Bangkok’s appeal as a destination for meetings and incentives seems only to grow year by year.
The Thai capital’s attractions are obvious. It offers value for money, a rich cultural heritage, one of the world’s greatest cuisines as well as welcoming and hospitable people.
The city’s hotel range is superb and the quality of service outmatches most other destinations, but such a historic city as Bangkok can also provide some quaint and unusual venues (See p 38).
While many event planners and certain incentive groups may want to combine a second destination in their programme, Bangkok still delivers an exciting and varied standalone option.
The opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is currently ironing out its teething problems, points to the country’s commitment to growth.
Business events are clearly one sector targeted by the Thais and organisers can be sure of a great choice of conference organisers and destination management companies which offer local knowledge and international standards of professionalism.
Hamish Keith, director of business development, Exotissimo Travel Group, says: ”Bangkok is a special place for meetings and incentives because the city is so full of life, colour, atmosphere, history and culture. What’s more, everything is possible. The people are very open and accessible and with a little creative energy it is possible to organise amazing events in unusual venues that reflect the vibrancy of Bangkok and Thailand.”
Keith points to a few of his preferred venues.
“Some of my personal favourite venues are: MR Pramoj Kukrit’s House. We have organised product launches, incentive dinners and weddings at the ex-prime minister’s house. It is a true gem of a venue because it is not a famous tourist attraction and people are always amazed to find such an oasis in the middle of the city.
“Then there is the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. As well as Joe Louis restaurant in the middle of the bazaar, we have also organised five-star dinners in the food court with outside caterers setting up a high-class buffet on a raised platform overlooking the main stage in the centre of the night market.
“Finally there is The Bed. I love The Bed because it allows us to show Bangkok as a modern, cool city.
“So often, incentive dinners in Bangkok reflect Thailand’s history and culture with traditional dancers and
Thai music, but at The Bed we have a super-cool venue with avant-garde entertainment. It still has an Asian feel but it is far from traditional.”
Marina Chinanurakchart, director of sales and marketing at Bangkok-based Meeting and Convention Planner, also has her favourites among the more unusual venues.
“I recommend the Summer Palace at Chakabongse House. We’ve used this for several groups. It’s a nice location especially for groups staying at riverside hotels. You could use a rice barge to transport your guests to the Summer Palace, which is located along the river.
“Cocktails can be done on the rice barge and guests can see some landmarks on a tour prior to having dinner at the Palace.
The Palace has a lovely garden and the Pavilion overlooks the river. It also has a nice pool where cocktails can also be arranged,” she says.
“Wang Suan Pakkad is a lovely exclusive venue. Not all groups are allowed to have an event here as they do not accept weddings and they screen both the client company and events company. We had the honour of doing an event here for an IT group and they found the venue very cosy and simply loved it. Although it is located in the city centre but once you’re inside, it does have a great ambience. The Palace is also attached to a Thai house museum which collects masks, antique china, classical Thai musical instruments and other Thai ceramics.
“The Siam Society is a nice venue located in the heart of Bangkok. It has two lovely Thai houses over a century old from the North and Ayutthaya. It also has an indoor auditorium, which is good for rainy weather. Again we also used this venue for several of our clients,” she says.
With a little effort and the right contacts, Bangkok can pen up a new raft of venues that will add greatly to your event programme.
Occasionally, with permission granted by the governing council of the Society, exclusive events and private functions are held on the premises, with the lush gardens and the Kamthieng House providing a serene and picturesque setting.
Depending on the size of the event, some of the most requested areas for theme parties and special events include the Kamthieng House Museum, a 160-year-old traditional teakwood house situated within the Siam Society’s grounds. It is one of the best surviving examples of northern Thai architecture. The house provides a superb example of a traditional northern Thai house built on wooden stilts.
It also serves as an ethnological museum. The house has been stocked with artifacts associated with the rural way of life in traditional agricultural communities. Among them are a fascinating collection of beautifully hand-woven materials, ornate wood carvings, traditional musical instruments and sacred items.
Under the house, at ground level, a rich assortment of fishtraps, irrigation devices, ploughs and rice-harvesting equipment made of wood, reeds and bamboo are on display. The Kamthieng House comfortably accommodates a private event of between 25 and 30 people.
Next to the Kamthieng House, Saengaroon House features the traditional architectural style of homes in Central Thailand.
For events of a larger size, the main Auditorium accommodates between 180 to 200 people, or up to 350 people if the Auditorium is used in conjunction with the gardens adjacent to the hall.
A few exclusive private functions and events hosted by many of Bangkok’s leading corporations (many of whom are patrons of the arts and contribute significantly to the activities of the Siam Society) have been held in the main auditorium.
The Suan Pakkad Palace
The Suan Pakkad Palace is the first museum in Thailand where the owner, their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga, decided to convert their private residence into a more public space.
