Even going to bed at 230-3AM after starting file transfers I woke up naturally to 530AM. I woke up and immediately went to change memory cards to transfer. I apparently took 10600+ photos of the wedding day. HOLY. Anyways, this was the first day of relaxation. Bid adieu to those heading back to Toronto. After lunch, Mimi & myself went straight to the beach and started our tanning. We were later joined by the rest of the gang and we stayed there for majority of the day. Jamaican sun is strong so wear your sunscreen and RE-APPLY. I went a little too hard and burnt.
We had heard about a lobster shack off the resort on the beach we should try so we decided to go around 5PM to look for Leon’s Lobster Hut. We walked right of the main beach and past the fence of the Royalton property. to the right of the beach, there are little shacks that cover a stretch of the beach that are businesses of some of the locals. Each shack offers different things such as food, drink, art etc. The locals will all ask you to come into their shops to have a look. They seem a little pushy but just want to draw up business. We made our way to Leon’s to find that he actually closes early so we had a middle man/woman on the phone with him trying to negotiate a price but they wanted a money deposit and bargaining $20USD a lobster so we said we would come back tomorrow instead. We walked through the shack area to see these little shops. Met a few locals and made good conversation with a few.
We decided to go for the Italian restaurant that night and I must say that it is actually the best of the restaurants for food. I got the beef carpaccio, risotto primavera & panna cotta. It looked like everyone from our group wanted Italian that night as majority of the party left was there. We ended up at the sports bar to watch the basketball game.
We all decided to wake up early to watch the sunrise on the beach. Got up at 5AM and headed down for 530AM. The sun actually starts to rise on around 530AM hitting its horizon. Bug spray is your friend at this hour of the day most definitely. I never really liked photographing sunrises as its nothing spectacular to me but the light that it gives off is another thing.
After the sun rose, we decided to go for breakfast at the main buffet. We went poolside and hung out with Angelina and her grandma for a bit by the kids pool before heading to the beach side. We situated ourselves there the rest of the morning slowly being joined by the rest of our gang. We played some beach volleyball but the court is built on concrete that isn’t even and the sand is a thin layer. We kept getting people joining that can’t play properly which made the game slow and boring. We contacted Leon again and we negotiated a price of $15USD/lobster. he did a beach delivery to us. It was fresh but slightly overcooked.
Around 3PM Mimi and myself walked down the beach line (right from the resort beach) to the end of the beach. At the very end, there is a beach bar called Touch Bar – It’s run by the same guy – Touch that Jess and myself met on the road riding his motorbike on our first day. Its sort of a tree bar. The waters are calmer along this side of the beach and further down was a public beach.
Burnt. Slightly crispy. You know, the crispy feeling where you can only sleep one position and you awake in that position but emit so much heat and then you get up and try to bend your limbs an its sensitive. Yup.
We got up and had breakfast with a few of our group. Went straight to the beach afterwards where I put myself under a umbrella and kept in the shade. Naomi and Steven joined our group and 6 of us (Benham, Leanna, Cathy, Mimi & Naomi) took the kayaks out for a ride. The water was a little choppy but kayaking was fun. If only we knew how to sail, we could’ve taken the boat out. We also decided to walk down the other side of the beach and passed through 2 other resorts beach front to the very end.
It was the best weather this day. It was sunny and blue skies for the majority of the day and then the wind picked up and pushed some clouds overhead making it overcast. We played some beach volleyball but it started to suck when others joined our game so we capped it at 5 points before heading to lunch at the buffet. Buffet lunch was really good. The jerk chicken on the beach is also a treat especially with Jamaican patties.
It was just a nice relaxing afternoon in a pool and poolside playing Heads Up. The weather was perfect so we decided to play another round of volleyball. It was the best I’ve played here with the players just being people from our group only. We ended our game as we were captivated by the double rainbow that had formed overhead. It was a perfect rainbow where you can see all the colours so vividly and also both ends to be followed by another rainbow above it.
We cleaned up and went back to the buffet for dinner. It was a great meal with our group. Went over to the sports bar after to watch Game 6 for Raptors vs Heat – we lost. There was a Michael Jackson tribute show outside of the sports bar and it was really good with a guy actually singing and embodied Mr Jackson.
It was the last full day and this friday the 13th was no doubt a good one.
Day 7 – Final
Woke up to the the bright sunrise but stayed in bed a little bit longer. I ended off the final day with a workout with Mimi (we tried to do a HIIT session but it got really humid and we never finished the first circuit of it). Breakfast at the buffet and then to the beach we went for our last little session in the ocean.
