down the four colours and three sizes within the collection and the travel personalities that they're best suited for so that you know you're making the right decision this Father's Day. Tomorrow is here and there's no time to waste in getting that head start.

The Outdoor Warrior

He's a cross between Bear Grylls and Aaron Taylor-Johnson—he won't be sequestering himself out in the wilderness like the former, but rather, enjoys the thrill of being one with nature for a considerable amount of time. His idea of fun includes hiking up a mountain in the middle of the night just so that he makes it to the peak at the crack of dawn, taking in the splendour of Mother Nature.

A luggage makes zero sense in the wilderness, no matter how tough and lightweight like the Samsonite Proxis™ is designed to be. But he's also not a regular outdoor-loving dad; he enjoys the luxuries that he's worked so hard to afford. He'll bring along the Proxis™ Spinner 75/28—the largest in the collection—to check into a luxury lodge, and switch it for a robust outdoor backpack that fits nicely into its roomy interior. He loves the outdoors, yes, but he's no savage.

Proxis™ spinner 75/28 in Black, SAMSONITE

The Discerning Silver Fox

A man as dashingly foxy as Oscar Isaac and Patrick Dempsey deserves a travel companion that reflects the sophisticated charm he's honed through years of experience. The Proxis™ in Silver makes perfect sense for someone with such a discerning taste, yet knows he doesn't need to try hard at all to appear put together. After all, this is someone who guided you through your first cigar, and that one night he sneaked in a shot of whisky for you to try when Mom wasn't home—all for a lesson in good taste.

The Spinner 69/25 size is a conscious decision. It's the mid-sized luggage in the collection and fits quite a lot. He doesn't need much but only because he's the kind of organised traveller who already has his outfits coordinated in his mind and packs only those combinations. He knows what he wants and needs; everything else is unnecessary.

Proxis™ spinner 69/25 in Silver, SAMSONITE

The Always Young-at-Heart

You're often reminded countless times that he only looks as old as he feels. And according to him, he's only at his prime—just like Gong Yoo and Idris Elba. He's an early adopter of all things trendy and cool, long before you've even heard that digicams are back in style or that the AirPods Max are for the aesthetics. But most importantly, he's a kid at heart, fiddling with his Nintendo Switch as a way of kicking back after a long day at work.

A youthful disposition such as his is matched only by the Proxis™ in Lime. It's unapologetically bold and stands out from the crowd just like he does—which is great because he does get distracted sometimes while waiting for his luggage to make its way on the conveyor belt.

Proxis™ spinner 75/28 in Lime, SAMSONITE

The Beach Lover

He's every bit like Jason Momoa—super chill, marches to the beat of his own drum, and most importantly, loves the beach. He loves the water and is typically the first one to run towards it every chance he gets. He's also the reason why you're able to swim pretty decently, thanks to all those weekends spent on swimming lessons. You cursed under your breath every Saturday morning because you'd rather stay in watching cartoons, but hey, you're now treading water like it's second nature.

Like every true-blue beach lover, he needs very little for his beach vacations. The Proxis™ Spinner 55/20 in Petrol Blue (what else, really) is the perfect size to fit the essentials—a pair of swim shorts, sandals, some shirts and even his very own packable yoga mat for those zen mornings.

Proxis™ spinner 55/20 in Petrol Blue, SAMSONITE

The Samsonite Proxis™ collection is now available at all Samsonite stores (excluding factory outlet stores) and online at samsonite.com.sg.

(GETTY IMAGES)

I find myself travelling for work more and more these days. It is a strange upturn, particularly in a world that has accepted and embraced the digital office and Zoom waiting room. And, while it is always nice to see new places, I must confess that the substantial size of my carbon footprint is starting to weigh on me—which has got me thinking of ways I can try alter my behaviour to offset it in different ways. 

As I find myself spending a significant amount of time in hotels, I’ve started to develop criteria for selecting places to stay at. For example, they must be conveniently located, preferably within walking distance of my main destinations, and while not necessarily luxurious, they should offer easy access to amenities. 

Besides the accessibility to good Wi-Fi, the attention and friendliness of the staff will always be a factor in my return visit to a specific hotel. Then, of course, there’s the quality of the bed linen. I don’t sleep much, but I sleep fast, so I need the bed to feel perfectly comfortable. 

With almost half of last year spent on the road, I have taken to making little notes detailing typical design missteps that hotels often make—regularly where cost-saving measures are prioritised or the interior designer failed to consider the comfort of guests. Allow me to share a few of my findings. 

In the hotel industry’s quest for smart automation, almost every property offers a whole set of challenges when it comes to operating the lights and curtains. Some can be so frustrating that I’ve needed to try to contact the reception desk for assistance, only to not being able to find the number to dial. In one stay, I had curtains without a window behind them; rooms with a single electrical plug socket; toilets that were located more than two metres from the paper roll holder; an ashtray in a non-smoking room; and confusing multiple elevator set ups with buttons that make no sense. 

Then of course there are the overly "designed" rooms where the rooms have no mirrors, or feature glass windows between the bathroom and the bedroom—unthinkable when you’re travelling with a colleague or family member who isn’t your significant other. No, open plan bathrooms are not a design error, but rather an increasingly bizarre feature of modern hotels. 