Built in the traditional Thai style and opened in 1952, Suan Pakkad Palace contains their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga’s collection of antiquities, which has been passed down through successive generations.
The Suan Pakkad Palace is a combination of fine arts and ancient artifacts.
There are groups of four traditional Thai houses with the covered hallway between them. Houses 5 to 8 are located along the west side of the property.
The Lacquer Pavilion stands in the main garden to the south of the compound. The Ban-Chiang Museum (Thai Heritage) and Marsi Gallery are in the Chumbhot-Pantip Centre of Arts.
For more venues suggested by Meeting and Convention Planner, visit their website www.miceservice.com
We highlight some of them in their own words
“Exotissimo Travel specialises in planning and organising incentive trips and prides itself to be regarded as a leading company in this field for over 10 years.
“Exotissimo Travel can take care of the arrangements of your next event, including meeting, conference, exhibition or seminar facilities, as well as all land operations.
“Trust Exotissimo Travel for truly unique, rewarding and enriching experiences.”
An efficient team of motivated and experienced managers who know their individual terrain extremely well work in harmony towards the same goal.
All are continuously scouting for innovative products and are in daily contact with each other, sharing ideas and information. Training programmes are coordinated throughout the network to ensure that quality is maintained at a consistent level everywhere and at all times. “Asian Trails has become a standard and aspires to be seen as the benchmark against which others are judged.”
“We are not only the first destination management company to specialise in Indochina operations, but we are also the first Asian-based travel company to be owned by its employees.
“We believe that the creative drive of our management, staff and shareholders to succeed will ensure that our clients – you – will receive the absolute pinnacle of personalised service and product delivery.
“Ultimately our goal is to assist you in expanding your market share and growing your business. Your success is our success.”
“We truly understand the needs of incentive travel, corporate meeting planners, congress organisers, exhibition companies, associations and sports organisations. Offering creative solutions with proposals customised for each specific event, we aim to inject magical moments that win you applause.
“The Diethelm Events team has built up high-powered partnerships with hotels and other suppliers. Negotiating strongly on your behalf, we offer you variety and value.”
“Pacific World has earned a strong reputation for achieving the highest standards of product quality, professional management and field operations delivery.”
Meeting and Convention Planner
“We pride ourselves in knowing the product. To ensure that we have updated first-hand information on hand for our clients, we travel extensively around Thailand conducting regular surveying trips and site inspections. In addition to being able to provide precise details about the destination and facilities and services available, this knowledge enables us to book directly, which significantly lowers costs to the client. It also provides the option of pursuing more complex itineraries.”
International flights arrive and depart at Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport. However due to teething problems the former airport at Don Mueang has reopened, serving non-connecting domestic flights
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons – hot and dry from February to May (average day temperature 34ºC); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 34ºC); and cool from November to January (average day temperatures range from 20ºC-32ºC).
Thai is the national language with a number of regional dialects. English is widely spoken and understood especially in the large cities and tourist destinations
The citizens of 40 nations and territories are visa exempt and others may apply for visa on arriva, including India and China. For fuller details see www.tceb.or.th/worldclass_gms_visa.htm
Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB)
Bangkok hotel rates are among the most attractive in the whole of Asia. The Thai capital doesn’t just offer value for money across the board, it also delivers top service and a wide range of international class properties. This then is an event planner’s paradise but what are the hotels doing to stand out from their competitors? Kenny Coyle investigates
Home away from home
Grand Hyatt Erawan
Meeting planners regularly complain of the unimaginative and dull meeting and function spaces provided by hotels.
It’s not surprising then that Lalidapun Chavananand, assistant director of catering, is proud of the hotel’s The Residence, a Tony Chi-designed event facility.
This Hyatt concept aims to create a homely, residential style space breaking with the formality of standard function rooms.
“The Residence has a Loft Kitchen that provides a fun alternative to the normal catering arrangements you associate with meetings. We can arrange a la minute menus or a standing international buffet depending on client preference,” she says.
“It’s a perfect venue for small to medium premium events. We can hold 100 for sit-down lunches or dinners through to 600
Not everyone wants or needs the large spaces of a ballroom. The design of The Residence gives more of the feel of an intimate private party or a social event at someone’s spacious home.
The Residence will be adding another room in a proposed expansion.
“We have a dedicated Residence team and two assistant managers working early and late shifts to ensure that groups always have someone senior they can approach on site,” Lalidapun says.
Plaza Athenée Bangkok, Le Meridien Royal
All too often, hotels have great event
spaces under their very noses but just don’t realise it or don’t promote them properly to event organisers.
Many hotel areas, aside from the traditional ballrooms and meeting rooms, can be turned into very effective platforms for events and functions with a little bit of imagination. The use of suites for small premium events is one such solution.
