Thursday, 30 March 2023

A marine biologist’s quest to protect the Maldives’ majestic manta rays

Even the most swanky underwater camera looks rather mundane compared to the gadget Jess Haines shows me. The marine biologist and Manta Trust project manager is demonstrating how the world’s first underwater ultrasound device can provide invaluable information about the reproduction cycles of manta rays.

Developed by scientists at the University of Cambridge, the device is purpose-built to obtain clear images of mantas’ reproductive structures. To do this, all marine researchers have to do is briefly hold the device five or six centimetres over the manta ray. Luckily the device – about the size of a bicycle pump – works in depths of up to 30 metres, so scientists can get pretty close. The stored images are then downloaded back at base.

The Maldives is a hotspot for manta rays

Haines shows me an ultrasound photo in which I can clearly see an unborn manta, its tiny wings wrapped around its body. “It looks like a burrito,” she exclaims. She hopes that the device, and the information it reveals, could eventually lead to footage of a live manta birth.

This would be an important milestone, because it would back up Haines’ belief that this area of the Maldives’ Raa Atoll is a manta ray nursery – a place where they come to give birth, and a location to which the young will regularly return as a result. At a time when mantas face more threats than ever – ranging from increased boat traffic to the devastation caused by over-fishing in nearby Sri Lanka – their decision to give birth here is a major win.

Jessica Haines of the Manta Trust, a UK-based charity that aims to conserve manta rays through research and education

The Maldives: a hotspot for manta rays

Haines’ love affair with mantas began after she completed her zoology degree in 2016. She arrived in the Maldives in 2017 to work as a marine biologist on Dhaalu Atoll. While there, she saw (and fell in love with) mantas, and started sending the Manta Trust photos of ones she spotted, helping the organisation build a manta ray database in an area where they had no staff. When the Manta Trust decided to set up a base on Raa Atoll’s Maamunagau Island, which had added bonus of its proximity to the Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve, a hotspot for manta rays, they asked Haines to manage it.

A perk of the job? Haines’ office is in the dive centre at the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, where the boardwalks that weave around its beautiful lagoon double as brilliant viewing points from which to spot mantas. By the end of my first day on the island, I’ve spotted manta rays, sharks, stingrays and eagle rays – not during a scuba dive or snorkelling session, but during the short walk from the resort’s reception area to my villa.

The stunning InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau resort

Resort guests become citizen scientists

The resort is the perfect base from which to conduct research into the plight of the region’s reef mantas. At the same time, hotel guests get a fascinating insight into the creatures during annual Mantra Retreats and manta-spotting boat trips. Photos taken by guests during these trips are often added to Haines’s database of manta mugshots, and guests who spot a previously undocumented manta get the right to name it. One of the recent additions is a specimen christened Manta Claus.

I’ve spotted manta rays, sharks, stingrays and eagle rays – not during a scuba dive or snorkelling session, but on the short walk from the resort’s reception to my villa

Keen to see a manta for myself, I join one of Haines’s excursions. First, there is a brief chat about manta protocol. We should aim to keep five metres between ourselves and the mantas (although they often choose to come much closer) and never chase or touch them. Our small group – consisting of Haines, myself and three other guests – clamber into the boat and head to one of the so-called cleaning stations. These are locations where mantas congregate so that tiny fish can give them sub-aquatic spruce-ups, feasting on parasites and dead skin cells on their gills and skin.

It’s not long before Haines spots a pair of wingtips poking slightly above the glass-clear water. We don our snorkels and lower ourselves into the bath-warm ocean, careful not to disturb the creatures as they glide through sparkling shoals of tropical fish. We needn’t have worried. There are multiple mantas swimming in circles, mouths agape as they glide through the water, cephalic lobes (two fleshy tendrils) curled to funnel more food into their mouths. They seem unfazed by our presence, and several swim directly up to us. Their daunting size is offset by the absence of any teeth, and although the water is too deep to see the seabed, it’s crystal clear. There’s something wonderful about staring down into the depths as the mantas sweep slowly upwards to give us a once over.

A manta at a cleaning station. Photo credit: Manta Trust (Simon Hilbourne)

Later, Haines explains that their gills help filter food from the vast quantities of seawater they consume, but there’s a downside. Many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine incorrectly believe that consuming these gills filters toxins from the body, and demand for them has skyrocketed. Efforts to highlight the problem have somewhat backfired. Previously, the gills would be removed from the mantas and the carcass discarded. But in certain countries, a desire to minimise this waste has resulted in a growing appetite for parts which weren’t previously consumed. This in turn has made mantas more valuable to fishermen who catch them.

Protective measures for Maldivian marine life

Thankfully, the Maldivian government realises that preserving its marine life is key to maintaining its status as the Indian Ocean’s most popular tourist destination. According to regulations, fish must be caught using a hook and line (rather than drift nets) and mantas are protected, making it illegal to capture, keep or harm them.

But Haines points out that there are other threats. Take a seaplane over the Maldives and you’ll see a growing number of artificial islands – often made with sand scooped from the seabed and dumped over reefs. More islands means more boat traffic. This is partly why Haines is on a mission to secure MPA (Marine Protected Area) status for the waters around Maamunagau island, something she hopes will happen by the end of 2023.

Mantas emerging from the deep blue to feed. Photo credit: Manta Trust (Simon Hilbourne)

Key to this designation is proving that the area is a manta ray nursery – a place where mantas don’t just spend a significant amount of time, but visit to give birth. She hopes to do so by showing that the immediate area meets various criteria laid out in a paper published by research scientist Michelle Heupel, who identified key trademarks of elasmobranch (a category of marine life which includes sharks and rays) nurseries. A live birth is one such key criteria – hence the ultrasound device I’ve had the privilege of seeing.

Haines believes that MPA’s protective measures will become crucial as a confirmed nursery status will undoubtedly attract even more visitors keen to check out a manta hotspot. “We don’t want this area to become a circus show,” says Haines. “Raa Atoll still has this wonderful quietness about it, and we want to preserve that.”

Singapore Airlines flies to Male, the capital city of The Maldives. To book a flight or learn more, visit the official website.

The post A marine biologist’s quest to protect the Maldives’ majestic manta rays appeared first on SilverKris.

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Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Beyond sakura: the spiritual practice of flower-chasing in Kamakura

With the thaw of springtime, water trickles down the mountain and finds its way into bamboo fountains. Koi lie still along the bottom of the pond. An old man rotates a prayer wheel. Twin toddlers run down stepping stones on a day out with their grandmother. A woman looks up from her camera to watch a small green mejiro flutter through the branches. And dozens of people stop to admire as delicate pink plum blossoms dangle in the sunshine between earth and sky. People of all ages murmur and exclaim, “Kawaii!”

The inescapable allure of blossom-chasing is on full display as I wander in Hasedera Temple’s Four Seasons Garden in Kamakura. The temple, home to Kannon, the Japanese bodhisattva or Goddess of Mercy, is especially beloved by flower-chasers. 

Plum blossoms on bare branches against bamboo fountains
The first plum blossoms of the season are a sight to behold at Kamakura’s Hasedera temple grounds. Photo: Mari Krueger

Only an hour by train from glossy Tokyo, on the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture, the ancient capital city of Kamakura is a separate world of mountains, peaceful hikes, shrines and temples. It’s also a must-visit for its rotating calendar of flowers: plum blossoms in February and March, followed by the iconic sakura – cherry blossoms – in March and April, and finally the underrated but equally stunning hydrangeas in May and June, which signal that the rainy season and summer are just around the corner. 