Failures in hotel design are always preventable, which is fascinating when there seem to be so many of them. 

The concept of design is rooted in the traditions of hospitality. Since ancient times, the hospitality industry has served at the behest of making the journey of the traveller more amenable. The development of many diverse types of Inns, hotels, brands and other services has occurred in cultures all across the world—but they always start by design conception, some of them taking years on this stage. 

The initial design phase is crucial, drawing upon centuries- old traditions of hospitality. Hotels often falter due to technological obsolescence or poor furniture choices, a problem not limited to budget accommodations but also seen in luxury resorts. 

Ultimately, the staff’s attitude plays a pivotal role in creating a memorable guest experience, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests.” When you travel, it there is no memory, there is no value. Well, it’s a good thing I’ve been keeping my notes then. 

Sora Bar.
(ROSEWOOD PHNOM PENH)

Any modern bar these days has got to have a solid concept, respective motif cocktails, and all the vibes in the world. It’s practically law. Positioned near the peak of the city’s first true skyscraper, Sora Bar seemingly has its work cut out for it from the outset.

The bar scene in Cambodia does not lack its speakeasies and distilleries (it’s home to premium rum distillery Samai and World’s Best Flavoured Gin 2023 MAWSIM craft gin). From an outsider’s perspective, they all share a little rough-edged, charactered attitude inherited from the city.

So when you see Rosewood Phnom Penh sticking out from the skyline like a sore thumb—in a good way—and the bar’s cantilevered terrace sticking out like the sore thumb’s sore thumb, you know you’re in for divergence.

Sora (“sky” in Japanese) Bar is located 37 floors up, so obviously, the view’s great. While the outdoor deck hits the standard look of sky- high rooftop bars, the indoor seating features pockets of semi-intimate spaces, an open row by the almost unassuming counter and under a centrepiece of mirrored orbs.

Drinks perpetuate this school of refined thought. Nuance is the keyword here for the 12 progressive tipples in the new The Book of Yokai. The menu is divided into four chapters highlighting the country’s notable exports: rice, sugar palm, Kampot pepper, and banana, then framed according to Japanese folklore entities.

What usually transgresses the line from thematic to pure schtick is how on the nose you go. Here, classics are still revered and twists are subtle.

The Bow ‘n The Arrow has a complex amalgamation of sake and straight wheat vodka, rice and almond milk, grilled lemon and lemongrass. It ought to read highly peculiar on the tongue, but it is actually one of the smoothest in the lineup.

Another crowd favourite is the Green Leaf Fizz, a gin and white port base with citrus, kaffir leaf, matcha, soda and, of course, sugar palm that lingers quietly in the background. Representing the notorious Kampot pepper is Sora 75 in a refreshing aperitivo-style passionfruit sherbet topped with sparkling sake.

Finally, in a highball ode to the staple fruit, The Crow Collins uses the flower rather than other commonly used parts of a banana. This results in a naturally pink hue, a garnish that cheekily nods to the Pinocchio-like Japanese mountain spirit Tengu, and a slight medicinal note that satisfies a personal preference.

It’s easy to see why the bar has made it on the World’s 50 Best Discovery list. And in true Rosewood style, there’s more to experience. Like the food at neighbouring Iza (do yourself a true favour and order the ramen) and award-winning steakhouse Cuts.

If you want to go hardcore, visit Whisky Library for its wide collection of cigars and single malts in classy lounging. Have them neat or in six concoctions that play on the historical aspects of Japanese Samurais. Like Sora Bar, each establishment housed within the penthouse levels effortlessly exudes gentle confidence and brilliant thoughtfulness.

Sora Bar is located at Vattanac Capital Tower, 66 Monivong Boulevard, Sangkat Wat Phnom, Khan Daun Penh.

Rowoon.
Junkyu of Treasure.
Baekhyun and Xiumin of EXO.
Mile Phakphum.
Wonwoo and S. Coups of Seventeen.
Haruto of Treasure.
Lewis Hamilton and Rosé.

There was absolutely no stopping the fans in Seoul, South Korea last month from capturing a glimpse of their Korean idols at RIMOWA's official debut of its new seasonal colours—Mint and Papaya. It may have been raining in the morning of the event, but fans were already forming behind a barricade; a number of astute individuals had even placed placards with their information the evening before as a way of securing a spot.

RIMOWA's list of invited celebrity guests had everything to do with the congregation of fans. It was a diverse range with third-generation K-pop idols Baekhyun and Xiumin of EXO, Rowoon (formerly of SF9), and Seventeen's S.Coups and Wonwoo, fourth-generation group Treasure's Haruto and Junkyu, Thai actor Mile Phakphum, Lewis Hamilton, and Rosé. It was also the first time that RIMOWA global ambassadors Hamilton and Rosé were brought together for the same event.

