This Week in Luxury: Joshua Tree’s famous Invisible House is for sale, Antara launches the world’s longest river cruise, and a Goalong Five Year Old Single Malt

invisible house joshua tree

In our weekly series, we bring you the latest in luxury news around the world. This week’s highlights: Prince Harry’s memoir breaks a record, UK’s PM Rishi Sunak faces backlash, and an abandoned plane is transforming into a villa

Joshua Tree’s famous Invisible House is selling for US$18 million

Nestled in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the now-famous Joshua Tree residence has earned its name for its reflective glass exterior that mirrors the rocky landscape. Depending on the angle, time of day or even the weather, the minimalist structure seems to vanish among the national park’s rugged surroundings. Throughout the years, the Invisible House has made multiple TV cameos, served as a shooting location for advertising campaigns and captured the attention of A-listers. Though, the modernist abode’s biggest claim to fame is that its owners are indie film producers Chris and Roberta Hanley, best known for their work on American Psycho. And now the mirrored home can be yours—for US$18 million, that is.

Inspired by the 2001: A Space Odyssey film and New York City skyscrapers, the home measures roughly 69 metres and one portion of the property is cantilevered off the ground using concrete columns, preventing it from disturbing the area’s giant boulders. Due to the site’s harsh temperatures, the facade is wrapped in heat-reflecting Solarcool glass, which is also what gives the exterior its mirror-like appearance. Plus, it also filters ultraviolet rays and infrared frequencies.

The aesthetics here are decidedly minimal. Think concrete flooring, a few pieces of light-coloured furniture and little else, as to not distract you from those stunning desert vistas. In total, the spread stretches 511 square metres and has three en suite bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining area. And if you’re looking to cool off from the region’s intense heat, the heart of the living room features a 30.5-metre indoor pool that can also be heated when the temperatures drop. In another standout element, the glass walls can actually open to the outdoors on three sides.

MV Ganga Vilas
The MV Ganga Vilas ship will cruise for 51 days through the Ganges river

This 51-day luxury excursion on India’s Ganges is the world’s longest river cruise

Antara Cruises just launched its MV Ganga Vilas ship, a vessel set to travel 3,199 kilometres of waterways in India and Bangladesh. The journey spans 51 days, making it the world’s longest river cruise, according to organisers. While on the course, passengers will travel along the Ganges, India’s holiest river, as well as other waterways through five states in western India. The ship will also venture into the neighbouring South Asian country of Bangladesh, visiting its national parks, UNESCO World Heritage sites and big cities.

The MV Ganga Vilas is designed to carry 36 passengers in 18 luxe suites, as well as 48 crew. Because the long-haul cruise was solely marketed in Europe, its initial round of passengers are from Switzerland, France and other countries. The ship’s interiors are inspired by 20th-century works by German painter Josef Albers, known for his vibrant color square paintings. The cruise was originally planned to set sail in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic.

Kashif Siddiqui, Antara’s Director of Sales and Marketing, said the plan is to run the cruise on the Ganges twice a year between October and March when the weather is nice and the river water is high. Tickets to board the MV Ganga Vilas will cost between 4.2 million to 4.5 million rupees per guest. Siddiqui claims tickets for two scheduled 2024 voyages have already sold out.

Antara Cruises

Goalong Single Malt
Goalong Five Year Old Single Malt

A Chinese single malt for curious drinkers

Curious drinkers should give this whisky a try. Brought to you by Goalong Distillery from Changsha, the capital of and largest city in the Hunan province, the Goalong Five Year Old Single Malt is comprised of 100 percent malted barley from Australia, which is not the usual source of single malt whiskies. The first release was aged entirely in bourbon barrels, but this latest version was double matured in bourbon and brandy casks for five years. The whisky is relatively young, but apparently the climate where it’s aged is such that there’s quite a bit of interaction between the wood and liquid.

The bottle is ornate and fancy looking, more like something you’d expect from a limited-edition bottle of Hennessy instead of a whisky. And maybe there’s some intention behind this, given the popularity of pricy Cognac in China. The whisky is good, but perhaps the flashy decanter is putting some lipstick on a pig. This is a tasty and fruity single malt, even if the mouthfeel does register a bit thin. In fact, there’s a bit more fruit and spice notes on the palate than vanilla, really, with some green apple and citrus that seem to be common with a younger malt whisky.

