The Dunhill Belgrave backpack: First day use impressions

Today was the first day that I had the opportunity of trying out my latest luxury work bag, the Dunhill Belgrave leather backpack. I collected my back at the Dunhill store in the Paragon shopping mall. I received a call from one of the salesperson in the late afternoon, informing me that the bag (which was put on order due to unavailability) has arrived and was ready for collection. Excited, I immediately headed down after work to collect my back.

I didn’t mention this before but when I arrived home and placed the new backpack and my coach briefcase side-by-side, I only recently realised that the backpack was much larger than the briefcase. I did not expect that. I was expecting the back to be about the same size, or slightly smaller than the briefcase. Anyways, it was a nice bonus to know that I have more space in my backpack than I do with my briefcase.

Today I brought out the backpack to use it for work. One day in, and I am already in love with this backpack. I made a great choice in choosing this backpack. After using it for a day, I greatly admire the quality of the leather chosen to make this bag. It is soft, supple, blemish free, with a nice printed pebble grain on the surfaces of the leather, making it ultra-luxurious. The stitching is impeccable, the hardware, exquisite. I lock and gusset with the Dunhill brand imprint is heavy made of a solid piece of metal. Clicking the lock in place just feels satisfying. This thing screams quality. While the bag is expensive, there is no compromise in quality or the materials used to make this bag. At time, I just can’t stop admiring the bag during work and at home, I sometimes have the urge to just touch the leather and smell it. I am that obsessive when it comes to owning a new backpack, especially a luxury backpack from a brand such as Dunhill.

So what will I do with my Coach briefcase? I will still use it for sure. I will alternate the use of my work bag between the backpack and the briefcase. I still love the Coach briefcase. The leather is still looking great after using it for almost a year. It has not lost its luster after using the bag almost daily for work. With the backpack, I now have more options to either carry my stuff on my back or in my hands. The Coach briefcase will always hold sentimental value to me, as it was bought in New York while on a holiday there last year. In addition, the Coach briefcase was my first luxury all-leather bag that I ever own. After using the briefcase for the past year, I am now convinced that with a little research and investments in a good, quality leather bag can really pay off in spades in terms of longevity, durability, and reliability. All it needs in return from me is the occasional clean and care for the leather in the form of a leather cleaner and moisturizer applied to the bag at least twice a year. That is a fair payment in return for having a good piece of luxury item to take it with me wherever I go.

The Dunhill Belgrave collection leather backpack.

I did it. I freaking did it. After weeks of deliberation, carefully weighing the pros and cons in purchasing a S$2500 leather backpack, triple checking my annual finances and savings goals for 2020, I finally pulled the trigger.

The leather backpack from Dunhill’s Belgrave collection.

Yes, I have officially bought my most expensive backpack yet. The Dunhill Belgrave collection leather backpack.

When I first saw this backpack, it took me a while to get warmed up to it, especially the idea that this backpack cost more than S$2500. Aside from that, this is one of the very few all-leather backpacks that stood out from the rest of I saw from other luxury brands. It took me weeks of careful research and intensive browsing online to see what other brands have on offer. But none really stood out except for this Dunhill backpack. It is simply designed, with no nonsense patterns or loud branding or even frivolous pockets outside the bag to make it more functional at the expense of design. It has the Dunhill brand on the metal push lock, but that’s about it as far as branding goes.

So simple, yet so sophisticated in design.

It was only until I saw the bag and felt the leather that I started to get warmed up to the design and quality of the leather used to make the backpack. When I returned home, I explored further and studied the bag’s design in detail, upon which I realised that the more I looked at it, the more it was calling me out. I was immediately attracted to the backpack. I had the same feeling when I saw the Coach Metropolitan briefcase on the Coach’s website. And I have been using that bag every since I bought it while vacationing in New York last April. Soon, it will be one year since I first started using the briefcase and I love every moment of it. The leather is soft and supple and it still looks just as new when I first bought this. I mentioned before that using a full leather briefcase for the first time made me realise how tough good quality leather can be and how it can potentially serve you for years to come with proper care. I have no doubt that the Dunhill backpack will serve me for years and years to come.