Aticha Pasaprates, marketing communications manager at the Plaza Athenée Bangkok, says that the hotel’s location on Wireless Road means it is in a location close to both diplomatic missions and a number of large luxury and high-end companies.
The Le Meridien brand has always prided itself on showcasing aspects of local cultures in design and furnishings.
She points to the hotel’s four unique Thai suites, designed to reflect different periods in Thailand’s history.
Ruen Thai, which features rich wooden panels and silks, reflects the style of a traditional Thai house.
Royal Pimai offers a north-eastern Khmer design, with dark woods and sandstone carvings, while Vimarn Siam is based on the architecture of the summer palace of King Rama V, reflecting European influences.
AndRatanakosin is considered the regal suite, resplendent with rich silks and ornate Thai artifacts.
All the suites are available for event hire, additional facilities such as small private kitchens and bars can be set up in the suites too.
“We generally remove larger items such as beds and can re-arrange and bring in furniture to suit the size of the group and meet any special requests,” says Aticha.
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok’s dedicated events team led by Nuttida Suphasith, event management director, prides itself on providing “Professional, Personalised and Attentive” service.
Nuttida says: “At the Millennium Hilton Bangkok, there’s no event that’s too complicated for us to handle. Delivering personalised service is an important part of our culture and it’s what we seek to achieve for every event at our hotel.”
Barely a year old, the hotel’s unique riverfront location lends itself to a variety of events. International fashion shows, IT and pharmaceutical conferences, luxury product launches, and even the 2006 MTV Asia Awards are just some of the events that Nuttida’s team has overseen.
“As a relatively young hotel looking to make our mark in Bangkok’s hotel scene, we’ve gone to great lengths to provide the ideal venue for meetings and events, whether for groups of eight or 800. From outdoor terraces at The Beach – the hotel’s very own white-sand, sun-tanning deck and infinity pool, outdoor sky terraces on the 31st floor to the 630sqm Grand Ballroom and its 8.5 metre-high ceiling, we’re positioning ourselves to be a leading event player in Bangkok,” Nuttida says.
Relax and refocus
JW Marriott Bangkok
French-born Nathalie Paque manages JW’s health club and spa at the JW Marriott Bangkok and has been based in Thailand since 1991.
She says that while spas used to focus entirely on beauty treatments and pampering, today’s trend is more towards the concept of overall wellness.
A traditional Thai spa is an obvious component of an incentive trip to Bangkok and the most luxurious of treatments are available at a fraction of the cost elsewhere and you can be guaranteed the authenticity of the experience.
Increasingly, meeting planners too are looking for added extras in their conference programmes.
“Today’s business people often spend long hours working on computers and travelling on planes,” Paque says.
Spa treatments can be offered to delegates arriving from long-haul destinations. Massage can be used to ease muscle-ache and ease jet-lag, preparing them to make their speeches or presentation the next day feeling totally refreshed.
Paque recommends that long-haul delegates should consider facials as part of their treatment, since long flights dehydrate the skin. JW’s can even arrange an Express Facial that takes only 45 minutes or so.
Other delegates, she says, might find it useful to take a spa break during a two- or three-day schedule to re-energise themselves, to clear their minds and bodies of stress, which will sharpen their mental focus and concentration.
As every conference planner knows, keeping your delegates fed and watered is essential.
Meeting organisers dread finding your audience’s minds wandering from that key sales strategy presentation to their stomachs, looking at their watches to see when the next lunch or coffee break is.
Worse still is when your delegates break only to find that the food is uninspiring or inedible.
The Conrad Bangkok seeks to fill this gap with its Deli concept, a dedicated food and beverage service for meetings. The Deli offers unlimited servings of coffee and tea, alongside individual portions of sandwiches, pastries, cookies, confections and fresh fruits.
Frances Lansink, Conrad Bangkok director of catering, says: “Food is commonly overlooked in the planning of meetings and events, among other details such as audiovisual equipment and internet capability. Yet, it plays a critical role in shaping impressions of an event. What we’re trying to create is the perfect conditions for a successful meeting so that event planners have one less item to worry about.”
Lansik also points out that by changing the menu every day, even week-long conferences needn’t become a gastronomic bore.
JOE LOUIS SUAN LUM NIGHT BAZAAR
Transfer from your hotel by tuk tuk, the local way of transportation (two people per vehicle, specially decorated with your company logo) to the Suan Lum Night Market.
Dinner tonight is in front of Joe Louis Theater restaurant, right in the middle of Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Diners can appreciate authentic Thai cuisine, while enjoying the atmosphere of the market. The famous Puppet Theatre House makes an atmospheric backdrop and clients can see beautiful Hun Lakorn Lek puppets on display before sitting down to eat.
