The Orkhan Valley
Where is it? Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital – just a two-hour plane ride from Beijing – is the gateway to one of Mongolia’s most beautiful and most historical sites: the Orkhan Valley.
Why is it special? A visit to Kharakhorum, the cradle of Mongolian civilisation, and the capital from the eighth through 13th centuries, reveals working monasteries with monks performing rituals, opportunities to walk and eat lunch by the Orkhan River, beautiful scenery as far as the eye can see, and the chance to stay in a ger (traditional felt tents of nomadic herders), away from email, the office, BlackBerry and the demands of everyday life.
What can you do there? Nomadic Expeditions, an expert in Mongolian adventures, can customise an itinerary for your group, but recommends that “for your own experience and for the environment, we fully believe in the benefits of small group travel”, where the Orkhan Valley is concerned. After flying into the capital, groups can spend their first night in Mongolia resting up at one of the city’s luxury hotels and dining at the Abtai-Sain Khan Palace Restaurant, a large ger like one once owned by Genghis Khan. After a day of reflecting on one of the most historic and relevant ancient capitals, a banquet under the stars will make an impact on even the most jaded of business travellers. Incentive and teambuilding opportunities abound in these surroundings where horseback riding, off-road exploring and the simple enjoyment of the home of Genghis Khan are all at your fingertips. Back in Ulaanbaatar before your group heads back home, you can enjoy a performance by traditional Mongolian dancers and hoomi (throat) singers.
Contact: Nomadic Expeditions, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where is it? About three hours by bullet train from Tokyo or just 75 minutes from Osaka Kansai Airport in central Japan.
Why is it special? The capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, Kyoto retains the largest number of individual UNESCO sites of any city in the world.
What can you do there? For conference and event organisers, Kyoto is an especially desirable destination as the Kyoto Convention Bureau has put together incentive packages to make the city affordable and accessible for groups of all sizes. In one of their sample itineraries, activities include teaching delegates how to wear a kimono and visiting Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji Temple, the Imperial Palace and the Hein Shrine, among others. They can organise a special dinner at the Shoren-in Temple, a spectacular treat for conference and event participants. Additionally, entertainment like traditional music, dance and food can be arranged. For board meetings and more business-concentrated travel, many of the luxury hotels in the area are capable of handling groups of up to 1,500 in large meeting facilities and break-out rooms, interspersed with hotel-based activities or sightseeing excursions. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get lost in some of Kyoto’s winding streets. While geisha-sighting may not be guaranteed, an experience to remember and a real feel for the historical nature of the city is indeed assured.
Contact: Hankyu Express, www.hankyu-travel.com
Where is it? In central Vietnam about an hour or so from Danang.
Why is it special? Hue was Vietnam’s capital from 1802 to 1945, during the Nguyen Dynasty. Although it was partially destroyed in the Tet Offensive of 1968, an increasing number of the buildings and monuments in the old capital are being restored, making it an ever-more interesting site.
What can you do there? In addition to tours of the large complexes in and around the city, visits to the city must include a leisurely cruise along the Perfume River, passing the Thien Mu pagoda, and should you choose a night cruise, passing music concerts that drift along the river. With several high-class business hotels – including the Saigon Morin City Centre Hotel which features modern business, conference and banquet facilities in the heart of Hue – and easy access from both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Hue is an ideal alternative for groups looking to explore one of Vietnam’s most spectacular sites.
Contact: Exotissimo Travel Vietnam, email@example.com
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Where is it? Along the Myanmar border, stretching over more than 600,000 hectares is one of the most spectacular wildlife sanctuaries in Asia, and a prime location for incentive travel groups interested in an eco-focused experience.
Why is it special? Home to 77 percent of the large mammals, 50 percent of the large birds, and 33 percent of land vertebrates found in the region, the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary covers three regions in Northern Thailand.