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The organised chaos outside and inside—as journalists and editors scrambled for content and soundbites—the venue was a reflection of the spirited Mint and Papaya colours. Fresh and inviting, the colours were inspired by the vibrant charm of tropical destinations. Mint, a pastel shade of green, draws inspiration from the hues of buildings typical in tropical cities (a RIMOWA staff also painted a scenography of eating mint ice cream while strolling along the beach). Papaya, on the other hand, is a shade of orange reminiscent of the fruit that it's named after as well as the hue of a beachside sunset.

The duo of colours are predominantly available in RIMOWA's Essential series albeit in different combinations. Mint is available in Cabin, Check-In L and Trunk Plus sizes, while Papaya colours the Cabin, Check-In M and Trunk Plus sizes. Save for the wheels and telescopic handle on each suitcase, both colours appear on every facet for a seamless appearance. A trio of packing cubes are also offered in both colours, as well as a sticker set and luggage charms.

For those who prefer hints of the latest colours, Mint and Papaya are now part of the customisable RIMOWA UNIQUE experience. Wheels, handles, and tags in Mint and Papaya can be fitted onto RIMOWA's Classic suitcases in whatever permutation one sees fit.

But with RIMOWA increasingly becoming more than just a luxury travel accessory brand, Mint brings fresh interpretations of its more lifestyle offerings. The emblematic RIMOWA Personal crossbody bag is updated with a White Gloss polycarbonate body trimmed with Mint-coloured webbing strap as well as a Mint leather interior. The Signature range—newly introduced in November last year—adopts Mint as a Flap Backpack in a large size, and its roomy Duffle bag, with both designed to easily integrate with any RIMOWA suitcase.

Essential Cabin in Mint, RIMOWA.
Essential Check-In L in Mint, RIMOWA.
Essential Trunk Plus in Mint, RIMOWA.
Essential Cabin in Papaya, RIMOWA.
Essential Check-In M in Papaya, RIMOWA.
Essential Trunk Plus in Papaya, RIMOWA.
Packing Cubes in Mint, RIMOWA.
Packing Cubes in Papaya, RIMOWA.
Classic with Papaya handles and wheels, RIMOWA.
Classic with Mint handles and wheels, RIMOWA.
Summer Sticker Set, RIMOWA.
Summer Sunset and Summer Cocktail Luggage Charms, RIMOWA.
Signature Flap Backpack Large in Mint, RIMOWA.
Signature Duffle in Mint, RIMOWA.
Personal Polycarbonate Cross-Body Bag in Mint, RIMOWA.

So the question now is: Mint or Papaya? It's not an easy pick. Whichever you end up choosing, RIMOWA's lifetime warranty on all its suitcases (only for those purchased after 25 July 2022) guarantees that there's hardly a wrong choice.

The new RIMOWA seasonal colours Mint and Papaya are now available in boutiques.

Travel is no longer about getting to a destination. It's become an extension of one's personality and lifestyle. For some, it's a hobby; some find it to be an essential part of living—travelling and experiencing different cultures and ways of life only make us more in touch with being human. And with all things personal, there's an increasing inclination to want accompaniments that fit in with that lifestyle.

Let's face it: we all want things that are aesthetically pleasing and work well at the same time. We invest on quality that lasts for as long as possible with the added boon of aesthetics.

The BOSS | Samsonite capsule collection is the latest entry in this no-compromise balance of style and function. Combining the sophisticated style leanings that German fashion brand BOSS is known for with the already trusted combination of form and function by Samsonite, the collection is a sleek offering of luggage meant to make one look, well, boss throughout every journey.

The base of BOSS | Samsonite is the latter's premium aluminium hardcase luggage. Rendered in an all-black exterior, it is then dressed with a subtle, tone-on-tone BOSS monogram that beautifully complements the architectural ridges of each luggage's body. An anodised finish ensures that the look stays locked in for as long as possible, especially through the many different immigration points that a piece will be subjected to throughout its lifespan.

Each piece is made to be tough on the outside, but on the inside, there's a softness brought about by a luxurious quality and feel. A soft-textured lining envelopes the interior of each BOSS | Samsonite piece, done in the former's signature camel colour. The interior is spacious with the addition of zipped compartments (removable if one has no need for them) helping to make organisation a breeze. Adjustable webbing straps help to hold everything in place with the added touch of co-branded leather handles to tie in the sophistication of every element together.

There are four sizes to choose from, each designed for different lengths as well as intensity of travel. The smallest is the cabin-sized Spinner 55 that measures 40 x 55 x 23 cm, two check-in sizes, and the Trunk that's a taller, more oblong-shape and boasts a roomy dimension of 41 x 80 x 37 cm. But whichever one ends up with, there's no denying that they all are extensions of a sophisticated, well-travelled individual.

Spinner 55, BOSS | SAMSONITE
Spinner 69, BOSS | SAMSONITE
Spinner 76, BOSS | SAMSONITE
Trunk, BOSS | SAMSONITE

The BOSS | Samsonite luggage capsule collection is now available in selected Samsonite stores as well as online.

Samsonite's Suntec City outlet.

Sustainability is the name of the game at Samsonite’s new Suntec City outlet. We are in an unprecedented moment where more action is needed to combat the urgent climate crisis. Consumers are looking for more eco-friendly alternatives to their products. For Samsonite, its key products—luggages—aren't the only area for the brand's commit to sustainability. Samsonite decided to tackle the project of making its latest outlet as an example of its promise to sustainability.