A short puppet performance can be arranged before dinner to add colour.
After dinner, take an opportunity to stroll among the shops offering a nice combination of authentic Thai handicrafts and modern items.
Tonight, dinner is at the famous BedSupperclub restaurant, Bangkok’s smartest, trendiest and most unusual dining venue. The all-white restaurant has a space-age look and lots of attitude. Clients are seated on giant white beds with cushions so the atmosphere is very relaxed and quite informal – a great icebreaker. The food is fusion and always excellent. During the evening, models and dancers provide avant-garde entertainment and a DJ spins cool, contemporary tunes.
Large groups should rent the whole space, which allows numerous branding opportunities (pillows with logos, light shows, models displaying products). Otherwise, a private corner can be rented for smaller groups.
After dinner, guests will able to go to the BedSupperclub Night Club, located beside, without any charge. They will be able to dance there until the night club closes.
Add-on 1: A police escort to facilitate the transfer to the BedSupperclub, to avoid traffic jams and shorten the length of the transfer. A VIP touch as well.
Add-on 2: Decoration with pillows
showing the logo of the company for a spectacular effect.
Add-on 3: Masseurs/masseuses for the evening to provide neck/shoulder massage. to the guests while they are enjoying
Add-on 4: During dinner, professional models will strut their stuff at a fashion show to impress everybody.
Add-on 5: One of the famous transvestite cabarets in Bangkok will perform three sets of a show, providing entertainment during dinner.
Add-on 6: A two-drink voucher to celebrate in the night club.
Height has always had powerful implications in the corporate mind, which is why we have set aside the Dome’s pinnacle space for the corporate functions of clients whose priority is to make a singular statement of ambition, ascent or achievement.
Located on the 67th floor in a golden dome on top of Bangkok’s State Tower, The Dome is a perfect circle surrounded by an unbroken band of windows looking over Bangkok. This vista creates a visual that is memorable and effective.
This air-conditioned venue can be reserved exclusively for your group. The evening starts with a cocktail at the outdoor Flute Bar. The guests will then be led to the Dome where a beautiful set up awaits them; the dinner is usually an international set dinner and food plus service is always impeccable.
During the evening, trio band, DJ, coloured theme, fashion show, magician close up, or any other option can be added to chill out or heat up the ambiance.
MR KUKRIT PRAMOJ’s HOUSE
Experience a traditional Thai incentive dinner at the gardens of MR Kukrit Pramoj’s House, who was twice Prime Minister of Thailand, and is also an actor, writer and statesman.
The beautiful Ayutthaya-style house is located in the heart of central Bangkok and is truly an oasis in the city. The magnificent teak house with beautiful gardens, lotus ponds and ornate salas is Bangkok’s most perfect incentive dinner venue.
The grounds are large enough to accommodate groups of up to 300 in the garden, while the main sala can provide an intimate setting for smaller groups (20-50) or an ideal space for cocktails.
Our classic Thai Incentive Dinner starts with a traditional long drum welcome, where guests receive a welcome garland before enjoying a cocktail reception in the Khmer Garden. Traditional Thai dances are performed on the stage in the main sala or, for higher impact, Thai boxing or sword fighting bouts, to give the evening an energetic start.
Guests are then led to the museum where guides are stationed to explain the history of the house before we step into the garden lit by hundreds of candles and torches and also decorated by thousands of orchids. A buffet or set dinner can be served in the garden and entertainment can be by a jazz band or DJ, traditional Thai dancers, a contemporary dance company, the famous Joe Louis Puppet Theatre or a combination of all. And why not a transfer by tuk tuk afterward to the Suan Lum night market?
SALA RIM NAAM, Gala Dinner
The Sala Rim Naam is one of Bangkok’s most prestigious and impressive gala dinner venues. Guests arrive by a rice barge and are welcomed at the pier by women in traditional Thai dresses.
After receiving a flower garland, they are served cocktails by the river. Ice carvings, floral displays, banners, flags or other decorations can be displayed according to the client’s desires.
Entertainment is provided on the main lawn and can be traditional Thai dances or, for a higher impact evening, Thai boxing or sword-fighting bouts. Handicraft demonstrations are set up at strategic locations and our guides are on hand to explain what is going on.
Choose from umbrella painting, khon mask making, calligraphers or even fish-fighting. Magicians can also circulate among the guests.
Dinner is served in the main Sala and is usually a Thai set. During dinner we can provide dancers to entertain or simply play atmospheric music.
A contemporary Thai candle dance is highly recommended as dinner draws to an end. Afterward, guests can continue the evening in the gardens and on the riverfront terrace where a jazz band can play until midnight and a spectacular firework display over the Chao Phraya River makes for an incomparable evening’s close. n
Evening options provided by Exotissimo Thailand in Bangkok www.exotissimo.com