Check out was for Noon so we stayed out until about 11-1130 before going to shower. For myself, I changed into my tank top with the built in sports bra (my travel tank top) and put on underwear and shorts. My shuttle wasn’t arriving until 330PM so I still had tons of time to hang at the beachside with the rest of the group who would be leaving for their 530PM shuttle.
We stayed beachside the rest of the day – NOTE: even if you check out, there are washrooms you can use to change after if you decide to stay in swim wear for the beach before leaving. The boys got pulled into an obstacle course on the beach courts followed by the staff challenging our group to a volleyball match. A few of us decided to go to the buffet for our final meal before heading out. I had a personal driver to the airport named Junior and he was funny and informative. Made it to the airport in good timing with liquid sunshine coming down rather hard. Last name problems like usual but otherwise, got through and had tons of time to spare. Ended up departing a little late as one guest checked in and had a check luggage but never showed up so they had to physically take that luggage off the plane. The ride felt long but it wasn’t. Came home to 3 degree celsius but it was refreshing. The best part now – the 20000 photos from the week are completely edited and finished with.
I had the privilege to photograph my friends, Naomi & Steven’s wedding in beautiful Jamaica – more specifically in Trelawny, Montego Bay. I have never done a resort stay before so it was a new experience for me. We stayed at the beautiful Royalton Whitesands which is owned by Sunwing. We had over 20+ guests of whom majority were volleyball players.
The flight from Toronto is about 4 hours and Jamaica is 1 hour behind Toronto. The airport shuttle takes about 45 minutes from Montego Bay Airport to the resort.
I travelled with the videographer – Jess Cheng and we were booked a Diamond Club room. Diamond Club gives you some more perks than the normal bookings. These include, a separate private Cabana beach area (which I never used), the ability to make reservations for certain restaurants on the premises, a special Diamond Club room for your use (food, drinks, services etc). I can’t forget to mention your pillow options.
Your room key is actually a nice little bracelet that you just tap against your door to get in. Now onto our room. Jess and myself shared a room that is suited to fit a family with a king size bed, a fold out futon and bunk beds with a bathroom that is so long and large (Family Jacuzzi Ocean View Suite). There is also a option for a butler but that is strange to me. There is also a mini fridge in the room that gets restocked (I think this is a perk of Diamond Club). There is free WIFI covering the whole resort including the beach.
The main event of the week long stay was obviously the wedding day on the Tuesday (we arrived Saturday). Each and everyday, the Royalton hosts weddings every 3PM & 5PM. The Whitesands resorts offers a main buffet with 3 specialty restaurants – Italian (the best one in my opinion), the steakhouse and the teppanyaki. Also around noon on the beach, there is jerk chicken and Jamaican beef patties being served. The resort also offers a kiddie pool, waterslides, 2 family pools and 1 adult pool. The beach area is actually quite small to my imagination. The adult pool with the built in bar overlooks the beach volleyball court which is built on uneven concrete and a thin layer of sand (watch out for stubbed toes). There is also nightly entertainment.
The beach volleyball court leads onto the main stretch of beach that the resort owns as well as a Diamond Club members only beach with cabana’s to the left of it. The beach is patrolled by security guards as the actual beach is public and there are vendors who will stroll the beach and try to sell things. They are not allowed to approach the guests and must stay by the shoreline. There also is a feature of a little private island (manmade) and also the gazebo where the wedding ceremonies take place.
The resort also includes a Kids Club, a coffee / ice cream bar, sports bar, spa and gym facility as well as a water sports excursion centre where you can take out kayaks, paddle boards, sail and even for a price parasailing.
Resort life in a sentence is all about relaxing, eating, sun, sand, tanning – repeat. I can tell you that I for one am not made for resorts per se, but when it comes to working (photographing a wedding), it sure makes it more worthwhile. Now onto my week as a photographer and friend at the Royalton Whitesands.
The sun rises at 530AM and the heat comes with it quite quickly.
For scouting purposes and just the explorer in me, Jess and myself ventured out of the resort and walked the street to find some locations to shoot the couple. (the resort cannot guarantee safety outside o the resort) We ended up walking the road for awhile and passed by a few other resorts and some local homes. Under British rule, they drive on the left so be warned to look both ways when crossing the streets. The locals that we did meet and strike up conversations with were incredibly friendly folk.
When we returned to the resort, we rallied up a few of our group and grabbed a van to town with our driver Andrew. He took us from Trelawny to Falmouth and told us stories and information along the way.
He was very informative. Apparently our resort is owned by Sunwing and is owned by a Canadian. The story of Rose Hall is about a man named Sam Rollins who married his first wife Rosa whom he built a white house for on top of a hill. She passed away and he re-married. Sam passed away naturally but then the new wife ended up remarrying. She murdered that husband and remarried then murdered that 3rd husband and in the end was murdered by her lover who was a slave. They do tours of the home and show you where each person was murdered for $20 entry.
