Fun activities for corporate groups are emerging in Bangkok, giving repeat clients opportunities to rediscover the city, writes Greg Lowe
Whether it’s snoring, snacking or cycling, Thailand travel specialists are developing a range of products which either provide delegates with unique ways of experiencing the local culture and environment, or offer them the ultimate opportunity to recover from the pressures of corporate life, all of which make ideal elements for immersive incentive programmes and pre/post-meeting tours.
Leisure itineraries for visiting corporate groups have included traditional Thai cooking classes, fruit carving lessons and bamboo raft trips for decades and while such activities may be popular for first-time visitors to the country, they quickly loose their appeal with repeat clients who are constantly pressuring DMCs for new ideas.
Indigo Pearl Phuket, Taste of Thailand Food Tours and Spice Roads have all recently launched innovative products that can add another experiential level to corporate programmes.
Jacob Hodder, who started Taste of Thailand Food Tours last year, said his company seeks to provide clients with “an intimate window into Thai culture, history and people through food” by taking them on walking tours to small local restaurants and hawker stalls. The company, which currently runs tours in Bangkok and will be launching a nighttime tour this month, keeps group sizes small but can run concurrent tours to handle larger corporate groups.
“We aim to provide full bellies and full minds by the end of our experience,” Hodder said.
He added: “Every dish has a story to tell – from the historical influence of Indian spices and Chinese noodles to the folklore of finding your perfect love through the use of a mortar and pestle.
“Often the story is in the amazing people who serve secret recipes handed down generation after generation for more than 100 years or the great grandfather’s street cart that grew in popularity to become a locally renowned restaurant. Sometimes it is even the architecture of an eatery or local market that provides us a glimpse into the yesteryear of Bangkok and how rapidly the city is modernising.”
Spice Roads is another company that provides visitors with a street-level view of life in Bangkok. The cycling specialist launched two new tours – Chinatown and Bangkok Sunset Ride – in the Thai capital in September.
The Chinatown tour starts at the Grand China Hotel and takes riders through bustling back alleys before crossing the river to visit the Portuguese church and on to Wat Arun. Meanwhile, the Bangkok Sunset Ride takes participants past the palaces and temples in the Rattanakosin Island area. Both trips cover about 15km in four hours.
Patricia Weismantel, product manager at Spice Roads, told TTGmice: “If you’re driving around Bangkok in a minivan, you’re not going to see much of the city. These tours take people right into the old part of town, down little back alleyways which they would otherwise have walked past. It’s hard to find these places on your own.
“We also have similar day and night tours in Chiang Mai. The night ride is really cool because it takes you around the old town and through the night market. Our clients love it because they feel they have experienced Thailand in a different way.”
Indigo Pearl Phuket, on the other hand, has introduced an incentive package which is all about doing as little as possible.
The Art of Sleep, which is aimed at executives needing a serious recharge from the pressures of work, was developed by Chris Oakes, the resort’s general manager and a self-confessed insomniac, who said the property is the first in Thailand to offer such a package.
“Sleep has become the great casualty of modern life, stolen by the stresses of work and family and the round-the-clock connectivity imposed by the Internet age,” he said.
“For many companies that have been working hard towards a goal or an incentive, time together with plenty of time for sleeping and recovering would be a very attractive proposition.
“And with that rest and relaxation often comes a flowering of creativity and seeing old problems with new eyes. So the benefits for a company could be manifold.”
To adapt the package for MICE groups, Indigo Pearl has added elements including group sleeping sessions on beanbags under shady trees that line the beach, specially crafted spa therapies, in-room aromatherapy to induce relaxation, tai chi and yoga classes, and more.
The property is targeting high-level groups from Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Art of Sleep can be added to an existing package from 6,500++ baht (US$201.50) per person.
Kick off the day with a Bangkok Food Challenge. Your group will be split into teams and a Thai chef will shows participants how to make three local dishes. The team is then given a crash course in Thai to help them purchase key ingredients and handle local transport. A set of flash cards denoting the ingredients and 1,000 baht of spending money will be distributed before teams are sent off to secure all ingredients in under three hours. Points are awarded for the fastest time, greatest variety of transport used, most relevant posts on the activity on Facebook, etc.
The cook-off begins after lunch, and teams have 90 minutes to cook the three dishes from scratch.
Free time/coffee break is offered after this challenge.
Up next: Escape Hunt Bangkok. Teams will compete to solve a historical murder mystery challenge.
Your group will have the evening off to themselves.
The day begins with surfing lessons and teambuilding games at Flow House Bangkok.
After lunch, your group will head to Healthland Asoke for a revitalising Thai massage.
Come evening, take on a cocktail mixology class from Flow Cocktail and compete with one another to create the best libation.
End the two-day teambuilding programme over dinner and drinks at LB Terrace.
Need to know
Celebrity twist to Thai street food and classic dishes
Housed in a 100-year-old villa, which has been painted shocking pink, Naamsah Bottling Trust is celebrity chef Ian Kittichai’s latest addition to Bangkok’s dining scene. The restaurant serves Kittichai’s personal take on classic Thai dishes and street cuisine, some of which have been combined with other cosmopolitan comfort foods, such as tacos and fois gras. The bar serves more than 30 kinds of cocktails.
Visit www.naamsah.com for more information.
Enjoy more than a tipple at Mikkeller Bangkok
Situated in a former house and gardens off Ekkamai Road, Mikkeller Bangkok is the fourth addition to the Danish gypsy brewery’s global bar footprint. Serving 30 craft beers on tap, with more in bottles, the bar boasts the country’s best range of high-quality drafts, many of which are one-off creations from the master brewer. The taste-before-you-buy policy makes choosing more fun.
Plan a private movie night
Corporate gatherings need not always be over cocktails and dinners. Event planners can arrange for a cosy movie night at Bangkok’s poshest cinema, Embassy Diplomat Screens, where cinephiles can choose from a host of seating options, from cocoons to day beds.
The smallest theatre in the venue offers just 31 seats.
Other facilities include a bar, quality bites from DEAN & DELUCA, headphones with private language choices, and a living room waiting area.
Embassy Diplomat Screens, located in Central Embassy on Ploenchit Road, is open for private bookings.
Engineer a hot cocktail party
Ashley Sutton, the godfather of Bangkok cocktail bars, has outdone himself with his latest creation, A R Sutton Engineers & Co Siam, which, he says, combines colonial inspirations with a touch of black magic.
Drinks are design by Joseph Boroski, a big name in the world of bars and mixology. The bar’s dark interiors sport plenty of exposed beams, red brick and polished metal.
Visit www.facebook.com/A.R.Sutton.engineers for more information.
Italian indulgence in a Thai kingdom
Paolo Vitaletti earned a reputation for serving some of Bangkok’s best Italian food with the opening of Appia. His latest venture, Peppina, is already rated by some as being home to the city’s best pizza. No pasta is served here but there are plenty of other Italian favourites and grilled meats, as well as a solid list of wines, craft beers and cocktails. Advance booking is strongly advised.
Visit www.facebook.com/peppinapizza for details.
Excellent access for museum fans
Anyone wanting to check out more than a couple of Bangkok’s museums should purchase the Muse Pass ticket book which provides entry to 20 museums in the city and its environs for 199 baht (US$6.20). Participating museums include Museum Siam, Siam House of Bizarre Creatures, Phaya Thai Palace, Bangkok Folk’s Museum, King Prajadhipok Museum, Thai Film Museum, Science Museum and The Queen’s Gallery.
Visit www.thaiticketmajor.com for details.