Suitcases that follow their owner around have been on the horizon for about 15 years. In 2001, radio-controlled Loyal Luggage was reported to be in development in London and, in 2012, a Spanish student won a James Dyson Award for a case that used Bluetooth technology to follow its owner’s smartphone. Neither project came to fruition.
Nua Robotics looks more likely to get its model to market, although there is still no formal release date for its hands-free carry-on bag. The similarly self-propelled, self-guiding Cowa Robot, however, is due to start rolling off the production line in October 2016.
Doing away with the need for new-fangled hi-tech gadgetry, meanwhile, is My Hitch, a very lo-tech plastic hook designed by part-time inventor Robert Lian (above). An American airline pilot (as was Robert Plath, who came up with the first practical two-wheeled suitcase, in the 1980s), Lian proudly demonstrates his invention on his website, www.mybaghitch.com, hooking one end of the S-shaped device to his belt and the other end to the extended handle of his carry-on bag. And as he walks around, nonchalantly, coffee cup and phone in hand, like it was the most natural thing in the world (“I’ve walked for miles like this!”), you can’t help but admire him – a regular guy with a simple solution that, while it might – alright, does – look a bit silly, actually seems to work (as long as you don’t have an elasticated waistband or need to run for your plane) and is already on sale. The Cowa Robot will, sooner or later, retail for US$699. The My Hitch is priced at US$17.95.
CAPITAL GAINS Although it soft-opened about six months ago, the Grand Hyatt Chengdu has just celebrated its grand opening. Not likely to be confused (except by local taxi drivers) with the not-very-grand Haiyatt Hotel just up the road, the 390-room Grand Hyatt holds out the unusually extravagant promise of “bold, worldly and extraordinary hospitality offering multicultural experiences that broaden guests’ horizons and celebrate the magnificence that life has to offer”.
The Sichuan capital has been quite a magnet for big international hotel brands lately, with Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, St Regis and Hilton properties all moving in over the past three years. Mandarin Oriental, Waldorf Astoria and Fairmont hotels were also due to have set up shop by now, but only the latter seems to have anything like a fixed date for a future opening (this autumn).
Significant international air routes to Chengdu have also been coming on line since 2013, with non-stop flights to and from London, Frankfurt, San Francisco and Paris now in operation. You can even fly in from Mauritius or Koh Samui.
It’s all a far cry from the 1930s, when Carl Crow’s Handbook for China could only recommend a riverboat up the Yangtze or a “long and tedious” journey by sedan chair for the intrepid visitor. Dragonair and Air China both have daily morning departures to and from Hong Kong.
RIDE THE WORLD Fifty cycling routes in 30 countries on six continents are featured in Lonely Planet’s new Epic Bike Rides of the World – from the Rif mountains of Morocco to the wilds of Tasmania.
The Asia section presents challenging two-wheeled tours in Vietnam, Mongolia, Japan, India, Bhutan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and China. As well as first-hand accounts of these trips from a couple of dozen contributors, plenty of practical information is included, both for simpler jaunts such as the 40km Arty Copenhagen Cruise and more arduous rides in places like Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and the Pacific Coast of the United States. You can preview and order Epic Bike Rides of the World at shop.lonelyplanet.com.
DEAL OF THE WEEK Two nights at the cheap-and-cheerful Claremont Angkor Boutique Hotel is the entry-level offer with Tiglion Travel’s package to Siem Reap, Cambodia, which starts from HK$2,990 (per person, twin share). The best-value deals, though, are to be had at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra and the Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa. Priced from HK$4,390 and HK$4,590, respectively, both places offer a third night free of charge. These prices will be available until the end of September (or the end of October for the Sofitel), and include flights with Dragonair and daily breakfast. For further details and reservations, go to www.tiglion.com/package.