So on Sunday I decided to head to the Dunhill store at Orchard Road (the one and only in Singapore) to check out the bag one more time. As usual, I was the only customer (it has been quiet at Orchard due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak ravaging parts of China) when I entered the store. I requested to have a look at the bag again. I studied the stitching, the overall workmanship and took note of the quality of the leather. At that moment I was 80% sure of getting it. After trying it on and looking at myself in mirror with the bag on my back, I was sold. The size is just perfect, the shape and design, looks extremely sophisticated without being too loud. The Dunhill logo, small, subtle, but for the discerning few, will appreciate that this bag is by Dunhill, a luxury brand from London, with a rich heritage of making luxurious leather products and bespoke men’s suits.

I did not buy the bag just because it was from Dunhill. Before coming across this bag, I had very little knowledge of what the brand is all about. I had absolutely no clue as to the history of the brand. Dunhill was never in my radar when it comes to appreciating luxury goods design. The design of the bag, could have come from anywhere, Ferragamo, Hugo Boss, Prada, LV, it doesn’t matter. It’s the design I was attracted to. And it just so happens that this bag by Dunhill really caught my attention as a slightly more casual backpack for work.

I think this bag will really compliment my current Coach Metropolitan Briefcase. I will now have the choice of weather to carry my things by hand in a briefcase or on my back using the backpack. And I see myself using this bag for many years to come so long as I am employed.

Coronavirus, my two-cents

Also known as COVID-19, its been a little over a month since China announced sweeping restrictions on the movement of people during the Lunar New Year Holiday. Entire provinces are shut down, transport networks on land, sea and air is in shambles and tourism around the world is in the doldrums, especially with travel bans imposed by many countries on China. On the trade and economy front, supply chains from the manufacturing of cars to phones have been disrupted, leading to industry-scale manufacturing issues and shortages of goods.

I live in Singapore and we have seen a slow uptick of people getting infected with the virus. The government is doing its best in containing the outbreak and preventing a wider spread of the virus in to the community. So far the efforts have borne fruit as the infections are largely contained to known clusters that various government agencies painstakingly traced through contact tracing. I really applaud their efforts and despite the virus being out there, overall, I trust in their system deeply in keeping us safe. I feel save overall, even when I am outside and in public places. All of us need to do out part by practising good personal hygiene as a first line of defence for an individual. Let the government and health care workers do the rest in keeping us safe.

The consequences of this disease can be felt and seen. Tourism numbers are down, by a lot. This is evident in my time spent at the Merlion Park while I was taking photos of the place with my new Fujifilm X-Pro 3 a couple of weeks earlier. When you singlehandedly band an entire population (Chinese citizens from China) from entering Singapore, naturally, you will lose a significant portion of tourists into the country. While I was there, it was so quiet. Sure, there are a few tourists here and there. But were there large groups of Chinese tourists with their tour leader walking explore Merlion Park? Were there tour buses parked just outside the park. Not a single one of them were there. It is with my understanding that the Merlion Park is usually riddled with tourists no matter what day of the week. I was there in the afternoon on a Friday, and it was disturbingly quiet. You can almost feel a shift in the air that something has changed. Something has gone terribly wrong and this COVID-19 is the cause of it. With more 75 000 people infected with the virus, most of them in China, dealing with an unknown is always scary, especially with a novel virus like COVID-19.

I went to Orchard Road, a popular shopping belt in Singapore on two weekends, and the atmosphere was different. There were hardly any tourists. The people who were there, were mostly Singaporeans. It was initially difficult to wrap my head around the idea that you hardly see large crowds in Orchard Road on a Weekend. Where have they gone? The different in the number of people in Orchard Road before and after the spread of the virus is palpable. You can feel it. Personally, I feel sorry for those who are working in the retail industry. They must be hit pretty hard as a result of COVID-19. Tourism forms a significant portion of Singapore’s GDP. With one month and counting, the effects are going to get worse as the time goes by. The tourism industry in Singapore and in the rest of the world is bleeding badly. Every day we don’t have tourists for China, is a significant loss for the country, especially those who depend on them for their livelihoods.