All of Japan seems to pause and admire the sweet but fleeting moment when spring begins again

I follow other flower-chasers up Hasedera’s famous mountainside hydrangea path where temple gardeners are busy tending the bushes that will turn all shades of violet and blue in a few months. Hydrangeas are indigenous to Japan, where the rocky volcanic soil is chemically perfect to produce the bold colours in each of the thousands of tiny petals that make up the bowl-sized flowers. Established bushes can tower overhead, covered in lush green leaves and bobbing purple flowers. Akihiro Ishikawa, a particularly happy gardener, straightens up to look proudly at his work. 

“It’s very happy for me!” he says. Ishikawa started 10 years ago as a temple groundskeeper and the monks soon recognised his love for flowers. Before long he was promoted to gardener, a job so well-suited it almost feels like a hobby. Now his handiwork delights thousands of people each June. Seeing their reactions is immensely satisfying, he explains. “Japanese people see a flower and feel the season.” 

Hydrangea walk in Meigetsuin temple in Kamakura
Yukata-clad visitors walk through the hydrangea walkway at Meigetsuin temple. Photo: Shutterstock/Princess_Anmitsu

Tea and Zen among the hydrangeas

Locals and visitors to Japan notably go sakura-crazy every spring, but blossom enthusiasts don’t limit their flower-chasing to one brief window in March. Plum blossoms, daffodils, wisteria, irises, azaleas and hydrangeas all have near-cult followings with dedicated hiking routes, boat tours or paths designed for maximum flower appreciation during their respective blooming season. Daily news updates on what’s blooming are the norm. 

Hydrangeas are especially popular in temples for their associations with gratitude and heartfelt emotion. Meigetsuin Temple, about an hour’s leisurely stroll from Hasedera, is particularly famous for them. It’s close to a popular hiking route that winds through half a dozen temples and shrines to end at Komachi-dori walking street.

For Sumie Maruyama, a tea ceremony expert and instructor, Meigetsuin Temple is the ideal place in Kamakura to appreciate spring flowers – and the best way to do it is with a bowl of tea. To facilitate this contemplative practice, vermillion umbrellas often stand out against the soft pinks, greens and purples of temple gardens, marking places where tea can be enjoyed on tatami mats or benches. 

Even spiritual newbies can pause to savour spring blossoms with a bowl of matcha, a drink which originates from the practice of Zen priests chewing tea leaves to stay awake during meditation. Japanese powdered green tea is dissolved into froth with a bamboo whisk and served with a small sweet. Holding the sweetness of sugar on the tongue to balance the bitterness of the tea is said to heighten one’s appreciation of this moment in time. That’s the philosophy of tea: ichi go, ichi e: one time, one meeting. It’s an invitation to appreciate this one moment because this day, this atmosphere, this bowl of tea can never happen again. It’s a sentiment that also underpins the practice of seeking out Japan’s seasonal blossoms. The sakura that is in its peak one day will blow away the next.

Crimson torii gates bookend the Danzakura, a blossom-filled walkway leading to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. Photo: Shutterstock/voyata

Both Zen Buddhism and chado, or tea ceremony, trace their roots in Japan to the rise of samurai political power in Kamakura. In 1192, the Imperial Court appointed samurai Minamoto no Yoritomo as the country’s military ruler, or shogun, beginning the Kamakura Shogunate. The city became a powerhouse of politics and culture in Japan, and samurai elevated their new status by developing chado and incorporating aspects of Zen – humility, peace and quietness – into their training. 

“When you enjoy tea, you sit and wait to be served, just doing nothing,” says Maruyama, who comes from a samurai family. “Not walking, not taking pictures – that quiet moment. By sitting at that bench, relaxing, drinking tea, it makes it special, focusing on the beauty of the garden.” 

The first whispers of sakura

I continue toward Kotoku-in Temple. It’s famous for its 33-meter outdoor seated Daibutsu, or Great Buddha of Kamakura, but the main draw in springtime is its grove of sweet-smelling cherry trees. 

So light pink as to almost be white, cherry blossoms have five notched petals in a unique star shape. When the season comes, bare brown branches give way to a vague pinkness, then explode in pillowy blooms of soft pink. The flowers are most beautiful near the end, when the petals fall like snow, washing away in the rain, sticking to benches and signposts – but that’s all still a few weeks away. 

All this pondering leaves me hungry so I get a crêpe along the way at Kannon Coffee. The adorable handmade treats here vary with the season – of course – so I can enjoy the idea of delicate transience even at snacktime. Cubes of matcha mochi, crunchy cereal flakes, sweet cream and spring strawberries come wrapped in a delicate crepe topped with a cookie in the shape of the Daibutsu, garnished with a rosemary sprig.

Past the temple, I cross paths with hikers carrying daypacks and locals biking home from the market, but plenty of times I also find myself alone in the cool shade of the mountainside. Old stone steps rise into the forest and out of view. I wish I had time to follow every route, visit every garden and see every flower. 

I end my walk at Kamakura Station, where cherry trees line the Dankazura, an elevated path bookended by crimson torii gates leading straight to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Lovely any time of year, it’s a breathtaking tree tunnel in April, when fathers carry children high on their shoulders among the blossoms, and all of Japan seems to pause and admire the sweet but fleeting moment when spring begins again. 

Kamakura’s coastal views from a lookout at Hasedera. Photo: Shutterstock/Supravee-Phathunyupong

Visiting Kamakura

Kamakura is only an hour from Tokyo, but for the ultimate Japanese experience, consider spending a night or two by the sea.

Where to stay

Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills (1-23-4 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0001) is where you can enjoy cherry trees before you even get to Kamakura, especially if you book a stay in April. For two weeks only in the second half of the month, they have real cherry trees in bloom as part of their special Sakura Garden at the Rooftop Bar promotion. Perched 52 floors above the city, with fabulous views in every direction, the bar has been voted among the world’s best, and features their signature ’52’ sake. The hotel’s rooms are among the biggest of their kind in the city and – as a bonus – all feature a deep soaking bathtub, the better to rest up after being on your feet flower-chasing all day.

Modern Ryokan Kishi-Ke If you’re spending the night in Kamakura, this upscale Japanese guesthouse (21-5 Sakanoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0021) offers packages for experiencing tea ceremony, practicing katana with a real sword and Buddhist cooking lessons. 

Kamakura Rakuan offers simple Japanese-style accommodations at a budget-friendly price. Tucked away near the sea, this cosy spot only has room for 10 guests. 16-11 Sakanoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0021  

Where to eat

Kaikoan Cafe Located inside the Hasadera temple complex, this little eatery serves a modest selection of hot drinks, vegan Japanese curry rice, udon noodles and local Kamakura beer.

Kannon Coffee (3 Chome-10-29 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0016) should be your rest and refuel stop after a bit of sakura-viewing at Kotoku-in Temple. This whimsical and highly Instagrammable café offers elaborate sweet crepes, fruit drinks and top-notch pourover coffee.

Komachi-dori is a pedestrian street lined with shops selling Japanese handicrafts, local honey, matcha ice cream, coffee shops, all manner of street food and even an owl cafe.

Where to flower-chase

Hasedera Temple is one of Kamakura’s most beloved temples, famous for its centuries-old, 9m-tall wooden statue of Kannon, and for its stunning hydrangea path that is at its peak in June.