Andrew drove us through the rich neighbourhood area, main tourist strip and pointed out Usain Bolts Highschool and the land where squatters have built homes. Our little taxi trip with Andrew through the city was nice but being a Sunday and Mother’s day, not much was happening. We wanted patties but the place to go was closed. We drove through Sam Sharpe Square and got out of the van to walk what was open of a little fruit market on a street. It’s not highly recommended for tourist to walk alone or venture into town without a local. For majority, the locals will leave you alone but also depends on your vibe. Apparently the large KFC in town has the most traffic and when you are in Falmouth or passing through, you need to stop there and grab some chicken as locals have told us. We stopped by a little touristy spot where Andrew said we can bargain and I picked up 100% blue mountain coffee beans that were priced at $70USD for $35USD. Andrew wanted to take us to the best look out spot to overlook the whole city – Richmond Hill but he called ahead and it was closed. Our last spot before heading back was Scotchies – the best place for Jerk Chicken on the island. We got 1/2 chicken, 1/2 pork, balmy (cassava) and festivals (sweet fried dough) and fresh Limeaid. They have their famous jerk sauce made of scotch pine nuts. To be honest, the food reminded me of Chinese food but nonetheless tasty. Between 7 of us, it was $7USD including tip.
We came back to the resort and just chilled/napped by the pool for about an hour before part of the group went on their lagoon excursion. Jess and myself stayed back and ventured the resort to scout spots to shoot. We didn’t make reservations early enough so we ate at the main buffet. There is a good selection of food ranging from american favourites – pizza, fries, burgers etc to a variety of Jamaican dishes like ackee fish, boiled dumplings & plantains to my groups favourites – ox tail and curried goat.
Day 2 – Group Excursion day!
We booked Sunwing Catamaran & Dunn Falls day trip – $106USD.
Woke up and went for a morning workout session. Grabbed breakfast at the buffet then off we went with our group of 20 with Cool Runnings for Catamaran and Dunn Falls with Chino our driver and Debby our guide. We booked a 20 person group of our own. We had one small stop before making our way to St Ann’s Parish – Ochos Rios. We were taken to a place where we had a light lunch of jerk chicken, coleslaw and beans with rice before embarking on a catamaran to Dunn Falls. The catamaran we thought was a private one with just our group but we were wrong. We hopped on and within 10 minutes or so we were anchored and got into the waters for snorkelling. After snorkelling, we had patties on the boat while we sailed to our next destination – Dunn Falls. You can opt for the wet hike or the dry hike. Dry hike is by far the better option. Wet option you need water shoes to climb (you can purchase for $10 USD or rent for $5USD). What sucks about the wet hike is that you are basically with your group and hold hands majority of the way up. The dry hike, we decide our own pace and there are several areas along the way up that you can get into the waters and we sure did. My dry hike group – Joseph x2, Kim, & Mimi went up the fresh water falls and came back down at our own pace to slowly meet up with our group (they were the last group to climb). The climb up is the same way the wet group comes back down.
We ended up leaving a little late but once we returned to the catamaran, it becomes a boozy boat. Unlimited alcohol plus patties were given out. The waves heading back were HUGE and you could feel each ripple of the wave as the catamaran would go flying up and then come down hard. Our group was good and the staff loved all of our guys. This one lady kept coming around dancing with alcohol (bottle and then a tray of drinks) on her hand and dancing when the boat was crashing those waves. Pure skills there.
We returned back to our resort after an hour – hour half ride from St Ann’s. Awaiting us was Jess, the videographer who stayed on the resort for the day. We ventured outside the resort to take some clips and shots of the couple on the streets. We even got some advice from the locals about marriage. We were hoping to get back in time for golden hour but the sun was already setting during our walk outside. Jess and myself made reservations for the steakhouse while everyone else went to Zen – japanese teppanyaki (which apparently sucked and was really bad). Our steaks were pretty decent and the creme brûlée was tasty but the mac & cheese was more of a casserole and dry.
I keep waking up early but its all good since the sun rises at 530AM each day and Jamaica is an hour behind Toronto. The wedding party met at 9AM to do a walkthrough and then off to the races we went with the bridesmaids getting ready at 930AM and the groomsmen to start getting ready around 1030AM. Things went slightly behind schedule but otherwise we did pretty good. It was a very humid day for sure and windy at times. Jess and myself tried to work fast with our filming and shooting but alas we didn’t get many shots that we wanted in the end (or at least what we had planned). We got to the beach for the bridal party and family shots and the weather started to shift as dark clouds started to loom. We were back down for 430PM and 5PM the ceremony was to begin.