No one can predict when this virus will stop spreading and blow over. Personally, I feel that we will be in this conundrum for quite a while, because so long as china reports a significant amount of new infection without their ability to track down where those clusters originate, it will be a difficult call to make as to when the government and lift travel restrictions of Chinese citizen to Singapore. We cannot be complacent as it takes only 1 person to develop an illness, and spread to other people, forming an infectious cluster. Because of nature of the virus, it being highly infectious and its ease of transmissibility between people, There has to be a significant reduction in the number of new infections, or no new infections followed by another 14 days to ensure that it maintains it so, because travel curbs can be lifted.

And now, we are seeing new and worrying trends of significant spread in Korea, Iran, Japan among the local population. If contact tracing is overwhelmed due to a sheer number of new infections in a day, and if they don’t act quickly to contain the spread, then it is essentially fighting a losing battle. Mass quarantine of entire towns, counties and cities will have to be impose in order to truly slow down the spread of the virus.

It’s scary to see how much a dent this virus can put on the world economy, especially if this issue drags on for months into the future. China can only do so much to cushion the impact of the epidemic. Eventually, the rest of the world will be hurt badly. Like a sick man in an ICU, as he stays there longer, first days, then weeks, the body will change. He will start losing weight, then lose muscle mass, followed by mental acuity. This wasting is what the world is experiencing now, where the economy is concerned. We only have so much in reserve, soon, everyone will feel the pinch if this drags on longer than anyone predicted. At this stage, so long as we see local outbreaks of COVID-19 somewhere around the world, the world will never go back to normal anytime soon.

Singapore Airshow 2020

The Singapore Airshow 2020 was the first such airshow that I ever had the chance of attending. The airshow happens once every two years, and the biggest names in the aerospace industry will gather in Singapore along side defence officials representing their home countries. There, they will set up various meetings and make multi-million dollar deals to buy and sell defence related items to the various governments. That’s mainly the purpose of the airshow in Singapore, touted as the biggest event in Asia.

As a sideshow, there are also a lot of military hardware proudly on display, such as helicopters, jet fighters, military airplanes and many more for the trade partners to exhibit as well as the public to enjoy, once the trade event is over.

However, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak happening around the world, (Singapore is not spared) the anticipated event is somewhat muted this time around. A number of companies and trade partners pulled out of the show in the interest of public health and safety and because of that, trade dealings were substantially less. Even the military aircraft that were supposed to be on display were significantly less than past events.

But still, as it was my first time to the show, I had a great time at the Singapore Airshow, gawking at the state-of-the-art fighter jets, military drones, military planes and even a live band performed by the US army. It was still overall, an impressive lineup of military hardware on display for the public to enjoy and take pictures with. Even I couldn’t pass up on the chance to take good shots of those planes and helicopters on my new X-Pro 3. I set my camera to Classic Chrome as my main film simulation mode on that day and stuck with that throughout my shoot. The results turned out fantastic. Despite the grueling hot weather, the skies were mostly clear and blue, great conditions to take photos with stark contrasts.

I thoroughly enjoyed my photo shoot of the event despite the hot weather. I was glad to have chosen Classic Chrome as my main mode of film simulation on that day. Somehow the pictures of the aircrafts that were on display looked stunning. Metals and grays on the surfaces of these fighter jets and planes look stunning against the blue hue of the clear sky. Personally it seems that Classic Chrome seems to be a good film simulation when taking photos of inanimate objects on a bright sunny day.

Although I cannot make direct comparisons, there were definitely less people attending this year’s airshow when previous years due to the Coronavirus outbreak happening around the region. It was a smooth experience getting on the shuttle bus from Expo to the Changi Exhibition center. There were no snaking queues to get on the bus. Even going back to Expo wasn’t difficult either. Sure, there were substantial crowd, but it was not to the point suffocating. I didn’t have much trouble getting my desired shots of the various planes on display without people all around ruining my shots.

Overall, I had a great time. My only complaint would be the hot afternoon weather.

For more pictures, you can click on the link here.

Leather Backpack

Last April, I went to the Coach flagship store in Manhattan. I was thrilled to be able to purchase the Metropolitan Briefcase. I was eyeing that briefcase many months before my highly anticipated trip to New York. It was significantly cheaper to buy Coach leather goods from the USA than it is to buy in Singapore. My bag cost 30% less than what it would have cost me, if I were to buy the same exact bag in Singapore. I was glad that I patiently held off on my purchase in Singapore, counting the days until my vacation to New York would officially begin.