Build in the 12th century, Meigetsuin Temple is known locally as the Hydrangea Temple and is at its busiest in June – peak season for these delicate flowers – as well as autumn when the grounds are particularly stunning with turning leaves.

Kotoku-in Temple is home to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a towering copper statue of Amida-Butsu sitting impressively in the open air – a particularly breathtaking image when the temple compounds many sakura trees are in full bloom.

Dankazura is Kamakura’s iconic elevated stone pathway, leading straight to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, originally built as a prayer for the shogun’s wife when she was about to give birth. It’s great for sakura-viewing in the spring and azaleas in the early summer.

Singapore Airlines flies to several destinations in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka. To book a flight or learn more, visit the official website.

The post Beyond sakura: the spiritual practice of flower-chasing in Kamakura appeared first on SilverKris.

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Tuesday, 28 February 2023

23 of the best new hotel openings in 2023

Travel is back in a big way in 2023, and travellers want next-level unforgettable experiences. And the best hotels around the world stand at the ready to oblige, with dozens of brand new luxurious properties opening in recent months. Whether you’re looking for a wildly scenic Maldives getaway or looking to centre yourself at a meditative retreat in Nepal, here are 23 hotels you should have your eye on for your next bucket list adventure.

1. InterContinental Khao Yai Resort

At a glance: Despite its hidden location amid Khao Yai’s forested mountains, InterContinental Khao Yai Resort is just a two-hour drive from Bangkok. The region was once a gateway to railroad expansion to the northeast during King Rama V’s reign and the new InterContinental property brings this to life by refashioning heritage train carriages from all over Thailand into luxurious suites.
The rooms to book: Choose between the 45 lakeside rooms in the main building or hop into one of the 19 suites and villas in repurposed train carriages. You’ll enjoy uninterrupted mountain views and feel the old-world glamour of train travel even more so in the Heritage Railcar Two-Bedroom Pool Villa (223 sqm), which is made up of two carriages that you can walk through.
Sign up for: The formal afternoon tea can be experienced at the Tea Carriage, set inside one of their upcycled train carriages parked by the lake. Also set in carriages are Poirot, their French brasserie, and Papillon Bar, which serves elegant Champagne-based cocktails and many fine French spirits and wines. For quick one-dish Thai and international staples, head to Somying’s Kitchen.
Go if you: Want to experience a smooth and luxurious overnight stay inside a train carriage, with a fully marble-lined bathroom and outdoor sofas to lounge at. – Parisa Pitchitmarn

The railway-themed interiors add a unique flair to InterContinental Khao Yai Resort’s well-appointed rooms. Photo credit: InterContinental Khao Yai Resort

2. The Standard Bangkok Mahanakhon

At a glance: Located in one of the most iconic skyscrapers in the heart of Bangkok’s central business district, this Tetris-like building is the place to be spotted at. What better location for The Standard’s flagship property in Asia, packed with a solid lineup of events to keep you coming back.
The rooms to book: The 155-room hotel gets super spacious starting from the suite room and above. The Suite Spot and Balcony Suites, start at 64sqm, with luxury amenities like a bathtub jet and striking curvy sofas that beg to be photographed.
Sign up for: A luxe Mexican meal at Ojo which also offers funky, retro-glam interiors. The other six restaurants are just as photographable – Mott 32’s offering of modern Cantonese food is ever popular with the stylish set.
Go if you: Want some urban pizazz on your hotel stay, without sacrificing and of the traditional luxury touches. – PP

3. The Hoxton Shepherd’s Bush, London

At a glance: The fourth London outpost of boutique hotel brand The Hoxton recently opened its doors in the multicultural Shepherd’s Bush neighbourhood. The swish property stays true to The Hoxton’s DNA – from the mid-century furniture right down to the buzzing lobby (slash public workspace) beloved by MacBook-toting digital nomads. But the interiors also take cues from the local area, with retro patterns drawn from the archives of the nearby London Transport Museum Depot.
The rooms to book: The 237 bedrooms are small in size but big on style. Opt for a Cosy Park room, a peach-hued hideaway with vintage accents (including a rotary-dial phone) and views across Shepherd’s Bush Green.
Sign up for: Fiery, fragrant flavours at Thai-Americana restaurant Chet’s (the firecracker lobster noodles are a must-try), followed by lychee martinis at the sleek wraparound bar in the lobby.
Go if you: Want to bed down at what’s currently West London’s most fashionable address. – Delle Chan

The stylish Lobby Bar at The Hoxton Shepherd’s Bush. Photo credit: The Hoxton Shepherd’s Bush

4. Pillows Maurits at the Park, Amsterdam

At a glance: A 20th-century university building on the fringe of Amsterdam’s leafy Oosterpark has recently been reimagined as a stately hotel. Pillows Maurits at the Park marries its historic bones – think soaring ceilings and sweeping staircases – with tasteful contemporary décor, and the result is an absolute feast for the eyes.
The rooms to book: The 88 elegant, light-filled rooms feature muted tones and tactile fabrics, including plush carpets and premium bed linen made from Egyptian cotton. Plump for the Pillows Grand Suite, a sprawling 70sqm sanctuary complete with a grand piano and access to a private sauna.
Sign up for: A superlative meal at fine-dining restaurant VanOost, where celebrated Dutch chef Floris van Straalen and his team work their magic in an open kitchen. There’s also a handsome spa, gym and sauna for those seeking some downtime.
Go if you: Are seeking a sophisticated stay away from Amsterdam’s bustling canal belt. – DC

5. Casa Baglioni, Milan

At a glance: As the fashion capital of Italy, Milan certainly isn’t short on design-forward hotels – but Casa Baglioni ranks among the best-looking of the lot. Opened in January 2023 in the artsy Brera district, the hotel’s sleek, polished aesthetic pays homage to 1960s Milan, with décor courtesy of top Italian design houses: lighting by Panzeri, wallpaper by Rubelli and fabrics by Dedar.
The rooms to book: The 30 generously proportioned rooms and suites are decked out with sleek brass fixtures, matte walnut panelling and herringbone wood floors. Book a Junior Suite for the best views of Brera’s cobbled streets.
Sign up for: A private walking tour of Brera’s art scene, during which you’ll get to visit the studios of local creatives. Be sure to also book a table at Sadler Restaurant, which showcases inventive fish and seafood dishes by Michelin-starred chef Claudio Sadler.
Go if you: Are looking to immerse yourself in Milanese art and culture. – DC

6. Hotel Dame des Arts, Paris

At a glance: It’s hard to believe this alluring new bolthole was formerly a nondescript Holiday Inn. Set in the heart of the Latin Quarter, Hotel Dame des Arts encapsulates the neighbourhood’s bohemian spirit, with chic interiors dreamt up by Paris-based designer Raphael Navot and even its own signature scent crafted by master perfumer Arthur Dupuy.
The rooms to book: Each of the 109 rooms is fitted out with bespoke furniture, thoughtfully curated artwork and Diptyque bath products. Ask for a Terrace Room on one of the higher floors, where you can soak up the Parisian sun on your private balcony.
Sign up for: Cocktails at the hotel’s rooftop bar, which offers cinematic views of the capital’s headline attractions – from the Eiffel Tower in the west to the Sacré Coeur in the north and, of course, the Notre-Dame Cathedral a stone’s throw away. Back on ground level, the in-house restaurant dishes up playful French-Mexican plates such as Breton oysters with yuzu and guajillo chilli oil.
Go if you: Want to experience the magic of the Left Bank – and indeed, all of Paris. – DC