Samsonite at Suntec City

Balau wood sculptures.
Cashier and green wall.
Plastic sheets on shelving.

At Samsonite’s new store, Balau wood sculptures frame the space. It goes beyond infusing the store with a touch of elegance though as it also tells the story of rebirth. Each piece spent at least 30 years in shipyards at Tuas. Then it's recrafted and given a second life, further adding to the store’s timeless charm.

Similarly, the store’s external facade was fabricated from recycled aluminium. Plastic waste are cleaned, shredded into flakes, and then reformed into a new cashier counter. The shelves are made from recycled plastics that were intentionally crafted to look identical to glass and laminate sheets.

“We are not just creating luggage, we aim to shape the industry to be more sustainable, one journey at a time,” Satish Peerubandi, Vice-President of Samsonite SEA, declared. This new outlet is a testament to the brand's commitment to lead the sustainable transformation of the lifestyle bag and travel luggage industry.

Besides increasing the use of sustainable materials in its products and packaging, Samsonite is also moving towards a future where this practise will be the norm. Their Magnum EcoTM line is crafted with recycled yoghurt cups for its shells. And the interior lining is made from repurposed PET bottles.

Samsonite's Annual Luggage Trade-in Campaign

Samsonite's Magnum EcoTM (on top) and Myton (below).

Additionally, until 28 April, Samsonite opens its annual Luggage Trade-in campaign. All brands, sizes, and conditions of luggage are welcome, with materials of pre-loved luggage being recycled and repurposed into eco travel memorabilia. Trade-ins at any Samsonite store will nab you 30 per cent off on Samsonite’s Myton and Magnum EcoTM collections. Samsonite will also donate SGD10 to the WWF-Singapore Earth Hour campaign for every trade-in. In further commitment to the cause, all non-essential lights in all Samsonite stores will be turned off on 23 March 2024, Saturday, from 8.30pm to 9.30pm to coincide with the Earth Hour Switch Off.

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When people say they don’t like camping, it’s usually because they’re attached to the comforts of city living. But what if you didn’t have to stray far from conveniences like running water, restaurants and bathrooms?

What if you could camp right in the middle of your city?

That’s the idea behind “urban camping.” Eager fans waiting for concerts or a store’s opening may have pioneered the practice, but it’s grown beyond securing your spot at the front of a queue. So, why not camp in the city for the joy of the experience itself?

As strange as it may seem, urban camping is having a moment, and it’s hard to ignore.

WHAT IS URBAN CAMPING?

Urban camping is exactly what the name suggests— camping out in an urban area. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and remote wilderness areas can be hard to get to. Urban camping brings the thrill of sleeping outdoors to the concrete jungle instead of making you hike for hours to get to your spot.

“Camping in a city” is rather vague. That broad umbrella definition can mean several different things, and that’s part of the appeal of urban camping. The practice has a lot of variety—arguably even more so than conventional camping.

For some, urban camping is less about pitching a tent on a sidewalk and more about being near a metropolitan area. That could mean finding a nearby campsite or rolling out your sleeping bag in a park. This way, you get near or even within city limits but still have some more traditional hallmarks of the camping experience.

More hardcore urban campers ditch the grass for asphalt. They may sleep on the roofs of their apartment buildings, find abandoned buildings to camp in, or even opt for sidewalks or parking lots.

Of course, not every city dweller—including some public officials—takes kindly to urban camping. This conflict has led to an extreme subcategory called “stealth camping,” where the idea is to camp where no one will notice you. That could mean sleeping in a car or setting up a hammock in an area with minimal foot traffic.

WHY CAMP IN A CITY?

Whether or not you need to stealth camp, why would you pitch your tent in the city? For some, it’s a matter of convenience. Urban camping lets you enjoy sleeping under the stars without trekking far outside of civilisation. If you forget to pack something or would like to eat out, you can easily run out to a store or restaurant.

Urban camping can also be a thrifty way to travel. Even New York City has camping spots within 50 kilometres of the city, offering a far more affordable alternative to a hotel or Airbnb. Why not save money on lodging to give yourself more to spend on food, drink and entertainment?

Urban camping can be a nice middle ground if you’re a fan of the outdoors but your friends and family don’t share your enthusiasm. Everyone can enjoy the tent experience without worrying about bugs or potentially dangerous wildlife. The proximity to proper toilets, hot showers and good coffee is also hard to overlook, even for the most outdoorsy adventurers.

If nothing else, there’s an undeniable thrill to urban camping. What you lose in connection with nature, you gain in the excitement of the concrete jungle. Willingly pitching a tent on asphalt is so unorthodox that it’ll undeniably draw eyes and attention.

How many others can claim they’ve done the same? If you’re looking for a unique experience or cool story to tell, this is a relatively easy way to get one.

Urban camping also scratches a certain rebellious itch some may have. Even if it’s perfectly legal—which it isn’t always, but more on that later—it’s unusual enough to make a statement. You could see it as a stance against urban sprawl or the monotony of city living.