Goalong Distillery

prince harry
In Spare, Prince Harry documented his anguish toward the British media regarding its treatment of Meghan, in addition to the damage he saw it do to his mother, Princess Diana

Prince Harry’s new memoir breaks record

The British royal’s memoir, Spare, has flown off the shelves, selling more than 1.4 million copies upon its publication date in the US, Canada and the UK on 10 January 2023. Publisher Penguin Random House says the much-anticipated tome has set the record for the largest first-day sales total of any nonfiction book it has ever released. The figure includes preorders, print and digital copies as well as audiobooks, according to the company. Penguin Random House had printed two million hardcover copies of the memoir for the US market, and the brand has now decided to produce even more editions to meet the high demand.

The memoir is the latest installment in the public, tension-filled saga between the Duke of Sussex and the British royal family. Harry and Meghan, who decided to step away from their royal duties in 2020, have aired their grievances in a 2021 Oprah interview and their 2022 Netflix documentary, which invited viewers into the couple’s relationship amid the monarchy. The series became one of the top 10 shows on the streaming platform the week it was released and has since garnered over 80 million views. Harry’s recent revealing 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, meanwhile, raked up an impressive 11.2 million viewers—the best this season, according to CBS.

Rishi Sunak
UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

UK’s PM Rishi Sunak faces backlash after private jet flights

From his nearly billion-dollar fortune to his lavish designer wardrobe, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already copped flack for being out of touch with the working class. This week, he has faced more criticism for two half-hour private flights he took last week.

Sunak traveled 200 miles from London to Leeds on the RAF’s 14-seat Dassault Falcon 900LX jet, before returning to England’s capital around three hours later. The round-trip is believed to have used approximately 316 gallons of fuel and resulted in about three tons of carbon emissions, as reported by the BBC. The same route via train takes roughly two-and-a-half hours each way and produces the equivalent of 24 kilograms of CO2 per person.

Sunak has been accused of undermining the government’s green credentials and wasting taxpayers’ money, as reported by The Guardian. The flight was branded a “show of extravagance” by Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, while Green MP Caroline Lucas said the prime minister’s use of a plane incurred an “unacceptable cost to both the taxpayer and the climate.” SNP MP Tommy Sheppard added that Sunak’s use of a jet made “a mockery of his climate pledges.” The UK recently passed a law requiring the government to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As part of that, ministers announced a “jet zero” programme in 2021 to slash emissions across the British aviation industry.

Downing Street defended Sunak’s recent flight, saying: “The transport the prime minister takes will vary and will always be done in the interest of what is the most effective use of his time, enabling him to get around the entirety of the UK when there is a great deal of pressure on his time.” Sunak visited Rutland Lodge medical practice while in Leeds to publicise the government’s plan to buy thousands of extra care home beds.

An abandoned Boeing 737 is being transformed into a luxury private villa in Bali

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, apparently, it’s the world’s first luxury hotel inside a commercial jet. An abandoned Boeing 737 that was once part of the now-defunct Mandala Airlines is being converted into a private vacation villa in Indonesia—and you don’t even need a boarding pass to enter. The retired aircraft, which is currently under construction, sits on the edge of a cliff roughly 152 metres above Bali’s Nyang Nyang beach. When it’s finished, hopefully within the next few months, the refit jet will be available to rent for roughly US$7,300 a night.

In order to make room for accommodations, the airliner had to be stripped of all its seats and flying equipment. Essentially, everything except for the shell (and the portholes) will make you forget that you’re in a plane. The minimalist design scheme also helps with that. A rendering of the jet-turned-villa shows the former cockpit has been transformed into a stylish bathroom with a circular stone bathtub. Elsewhere you’ll find a kitchen, a dining nook, another bathroom and two bedrooms. Outside, one of the wings appears to have been transformed into a terrace where you and your friends can take in the views. You could also gaze out at the ocean from the adjacent infinity pool and loungers. To top it off, guests will have access to complimentary self-parking, free Wi-Fi and 24-hour front desk service. There’s even a helipad, so you can bring your chopper on holiday.