Don’t Plan a Retreat in Thailand for Your Remote Teams Unless it Includes These 5 Things

Company retreat in Thailand Baan Chang Elephant Park Chiang Mai Thailand

A bit about Thailand...

Thailand is a country rich in culture, history and adventure. It is a top destination for company retreats, accommodating teams of all sizes, from all over the globe, with varying interests.

From intricately designed palaces to busy street markets to serene, beachside resorts, Thailand seems to have it all.

About the culture...

Before going to Thailand, you can check out some of the history as well as proper attire to respect the local culture.

Thailand's culture is influenced by the surrounding areas of China, India, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. The primary religion practiced in Thailand is Buddhism, however there is also a strong presence of Hinduism as well. The Thai Chinese population also practices Taoism and other Chinese folk religions. 

Here are a few books that provide great resources and information regarding Thai history, culture, customs and more:

What continent?

Thailand is a part of the continent of Asia.

How about the weather?

The great thing about Thailand’s weather is you can visit pretty much year round. The cooler and drier season is from around November until April. Remember though, Thailand is a tropical destination, so pop-up rainstorms are not unheard of.

The islands in the Gulf of Thailand get slightly less rainfall than the rest of the country, and they are great to visit from late January through mid-March. But let's be honest, we're headed to a beautiful tropical island, so anytime is a great time, right? I was on the island of Koh Phangan in October and while it was humid, it was still beautiful.

On Thailand's west coast and the Andaman Sea, where you'll find the islands Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Krabi, December and January provide the freshest weather and most sunshine for the optimal beach retreat.

Thailand's capital of Bangkok, a city teeming with the hustle and bustle of tuk-tuks and tourists, tends to be relatively humid all year round. But, check it out in December or January and you're likely to catch some drier air. If you can, avoid Bangkok in April and September; it's hot, humid, and in September, Bangkok often sees nonstop rain.

If you head north to Chiang Mai, you will definitely find cooler weather. Northern Thailand from December to February sees sunny days and cool nights, great weather to be outside zip-lining and bathing elephants.

From May to October is "monsoon season." I did a lot of traveling in October and did not experience any monsoons myself, but do your best to avoid traveling during those months as storms can blow in from all sides of the country.

What is the local currency?

Thailand is on the Thai baht (THB).  The currency symbol is ฿. According to XE.com, the most popular exchange rate is the THB to EUR, the Euro. Money exchanges can be made at the airport when you arrive or at local banks and currency exchange center. You can get more information about the currency and current exchange rates here. Remember that Travellers Cheques are only accepted at dedicated foreign exchange shops or banks. There are plenty of ATMs around Thailand, so you can always get cash once you are in the country, just be aware of your own bank fees, ATM withdrawal fees and credit card foreign transaction fees. 

transportation...

Moped in Thailand family on one bike

There are eight major international airports in Thailand. The largest airport in Thailand is the Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), also known as the New Bangkok International Airport. It is located in Bangkok. There is also Don Mueang International Airport (DMK), also located in Bangkok. Thailand has international airports in many of the popular destinations though, including Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi and more.

Once in Thailand, you can get around by taxi, tuk-tuk, private minibus, public bus, train, boat, "long-tail", ferry, moped and more. It simply depends on your schedule and budget.

When I traveled to Thailand I first flew into BKK and from there up to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX). Getting around Chiang Mai I used tuk-tuks and met some friendly locals. If you are in a group, you might be more comfortable in a taxi or hiring a driver while in each city as tuk-tuks have a limited amount of space.

When I was ready to hit the islands, I flew from CNX to Phuket International Airport (HKT). From Phuket I was headed to Koh Phangan. I took a taxi to a tuk-tuk to a public bus to a ferry to another taxi to a long-tail boat. It was a journey for sure, but I wouldn't trade any of it. My only warning with traveling this way instead of flying is be prepared for many delays in your schedule. I was meeting two friends in Koh Samui to share the long-tail over to Koh Phangan. And without cell phones to keep them updated, let's just say I'm thankful to have patient friends.

The fastest way to get to the islands is definitely by plane, and you can fly into Samui Airport (USM) on Koh Samui, catch a ride to the water front, and island hop from there.

When I returned to Bangkok before flying out I found that overnight train to be very affordable and convenient. I did take a long-tail to a ferry to a bus to a train, but at the end of the journey, I had a bed to sleep in, a place to keep my belongings safe, and I was able to hop on the train and wake up in Bangkok. Again though, flying is the fastest, and short flights between cities are not too expensive if you book in advance. Be aware of your own personal comfort needs and your schedule, and plan your transportation accordingly. And if you don't want to worry about it, you can always let Rebel + Connect handle the planning for you!

Now, on to the fun and exciting stuff!

 

Don't miss these five experiences on your remote team retreat!

 

If you're looking for a true elephant sanctuary, Baan Chang is the place to be. The elephants are rescued from circuses and illegal logging camps where more often than not, animal abuse is present.

