Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thailand CONNECT: Hip & Heritage Business Events Trip


Before I begin, many of you may be wondering what is MICE in Thailand? To clarify this, it is a term used for Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions, the acronym of MICE. Thailand is also one of the sought after MICE destinations in the world offering visitors a myriad of locations and destinations to choose ranging from islands to highlands and their vibrant cities rich with culture and heritage. 

Recently in August 2014, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, TCEB in short, organaised a familiarization MICE trip to Bangkok and Chiang Mai under the branding of Thailand Connect - HIP and Heritage Business Events. This trip saw various specialized media from around Asia attending to understand the MICE business in Thailand. The media fam trip is also supported by Thai Airways International and the Department of Information and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and arranged by Bangkok Writer Media and PR Agency from Bangkok, Thailand.


Thailand Connect 2015

While MICE can be a niche subject to discuss, I made it a point to make this article simple and friendly as I know, many general readers out there prefer to have simple layman English to understand this segment of tourism. Thailand, one of the most interesting countries to visit in the world offers various styles of business event trips as many international companies are seeking new experiences in business travel.

Bangkok Writer Media was in charge of the media for this MICE fam trip where a selected number of writers and bloggers from around the region was selected to attend this trip which covered Bangkok and Chiang Mai. As expected, everything was clockwork as soon as I landed there and I have to say, I was very impressed with the way things were handled by Bangkok Writer's PR consultant Sirima Eamtako and her team.


Arriving in style - The Fast Pass Immigration Premium Lane 

On my arrival to the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok via Thai Airways, a team member from Bangkok Writer Media was already waiting at the baggage collection area to personally welcome us where she directed us to the 'Fast Pass' immigration premium lane. This function is available for anyone who is coming to Thailand for any MICE event, providing the organaiser arranges this beforehand with the relevant authorities. The process is so quick, I was totally dumbfounded as usually it takes forever to clear the main immigration counters here. So, two thumbs up for this Fast Pass Premium Lane Service at Bangkok Airport.


Traveling in style - Bangkok Police Escort 

Boarding the transport which was waiting for us at the main entrance, I noticed a Thai police car in the front. Again, I was totally impressed that this was also arranged to shuttle us into the city as everyone knows how notorious the Bangkok traffic can be. Police escort in Bangkok? One word - Awesome!

Driving on the main highways, the police escort paved its way through hundreds of cars that moved out if its way upon hearing the sirens blare as and when it was needed. Generally, we got to our destination which is the Siam Hotel in the Dusit area in a record time! Two thumbs up again!


Checking-in with style - The Siam Hotel

Just out of the main city center is The Siam Hotel, an all suit luxury hotel located by the Chow Praya River in the Dusit district. Built in the Art Deco style that resembles the early 1900's Bangkok era, the Siam offers luxurious suites and villas for business or leisure travelers seeking something different from your general 5-star hotels. Here, guests are called by names while the overall ambiance is guaranteed to impress anyone what walks into this urban luxury resort.


On my first impression, I assumed this place to be a private mansion cum antique museum as where ever I set foot in the premises, there was some form of relic of antique to be discovered. This kind of reminded me of the Tugu Hotel in Bali when I once stayed there in 2011. The owners cleverly blended art deco with antiques and an overall colonial look to give the place an exciting and interesting perspective. The Siam Hotel is also owned and run by the well known Sukosol family since 1973.


Siam Hotel Suites - Designed for design lovers

As I checked in to my Siam Suite, I was very impressed with the layout of the unit where it was divided into three main areas - Welcome area, bedroom and bathroom. You can be assured of space as this lot takes up 860 square feet complete with a king sized bed. The welcome area serves as a guest area where you can comfortably entertain two people there.

The bathroom totally blew me away as it has been a long time since I was pampered by such a large bathroom, complete with a classic bat tub laid smack in the center. There were his and her sinks with full wall mirrors on opposite sides where if I were to walk from one end to one end, it would take you at least 10 general steps.

So impressed with the layout of the room, I totally missed the sweet and beautiful welcome gift and note placed on the bed. It was a hand crafted and painted Thai elephant welcoming the Hip and Heritage Business Events media group. Everyone received one where each was a different design. A very nice touch I have to admit.


A Thai Cooking Class? - Why not! 