I am still in love with this bag.

Fast forward 10 months, and the Metropolitan Briefcase is still my every day bag that I carry to work. I am still in love with this bag. The leather is rich and supple, made even more supple, now that I have been using this bag daily. The bag has been moulded to a particular shape based on how I used it, evolving into a unique look in addition to my daily work outfit. Essentially, the bag has its own personality and I am loving it.

I am very impressed by its overall craftsmanship that goes into making this bag. I have great respect to the Coach brand. Truly, the leather used is top notch, using refined pebble leather with excellent stitching with no discernible flaws. The bag is able to handle just about anything I throw at it, even in inclement weather. After using a leather bag this long, I finally understood the appeal of carrying a full leather bag such as a messenger, briefcase or backpack. If you have a good quality leather bag, it is pretty much guaranteed, that with proper basic care, the bag is going to last you a very long time. And I can see myself using this bag on a near daily basis for many years to come.

Lately though, I have been eyeing another type of leather bag. This time it is a backpack. I decided to get a backpack not because I am getting tired of using the Coach Metropolitan Briefcase, but because I want variety in how I carry my stuff to work everyday. There were moments where I realised how I wished I could carry my stuff around on both my shoulders rather than gripping with one hand (a briefcase) or slinging the strap over one of my shoulder (a messenger). I had several backpacks over the years that I used previously like the Aer backpack. I still have that backpack in my cupboard and it is still useful for outdoor activities. But for a workbag, I needed something more formal but not too formal. Classy, yet not too pretentious. Imperceptible, and not too loud, and yet be able to showcase to a discernible crowd. Knowing that a good leather bag could potentially serve you well for many years to come, I decided that my next backpack for work purposes would be a good quality leather backpack.

So over several months, I casually explored my options, taking my time to look at a variety of leather backpacks from all sorts of brand names.

It was only recently that one backpack suddenly caught my attention: the Dunhill Belgrave Backpack from their Belgrave collection.

Dunhill leather backpack from the Belgrave collection.

It initially caught my attention, that is true, but I wasn’t thrilled with the price at first. For such a simple looking bag, the price was beyond my budget range. But the longer I looked at it, the longer it was calling out for me. Like the Coach briefcase that I currently own, along side the Fujifilm X-Pro 3 that I recently purchased, these are things that I did not regret buying for one simple fact: It resonated strongly within me. These are the things that I come across that upon looking at it, I knew from deep inside my heart, that I just had to get it. And mind you, this is after the fact that I called for a downtime and to deliberately my purchase, for a couple of weeks, just to make sure that my purchasing decisions were simply not impulse buy that I will regret buying later. I made deliberate, slow decisions before taking the plunge. I used delay tactics, distraction tactics, logical tactics to make my case on whether something (especially big ticket items) was worth buying.

The briefcase, I still love using it till this day. I love the feel of the leather when I brush my fingers across the surface of the bag. The Fujifilm camera, I have been going out on photo shoots every now and then and every snapshot I took and every photo I edit thus far, I enjoyed every moment of it. These were right decisions.

The Dunhill Belgrave Backpack is made of supple small-grain leather and the buckle is engraved using Engine Turn engraving. It comes in black and brown, but I prefer the black. This bag is calling out to me. The price is a stickler. S$2600 for a backpack. That is honestly excessive. But then again, this is Dunhill, a brand from London, with the leather goods made in Italy. I have not applied my delay tactic just yet. If I were to get it, I will probably get it in a couple of weeks time. Delay tactic, distraction tactic, I am going to use all manner to tactics and strategies to not think about the bag for a while and revisit it again in a few weeks to see if my purchasing decision was simply just an impulse buy (just because something looks shiny and new) or this is a genuine buy for me. This is a purchasing decision that cannot be made lightly, because of the huge investments needed just to get a backpack. But it’s calling out for me every single day.

Merlion park in times of coronavirus outbreak

As you know, Singapore is in a midst of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak with over 70 people infected as of today. While the spread of the virus is not as severe or far reaching as that of China, Singapore has imposed travel limitations to anyone coming to Singapore from China. This has terrible consequences to the tourism industry in Singapore.