Hotel Dame des Arts captures its neighbourhood’s bohemian spirit. Photo credit: Hotel dame des Arts

7. Wunderlocke, Munich

At a glance: UK-based aparthotel brand Locke continues to expand its European footprint with Wunderlocke, which opened its doors in Munich’s up-and-coming Sendling neighbourhood in August 2022. In keeping with Locke’s millennial-friendly aesthetic, its 360 apartments are characterised by pastel hues and potted plants, juxtaposed against plenty of light oak and concrete. They come complete with handy kitchens and laundry facilities, too.
The rooms to book: Splash out on the recently unveiled WunderLocke Penthouse Suite, where you’ll get to soak in your private outdoor jacuzzi with the Bavarian Alps as your backdrop.
Sign up for: A bona fide farm-to-table experience at Mural Farmhouse, which comprises five restaurants and bars spread across seven floors – each of which sources fresh, seasonal ingredients straight from WunderLocke’s own rooftop garden or from producers in and around Munich. Do also make time for sweat sesh at the on-site gym or a dip in the heated outdoor pool.
Go if you: If you’re looking for a stylish stay with all the comforts of home. – DC

Wunderlocke features charming interiors that will make guests feel right at home. Photo credit: Wunderlocke

8. Six Senses Kanuhura, Maldives

Opens Summer 2023

At a glance: Just a 40-minute seaplane flight north of Malé is the newest addition to the Six Senses portfolio: Kanuhura. The tiny island is fringed with powder-white sands and 80 exclusive private overwater villas. Remaining true to Six Senses’ commitment to sustainability, a brand new organic herb and vegetable garden will supply their restaurant with farm-to-table goodness.
The rooms to book: Spring for the newly upgraded categories with private pools or, for larger groups, the family suites.
Sign up for: An introduction to vibrant marine life of the surrounding Lhaviyani atoll. Trained dive masters can guide you through 40 pristine dive sites around the atoll. You can also indulge in a romantic picnic under the stars, Robinson Crusoe-style, on one of the two deserted islands that are part of the property.
Go if you: Want to get away from it all and to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of blurred horizons between sea, sand and sky. – Stephanie Zubiri

Six Senses Kanuhura offers ample opportunity to explore the Maldives’ untouched marine life. Photo credit: Six Senses Kanuhura

9. Shinta Mani Mustang, Jomsom, Nepal

Opens August 1, 2023

At a glance: Located in Jomsom, in the Kali Gandaki valley between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Mountain ranges, at an altitude of almost 3,000 meters, Shinta Mani Mustang is the perfect base from which to explore the Himalayas in style. With an all-inclusive, 5-night-minimum stay, guests can leave their worries at the door and succumb to the magic of the ancient kingdom of Mustang.
The rooms to book: Each of the 29 suites are designed in the style of the traditional local home, with floor to ceiling windows looking over the snow-capped peaks of Nilgiri Mountain. Not only has design genius Bill Bensley left his imprint on the décor, the hotel is also the first internationally flagged Bensley Collection property outside Cambodia.
Sign up for: Private treks with trained local guides where you can camp under the stars by the Tibetan Border. Delve deep into the world of Tibetan Buddhism and meditate with monks in one of the many monasteries that dot the dramatic terrain.
Go if you: Are looking for a life-changing experience where spirituality and adventure come alive amid an awe-inspiring landscape. – SZ

10. Westin Resort & Spa Himalayas, Rishikesh, India

At a glance:  With the exhilarating rush of the nearby Ganges, mysterious lush forests, and myriad temples and ashrams, Rishikesh is known as the Yoga Capital of the World. The Westin provides the perfect setting for a family-friendly wellness retreat amid the foothills of the Himalayas.
The rooms to book: Book the King Garden suite for your own private sanctuary complete with a plunge pool.
Sign up for: The Westin Wellness Escape that curates activities for the whole family to bond together while cultivating a culture of mindfulness and wellbeing. More adventurous guests can also opt for white water rafting day trips while those seeking a more spiritual experience can be entranced by the rhythmic chants and spellbinding ringing of temple bells of the nightly Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh.
Go if you: Want to combine a luxe family holiday with relaxing self-care and soothing mind-body experiences. – SZ

Westin Resort & Spa Himalayas offers a variety of wellness activities for families. Photo credit: Westin Resort & Spa Himalayas

11. Ace Hotel Sydney

At a glance: A 1915 brick factory plays host to the first southern hemisphere outpost of Ace Hotel, an American chain known for its synthesis of creativity and community. The 264-room property, designed by Melbourne’s acclaimed Flack Studio, features a lobby bar that’s a canvas for Sydney art stars and a programme of talks, parties and cultural events.
The rooms to book: Ochre, caramel, eucalyptus – Ace’s Medium and Double rooms, Suites and Lofts couple the earthy palette of the Australian bush with offbeat touches such as in-room record players. Book the Terrace for floor-to-ceiling views of the city.
Sign up for: Ace counts all-day café Good Chemistry and Loam, a low-lit space that champions local producers, among its dining options. Don’t miss rooftop diner Kiln, home to inventive small plates that riff on Japanese and Italian cuisine by chef Mitch Orr.
Go if you: Are a design obsessive for whom travel is shorthand for the artisanal and carefully curated. – Neha Kale

Ace Hotel Sydney features striking interiors designed by Flack Studio.

12. Hotel Indigo Brisbane City Centre

At a glance: This sleek riverside hotel is a love letter to the Queensland capital. At Hotel Indigo Brisbane City Centre, moody interiors collide with colourful references to the likes of Boy Swallows Universe, a novel by local author Trent Dalton and other visual allusions to Brisbane culture and life.
The rooms to book: The Standard rooms at this 212-room property feature king or queen beds, a subtly retro aesthetic and elegant, tiled bathrooms. Book the Suite for a spacious private balcony.
Sign up for: Izakaya Publico, home to Australia’s only Warayaki grill, and follow up with a sake-inspired cocktail at Bar 1603. You can start your walking tour of the neighbourhood with a flat white from the on-site coffee cart.
Go if you: Are looking for a hotel that blends style with substance and is a short walk from cultural attractions such as Roma Street Parklands and GOMA, the Gallery of Modern Art. – NK

13. Wonil Hotel Perth – Handwritten Collection

At a glance: Named after the First Nations Noongar word for peppermint tree, Wonil Hotel Perth unfolds at the University of Western Australia’s Crawley campus on the banks of the Swan. At this one-of-a-kind space, net revenue is re-invested into scientific research. It’s a study in sustainable ethos and eco-conscious design.
The rooms to book: The debut property from Accor’s new Handwritten Collection, Wonil Hotel offers a range of Standard, Deluxe and King rooms, fitted out with flat-screen TVs and in-room coffee machines. The spacious Executive rooms feature glittering panoramas of the Swan.
Sign up for: A glass of Margaret River wine at Wonil’s 80-seater restaurant, where dishes pay homage to West Australian produce, or an evening cocktail on the outdoor terrace under a starlit Perth sky.
Go if you: Seek considered accommodation that combines the convenience of the city with the magic of nature – while wearing its social mission on its sleeve. – NK