Baan Chang offers individuals and groups an opportunity to learn about elephants as animals and as a symbol of Thai culture. You can half day and full day excursions with a brief ride or no riding. If riding is included, you are instructed how to safely mount your elephant and properly ride it "bare back" (no fancy box mounted on top as those cause pain and injury in these majestic creatures) for a hike through the woods. If you opt for the "no riding" experience, the group will still hike, and the elephants walk alongside.

Upon arrival, your guides will give you an outfit to change into so you don't have to worry about getting your clothes covered in dirt and elephant kisses.

Baan Chang Elephant Park Chiang Mai Thailand

Baan Chang Elephant Park will educated your group on the importance of providing a safe place for elephants to live out their lives in peace. You will learn about the care of the animals and spend time feeding them.

Elephant smiles at Baan Chang Elephant Park Chiang Mai Thailand

At the end of your half or full day tour, you will be allowed to get into the water with the elephants and give them a scrub down and bath as a display of appreciation for their existence as well as the ride, if your tour included one.

This excursion is a wonderful opportunity for remote teams to learn about an important part of another country's culture while giving their time to an organization committed to the well-being and safety of these animals.

 

2. Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew "Temple of the Emerald Buddha"

Visiting the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha Bangkok Thailand

A visit to Thailand would not be complete without seeing the Grand Palace in the country's capital, Bangkok.

It was built in 1782, and for 150 years it served as the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. It is ornate and spectacular and a true representation of Thai architecture and display of the creativity of the Thai people. You can book a tour or visit on your own as there are maps and signs to guide you through.

Elephants are an important part of Thai culture and architecture.
Grand palace Bangkok dress code

The important thing to know about the Grand Palace is that entrance requires specific attire. There is a strict dress code that is to be followed out of respect for Thai custom and tradition. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves -- no tank tops. Shoulders must be covered at all times. Your midriff must be covered, and no backless clothing or low-cut clothing on females. Skirts and shorts that show the ankles are not allowed either. Also, no flip-flops and no bare chests allowed. We already talked about the heat and humidity in Bangkok, but don't worry, there is a changing room at the Grand Palace, so you can pack your "Palace appropriate outfit" in your bag and put it on when you arrive. And, even if you forget, there is a booth outside that will actually rent proper clothing to you. Yes, you heard that correctly, rent. You leave a deposit with the booths, they provide you with the proper attire that can be put over your own clothes, and after your Grand Palace tour, you return the clothing and get your deposit back. I make no promises that the clothing will match, but it's kind of fun to see what patterns you end up with and wear more traditional Thai garments.

Wat Phra Kaew, also called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is located inside the Grand Palace. The Emerald Buddha dates back to the 14th century and is Thailand's most valued temple features.

It is believed that worshiping “Phra Phuttha Maha Mani Rattana Ptlimakon" or "the Emerald Buddha”, the sacred protector of Thai people, will bring good luck and make your wish come true. However, Buddhist teachings also make it clear that in addition to worshiping the Buddha statue and making a wish, a person needs to observe and practice precepts in order for the wish to come true.

 
View on The Sanctuary Thailand private beach

The Sanctuary Thailand is a must for a retreat if you're looking for a place to unplug, unwind and reconnect with yourself and your team and feel a stronger connection to our global community.

The Sanctuary is located on a private beach in Haad Tien Bay, on the island of Koh Phangan. Originally built in 1989 as a private retreat for friends, The Sanctuary quickly became a popular destination for travelers from around the world, but it has not lost any of its original charm and magic. It is famous for it's made-in-house health food and detox programs as well as on-site Yoga, pilates and meditation.

Tree house accommodation at The Sanctuary Thailand

You can get a real jungle experience staying in one of their tree houses or bungalows, or opt for an air-conditioned luxury accommodation. There are also dorm style budget rooms, so there is a place at The Sanctuary for everyone on any budget.

They have in incredible beachfront restaurant serving local seafood and delicious vegetarian fare.

While staying at The Sanctuary attend classes, get a massage, or swim out to the floating dock with a hammock in the middle of the Bay to read and relax. You can also host your own retreat on-site, providing your group with a wide selection of accommodation, healthy meals, private evening events, additional detox programs, classes, therapies, and more!

Fire jump rope at a Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach Koh Phangan Thailand

If some of your group is looking to balance the peace and quiet of the private beach with a night out experiencing a famous Koh Phangan Full Moon Party, fortunately you're only a long-tail boat ride away from Haad Rin beach, the site where all the excitement takes place. You can plan your stay accordingly so that you overlap with the next Full Moon Party.

Dancing at the Full Moon Party Haad Rin Beach Koh Phangan Thailand

I personally do not recommend staying on Haad Rin Beach, but I do suggest checking out the Full Moon Party, even if it's just for a few hours. With live music, lights, dancing, fire jump roping and more, all on the edge of a tropical island with the full moon overhead in the sky, it is unlike anything else you've seen. But be smart. Keep your belongings on you at all times, keep an eye on your drinks, and stay with your group. Stay smart and you can have a wonderful evening dancing under the stars and then ride a long-tail back over to The Sanctuary to watch the sun come up on your private beach while sipping a fresh smoothie before you check out the next yoga class.