I was at the Merlion Park one weekend to gauge for myself how severely impacted Singapore is to the effects of the Coronavirus, especially the number of tourists visiting Singapore this part month or so. Because of the travel limitations imposed, there is definitely a significant decrease in tourism arrivals, especially when Chinese tourists make up the bulk of visits to Singapore as a holiday destination.

I took pictures of the Merlion Park with my new X-Pro 3 and noted the drop in the number of visitors in the areas. It was a blessing for me, as I was able to take pictures of the Merlion without much interference. It was overall, a pleasant picture-taking experience. Although I must add, that the Merlion, if it was a real creature, would have been sad to see so few visitors coming to Singapore to take pictures with him in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 2

Stawamus Chief

When I was planning my itinerary, one of the top things I wanted to do was to explore the beautiful nature on the outskirts of Vancouver. There were many many hiking trials in and around Vancouver while I was doing my research. In the end, one of the hiking trails that I chose to do, would take me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. Stawamus Chief is basically a 700m granite rock that jutted from the ground in the town of Squamish. There are several hiking trails that took me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. There are three summits that are accessible to visitors. However, I only visited the first two summits.

Up the gruelling trail. It was much steeper than I expected!

The hike was challenging. I severely underestimated the sheer degree of vertical climb I had to take in such a short distance. Immediately upon starting the hike up the trail, I was met with hundreds of stone steps, some so steep, that I had to be on all fours just to climb up on some of them. I went there early in the morning after renting a car in the city. About an hour later I reached the trail. I remembered the weather being cool and crisp. But within 30 minutes of hiking, I was sweating profusely and my legs were already aching badly. It took me more than 2 hours to reach the second summit.

Taking a break at the first summit.

At one point, I almost got lost, as the trail disappeared among the tangle of trees and dead-fall. I had to wait a round a little until a another fellow hiking came to point me in the right direction. Apparently I had missed a marker that pointed me to series of metal chains fixed along the base of a sheer cliff. The markers were sometimes had to spot, as it those are merely small colored pieces of metal nailed on the trees to indicate the path ahead. Miss them and you could potentially get lost.

I made a friend at the top!

The chains were there to aid hikers to pull themselves up along the cliff with a narrow footpath. And when I say narrow, it is extremely narrow, only wide enough for a single person to either go up, or go down, but never at the same time. Thus, there were moments of human traffic jams, as several hikers were trying to either go up or down the summit and had to wait their turn before they can grab the chains to hoist them up or down and walk along the narrow path. As I cleared the chains and made my way up, I reached the second summit of Stawamus Chief.

The view on top of Stawamus Chief is to die for!

Despite the difficulties and the challenges, I made it up to the second summit and I was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding lands below. The view was worth the trip up and I was grateful to embark on this hiking trail. I will never forget the view. I sat right at the edge of the granite rock at the summit, dangling my foot over the ledge. It was dangerous, because there is literally nothing below to save you from falling, but it was exhilarating to be able to do that. The weather was great day, beautiful sunshine, clear blue skies and the occasional squirrel, approaching me begging for food, as I sat there munching on the energy bar to replenish all those calories lost climbing up the steep trail at the beginning of the hike.

All in all, it took me 4 hours to go up and then down to the base of Stawamus Chief.

The next day, I was met with a hell of a muscle ache from both my legs. I knew then and there that I got bit more than I could chew when I embarked on that hike.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

From then on, my legs were aching throughout the trip. I was completely unprepared for the Stawamus Chief hike. I was deterred in seeing other beautiful sights of Vancouver and beyond. One of them that was at the top of the list was the Capilano Suspension Bridge. A simple bridge, about 140 meters long suspended 70 meters above the river. The bridge was kinda wobbly, but the view was beautiful. I was one of the first few to arrive at the attraction and for a short moment I had the whole place to myself. I boarded the first bus of the day in the morning and arrived in time to enjoy the bridge without too many people on it as well as the beautiful greenery and nature around the area. It remembered the place as being serene, quiet with fresh frosty air of the morning still hung in the air. The attraction also had a tree top walk as well as a cliff edge trail was was thrilling to walk on. A trail that hung on the edge of a sheer cliff with nothing but the river below you, it was a walk to remember.