Heading to the riverside section of the Siam Hotel, a Thai cooking class was prepared for the delegation at the Chon Thai Restaurant. Here, the local master chef had prepared three cooking stations where we were broken into teams of three. Our mission - to cook some authentic Thai food.

El Kwang MiceNet Asia
El Kwang at work
First on the menu was the world famous Thai Spring Rolls, something I really love to eat when in Thailand so this was my chance to make my own! Teaming up with fellow blogger Chee Ching from Malaysia, we got down and dirty making those Thai Spring Rolls from scratch and deep frying them before garnishing them.

Apparently, the fastest and the best cooking would get a prize from Sirima Eamtako, PR Consultant of Bangkok Writer Media and PR Agency, so teams were pretty psyched up to claim that mysterious trophy.

Next was Pad Thai, everyone's favourite Thai dish. As for me and Chee Ching, the cooking style kind of reminded us of Fried Kuay Teow from Malaysia, so it was pretty easy to do. In the end, the trophy went to MiceNet Asia's El Kwang's and his team who seemed to be pretty quick in the kitchen!


Cooking class The Siam
Team Malaysia's Pad Thai dish, not bad too! 
But then again, it was all about good fun and not competition. All the media then sat down to eat their creations, for lunch mind you. Overall, the three teams cooking results were almost similar as the ingredients used were all the same. Just the technique used and how long you were stirring the dish.

Asiatique Riverside, Bangkok
Asiatique Riverside, Bangkok
Asiatique Riverfront - Bangkok's Entertainment Spot

Our next destination in the evening was the famous Asiatique Riverfront, acclaimed as Bangkok's top entertainment place and the first biggest lifestyle project in Asia on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The Asiatique was once an old riverside factory warehouse district where back in the early 1900's this was the main pier that exported teak wood to the world. Now, these multiple huge warehouses have over 1500 boutique styles shops that sell all sorts of decorations, nick-nacks, fashion, souvenirs and art. The area is also divided into four main districts which are Charoenkrung District, Town Square District, Factory District and Waterfront District where each of these districts have their own speciality.

Asiatique Bangkok Management
Asiatique briefing by the management
As for dining, there is a huge international selection of restaurants and cafes to choose from where there are a total of 40. Even bars and pubs are available while for entertainment, there is the famous Muay Thai Live show, which is the first of its kind in the world. A live performance of the traditional martial arts of Muay Thai made into a theatre style performance. This show is highly recommended for anyone visiting Asitique. Other shows include Calypso Cabaret - a unique cabaret show, Asiatique Sky, the Mehkong Wheel which is a giant Ferris Wheel overlooking the Chow Praya river and entire area, YMax Read 4D, a 4-Dimension cinema and a Siam River Cruise.

Currently Asiatique utilises 12 acres of its 28.8 acre land space. In future, a hotel and other themed attractions are to be added. For more information, visit the Asiatique Website.

Asiatique at night in Bangkok
Asiatique at night in Bangkok
As we arrived with our Thai police escort, our first destination was one of the specialised beer cafes to meet up with the Asiatique management for a briefing. This cafe also served over 380 types of beers, which I was curious to try - one every day for the year! The management gave us an overview of Asiatique where their aim was to cater to all kinds of leisure and business tourism, mainly due to the fact that the place was huge and accommodating.

For your added information, you should also know that over 20,000 people visit Asiatique on a normal day where else on weekends or public holidays, the place packs in a whopping 40,000 people. The place opens fully in the evenings therefore it is best to visit here after 5pm.

Joe Louis Restaurant and Puppet Show Asiatique
Joe Louis Restaurant and Puppet Show at Asiatique
 A Puppet Show for Dinner - Joe Louis Restaurant

After exploring Asiatique and riding the Mehkong Ferris Wheel (largest in Thailand), our dinner was arranged at the Joe Louis Restaurant, where the latter is famous for their unique traditional puppetry. Officials from TCEB had joined us for dinner therefore we got to mingle and network during dinner.

Me and Christian being mobbed
A special puppet show was also performed for us and as this was my first time seeing a traditional Thai puppet show, I never expected three people to man one puppet. These Thai puppets were huge, almost human like and the movements were very detailed and precised.