14. The Royce Hotel, Melbourne

At a glance: A St Kilda Road hotel, housed in a historic Rolls Royce showroom, intent on reimagining the golden age of Melbourne hospitality via Art Deco chandeliers, Italian marble fixtures and a 24-hour concierge.
The rooms to book: The 94 rooms at The Royce span everything from Deluxe rooms that are home to freestanding baths and Molton Brown toiletries, King rooms with private balconies and Terrace suites, perfect for admiring the lights of the city by night. Choose the two-storey Loft for a slice of Paris in Melbourne.
Sign up for: An extended brunch in The Conservatory, an elegant courtyard space featuring white tables, glass doors and an open roof that lets the outside in. At night, the opulent Showroom bar is the ideal backdrop for a dry martini.
Go if you: Dream about a modern take on old world luxury, in addition to being a short walk from Melbourne’s legendary galleries, gardens and restaurants. – NK

15. Hotel Indigo Inuyama Urakuen Garden, Japan

At a glance: The Hotel Indigo Inuyama Urakuen Garden in the picturesque and historic city of Inuyama is a quick 25-minute train ride from central Nagoya. This luxury boutique hotel nestles inside Inuyama’s tranquil Urakuen Garden and is a stone’s throw from the city’s impressive castle overlooking the city. The Urakuen Garden is also home to Jo-an – a 17th-century Japanese teahouse designated as a National Treasure.
The rooms to book: The décor in all 156 guest rooms is inspired by the culture, history and nature of Inuyama. It combines elements of traditional Japan with a vibrant, modern aesthetic.
Sign up for: Indigo Home Kitchen Yamateras is the hotel’s signature restaurant and a highlight of any stay. The dishes are influenced by Inuyama’s original food culture and the chef insists on only using the finest locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Go if you: Need time to reflect, refresh and enjoy all that Inuyama has to offer. If you time your visit with cherry blossom season, expect to see the cherry trees along the Kiso River burst into life. – Tom Miyagawa Coulton

16. Mondrian Singapore Duxton

At a glance: Taking both name and inspiration from artist Piet Mondrian, this new hotel pushes its bold concept in the heart of the heritage neighbourhood of Duxton, near Chinatown. Instead of a traditional lobby, the main entrance opens up to a vibrant restaurant and bar space. The rooftop also features a show-stopping pool and lounge area that offers stunning views of the neighbourhood.
The rooms to book: Spring for the quirky Shophouse suites that are inspired by traditional Singaporean elements, heightened with a little contemporary flair. The four spacious suites offer separate living and resting areas and are privately accessed by the hotel’s garden.
Sign up for: Helmed by 8th-generation butcher, Dario Cecchini, Bottega Di Carna is a contemporary Italian restaurant that promises a playful gastronomic experience that highlights fine cuts of meat. If you’re in the mood for an after-dinner cocktail, head to Jungle Ballroom – a glamorous concept that takes ingredients and inspiration from the wildest corners of Southeast Asia.
Go if you: Want modern luxury in the heart of a heritage neighbourhood. – Dinesh Ajith

17. Aman New York

At a glance: Aman New York transforms Manhattan’s landmark Crown Building into a Gilded Age design icon and urban sanctuary. The 83-suite hotel with its 22 branded residences draws from organic motifs that also reference the brand’s Asian heritage. It is the third of Aman’s hotels to open in the US.
The rooms to book: Choose between Suites and residential-style Signature Suites – each comes with its own fireplace. With corner views of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, the elegant Aman Suites occupy the building’s top floors.
Sign up for: Two signature restaurants make their North American debut. Arva features rustic, sustainably sourced Italian fare while Nama serves sophisticated Japanese cuisine. Beyond the hotel’s top-end culinary atmosphere, guests will also discover a luxurious spa that inhabits three floors dedicated to wellness along with private Spa Houses that comprise double treatment rooms and either a Banya or Hammam.
Go if you: Seek unparalleled luxury inside a New York City icon. – Megan Snedden

18. The Line San Francisco

At a glance: The Bay has welcomed a new, high-design addition to its Theater District: The Line San Francisco. Opened September 2022, the 326-room hotel pulls inspiration from the surrounding city with such design elements as exposed concrete walls, graffiti-tagged headboards and commissioned works by local artists.
The rooms to book: Perched on floors six through twelve, the skyline rooms – such as the Skyline Corner Studio and Skyline King – boast iconic views of the city below. The Balcony Suite features additional outdoor access, not to mention walk-in showers and deep soaking tubs.
Sign up for: Four dining and drinking spaces inside The Line celebrate California culture and city nightlife, including Tenderheart, which offers a multicultural menu, and Dark Bar on the lobby-floor. A solarium encloses Rise Over Run rooftop bar, which is just an elevator ride away from Alfred’s Coffee, the establishment’s first location in Northern California. Between meals, enjoy the property’s Peloton bikes, or take to the streets with on-site Priority Bike rentals.
Go if you: Like city-chic escapes that celebrate the arts. – MS

19. Drift Santa Barbara, California

At a glance: Enjoy your best coastal California life in this dreamy 45-key boutique hotel centred in Santa Barbara’s hip downtown area. At the new Drift, a 1920s building enjoys fresh bohemian-style interiors that are minimal yet cosy and just steps from this small town’s beaches.
The rooms to book: Premium rooms feature a lounge area as well as views of State Street or the Santa Ynez Mountains. The coastal vibes continue in the Penthouse, which not only has a private balcony but also a fire pit.
Sign up for: At Drift, quintessentially Californian amenities abound. Check in to take advantage of the hotel’s free yoga equipment, surfboards and bikes. They also offer soft board racks, so you can hit the road and take to the waves outside of town. Dust the sand off between activities and don’t forget to grab a bite at the Baja-inspired Dusk Bar, or a cold brew coffee at Dawn Cafe.
Go if you: Crave a classy beach escape that’ll leave you California dreamin’. – MS

20. The Chifley Houston

At a glance: Just three blocks from Houston’s largest shopping center, the Galleria, this newcomer embraces H-Town’s art, culture and industry. The stylish, 284-suite Chifley Houston is upscale yet approachable, designed with meetings, business engagements and social gatherings in mind.
The rooms to book: As it is said, everything is bigger in Texas, so it’s no surprise the Chifley’s well-appointed all-suite accommodations are among the largest hotel rooms in Houston. Light-filled and contemporary, the rooms offer separate living quarters for spacious dwelling.
Sign up for: The on-site restaurant Rouse that fuses barbecue, Mexican and Asian cuisines to form an eclectic menu. At Rouse’s bar, sip on the Chifley Red beer blend, brewed exclusively for the hotel by the local 8th Wonder Brewery & Distillery. If you are hosting a gathering, the hotel’s 740sqm of private event space include a dedicated events team.
Go if you: Need space to soak up the Texan spirit in contemporary digs. – MS

21. Bab Al Shams Desert Resort

At a glance:  The OG of Dubai desert resorts, Bab Al Shams has just reopened after an extensive renovation, bringing a new look and feel to this much-loved hotel, just a 45-minute drive from the city.
The rooms to book: Terrace Desert View rooms offer magnificent views of the vast expanse of sand that surrounds the resort.
Sign up for:  Three huge swimming pools that beckon with cool, refreshing waters, and the Al Hadheera dinner show, a high-energy spectacle with an impressive variety of food – think grills, seafood, mezze, Arabian desserts – accompanied by Arabian singers, belly dancers, horses galloping across the dunes, and much more. Simply put, it’s dazzling.
Go if you: want to give the kids a family-friendly desert adventure. Falconry, camels, fat-bike dune rides, desert drives, cultural experiences and more are on offer here too. – Nicola Chilton

Terrace Desert View rooms include a private garden with expansive views. (Photo credit: Natelee Cocks)