POTENTIAL PITFALLS AND DANGERS

As unique and exciting as the urban camping experience can be, it carries unique dangers, too. Most prominently, it’s not always legal. Singapore has five authorised camping sites across three parks, and many cities around the globe restrict where you can sleep or pitch tents. If you don’t read up on these regulations before camping, a hefty fine might ruin your weekend.

If you’re not careful, urban camping may also be unsafe. Sure, there aren’t any lions, tigers or bears to worry about, but, oh my, humans can be just as if not more dangerous.

Camping out in the wrong part of town with little more than a tent to protect you is ill-advised if you value your safety. That’s especially true if you’re travelling and don’t know the area well.

Even if you’re not in a riskier part of the city, know that people probably won’t leave you alone. Urban camping is a strange sight, so if your spot sees enough foot traffic, you’ll get a few passers-by staring at you, taking pictures or talking to you about it. For some, that attention is part of the draw of urban camping. For others, it may feel like an invasion of privacy.

Camping purists may also find city landscapes too distracting for an ideal camping experience. Even if you’re in a park, you’ll likely hear more cars going by than you would in a more remote campsite. Cities’ light pollution also makes it harder to see stars, so if you’re looking to reconvene with nature, you’re better off in the woods.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

If you don’t mind the noise and attention, urban camping is an experience like no other. Like ordinary camping, though, it requires some preparation to make the most of this adventure.

The most important step is to read up on your destination before planning to camp in the city. Make sure it’s legal before you try it. In most places, you’ll find that some forms of urban camping are totally permissible, but others will get you into trouble.

You’re more likely to be ok in a park or rooftop than you are out on the streets but read local regulations carefully to know for sure.

You may need to get a camping permit, too. You can get one online for one of Singapore’s five legal camping grounds, and many other areas have online portals, too. A parking permit may also be a good idea, depending on your specific urban camping approach.

Next, be sure to camp in a safe area. If you’re unfamiliar with the city, ask locals which places to avoid. Choosing a place with plenty of light and going with a group will make it safer.

One of the best parts about urban camping is that packing is less of an issue. If you realise you need something you forgot, you can run out to a nearby shop to get it. Even so, ensure you have a few essentials—namely, a sleeping bag, lights, a portable charger and appropriate clothing.

You probably can’t build a fire on the sidewalk, so don’t worry about firewood, but you may be able to simulate the experience with a portable gas stove. Just review local regulations before the police take away your means of making s’mores.

WHY NOT TRY URBAN CAMPING FOR YOUR NEXT HOLIDAY?

Urban camping may not offer all the same things as going into the wilderness, but that’s the point. It’s a unique experience you won’t get with conventional camping or staying at a hotel in the city.

If you’re looking for a way to switch things up, give this weird, unconventional kind of camping a shot. You may just find it’s for you.

The idea of form versus function is often a conundrum that's faced by designers. Should the former supersede the latter or vice versa? Or is there a middle-ground where both tenets of design balance out each other such that there isn't much of a compromise to either? The considerations are heightened further when it comes to meeting the needs of travellers who now care more than just getting from one point to another.

For TUMI, that steely balance of form and function is best exemplified in its innovative 19 Degree Aluminum series. Launched by creative director Victor Sanz in 2016, the 19 Degree Aluminum series was a breakthrough for the performance luxury lifestyle and accessories brand as it manipulated aluminium in its own vision for the first time. Each piece is crafted with the now-signature sinewy lines enveloping the entirety of its contours—both as a bold, visual manifestation of the toughness of the material as well as an engineered element for added rigidity. It helps too that the look is as striking as it is durable.

As we said, good looks would only get a design so far, especially in the travel space. TUMI clearly knows this too. The 19 Degree Aluminum series is packed with nifty technical specs that make travelling with one—on pretty much any kind of journey—as beautiful as the intended destination. Rollers are fitted with dual-recessed, ball bearing wheels to ensure smooth, effortless glides, while the telescoping handle fits comfortably when gripped. These innovations (and more) add to the beauty of having a 19 Degree Aluminum piece as a companion—they're beautiful, and essentially so.

The 19 Degree Aluminum Backpack is another first for TUMI.

In the latest chapter of TUMI's "Essentially Beautiful" campaign, global ambassador and pro-footballer Son Heung-Min makes a return to introduce an expansion to the 19 Degree Aluminum family. Highlighting both the aesthetics as well as the inner-workings of the series that make it essentially beautiful, the campaign is arguably TUMI's boldest yet as Son traverses an abstract world inspired by the elements of the series. His main companion of choice? A 19 Degree Aluminum Backpack that once again, sees TUMI challenging the idea of form and function.

The backpack design is a first of its kind for TUMI, allowing the already iconic luggage design to be carried in a new way. But instead of simply slapping on leather straps to the existing design, the brand reconfigured the entire construction. The leather straps of the Backpack are connected to a leather back panel—marked with the same 19 Degree contours—that's fitted with a top handle and a sleeve meant to easily slip over extended luggage handles. The Backpack itself opens up from the top with a frame opening, while a front pocket reveals itself with the push of the leather monogram patch.

