Situated on the far north of Koh Samui Island is the brand new, The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui, barely open half a year but already getting some well-deserved attention. In a few months time, it will have an extravagant opening ceremony with honoured guests from around the world. Beating the crowds, we were there to create a special feature for the next issue of Hey Gents Magazine; and as luck would have it, we would also be crossing paths with renowned photographer, Trey Ratcliff, who would be passing through for the second part his 80 Stays Around The World tour, a partnership with The Ritz-Carlton.
Being our first experience of a The Ritz-Carlton property, we were excited to discover what it had to offer. The brand is obviously prestigious and it goes without saying that luxury is a key component of everything they do. This was soon made evident when we reached our ‘Ultimate Pool Villa’. Perched on a hilltop with incredible views looking out to an infinity pool and ocean beyond, the room was exciting and the amenities impressive. There will be a full review of the room and the entire resort coming up so we won’t spoil the surprise here.
Curious about Trey and the 80 Stays Around the World campaign, we sat down with him to chat over a bite. My first impression of this famous photographer, unassuming, humble and personable. It took me by surprise as one would expect a public figure who has amassed over 16 million online followers to be just a little less zen. It didn’t take long to find some common ground in our discussion as we both love entrepreneurship, studied computing science, and tote a Sony A7R around to capture our views of the world.
I was also lucky enough to get a personal viewing of Trey’s most prized photographs and some of his work was quite literally mind-blowing. As Trey casually flicked through his collection, I got a sense for how much he loved his craft; some photos were shot at stunning locations with immaculate timing, whilst others showed incredible patience and technique.
In an unfolding conversation of how he landed in such an amazing partnership with The Ritz-Carlton, Trey revealed that his goal in life is to help spread consciousness and presence to the world through the art of photography and creativity – “I believe when people are being creative they are being fully present and conscious, and that’s the best thing we all can do for the world“. The Ritz-Carlton’s vision is to – inspire life’s most meaningful journeys. A sense of meaning can only be truly felt if you’re present and in the moment; they are ambitious goals for both Trey and The Ritz-Carlton, but it’s clear that the pairing is right.
After the huge success of his photo walks in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Japan, and the Middle East, in the earlier part of the tour, Trey continues to inspire fans and travellers on this second part of his journey. This time, from March to the end of May, he made his way around South-East Asia and China, documenting and sharing his journey, sometimes in collaboration with local influencers to find the best of each city. You can follow Trey’s adventures on Instagram through the @80Stays Instagram account or via the #80Stays and #RCMemories hashtags.
Whilst staying at The Ritz-Carlton properties, guests are encouraged to share their holiday experiences with family and friends using the tag #RCMemories. The Ritz-Carlton now wants to take it a step further and help guests create really special moments during their stay by offering one-of-a-kind experiences at each of its locations. Each property has a unique program, with events such as the ‘Tree of Life’ lighting ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain; or the ‘Dance of Thanks to the Sea’ to Gamelan music, that takes place at the beach during the golden hour of sunset at the Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi. Meanwhile at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, we were able to witness the incredible light-show of the sun sinking into the distant mountains, every afternoon at 6:30 pm at the beautiful Arrival Pavilion with a cocktail in hand. As well as these free daily opportunities, The Ritz-Carlton also offers paid services at each of its properties. At The Ritz-Carlton, Bali, you are able to book in for a soul purification ritual or a market-to-table experience. Trey’s involvement also helps highlight these amazing experiences through his photography and social content.
Mind you, not all great memories have to be dreamy. The Ritz-Carlton also offers a great number of activities that are complimentary for groups or booked privately for a fee. Trying out a session of Muay Thai left some vivid memories for sure as I felt the full impact of my counterpart’s foot, kick narrowly missing the instructor’s padding and right into the side of my leg. Although unseemingly at that moment, like a good red wine, this memory has become better with the passing of time.
In contrast, the best experience I had in Koh Samui was spending a day out on the ocean aboard The Ritz-Carlton speedboat. We started the day at a cruisy 10-am, with a small group of us making our way to an island where we went snorkelling amongst thousands of tropical fish. We spent some time taking photos before heading to the next place, Mae Koh Island. Here swapped our snorkels for sneakers as we tackled a steep climb to the top of the island, but the views were worth the effort. From the peak, we could see a beautiful lagoon in the centre of the island.
We had some lunch on the boat whilst cruising around and was unexpectedly treated to a rare sighting of pink dolphins. This was truly unforgettable, and we later confirmed from the locals that they almost thought that the pink dolphins were extinct from the area.
Whilst you can do this with a bunch of strangers on a stuffy over-crowded tourist boat, the private experience of being on a speedboat with just of a few of your travel companions, simply rocks. Being able to choose when and where to go for a day of island hopping to shoot photos with Trey was not only a luxury but inadvertently created an #RCMemories moment for us as well.
In a cut-throat industry where every hotel seems to be competing over the same old bells and whistles, The Ritz-Carlton has innovated outside of the proverbial hotel room, to help us find some meaning in all of our travels, even if it’s just meant to be a relaxing trip. When it came time to leave the resort, it wasn’t the beautiful room with uninterrupted picturesque views of the ocean that was on my mind. Nor was it the incredibly indulgent coconut scrub and massage that we had at the Spa Village. It wasn’t even the delectable spicy chicken wings that we devoured aside the infinity pool with coconut shake in hand.
It was the fond memories of the connections we made with the people, and a feeling of renewed inspiration to explore more and shoot better, from our time spent with Trey and the team.
Maya Angelou said it best – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Thank you, The Ritz-Carlton.Find Out More: The Ritz-Carlton