22. The Dolli, Athens

At a glance: Set within a light-filled neoclassical mansion dating back to 1925, The Dolli is located in the historical neighbourhood of Plaka and it’s well within walking distance of many of the city’s top archaeological sites, as well as the bustling Monastiraki and Ermou shopping districts.
The rooms to book: Interiors in all 46 rooms and suites are crisp and clean, with nods to ancient Greek heritage and contemporary art pieces. Pretend you live here by booking the Acropolis Pied-à-Terre, a two-bedroom suite with floor to ceiling views of the Acropolis from French doors.
Sign up for:  The rooftop, home to Dolli’s restaurant, is the real showstopper here. The views are extraordinary, perfect over coffee on a sunny Athens morning, a sunset cocktail on a summer’s evening, or from the warm waters of the swimming pool.
Go if you: Are looking for a chic stay in the heart of Athens’ most fascinating neighbourhood. – NC

23. The Peninsula Istanbul

At a glance:  Located on the edge of the Bosphorus in the historical Karaköy neighbourhood, The Peninsula Istanbul is the latest addition to Galataport, the city’s revitalised harbour area. Made up of four handsome buildings, including the main glass-fronted central edifice built in the 1940s to house Türkiye’s first modern cruise terminal, the hotel’s sprawling waterfront terraces are filled with flowering gardens and lovely spots to watch the boats go by.
The rooms to book: If you’re feeling flush, the views from the Executive Bosphorus Suites with Balcony are some of the best in the city.
Sign up for: The Peninsula Istanbul is a great introduction to Turkish creatives and artisans – they’re the driving force behind many of the hotel’s offerings. Turkish-born fashion designer Arzu Kaprol has created the staff wardrobe, the hotel’s Citrus Fig and Bosphorus Breeze fragrance is by Mert Güzel and Murat Katran of niche perfume brand Nishane, and Fatih Tutak, the only Turkish chef to be awarded two Michelin stars, will lead the kitchen team at rooftop Gallada, opening in June.
Go if you:  Want to swim in a dramatic 25-metre outdoor pool right on the edge of the Bosphorus, one of the world’s most alluring waterways. – NC

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Sunday, 26 February 2023

Mandarin Oriental, Taipei

Mandarin Oriental, Taipei is located in the heart of Taiwan’s vibrant capital and feature spacious rooms, world-class amenities and exceptional service along with easy access to the city’s cultural attractions and shopping districts. Its decor is a harmonious blend of traditional Taiwanese design and contemporary sophistication, creating a serene and relaxing environment amid the bustle of Taipei.

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Where to try mod-Sin cuisine in Singapore

When Singaporean food is mentioned, it’s usually humble hawker fare that comes to mind. If you’re fond of local flavours but want to experience them in a completely different way, mod-Sin cuisine might be just what you’re looking for. This contemporary take on Singaporean food sees local chefs experiment with reimagined and deconstructed local dishes while keeping its unique flavours. From pasta and burgers to Singapore-style ramen, here’s our list of the best mod-Sin restaurants to try these intriguing dishes.

1. Xiao Ya Tou

The colourful and delightfully kitschy Xiao Ya Tou certainly stands out among its neighbours in the hip Duxton Hill stretch. Its name, which translates to “little rebel”, is certainly apt as far as its menu is concerned. Here you can expect elevated takes on uniquely Singaporean dishes like lobster kueh pie tee, wok-fried wagyu hor fun and truffle duck fried rice making an appearance. If you’re here for drinks and need a couple of light bites, spring for the Angus beef satay or the moreish crispy otak-otak rolls – a specialty here. Vegetarians will also be pleased to know there’s a dedicated meat-free menu with Singapore-inspired dishes like veggie ngoh hiang, beancurd chips with mala mayo and mushroom dumplings stuffed with Impossible pork, turnip, mushrooms and cabbage.

6 Duxton Hill. Nearest MRT: Outram Park, Tanjong Pagar

Xiao Ya Tou Truffle Duck Mod-Sin
The truffle duck at Xiao Ya Tou. Photo credit: Xiao Ya Tou

2. Relish by Wild Rocket

It was at Wild Rocket that self-taught chef Willin Low first codified mod-Sin cuisine in 2005. “Twelve years ago, nobody knew what to call the food I was creating at Wild Rocket which was why we coined the label. Since then, mod-Sin has grown.” And despite the closure of the original Wild Rocket, chef Low continues his mod-Sin adventures with Relish by Wild Rocket which has been open since 2006. While it started as a burger restaurant, Relish now serves a varied selection of pastas, brunch items and sharing plates with Singaporean inflections. The roketto oyster omelette spaghettini for example, deconstructs the classic hawker dish and reimagines it as a spicy pasta. There’s also a fish collagen broth udon that draws inspiration from Singapore-style fish soup but is gussied up with premium ingredients like hand-cut inaniwa udon and handmade egg fishcake.

Multiple locations

3. A Noodle Story

Founded by “hawkerpreneurs” Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham, A Noodle Story is one of Singapore’s pioneering modern hawker stalls and a recipient of the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand award. The dish that put them on the map is the “first and only Singapore-style ramen”, which takes cues from wanton noodles, a local favourite. The dish comprises of thin, springy noodles that are tossed with a blend of dark soya sauce and roasted dried shrimps which keep the dish’s flavour profile familiar. Rather than conventional char siew, the dish is topped with slices of pork belly chashu that have been slow-braised for 36 hours. The silky pork and prawn wantons are also made fresh daily. Where things get unconventional is the addition of an onsen egg and a prawn cake wrapped in strings of crispy Idaho potato.

7 Wallich Street, B2-32, Guoco Tower. Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar

A Noodle Story Singapore Style Ramen
A Noodle Story’s Singapore-style ramen. Photo credit: A Noodle Story

4. Labyrinth

This one-star Michelin restaurant is a modern Singaporean thoroughbred – for starters, it is located at the Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay, itself an icon of modern Singapore. Chef-owner Han Li Guang founded Labyrinth to showcase local Singaporean flavours and cultures while encapsulating his roots and memories growing up in Singapore. “The modernisation of local flavours cannot come at the expense of its authenticity,” the banker-turned-chef says, “And I strongly believe that the future of local cuisine lies in our past.” The 2022 dinner tasting menu, “Memories of Chomp Chomp Hawker Centre” features chef-owner LG Han’s take on local favourites like rojak, chicken rice, char kway teow and bak kut teh.

8 Raffles Avenue, #02-23 Esplanade Mall. Nearest MRT: Esplanade

5. Po

Set in the hip boutique Warehouse Hotel, Po is a nod to both the cuisine of Singapore’s yesteryears and the fare that you’d find at your generous grandmother’s. It should be expected, then, that the approach to Singaporean food at Po is more on the classic and conservative side of mod-Sin, although the cuisine’s defining twist is still present, mostly in the use of elevated ingredients. The giant river prawns konbu mee, an elevated take on Hokkien mee, perfectly encapsulates this philosophy with its use of premium ingredients.

320 Havelock Road, Level 1, The Warehouse Hotel. Nearest MRT: Fort Canning

Mod-Sin Carabinero Prawns & Konbu Mee
The giant river prawns konbu mee at Po. Photo credit: Po


This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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Thursday, 23 February 2023

Founded in 1872, Singapore’s B.P. de Silva is still evolving five generations later

Part of Lifetime Legacies, a series produced by SilverKris for Opus by Prudential

What does legacy mean? How does it endure? There’s no one better to tackle these questions than the Amarasuriyas, the family behind B.P. de Silva, one of Singapore’s first luxury brands.

