Meet the Visionary Founders (Part 2)
If you are like me, when you go somewhere that simply WOWs you, you always wander who is the mastermind behind this incredible place you are visiting. Well, I am here to share a few stories behind some of Secret Retreats’ incredible places. They are the stories of the inspiring people, the visionaries behind the properties who are passionate about the arts, nature, antiques, cuisine, their local community and the indigenous culture that surrounds them and want to share all this beauty they have discovered in their world with you.
Secret Retreats properties encompass a marriage of a place and people. Set in idyllic locations, these places represent the environment, the culture and the history of their settings. Refuges for the soul, all of our members’ isolated, calming retreats have an invisible line that seamlessly connects them to one another—taste, discretion, refinement, and a passion for their place.
The owners of these wonderful properties share an inherent passion for their land and their culture. They are hoteliers who wish to share with their guests a bit of their personal story, to invite them to discover and experience the owner’s home, both within the property and to enjoy the best experiences that the destination has to offer to provide their guests with a sincere sense of place. Conveying the beauty of life in its bare simplicity with no artifice, no additives, and unveil the essence of their Asian homes to you.
Young Hwan Ahn – a Master Carpenter, and a National Treasure
Rakkojae, Seoul and Andong – South Korea
Young H. Ahn is a Master Carpenter whose personal love for Korea’s hanok, traditional houses, led him to start the first Korean traditional home experience in the early 90s. Ahn’s seminal work in both preserving and celebrating Korean architecture is reflected in the two properties he restored and created, RakKoJae Seoul and RakKoJae Hahoe, which are now run by his son, Michael Ahn. RakKoJae Seoul is a 130year old property that now houses 3 hanok within its immaculate gardens and grounds. The restoration was completed in 2003. RakKoJae Hahoe is located in the Andong Folk Village recognized by UNESCO for its cultural value in 2010 and set as a World Heritage Site.
Both properties have received international acclaim for the purity and sincerity of their architecture and design. They truly reflect the golden age of the hanok. Captivated by the ability of a hanok to bring comfort and provide tranquility, Ahn started a carpentry school that promotes and preserves the ancient traditions of Korea’s craftsmanship and the many skills that are exemplified in the design and construction of Korea’s heritage homes, the hanok.
“The world is now emerging beyond its focus on self comfort and moving toward the pursuit of true relaxation, a healthy body and a peaceful mind. In today’s era of cold modernism, exact science and calculative digitalism, there is a fervent need for something more,” says Ahn, and a hanok stay truly provides this ‘something more’. An experience not to be missed. The Secret Retreats Concierge is ready to help you plan and book your Hanok stay and create a tailormade Korean experience just for you.
Lamphoune Voravongsa – Luang Prabang’s Protector of the Past
Satri House, Luang Prabang – Laos
Born in Laos, but exiled to France at a young age, Lamphoune Voravongsa returned to her Laos roots after 30 years abroad and opened her first shop in Vientiane specializing in traditional garments, jewellery, paintings and antiques. Over time she extended her business to include several shops in Luang Prabang before purchasing the former residence of Prince Soupha-nouvong, the resistance leader known as The Red Prince, who later became the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s first president in 1975. Lamphoune’s passion for her Laos heritage and culture drove her to lovingly restore the colonial mansion, which was built in 1904, preserving its character and integrity but giving it relevance to today’s world by transforming it into one of the most stylish boutique hotels in Luang Prabang, the Satri House.
Lamphoune’s strength and dedication has inspired all those she meets, and her desire to share her experience to empower other women led her to name the hotel Satri House, meaning ‘House of Women’. She also plays an active role in a handicraft association, Satri Lao Silk, which is devoted to preserving Laotian traditions. Inspired by Lao culture at the turn of the last century, Lamphoune’s ambition is to show the rest of the world the beauty of Laos and share with the world the simplicity, elegance and grace of Laos’ and Luang Prabang’s unique lifestyle.
Andrew and Marit Miners – Saving the World’s Richest Reefs
Misool, Raja Ampat – Indonesia
As the visionaries behind Misool, Andrew and Marit Miners have successfully turned a former shark finning camp into a sanctuary for all marine life that has resulted in a more than 250% increase in fish biomass along with many other positive developments for both the environment and the local communities, so many in fact you could write a book about these guys and their adventures. Dedicated to promoting ethical, eco-friendly tourism and conserving the local environment, Misool was constructed from reclaimed hardwood and driftwood, provides sustainable local employment opportunities, and fiercely protects its 300,000-acre / 1,220-square-kilometre Marine Reserve which boasts some of the world’s most biodiverse reefs.
In 2005, Andrew and Marit started their first ‘No-Take Zone’ policy where all fishing, cyanide fishing, bombing, shark finning, and harvesting of turtle eggs and shellfish were prohibited, allowing for marine biodiversity to flourish within the no-take zone, preserving the reefs and marine diversity for generations to come. Currently the total Marine Protected Area surrounding the dive resort is twice the size of Singapore and is patrolled by Misool’s own Ranger Patrol, which is managed by the Misool Foundation and financed by their own efforts. Their nonprofit foundation was set up to protect the marine environment and to promote the benefits of sustainable living and conservation to their neighbouring local communities through education and sharing the hard-won results of the foundation’s work.
Andrew and Marit’s dream of protecting and preserving marine life and the marine environment for the benefit of all by creating an eco-resort set on an uninhabited island in Raja Ampat where divers and non-divers alike can reconnect with nature while directly contributing financially toward preserving the world’s richest reefs is one of those all too rare success stories that proves what’s possible when you have passion, dedication and determination to make something happen, and that something is REALLY SOMETHING at Misool. The ultimate dive resort and marine lovers’ paradise the resort seasons book up fast, contact the Secret Retreats Concierge to help you secure your stay at this incredible property.
Dileep Singh Rathore – Reviving Rajasthan’s Legendary Era of Nobility
Talabgaon Castle Heritage Resort, Rajasthan – India
Born and raised in Jaipur, Dileep Singh Rathore established a film career working on international features such as Ajooba and City of Joy, Blood Diamond, The Way Back and The Dark Knight Rises. In partnership with the Government of India’s Tourism Department, Dileep has long been actively involved in promoting India as a filming destination to American and European filmmakers.
Integrating his personal and professional life, Dileep restored and converted a legendary 200-year-old family castle, Talabgaon, into a boutique hotel and heritage resort. Tucked away in the heart of Rajasthan, Talabgaon Castle has been in Dileep’s family for centuries and brims with tales of battle, honour and fearless warriors, and tracing the family’s roots back to an ancient Indian dynasty of the sun. The restoration of Talabgaon Castle’s palatial estate grounds and extensive facilities are an expression of Dileep’s desire to share his culture and the personal touches from his family’s own history with fellow travellers creating a truly enriching atmosphere, very much a stay in a home away from home, albeit a very grand and elegant home with a story to tell at every turn on the property.
Share in the passion of these visionary owners for their Asian homes and enrich your travel stories with the wonderful experiences that await you at a Secret Retreats property or on a Secret Retreats tailor-made travel itinerary. We are here to Unveil the Essence of Asia to you…
Contact the Concierge to plan your Asia dream vacation or tailor-made itinerary on firstname.lastname@example.org