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Q&A with Federico Asaro of Samadhi Retreats

A veteran of the Asian hospitality industry takes us behind the scenes of the boutique eco-luxe brand he established at the turn of the millennium.

Malaysia-born Samadhi Retreats has been delighting travelers and gourmands for the past 25 years. What started in 1999 with six tables at Tamarind Hill Kuala Lumpur — a rustic-chic spot serving Thai and Burmese cuisine — has blossomed into a unique clutch of award-winning properties and restaurants set in unexpected locations, united by a strong sense of place and genuine Asian hospitality. Its portfolio comprises JapaMala Resort on Malaysia’s secluded Tioman Island and the low-rise Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur, as well as a quartet of refined KL dining venues under the name Tamarind Restaurants. Then there’s the travel agency Travels with Samadhi, which organizes bespoke adventures on motorbikes and four-wheel drives in Malaysia and southern Thailand. Here, Italian-born CEO and founder Federico Asaro shares his vision of mindful luxury.

Poolside at Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur.
Poolside at Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur.

How did the name Samadhi come about?

The basis actually came from our guests. All our guests — whether they are staying in a resort or simply enjoying dinner at one of the Tamarind Restaurants — comment that our properties make them feel like they are somewhere else. That state of mind in Sanskrit is called “samadhi,” or when you achieve stillness and total meditative consciousness. Samadhi encapsulates the essence of our retreats, which offer a harmonious escape where guests can truly relax and find a sanctuary for the soul.

 

How does Samadhi Retreats as a group choose where to establish a hotel or resort? What is important about the location, and what are the key features that set the brand apart?

We gravitate towards destinations that seamlessly intertwine natural beauty, cultural richness, and a touch of the extraordinary. Each spot is meticulously chosen to ensure a unique experience that resonates with our ethos. Our resorts stand out through a blend of sustainable architectural practices, and a commitment to preserving the local character. We let nature be its own landscape architect in all of our properties. From the beginning, we made a conscious decision not to plant or build new structures; we only assist Mother Nature in maintaining the environment around us.

 

Why is being sustainable so important as a group?

Sustainability isn’t a choice; it’s a way of life and how we do business. At the same time, being kinder to the planet aligns with who I am, what I believe in, and what makes me comfortable most of all. It’s about sharing my lifestyle and passions with others. Sustainability is today’s buzzword, and to me it’s always been about respecting the environment and local cultures and communities, while embracing a simple, wholesome life. We reflect those values at Samadhi Retreats by eliminating as much waste as possible and treading lightly on the Earth, for without nature, Samadhi would not exist. As a group, we also believe in supporting marginalized communities however we can.

Inside the dining room at Tamarind Hill Kuala Lumpur.
Inside the dining room at Tamarind Hill Kuala Lumpur.
Federico Asaro, the CEO and founder of Samadhi Retreats.
Federico Asaro, the CEO and founder of Samadhi Retreats.

What demographic or what kind of travelers is Samadhi Retreats targeting?

We cater to the discerning individual seeking more than just a bed for the night — those who desire a memorable experience that’s out of the ordinary. Our demographic is as diverse as our locations, attracting those who appreciate cultural immersion, sustainable luxury, and a connection with the destinations they explore.

 

Where do you draw inspiration from for the unique designs of each property and restaurant?

I draw my inspiration from the local villages, peoples, cultures, and the forgotten towns in the countries where we establish a property. As a longtime Southeast Asia resident, I’ve been traveling a lot in the region and collecting antiques along the way. Antiques bring so much character to the spaces they inhabit. My designs tend to be more traditional and thus timeless; we don’t chase or build on trends.

 

What are some future initiatives or projects we can look forward to from the group?

There’s a couple of things in the pipeline, from new city experiences to a safari project in Malaysia and a wellness retreat on an island in the South China Sea. At this stage, I can’t reveal much more than that, but I can tell you all these projects will express the essence of what Samadhi Retreats is all about.

For more information, visit samadhiretreats.com.

A cabana outside one of the Hillside Sarang rooms at Japamala Resort on Malaysia’s Tioman Island.
A cabana outside one of the Hillside Sarang rooms at Japamala Resort on Malaysia’s Tioman Island.

This article was brought to you by Samadhi Retreats.