19 Degree Aluminium Luggage.
19 Degree Aluminium Carry-On and Luggage.
19 Degree Aluminium Backpack.

But that's far from what TUMI has to offer. The new line-up includes a Compact Carry-On that's essentially a scaled down version of the 19 Degree Aluminum, designed for travellers who prefer something smaller. It also comes with a removable file divider, making it quite an upgrade for those looking to transport documents. If not, there's the new Briefcase that's categorically sleek at every angle yet still sturdy and durable.

Form versus function? That's certainly hardly the case here.

The new TUMI 19 Degree Aluminum series is now available at the TUMI ION Orchard, Mandarin Gallery, and Marina Bay Sands stores. And check out the other signature TUMI lifestyle bag styles too while you're at it.

The Alpha Bravo Navigation Backpack.
The Harrison Gregory Sling.
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The novelty of being a big city lad, strolling into a sexy London glass office with a latte in hand (as they do in the movies) doesn’t last long. By the time I was 30, on paper, I’d made it. I was working at a top television network, with a comfortable salary and business trips to Manhattan. I had a bachelor pad, bought nice clothes, and partied weekends. It was exactly what I pictured growing up, but I wasn’t happy.

The traditional outlook on life has always been to work hard, get married, buy a house, and at least for millennials, allocation of ‘fun’ is slotted in at the end, for retirement. That’s assuming we’re lucky enough to make it to our 60s. Spending the next 30+ years of my life in an office cubicle and mind-numbing marketing meetings was, to me, pure torture. I decided enough was enough.

The First Step

In 2016 I sold my things and moved to Tokyo on an English teaching visa, interning part-time as an entertainment reporter for a local paper. It was a chance to go to free gigs, make new friends, and get out there. Months later, came the big break. A friend moved to Singapore as editor of an airline magazine, and they needed a travel writer in Japan. I was now getting paid to write and explore.

The lack of English-speaking reporters in the region, at least compared to back home, meant I was able to secure a steady flow of work covering Japan. Eventually, I ditched the English teaching job to write full-time, forfeiting the visa. That was fine as I could work anywhere with a good Wi-Fi connection.

Being used to a routine, things were tough in the beginning. You never know when the next job is coming, and finding a new place to set up shop can be stressful. Things have got easier, especially post-pandemic now that digital nomads have surged (131 per cent since 2019, according to Forbes). I’ve spent extended time in Da Nang, Bali and Kuala Lumpur, meccas for remote workers, thanks to special digital nomad visas, flexible co-working spaces and value long-stay rentals and travel.

Every day isn’t coconut cocktails on the beach. I still go to an office. I make my own hours and choose when and where I want to work. I’m based between the US and the UK. I rented desks or WFH, but you’ll find me and my laptop all over the place. Mostly in coffee shops and hotel rooms. I also try to make the most of transit time that can sometimes be a challenge. For example, on the Caledonian Sleeper train to Inverness, though the purpose was to sleep, I stayed up all night to meet a last-minute deadline. A couple of weeks later I sailed the Indian Ganges on a boutique rivercruise called Uniworld. It was pretty remote, and l got frustrated with Internet speeds. Maybe it was a sign to switch off and enjoy the ride.

Conclusion

Though the money I earn now is far less than before, so are my outgoings. I used to live rather excessively. But now I don’t need the latest gadgets, a car, or a swanky downtown apartment. Why? Because I get plenty of enrichment on the job. One week I can be surrounded by rescued elephants in Chiang Mai. And the next I’ll be surrounded by celebrity chefs at The Dorchester in Mayfair. In a single year, I can check off more bucket list activities than one could in a lifetime. I’ve had to make a whole new list, actually. Things I've done: hot air ballooning, snowmobiling, and safari; interviewed Sir Richard Branson and Michelle Yeoh. I’ve even written two best-selling guidebooks.

Before leaving the rat race, my stories weren’t particularly noteworthy. Unless you’re into drunken anecdotes, but everything that’s happened in recent years would make a real page-turner of a biography. I skim my travel journals in disbelief. Best of all, I’ve been able to share many special moments with the people I care about. Working remotely means more time with loved ones and less time with Karen from advertising. It’s ironic because we all know time is finite. And yet,most people prioritise making money in the hopes of using it later to live their best lives. Think about all the things that make you happy. Travel, music, cooking, sports, spouse, kids…How much time are you dedicating to them? Are you justifying a lack of time now for more later? I’m always conscious that later often becomes never, and remember, never is the saddest thing anyone could work toward.

James Wong can be reached here.

Welcome to the resort you might never want to leave; this is Desa Potato Head.

The flight between Singapore and Bali is close to three hours long and, already, I’m imagining scenarios of what happens if the plane starts to malfunction. Oxygen masks will drop like hanged men; the steel cabin that we are in may close in, turning into a collective metal coffin. One doesn’t usually start a travel piece with downed plane imagery but when you are travelling with a child who has never flown before, the mind tends to wander into dark territories.