The Joe Louis puppet show was themed around a traditional Thai story based on the ancient Thai characters used. For a first timer, I was very impressed with this show during our dinner. And the puppeteers even went around from person to person for a photo opportunity. You can see from my expression in the photo above how excited I was when the brought one of the puppets around to me. Below is also a photo of the traditional Thai starters served before our dinner here.

Thai starters at Joe Louis Restaurant
Thai starters at Joe Louis Restaurant
Muay Thai Live - A must-see show in Bangkok


Who would have thought that the ancient art of Muay Thai, could be made into a theatre styled show? Something very different, this was a show I could not miss - actual Muay Thai fighters are the main line up of characters in this show and the story line goes from the beginning of Muay Thai history to current day Muay Thai.

I am not going to reveal everything here as it would be best for you to see it live in action. Lot of action I promise! Tickets are reasonably priced at around THB1200 to 1500 per person, depending on the seating area.

Finally, our Hip and Heritage entourage was treated to a photo opportunity with the entire cast of Muay Thai Live outside the theatre. You can see in the photos that everyone wanted a photo with the cast. Even I had my chance to 'strike-a-pose' with one of the main cast.

Conclusion on Day 1

Our day ended with lots of excitement in the form of sight, sound and taste. Amazing visuals from the many places we visited, beautiful sounds of Bangkok city and stunning selections of local Thai food throughout the day. I looked forward to the second day as we were having an official press conference and briefing about Hip & Heritage Business Events, MICE in Thailand which was represented by TCEB, Thai Airways international and the Department of Information and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at The Siam Hotel.


HIP & Heritage Business Events Press Conference 2014

The day started out great as I had breakfast at the Chon Thai Restaurant overlooking the Chow Praya river before the start of the Thailand Connect 2014 press conference at 10.00am. The invited VIP's had arrived when we took our positions at the U-shaped conference seating before an introduction was done by Sirima Eamtako before handing the session to Mrs. Supawan Teerarat who is the vice-president, strategic planning and business development of TCEB.

Simplified, the press conference showcased Thailand as a preferred MICE destination with offerings of MICE destinations to the highlands, islands and beaches to the cities rich with culture and heritage. Bangkok being the capital, offering the most facilities while the partnering destination was Chiang Mai up north in Thailand. Numbers of MICE visitors were also growing where Thailand targets to welcome a total of 888,210 MICE travelers in 2014 that will generate earnings of US$ 2.9 billion for the country.

Mrs Supawan Teerarat
Mrs. Supawan Teerarat hands over a bouquet of flowers to Mr. Sek Wannamethee from the ministry
A statement by Mrs Supawan Teerarat, vice-president, strategic planning and business development of TCEB also mentioned "The perfect business event starts with a brilliant blend of local activities and dream destinations. TCEB designed Thailand CONNECT: Hip & Heritage Business Events Program to demonstrate how Thailand's unique attributes enable us to host any business event in every season here in Thailand.

Thailand CONNECT Hip & Heritage Business Events Program 2015An another statement, Mr.Sek Wannamethee who is the director-General of Information and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasised that, "The situation in Thailand is now peaceful and secure, as reflected in the satisfaction of both the ordinary citizens and the business community therefore it is now the perfect time to showcase Thailand's strong fundamentals and resilient economy".

In general, the objective of Thailand CONNECT: Hip & Heritage Business Events Program is to conceptualise the MICE business events groups looking to offer delegates an enchanting mix of modern and traditional experiences across two of Thailand's premier MICE destinations which are Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Thai Airways was also a part of this fam trip where they assisted in flying in the media from around the region of Asia. The airline also let us experience the local domestic flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and back via Thai Smile, their low-cost airlines.

The Thailand CONNECT: Hip & Heritage Business Events Program forms a part of Thailand's MICE UNITED, a strategic partnership program designed to reinvigorate the country's positive image and reaffirm confidence among the international business community.

To learn more about Thailand CONNECT the World for MICE, you can visit Business Events Thailand. "Thailand CONNECT the World" is also an initiative of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), the Thai government’s official flagship body for the business events sector.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Thailand CONNECT: Hip & Heritage Business Events MICE Trip article. 

Author:

Malaysia Asia is a multiple award-winning travel blog site with information on unique and interesting places around Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and the World. Malaysia Asia is also under MyAsia Services, a Digital Travel Solutions Company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest. We are also not your regular travel bloggers. 

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