Descendants of Ceylonese merchant Balage Porolis de Silva – who sailed to Singapore and established a jewellery store on High Street in 1872 – 73-year-old Sunil and his son Rehan, 36, and daughter Shanya, 31, are the fourth- and fifth-generation custodians of a 150-year-old legacy.

Like many legacies, the family business has evolved over the decades. It includes a portfolio of companies beyond B.P. de Silva, including jewellery brand RISIS, fine tea brand The 1872 Clipper Tea Co. and luxury watches. Also like many legacies, it retains a strong connection to its origins.

Last year, to mark a century and a half since the opening of that first boutique, B.P. de Silva launched a standalone flagship in a handsome heritage house on Dempsey Hill. The brainchild of creative director Shanya, who joined the family business in 2018 after returning from New York, the boutique is symbolic of how younger generations can invigorate the family legacy.

We sat down with Sunil, Rehan and Shanya over a cup of tea, and discussed this and many other questions around what makes an enduring legacy.

Shanya Amarasuriya, Sunil Amarasuriya
Shanya and Sunil in the living room of the B.P. de Silva flagship boutique on Dempsey Hill. Photo credit: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

An evolving legacy, invigorated by travel

The best legacies are globally minded, and B.P. de Silva is no different. During his time at the helm, Sunil travelled often to Switzerland, to visit other family businesses in the luxury watch industry. There he came to understand and appreciate the power of brands.

“I saw what a powerful brand Switzerland itself is,” he recalls. “Everyone wants things that are Swiss-made, be it cosmetics or chocolate. Singapore, too, is such a great brand. I believe it can be a flagship for Asia, bringing in and nurturing brands from around the region. That’s why I bought RISIS – it was really important to me that we had brands based in Singapore.”

Years later, Shanya’s time in New York would also inspire her to dig deep into the history and heritage of B.P. de Silva. At the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she studied gemology and jewellery design, the diverse backgrounds of her classmates excited her and pushed her to examine her own.

Shanya also saw the importance of heritage in her visits to small, owner-run jewellery shops in Brooklyn, where she was struck by their unique identities and human touch. “It was such a different experience from Singapore. If you went to a jewellery store here, you wouldn’t always meet the owner.”

These experiences abroad led Shanya to pitch the idea of a B.P. de Silva flagship store that would be a fitting home for their forebearer’s legacy. Far from the bustle of downtown malls, the soothing, modern space features sepia photographs from decades past, old vault replicas and plenty of natural light in which to examine precious gems while sipping Sri Lankan tea.

Shanya Amarasuriya
Shanya’s experiences in New York inspired her to join the family business and spearhead the flagship store. Photo credit: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

When to take charge, and when to let go

When it comes to legacies, handing over to the next generation can be fraught. The older generation may feel reluctant to relinquish control. It’s easy to imagine that Sunil would feel a strong sense of ownership over the business after four decades at the helm.

After all, the reins of the business were thrust upon him suddenly at the age of 30. With little experience, he steered the company through financial challenges and the outbreak of the Sri Lankan Civil War, while nurturing the cooperation and goodwill of other family shareholders. He slowly turned the business’s fortunes around and grew portfolio to cover nine industries.

But five years ago, when time came to step down from daily operations, Sunil readily took on an advisory role and chose “a retirement office” on a different floor from the company’s new directors, Rehan and Shanya.

The most important legacy is teaching the next generation how to work together well

“It’s thanks to the Singapore system that we’ve come from. The executive powers change, but the advisory role goes on,” he explains, referring to former Prime Ministers of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, who eventually assumed the roles of Minister Mentor and Emeritus Senior Minister respectively, to support the transition of leadership.

For the Amarasuriyas, new leadership has ushered in new energy and a clear-eyed review of the sprawling portfolio. Under Shanya and Rehan’s directorship, the business has narrowed its focus to its jewellery and tea holdings, and introduced new marketing, sustainability reports, worker welfare programmes and other initiatives to help the legacy continue for years to come.

Caring for the environment and for workers

Since B.P. de Silva’s 150th anniversary last year, the family is looking ahead to what the business may look like at 200. Corporate social responsibility is a huge part of that vision. Though he is not directly involved with the business, Sunil’s oldest son, Navin, has had an enormous influence on how the company thinks about environmental impact.

“I’ve always been in business to give employment and develop others,” Sunil says. “But Navin brought environmental responsibility to our attention.” Since 2019, B.P. de Silva has begun publishing an impact report that outlines responsible metal and gem sourcing, as well as labour practices.

Labour welfare has been spearheaded by Rehan, whose work at The 1872 Clipper Tea Co. brought him in close contact with tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka. Today, as the country faces economic collapse, Rehan is working to ensure that the workers have the supplies they need, and receive basic self-sufficiency training, such as growing their own food.

Sunil Amarasuriya
Sunil Amarasuriya has chosen to step back from the reins and take an advisory role in the company. Photo credit: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

A legacy shaped by enduring values

For the Amarasuriyas, respect is as much part of the family legacy as business and wealth. “Money is not the only thing someone is looking for when they work for you,” Sunil says. “They want to be in a place where they feel safe. Coming to work isn’t something that should stress them out.”

Shanya credits her parents for instilling a sense of humility in her and her siblings as well. “We can’t deny that our mother and father have provided a life of privilege for us. But even the materially well-off are not immune to sudden pain in life,” she says, referring to the difficult circumstances her father endured when he took the reins of the business. “And that hardship goes back to the values of humility and being humble. My parents are very down to earth and accepting of other people, and you can sense that when you meet them.”

By a cosmic roll of the dice, we are here, and we won’t always be here. We hold on to something respectfully and then pass it on to the right hands

These values aren’t just limited to company culture – they are the guiding principles of the family’s personal lives. Sunil has often advised his children to seek similar values in life partners. “They must have the same values that we have in the family, and not be people who are arrogant or who don’t treat people the way that we’ve been brought up to treat them.”

Safeguarding a legacy’s future

“The most important legacy is teaching the next generation how to work together well,” Sunil says. The Amarasuriyas are well aware that the soft skills, values and temperament required to continue a legacy aren’t always a given. Legacies must also be safeguarded by wise advisors and sound business oversight.

Itself a privately-held company – with a board of directors and trustees – the family business ensures that transitions are handled rationally, and new ventures such as the brand new flagship store are deliberated professionally. Safeguarding a legacy also means anticipating industry disruptions. Rehan has taken a keen interest in the modernisation of the tea trade. In addition to his duties at B.P. de Silva and The 1872 Clipper Tea Co. he is a co-founder at ProfilePrint, an AI-enabled food fingerprinting platform that aims to remove subjectivity in the tasting and grading of commodities such as tea. The patented technology uses light to collect 6,000 data points and build detailed taste maps around each dry food product.

“This can make commodity trading much more efficient and transparent,” Rehan explains. “We just closed Series A funding, and four or five of the world’s biggest food groups invested.” Rehan hopes that ProfilePrint will be the first of several innovative companies that modernise practices across the supply chain.

Sunil Amarasuriya (third from left) and his children. From left: Navin, Rehan and Shanya. Photo courtesy of the Amarasuriya family

Placing legacies in the right hands

“It would be great if the next generation wants to take over in the future,” Rehan says. “But we should prepare the business to be a capsule of values and ideas that move the industry and humanity forward. And if people beyond the family share these values and ideas, they should join us.”