Sunrise on the beach at The Sanctuary Thailand

My all-time absolute favorite experience while in Thailand was the John Gray Sea Canoe Tour: Hong by Starlight. This was an excursion that allowed us to interact with nature, get outside and explore, partake in the Thai tradition of krathongs, eat delicious authentic Thai food and even see a marine life phenomenon.

John Gray's Sea Canoe Tours offers a variety of excursions from half day to full day, even overnight, as well as fully custom experiences. While an overnight canoe trip sounded like a blast, I only had on day at my leisure, and the Hong by Starlight sounded like a must-do.

The Hong by Starlight tour includes pick-up and drop-off wherever you are staying. You are brought to the dock where you board a large boat with big yellow ocean kayaks strapped to the back. Upon arrival you are assigned a guide, and it is just you and your guide in the kayak. If you are traveling with friends, two of you can go in one kayak with one guide.

The tour starts mid-day, so you don't have to worry about crowds of tourists being around. There is no need to eat lunch before hand or bring it with you on the boat as lunch is provided for all of the guest. And it was delicious! We felt like royalty on this boat when we saw the spread laid out on the large table going down the center of the boat.

Entering Phang Nga Bay lagoons on John Gray Sea Canoe Tours

After lunch, the guides paddle the guests through the Phang Nga Bay’s “Tidal Nape Sea Caves" which can only be entered and exited at exact times during the day according to the tides. If the water level is too low, it is too shallow for the boats to float through. Conversely, if the water level is too high, you cannot enter the small openings of the caves. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and know exactly when and where to take the groups through.

Once through the caves, the views on the other side are pure magic, straight out of a National Geographic photo. The vegetation is lush and there are macaques posted up on the rocks on all sides of you. These hidden cliff-lined lagoons are full of sea eagles, Asian water monitors, king fishers, egrets and more. Being led through these “Tidal Nape” Sea Caves and being literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine limestone karstic islands is an experience not to be missed.

John Gray Sea Canoe Tour Phang Nga Bay Hong by Starlight
Macaques seen in Phang Nga Bay on John Gray Sea Canoe tour
Explore Phang Nga Bay with John Gray Sea Canoe Tours

After cave exploring, there is time to paddle around on your own or with a partner, swim in what feels like a private bay as there are no other tour groups or tourists around, and then we return to the support boat to make our own krathong with our guide. A krathong is a floating lantern, a tradition rooted deeply in Thai culture. Attend the Yi Peng Lantern Festival/Loi Kra and you will see the sea and sky light up full of krathongs.

After folding banana leaves and pinning flowers together, and as the sun slowly melts into the water with a pink and orange sky as our "picture perfect" backdrop, we climb back into our kayaks to re-enter the caves, only this time, the sky is darkening and the stars are beginning to peak out.

The water level is so high at this point that we have to fully recline in our kayaks in order to fit through the openings. When we exit the caves into the center of the island, the landscape we had seen earlier today has completely transformed. The leaves have gone from vibrant green to midnight blue and the water has shifted from a bright sea foam green to a deep black as endless as the night sky.

Hong by Starlight John Gray Sea Canoe Tour in Phang Nga Bay

At first glance it seems you can see the stars reflecting across the water, and with ever paddle stroke more and more stars seem to appear in the reflections. The guides then explain that what we are seeing is in fact dinoflagellates or bioluminescent plankton. As we splash the water a few times to make the surface "sparkle" I am filled with wonder and amazement of this place. The guides bring all the boats to a halt and the water turns to glass, and all of us release our now candle lit krathongs into the water. This is a "spiritual experience" of sorts that is sure to bring any team closer together. The memories made here will be remembered for years to come.

5. Jungle Flight Zip-lining

Zip-lining is a safe, fun and exciting excursion for groups of all sizes. It can push people out of their comfort zones allowing teams to bond as they zip through the jungle and see a new place from a completely fresh perspective.

Jungle Flight zip-line in Chiang Mai Thailand great for your remote team retreat

Jungle Flight will pick you and your group up from wherever you are staying and take you to the zip-lining course. The staff is friendly, knowledgable, and create an incredible experience for all of their guests. You can pick a tour that fits yours and your groups needs. They vary in length and some even include food which is authentic and delicious. The pricing is so reasonable, and don't worry, lower price does not mean any less safe. These guys know what they are doing and safety is a number one priority.

I recommend getting to Jungle Flight in Chiang Mai ASAP with your team!

 

Want more?? I know we said five, but bonus! We've got five more for you! Check them out here!

 

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Rebel + Connect creates custom retreats for remote teams. A Colorado based company owned and operated by Charlie BirchRachel McGehee, and Summer Weirich, we operate remotely and service clients from all over the globe. Join us as we create cultures of meaning and celebrate human connections in a digital world!

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