That’s not to say that we didn’t plan ahead. We drafted out a checklist of possible outcomes that our child might end up in during the flight, and preventables: restlessness (a colouring book); blocked ears (a lollipop or sweet to suck on); loud engine noises (headphones that are hooked to a laptop with kid-friendly programmes); hunger (a packet of trail mix). But to paraphrase the Yiddish proverb: “Make plans. God laughs.” Our child, wee but shockingly inventive, found ways to stymie us. After an hour of colouring, he is now fidgety and reluctant to remain in his seat, let alone, be strapped into his seat.

The distractions have lost their powers and we’re left with nothing but hushed threats and calls to reason with this emotional terrorist. My mind wanders. I picture our plane making impact with the side of the mountain.


Desa Potato Head is unlike any resort you've ever seen or stayed at.

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE a getaway. A slice of free time carved out from a busy schedule, a weekend that I can greedily indulge in. It will be spent at Desa Potato Head, a sprawling 226-guest room hotel that’s set on Petitenget Beach in Seminyak. Before we were married, the wife and I visited the site (then Potato Head Bali). I remember spending lazy hours on the daybed at the Beach Club. Now with a child added to the mix, we decided a sojourn at the resort would be an experience.

A lot has changed since the wife and I were last here. The hotel rebranded itself from Potato Head Bali to Desa Potato Head. “Desa”, which means “village” in Bahasa Indonesia is the throughline in which the place operates. This is a creative village where art, music, design, good food and wellness co-exist.

"5000 Lost Soles" by Liina Klauss.

The place already stood out with its eye-catching aesthetics—Liina Klauss’ 5,000 Lost Soles (2016), an installation made out of flip-flops salvaged from the Bali beaches or the Beach Club’s exterior that’s built out of wooden window shutters. If you think the hotel’s Brutalist architecture set against the backdrop of the tropics looks off-kilter, the invasion of new artwork will enthral you. Take Nano Uhero’s “The Womb”, a bamboo sculpture that visitors coming in from the entrance would have to traverse through. There's Future2000’s iconic Pointman standing like a sentinel in the courtyard of Potato Head Studios. Fashioned out of repurposed waste materials collected from the waterways of Bali, the Pointman stands as a testament to the Balinese philosophy of duality—taking trash and turning it into a work of art.

"Pointman - River Warrior" by Futura2000.

Excited by the appearance of the Pointman, the kid scurries towards the legs, at first trying to scale it but eventually settling on hiding behind them. His voice in a higher register than usual, calls to us to look at the sculpture.

After registration, guests are brought to the Circle Store, where upcycled amenities and merch are sold. We were presented a zero-waste kit, which consisted of an RPET tote bag and a sustainable drinking bottle—you can ask any of Desa Potato Head staff to fill the bottle with water. No extra cost, no waste.

The provided eco-friendly amenities.

Throughout our stay, we are sequestered in the Oceanfront Studio at the Potato Head Studios wing. The room is larger than imagined. It faces the ocean and is filled with tasteful furnishings by Max Lamb—a recycled plastic desk chair; volcanic glassware and ceramics. The coffee table hides a drinks cabinet. There’s music coming in from the Beach Club. Even with the windows shut, you can still hear the cloth-wrapped notes. The kid is jumping on the bed before his feet make a resounding thud on the floor. The sky looks clear. Time to hit the Beachfront Pool.


THERE ARE LOADS TO DO at Desa Potato Head. There’s live music playing at Potato Head Beach Club or the Amphitheatre. But if you’re looking for a more intimate activity, there’s the Headphone Bar. There, you can sift through the site’s vinyl collection for a listening session.

On the second floor of Potato Head Studios, the Library (Studio Eksotika) is a quiet spot to peruse a variety of curated reading material. In a rare moment to myself, I polished off the entire photo collection of battle jackets by Peter Beste.

Next to it is the spa and gym. Above it, is Sunset Park, a rooftop bar that overlooks the Indian Ocean. Later that evening, we would eat at Tananam, a casual restaurant that serves plant-based cuisine. Taking ingredients that are locally sourced, chef Dom Hammond presents dishes that are creative without alienating omnivores like my family.

We started with a Roti (lightly salted with East Bali sea salt). Brokoli (broccoli that’s finished with coconut and chive oil sauce) dish is next as I carried the kid to peruse the rest of the restaurant. The space is suffused in a violet glow emanating from the lights of their indoor garden. It feels otherworldly, like we’re in a different clime, even though there’s nothing more natural and familiar than its dishes.

Later that evening, the child would fight against the sleep for an hour before succumbing to it. My poor wife thinks she’s down with something and pops two Panadols.

Partying at Beach Club.

We have tickets to a Sbtrkt gig playing tonight at Beach Club. I’ve wanted to watch him ever since he stopped making music in 2014. But better judgment took over and we slept against the lullaby of electronic music.


DESA POTATO HEAD CATERS TO family, with programmes for the little ones called Sweet Potato Kids. At these sessions, children are kept busy with lessons on sustainability or with exercises like this morning’s workout. The child and I are at Desa Playground where a trainer starts with some light stretching before leading the group on a slow jog around the compound.

Kids at Sweet Potato Kids.