Though she phrases it in more spiritual terms, for Shanya, too, the idea of legacy also goes beyond family entitlement. “My brothers and I always talk about the idea of custodianship. By a cosmic roll of the dice, we are here, and we won’t always be here,” she says. “We hold on to something respectfully and honestly for as long as we can, and then pass it on to the right hands.”


This feature is part of Lifetime Legacies. Produced in partnership with Opus by Prudential, the series explores the longevity and legacy of some of Singapore’s most well-known multi-generational family businesses. The information in this article does not necessarily reflect the views of Prudential. Prudential does not represent that such information is accurate or complete and should not be relied upon as such.

About Opus by Prudential

Opus by Prudential offers a unique approach to wealth management and legacy planning. An approach that puts you at the centre, enabling you to craft the legacy that’s right for you, and for the next generation. At Opus, we will tailor solutions that help you fulfil your retirement goals, protect your assets and create a smooth transfer of your wealth. Learn more here.

The information in this article does not necessarily reflect the views of Prudential. Prudential does not represent that such information is accurate or complete and should not be relied upon as such.

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Tombs and springtime blooms in Delhi’s Nizamuddin

A group of young Indian classical dancers practise their steps behind a tented stage. Not far from them, two children play hide and seek amid the beds of Salvia, laden with crimson springtime blooms. Beyond it, an exquisite domed pavilion, the Sunder Burj, rests amid a classic Mughal charbagh garden, with four quadrants representing paradise and its four rivers. 

This is Sunder Nursery, a dreamy 64ha heritage park in Delhi’s historic Nizamuddin area, home to centuries-old tombs, including the namesake Hazrat Nizamuddin, the revered 14th-century Sufi saint. Sunder Nursery was originally created by the Mughals, and under the British became a gardening lab. After independence, it fell into decades of neglect until 21st-century restoration efforts returned it to the public eye.

Sunder Burj is a key attraction of Sunder Nursery. Photo: Azhar Khan (Shutterstock)

Today, Nizamuddin has the densest ensemble of mediaeval Islamic buildings in India, including the famous Humayun’s Tomb which stands adjacent to the nursery. In 2020, UNESCO awarded Sunder Nursery its inaugural Special Recognition for Sustainable Development.

Indeed, under the yearslong collaboration between the Agha Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), Central Public Works Department and the Archaeological Survey of India, Sunder Nursery has become a beloved public space and has been listed among the 100 greatest places in the world.

This used to be a jungle where jackals roamed and the undergrowth had taken over the ruins, so if our cricket ball strayed too far, we’d be too scared to retrieve it

In the balmy February sun, 38-year-old Mohamad Rashid guides visitors around the jewel of Sunder Nursery: Sunder Burj. “We don’t know if this is a tomb or a garden pavilion,” he says, “but its detailed embellishments and the gorgeous star-shaped internal ceiling tell us that it was important.” 

In repairing centuries of water damage to Sunder Burj, conservation architects also undid the damage from previous restoration efforts that had plastered over inscriptions and carvings. This revealed the jewel-like Islamic calligraphy and decorative plasterwork on the walls and dome. AKTC also restored the Mughal garden that surrounds the tomb, using old manuscripts and ruined fragments for reference.  

People throng the Sunder Burj today, but Rashid says that as children, they never ventured near. “This used to be a jungle where jackals roamed and the undergrowth had taken over the ruins,” he says, “so if our cricket ball strayed too far, we’d be too scared to retrieve it.” 

Rashid is part of Sair-e-Nizamuddin, an 11-guide collective formed soon after restoration work commenced in 2007, in a bid to also restore local pride. AKTC enlisted young residents such as Rashid to map all the wells, graves and shrines in the area, and compile their oral histories.

Beyond Sunder Burj, lies another stunning monument, the Lakkarwala Burj. “To us, children raised on stories of djinns and ghosts, this monument, completely covered by creepers, shrubs and trees, also looked totally haunted,” says Rashid. 

It’s a different story post-restoration: a blooming rose garden surrounds the elegant structure, set on a 2.5m-high platform, with arched openings on four sides and intricately ornamented interiors with Quranic verses carved in plaster. Past the lotus fountains towards Azim Sarai, where itinerant merchants rested for the night as they made their way down the historic Grand Trunk Road, masses of spring flowers cast heady scents at young lovers, old walkers and children enjoying the lush gardens.   

Heirloom recipes by Nizamuddin residents

Beyond Lakkarwala Burj, a lake with lovely waterfront pergolas and bridges, is popular with picnickers. On its banks, urbanites vie for a table at the busy FabCafe, an offshoot of traditional craft store chain FabIndia. Discerning visitors instead throng at the humble food truck of Zaika-e-Nizamuddin, meaning “the taste of Nizamuddin”, run by local women.

We’d grown up thinking we lived in a slum, but now have seen our home through visitors’ eyes, we’ll try to make it last forever”

In 2007, only nine percent of the women in the area had independent incomes. The AKTC helped a group of over 80 establish Insha-e-Noor (meaning “creative of light”), a showcase of traditional embroidery, tailoring and crochet, sold as souvenirs at kiosks in Sunder Nursery as well as Humayun’s Tomb. It also supported the establishment of Zaika-e-Nizamuddin, which today offers melt-in-the-mouth kebabs, korma and biryani made using heirloom family recipes and served at thoughtfully laid-out tables under trees.

Fatima Khatun has been dishing out delectable kebabs with this 11-member group since 2012. Her colleagues and she say that their newfound confidence has sprung from the fact that visitors enjoy their traditional recipes so much. “We underwent training on standardising recipes and maintaining strict kitchen hygiene,” she smiles, adding the income has enabled her to contribute towards buying a house and car with her husband. “Ten years ago, I didn’t think this would ever be possible.” 

The tomb of Humayun – and his anonymous barber

Aamir Ahmed, another guide from Sair-e-Nizamuddin, shows visitors around Humayun’s Tomb, a precursor to the Taj Mahal and one of the most iconic Mughal monuments in Delhi. A trained dastango, practitioner of the 13th-century Urdu oral storytelling artform, Ahmed welcomes visitors to the “dormitory of the Mughals”, pointing out that over 150 Mughal family members lie buried in this tomb. The tomb-garden complex now impresses visitors with stunning stone inlay work, arabesque motifs, glazed blue tiles and the tall golden spire on its dome that looks like it wants to touch the sun.

In the southeast corner stands Barber’s Tomb. Ahmed says there are no inscriptions to verify exactly who is buried here. But the fact that it is the only other tomb in the complex and is so close to the main tomb, suggests that perhaps (and not entirely different from modern times!) good hair stylists were so hard to find that the Mughals wanted to be close to their favourite barber for eternity. 

Ahmed says that the revival of Nizamuddin has shown him how much more there is to the home he once took for granted. “We used to play cricket on the graves of legendary poets Mirza Ghalib and Amir Khusrau,” he says. 

Talking to him, and to Rashid and Fatima, visitors will see how the revival of Nizamuddin has restored local pride in their cultural heritage. “We’d grown up thinking we lived in a slum, a mass of humanity just somehow living out its days on earth, blissfully unaware of our living history,” Rashid says. “Now that we know – and have seen our home through visitors’ eyes, we’ll try to make it last forever.”

To learn more about Singapore Airlines’ flight service to New Delhi, visit the official website.

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from SilverKris