Amazing bridge above the river and into the forests beyond!
One of the many tree top walks.
The cliff-edge walk. Quite exhilarating!

Sea to Sky Gondola

The Sea to Sky Gondola was another attraction that I truly enjoyed. Located about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver, I took a 10-minute ride on a cable car or gondola to the top of the summit lodge. From there, I was greeted with spectacular views, even more spectacular than from the summit of Stawamus Chief, overlooking the blue waters of Howe Sound. The summit also offered awesome views of various mountain peaks nearby. My favourite part of this summit is that there were a lot of benches places along strategic vantage points throughout the trails all around the summit, allowing you to take in the breathtaking view. I love this place specifically because it was not very crowded when I was there. I was even able to admire Stawamus Chief and its three peaks in all its glory. I could barely make out the hikers at the top of the peaks, especially the second one, which was there hiking previously till make leg muscles ache badly.

One of my favourites spots. It has an amazing view of the mountains as well as the lands below.
Sea to sky highway down below, the direct link to Vancouver beyond.
I spotted a bunch of kids and their teacher, showing the mountains beyond and the name of the mountain. I can no longer remember the name of that mountain.

Stanley Park

I cycled around Stanley park twice on rented bicycle. Twice because I was gobsmacked by how beautiful and big the park was. It borders the Vancouver downtown proper and mostly surrounded by water. It was easy getting to the park as it is just located north and west of Vancouver downtown. There were numerous rental bike shops nearby and I just went to the first one that I saw. I rented the bike for about 3 hours, which was more than sufficient time to circumnavigate the park at least once, stopping numerous times along the way, admiring the beautiful waters, passing underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge as well as seeing other locals and tourists alike walking, running or cycling like me around the park. I was lucky because I went to Vancouver in late spring and the outside temperatures were perfect for outdoor activities like cycling. After cycling, I remembered returning the bike and then setting off on foot to explore the various forest trails that the park had to offer. It was peaceful walking on one of those trails, seeing the pristine forests well preserved even after marking the spot as a city park.

Resting underneath the Lion’s Gate bridge at Stanley Park.

Granville Island

I remember taking one of the shuttle ferry boats to Granville Island. The island is basically a small peninsula and shopping district. Yaletown had a stop for one of the shuttle ferry boats and I boarded one before stopping at Granville Island. It was an interested ride. Like taking the subway with its various stops, but instead, you take a ferry boat that takes you to places along the shores of False Creek, one of them happens to be Granville Island. I cannot remember the price of the ferry ride, but I remembered it was pretty decent, and most of all super convenient, especially when there is a ferry stop close to where I was staying in Yaletown.

The old industrial area in Granville Island.
Lots of food, farmer’s market, and more.
Just by the waters, the ferry I took to reach Granville.

Granville Island was an interesting place. It used to be an industrial manufacturing area. But now, the place has been transformed to be a premier destination for tourists looking for food and entertainment. The place is packed full of cafes, restaurants, breweries, and shops selling all kinds of Knick knacks, like a carnival market made permanent. The history of the place is not lost. You can still see evidence of the island as being a former industrial area. Warehouses with zinc roofs, cement factories and silos still stand and dotted all over the island. The Granville Island Public Market is to me, the most interesting part of the island. It is where local farmers and other food vendors sell their fresh produce such as vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and many many other products. It was a feast for my senses. The food vendors especially, I was so spoiled for choice, I had difficulty choosing what I wanted to eat. And the coffee. So many coffee shops and cafes to try and experience. In the end, I could only truly experience just a tiny fraction of what the island had to offer me. But I was glad that I spent the entire day without any regrets.

Downtown

Downtown Vancouver has lots of other interesting locations that I visited, like the Coal Harbour, Port of Vancouver (which had a gigantic cruise ship docked while I was there), the famous Gastown with little cafes, rustic looking restaurants and pubs, as well as West End, Davie Village, Robson Square and others. I like the fact that the downtown core is small enough that you can practically explore the city just by walking. Sure there is a lot of walking to do, but with such amazing weather and loads of cafes that you can just stop by to rest and have a great cup of coffee, walking is the way to go in exploring Vancouver.

The public library.
The Olympic Cauldron.
Vancouver Harbour Flight Center.
The science center.
Gastown.