We climb the steps all the way to Sunset Park. It’s still early and the staff paid us no mind as they sweep up the place. The sky is overcast and already the sheen of sweat on our skin feels cool against the sea breeze. The trainer tells us that it’s time to head back and my kid gives an audible, oh man. We bound our way down the steps, my child’s energy shows no signs of abating.

With my wife still recuperating, I took the kid to Ijen for lunch. Serving primarily fresh seafood that is caught responsibly in these local waters, we dug into Sardines (crumbed sardines that are served on desa croissant loaf and drizzled with tartar and fermented hot sauce) and Roasted Cauliflower (smothered in keluwek tahini). We have a chocolate desert and, of course, he makes a mess but that’s what children do. He does not have the fine motor skills an adult have. His spills look like atolls and I wiped them up. A small annoyance but one that quickly disappears when he bared his chocolate-stained teeth. See daddy. Look at me, he says.

I take a spoonful of desert and showed him my browned chompers and we both laugh.


RONALD AKILI JUST WANTED A better future for his children.

In 2016, the founder of Desa Potato Head went surfing on the Bali coast with his eldest son. They found themselves surrounded by ocean plastics. In an interview, Akili says that moment pushed him to ensure Desa Potato Head does minimal damage to the environment. “I want to pass on to future generations a better world—something that I think is innate in all of us.”

One of the workers fashioning beads made out of plastics.

Under the guidance of Eco Mantra, a Bali-based environmental engineering consultancy, Desa Potato Head’s commitment to a zero waste-to-landfill goal has reached five per cent. It takes a tremendous amount of legwork to get to that level of sustainability according to Simon Pestridge, CXO of Desa Potato Head. As the former VP of Nike, Pestridge has a “never settle” approach. “With this many people producing this much waste, the tourism industry needs to take a serious look,” he says. “One of the keys to making sure that you can get as close to zero waste as possible is to make sure that the waste is separated at the source. When the team separate the different types of organics that would go to the pig farms or compost, it becomes easier the further down the cycle you get. The management team hold ourselves accountable every week. Sometimes we’re at three per cent... sometimes it’ll be at five per cent and we go back to check why that happened.”

Desa Potato Head has 950 staff, at the time of writing, and every day, they adhere to a regimented process where they will weigh the waste, know what to do with it and track it. Suppliers aren’t allowed to deliver their wares in plastic. Cling wrap is banned in the kitchens. Glasses at Desa Potato Head are made out of cut beer bottles.

Recycled plastics as coasters and a tissue box.

Dewa Legawa, Desa Potato Head’s assistant sustainability manager heads a tour for guests curious about the site’s sustainability programme. We are privy to the back of the house, where we witness how they manage the waste up until the production line. Legawa scoops out a pile of shredded HDPE plastics. These will be turned into chairs, toiletries and the like. He points out that the caps on the water bottles that we were given are made from them. At the Waste Lab, we see used plastics moulded into planks before they are fabricated into shape.

This is the “do good” portion in Desa Potato Head’s creed, “Good Times, Do Good”. Fostering a sustainability community in the hospitality sector is a long view of giving back to a planet that we’ve all been greedy to take from. But given that hospitality is still the resort’s primary objective, how does one maintain the good times even when the world is on fire?

“I think everybody still wants to have a good time,” Pestridge says. “Even though the world is on fire, I think there’s even more desire for people to have good times. We just want to do so by leaving as few footprints as possible. That’s why we feel good about coming to work every day.“What we’re doing with the waste facility and the waste centre, that’s an open blueprint. Anyone that wants to learn from us—or we can go to them—we can teach them what we’ve learnt. Zero waste isn’t a competitive advantage. It’s a journey that all of us should be on to make sure that Bali or wherever tourists are heading to is thriving.”

A Max Lamb-designed chair.

Eschewing the whole “do this or else” approach, this scrappy resort put its money where its mouth is and decided to lead by example. “If we can inspire change through our actions, then we’ve moved the world along on a better trajectory,” Pestridge adds, knowing that what they do is a drop in an ocean. But small changes repeated by many over time... that makes a difference.


I IMAGINE THE OBSTACLE BUILDING inside their heads; just the foolhardy notion of reaching that level of waste reduction. I imagine the manhours, the steep learning curves and the mistakes made along the way. But they have managed to do what all these larger hospitality institutions have struggled to do.

It’s the same with raising another human person. While my parents did what they could do in raising me, when it comes to my kid, I wanted to see if I can do it better. Fact of the matter is that it was sometimes exhausting but there were so many moments that were joyful. I hope he remembers the vacation, the good parts of it. Or, at least, be broadened by the experience that will shape him in the future.

Ronald Akili, founder of Desa Potato Head

One last memory. On our final day, I lay in the hammock outside of the balcony as tropic-laden tunes from Irama Pantai Selatan washed over me. The Indonesian band is performing at the Beach Club’s Live Sunset Sundays session, where a crowd is gathered around them. Inside the room, my wife rests, while my kid has given in to fatigue and is passed out on his bed.

I have a front-row seat to a sky on fire; the brilliant blaze brought about by the sun lazily descending into the ocean. If I didn’t know any better, it’s a picture-perfect apocalypse. My mind wanders.

At the end of the world, there’s no better place I’d rather be than with family. 

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