What can you do there? One of the more luxurious and secluded resorts in the region – for groups perhaps looking for more in the way of privacy for a corporate retreat – the Avatar Spa Mountain Suites Hotel in the Uthai Thani region is perfect for a first-class experience while enjoying proximity to the sanctuary, as well as your own natural surroundings.
A three-hour ride – private coaches are available – from the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a city that lies along the reserve, and has more traditional hotels with business and conference facilities for groups of up to 1,000 (in the Felix River Kwai Resort’s pillarless convention centre). As entry points to the reserve can be found in several cities along the expanse of nature, flora, fauna and animals, serene, inspiring and peaceful breaks from conferences or seminars are easily planned during the day. The experience will be a memorable one for groups looking to combine business meetings with the viewing of elephants, tigers and monkeys – all in their natural habitats.
Contact: Thai Focus, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ancient City of Kandy
Where is it? About three hours by road from Colombo or two hours by train.
Why is it special? The last royal capital where 2,500 years of royal rule ended, Kandy offers sites that will keep delegates busy, enjoying the beauty and wonder of the temples, the Royal Palace, the Hindu Shrine, and the natural landscape that surrounds the area. Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city, and home to the most sacred Buddhist site on the island (Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth), surrounded by rolling hills, tea estates and winding roads.
What can you do there? As a result of the hilly landscape and the British influence, most of the hotels in the area have extensive outdoor areas on which a night-time event or banquet under the stars would be breathtaking.
Access to Kandy can be turned into part of the experience of an event. Delegates have the option of taking a two-hour train ride from Colombo to Kandy, and groups can coordinate to book out particular cars, brand their train, and participate in team-building exercises while en route to the city. If you book early enough in advance, your group could enjoy the famed Pageantry of the Temple of Tooth and the Day Pageant at the Temple, which occur in early to mid-August.
Contact: Kandy Tours, email@example.com
Where is it? Gyeongju is in the southeast of the Korean peninsula
Why is it special? Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient state of Silla over 1,000 years ago. Described by the World Heritage Organisation as containing “a remarkable concentration of outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art, in the form of sculptures, reliefs, pagodas and the remains of temples and palaces from the flowering, in particular between the 7th and 10th centuries, of this form of unique artistic expression”, this biking and walking-friendly city is a small town with a lot to offer.
What can you do there? Both Tumuli Park and Wolseong Park are conducive to group events and activities. Spring is the best time to hike Namsan Mountain, only five minutes south of the central city and home to a slew of historical Buddha reliefs carved into its rocks and boulders. In addition to the sites in the city itself, during March and April, groups can enjoy the Liquor and Cake Festival which highlights the region’s rice cakes, tea, rice wines, and arts and crafts. Several business-class hotels in the area provide the perfect home base for meetings, conferences and all the comforts of home, while also serving as the ideal point from which to take in all the culture and heritage of Gyeongju.
Contact: Hana Tour Service, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Temple of Borobudur
Where is it? Approximately 40 kilometres northwest of Yogyakarta, Borobudur is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi.
Why is it special? This great Buddhist stupa on the island of Java is one of the most impressive art complexes in the world, not only due to its size, but its exceptional level of sophisticated reliefs and the impeccable manner in which it has been preserved. Estimated to have been erected in the late eighth or early nintth century by the kings of central Java, it was abandoned about a century later, but today stands in awe-inspiring glory to be observed and admired by tourists from all over the world.
What can you do there? The nearby Manohar Hotel can organise several different elephant tours that take groups around the temple, through a neighbouring village, or in between the temple and mountains. There is no better way to relax delegates in town for a seminar or conference than to allow them to enjoy the scenery as was customary when the Borobudur Temple was built. Just 700 metres from the temple complex is Tondok Tingal Hotel, which boasts indoor/outdoor meeting facilities for 75-150 people, and offers a variety of activities in the natural surroundings of Java’s landscape. Adventure Indonesia, a prominent events tour company in the country, suggests groups get out and try white-water rafting, cultural activities in neighbouring villages, and the opportunity to explore a tea plantation.
Contact: Adventure Indonesia, email@example.com