As the ceremony prep was finished and the bridesmaids started walking down the path to the gazebo the skies were slightly darker but still the light emitting from far out was magical. Once Naomi and her parents started to walk down, the Jamaican skies decided to bless them with some liquid sunshine. It made the ceremony even shorter as things needed to get sped up to get everyone out of the rain as quick as possible. This left barely any time to get shots of the whole thing. The dark clouds above made way for a burst of light leaking far out on the side that made it soft yet a slight golden glow. Once the ceremony was completed, everyone hung under the gazebo to avoid the rain and until they setup our cocktail hour and steel drums in the same space. The rocks off to the left of the gazebo make for beautiful photos for sure. The skies cleared and going into reception we had smooth sailing in terms of rain.
After cocktail hour was over, 30 minutes to set up the reception area. They chose non tented seating area poolside. 3 long tables of 12 with buffet styled dinner. We had a live band and they were amazing. Tons of speeches and games. The reception went smoothly with music, drinks and dancing flowing everywhere. The night ended with the bridal party deciding to jump into the infinity pool. Bridesmaids went first in their dresses, Groomsmen went in matching boxers and bowties. With this group, even the guests decided to join in and jump in as well.
We slept in today as it was such a long gruelling day in the sun. We finished packing and went for breakfast – the poached eggs were on point this morning. After breakfast, we checked out and Mr Dany drove us to the airport at 11AM. The check in was speedy and because we are flying Bangkok Airways, we get complimentary food and drink similar to Porter service. I also didn’t know that both our 1 hour flights, we receive meals/snacks which in the end became really filling. We had a stopover at Bangkok airport and just pretty much walked from one end to the other to get to our next gate. We are actually the minorities on this plane. When we touched down in Koh Samui, the landscape is very LA/West Coast/Hawaii-esque. The #1 source of income here is tourism and then #2 is coconuts. We exchanged money in Koh Samui as the rate was 35 instead of 33 in Bangkok. 100 baht = $3USD.
Different from the rest of the trip as they drive on the left side of the road here. We are staying up in the middle of the island at Sandalwood Villa (211/7 Moo 4, Tumbon Maret, Amphoe Koh Samui) and holy hell the street leading up to the villa is on a 60-70 degree angle and winds. Sandalwood offers free shuttle service from the airport and so they picked us up in a SUV and now I understand why they would need such a beast of a vehicle. The streets here are quite narrow (single lane) and there are some road rules here and there but if you want to over pass someone you can do it then drive right back into your lane but also trying to avoid hitting stray dogs, people and motorbikes and other on coming vehicles or stopped vehicles. We were greeted by R at the villa and the lobby smells like heaven. The view is spectacular because we are higher up and right beside the main lobby is the public infinite pool and lounge area.
Our villa is the Amarin Villa which seems like a trek to get to. We go down the driveway then see where the stairs connect then walk through an area where you need to brush the tree vines to get through then you see the spa and make a left down those stairs then turn right and back up a pair of stairs. Our villa is massive. There is a kitchenette then the main room has a giant queen bed with such a high ceiling. The joining room has a double bed but both have sliding doors and just windows everywhere to enjoy the view. We have a jacuzzi o our balcony along with some lounge chairs and a egg swinging chair. There is a washroom and the main bathroom is massive with a stand up shower and a tub but just so much room. There is also a fridge and they give you free water everyday but also they provide free fruit and other drinks if you purchase. Unfortunately, there was thunderstorm previous to arriving which actually knocked out the wifi so Amy and Adam complained and somehow convinced them to give us a ride to Chewang – Central Festival and back for free which would be $20USD RT in a taxi. Central is their main mall are and they have a night market setup outside and continues down to the river front. We saw a basketball court and volleyball court but its further away from the mall and we only had 3 hours before we would get picked up. You need a Thai license to drive a motorbike out here. To enter the mall parking, you need a valid thai passport or license to get through in your vehicle.
There was a night market going on where they were selling the souvenirs plus cheap food. We eventually went inside the somewhat open concept mall to my favourite store – Uniqlo. I ended up purchasing 2 pairs of pants and Adam and Andrew also bought a bunch of stuff which resulted in qualifying for a VAT refund when we depart. We stayed in this area and also crossed the street to the extended part of the night market then walked back to get picked up back at the mall. And that was our first night.
Turns out November is not a good month for Koh Samui because its monsoon season here. March/April is the perfect time to come here. Since the weather conditions are bad, Ang Thong (the national park which also houses the beach that inspired the movie “The Beach” with Leo DiCaprio) is closed until December.