The world of luxury travel is evolving, and demand for access to ever more exotic and far-flung places is growing. To cater to travelers looking to combine a number of difficult-to-reach destinations, and get all the flexibility of private guides, Remote Lands has designed two unique shared experiences. These trips are a chance to enjoy the exclusivity and ease of multi-destination travel by private jet, with the benefit of the company of like-minded adventurers.
We asked Catherine Heald, Remote Lands’ co-founder and CEO, to expand on the concept: “The idea is to go to multiple ‘difficult-to-get-to-commercially’ countries in one trip. Commercially, for example, to go from China to Bhutan, you would have to travel through India or Bangkok. Instead we go private jet, direct.”
Indeed, recent guests Nicholas and Meredith Tan, who visited Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Japan on the northern-and-southeast Asia trip in March, say it was exactly this that attracted them. “It was the mix of locations. We would have done Tokyo as a separate trip, but got to combine it with off-the-beaten path countries.” Meredith emphasizes, “There was no impediment to traveling as logistics and visas were all sorted out for us; if we had traveled independently, we could never have done this level of planning.” The same level of service is offered on the alternative group itinerary, which visits China, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka.
Much of the logistical seamlessness is down to Catherine’s expertise. “I lived in Asia in the 1980’s and 90’s and go back frequently,” she explains. “For example, this will be my fifth visit to Bhutan; it’s a small country and you get to know things quickly.” She accompanies every one of these trips, “to make everything smooth and seamless for guests.” Nicholas bears her out here: “We felt that Catherine was traveling with us, one of our friends, one of us.” He says, “She had the best advice, answered all our requests and she’s been to all the locations.”
From Catherine’s perspective, the advantage of these trips is getting the best of both worlds: “Our trips are hybrids of group and private, since the jet travel and parties at night are in a group, but all the touring and transfers are private.” She adds, “Small size is vital. Couples or singles are welcome, as are small groups of friends, but we only take up to 18 people in total.” For example, the trip Meredith and Nicholas joined was just 16 people; on two jets, with four couples in each. Catherine describes the experience as getting all the advantages of a group trip on a private jet, with none of the disadvantages for the rest of the holiday. This way then, each couple or solo traveler has ultimate privacy and flexibility during their individual explorations of their destinations.
This was a great benefit as far as Nicholas was concerned. He says, “We were attracted by the chance to visit countries we’ve never visited, with activities planned for us. At Angkor Wat for example, all the planning was done in terms of timings and whereabouts to go.” In general, during their experience, Nicholas adds that “everything was accessible, well thought out, and at a great pace; and we liked that we could add on activities if we wanted.” Regarding the private guides who looked after them at their various destinations, he says, “They were always very nice, well informed, with top tier communications, always passing on information.” Meredith goes on, “They took us to tougher-to-get-to locations, had better timings, and always had recommendations.”
Meanwhile, nights of entertainment (the aforementioned parties) are a chance for the whole group to get together. Among their highlights, Nicholas mentions an evening at Banteay Samre in Siem Reap that particularly sticks in his mind. “A special dinner was planned for us that night, there was a lighting performance and we felt a real connection. We enjoyed gourmet Khmer cuisine on the grounds of the incredibly well-preserved temple, and were treated to a variety of performances, including traditional Cambodian dances.”
Meredith reminisces about a planned performance evening at Amantaka in Luang Prabang at which Prince Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith told stories about the history of Laos and anecdotes about his ancestors. “He also oversaw a traditional Baci ceremony which we were able to participate in, followed by a presentation of a few traditional dances and then dinner.”
Catherine hopes that the trips encourage guests to build camaraderie, “We want to create life-long friends, and for people from all over the world to have a nice time together.” Ultimately, Nicholas and Meredith found this to be the case. “We were interested to meet people from different places, and we’ve ended up keeping in touch with some of them,” says Meredith, adding “We shared some activities; we know of a few who went on a fishing trip together, and the whole group got together on our ‘free’ night in Tokyo.”
As for the hotels, Catherine expands a little on the Aman hotels and resorts and why these itineraries are based around their properties: “A couple of years ago, Aman approached us about doing a private jet trip to their hotels in Asia,” she explains, “Aman is a good fit for this sort of trip, as it is renowned for its remote locations and, more to the point, Aman is a good fit for Remote Lands. Amans are very exclusive boutique hotels and resorts, and we are a boutique private tour operator. Both companies cater to very high-end clients and provide highly personalized service.”
“The service,” Meredith agrees, “was consistent whichever location we were in, it was all about expectation and quality. We had a private pool in some locations, and you could upgrade, if you wanted, in others.” For Nicholas, meanwhile, the highlight was the distinct character of each property. “Each one varies, like Aman Tokyo being in a city location, and Amantaka being an old hospital. The Philippines resort – Amanpulo – is on its own island; it’s not a really cultural experience, but a much needed relaxation point.” Here, Meredith adds, “There was a fishing village you could only reach by kayak, and a fantastic floating restaurant which we ate at.” In Vietnam, meanwhile, the couple was impressed by the scenic surroundings and the size of the Amanoi. “It was big,” says Nicholas, “and you have to cover some ground – we had a private golf cart allocated to us.” “That was when we first arrived,” adds Meredith, “and we were still scoping things out, but it really set the tone for the rest of the trip.” She describes a welcome dinner laid on for the couple at Amanoi: “We were on the beach with lanterns and menus, and felt like the entire staff were serving just us. Unforgettable.”
Having experienced travel like this, the Tans are hooked. Meredith says that they are already thinking ahead to the next adventure, and noting time and money are always a factor, she says “We plan to save, because this is the only way to travel.” The couple sum their trip up in their travel blog: “The experiences we gained and relationships we created were nothing we could have planned for, or expected to happen. This trip will be one we will remember forever and we look forward to our next adventure”.
Remote Lands runs two separate Aman Private Jet trips every year. The next Aman Private Jet Journey Across South East Asia and Japan departs March 2017.