I hope you guys weren’t too annoyed by my # TBEX Asia 2015 coverage back in mid-October. I was at my first travel blogging conference! And yes, it’s kind of as nerdy as it sounds. Before I get into details on the conference I just want to share a bit about my week in Bangkok.
The conference center was at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Sukhumvit. I wanted to stay in a hotel near there and also a cozy boutique hotel since I know big cities like Bangkok usually stress me out. The blogging world is weird and we have all these Facebook groups were we talk and exchange information and tips. I met a girl Hayley from LovePuffin blog online because she was traveling in India. We ended up deciding to room together in Bangkok.
Hayley and I crashed at Maduzi Hotel for the week which was PERFECT! It was a great hotel and only a 20 minute walk from the conference center- perfect for Hayley with a boot on her sprained ankle!
When you pay the fees for the conference you get to pick one free activity (well, not really free since you pay to go to the conference) to do before and one to do after. I didn’t stick around to do something after. The options before were food tours, visiting temples, learning Muay Thai, cooking classes, spa, and more.
OF COURSE, as soon as I saw the 4 hour Mango and Champagne massage, my ideas of seeing a new side of Bangkok, getting that cultural experience, and digging into the street food went out the window. I was like, yeah I want that 100%.
Divana Spa Review Bangkok
I wasn’t obligated to share about this, but this is kind of massage I won’t forget and really wanted to tell you all about it. It was INSANE! In a good way.
First of all, I thought 4 hours included transportation time, and maybe a lunch after. I didn’t realize it was actually 4 hours of massage treatments. I kept thinking it was over, then the masseuse would tell me there was more. That’s a good surprise.
First it was about an hour of Thai massage, then the herbal bundle being pressed all over, then there was another hour of an orange mango scrub applied. Then, this is where it gets nuts… I knew champagne was involved but didn’t know how that would work. The masseuse opened the bottle and I kid you not, doused me in it! It was so cold and bubbly and great!
Up next was an oil massage for an hour or so… I’m not sure; I fell asleep!
Lastly, I got in a milk rose bath and had some mango sticky rice (so, that counts as experiencing Thailand’s culture, right?). You can see the price there, which is quite expensive but if you’ve got cash to blow, this is definitely the place to blow it.
Hayley and I went for a spa day together the day we first met at the JW Marriott. I just can’t get enough Thai massage! I am telling you, it’s the best kind.
We were both really jet lagged and the timing was perfect. Of course, it was an amazing massage. You can see in the photo below what I mean by “herbal bundles”. They are filled with all kinds of these that are good for you and massaged as if it is an extension of the masseuse’s hand.
We also had a kick ass dinner there! The NY Steakhouse was clearly right up my alley. Soup, salad, bread, steak, potato, and brocoli! They make the Caesar salad in front of you. I had no idea so much stuff went into it. No room for dessert after this meal, that’s for sure.
I hate to admit it, but I ate McDonald’s FOUR times while I was there. I did it by choice, not because I was rushed or something. I just freakin’ love it, sorry. I can’t get good burgers in India, the only fast food is KFC and pizza, and I miss it SO much! If I could get burgers flown to India, I would.
I am also pretty obsessed with Mexican food and we tried the top Mexican place in Bangkok, Mejico, and it was good. We only had some snacks on our way to the opening party of the conference but I would go back for the nachos and jalepeno poppers.
Bangkok has more than good food and spas, of course! Check out these fabulous things to do in Bangkok while you’re there as well.
What to expect at TBEX & Tips for first timers going to TBEX
I don’t know what to think looking back. I wasn’t very impressed which I hate to say. I wish I could say it was perfect and recommend it to everyone, but I want to be honest about the good and bad. There weren’t enough brands represented was the major problem. I was also a little disappointed in the ‘breakaways” where you can choose a speaker (there are usually 5-6 at a time) you’re interested in learning from.
Alex Baackes of Alex in Wanderland and Katie Hammel of Viator talked about blogger/brand relationships which was worth listening to. It was great to hear actual figures about how much to charge. The biggest take away for me was Sharon’s talk about SEO. It was very helpful and I’ve even downloaded SEO software now. Of course, maybe I just chose the wrong ones.
It was cool to meet other bloggers and socialize but to fly there and pay those fees, it’s up to you to decide. I think this would be more helpful for people in their first 6 months of blogging, or even their first year of blogging in terms of learning. For brand collaborations, I think if you have great numbers this could be really good for you.
I feel like I fell in the middle and either probably wasn’t big enough of a blog for some companies during the “speed networking” but found the breakaways something I would have needed a year or so ago.
I was also disappointed that the majority of the companies represented who wanted to work together were only pushing affiliate programs, or wanted freelance work or sponsored work in exchange for exposure. Again, perhaps my blog wasn’t big enough to be considered for other options but that was my experience.
So, on the the tips:
Try to find a buddy to share a room with at TBEX or choose a hostel that other bloggers have also mentioned they will stay at. It’s good to have someone to help you prepare before and digest information after with. I was so glad I had Hayley with me! There are usually official Facebook groups for each TBEX. Use these to stay in the loop. There will be a lot of get togethers before and after.
I would also recommend you do NOT print 300 business cards. I passed out maybe 50 and I was trying to give them out! Travel blogging is a small world, so a lot of people you meet are other travel bloggers and don’t really need your card.
I did print a media kit. I think 20 copies would have sufficed. I gave it to all the brands I talked to at the speed networking and it was a great tool to help guide what I wanted to say to them.
If it’s your first time, I will explain was speed networking was. You DO need to set up meeting ahead of time. They will explain how once you register. At the conference, there was a room with tables very close together. The tables had tags on them for the brand. You need to look ahead of time where the brands are you will meet with. You’ll have 8 minute with each brand. In my opinion, it’s best to do it all back to back and get it over with!
The way the conference was set up was an opening party the first night to meet everyone. On the two conference days, they would have breakaways in the morning and networking after lunch. The “breakaways” had 5 options of speakers to go and learn from. Choice wisely! Go to the one you want, not one your friends are going to.
They do serve lunch and have coffee and water at the center.
You can apply for press trips. I didn’t apply this year because I hadn’t spend much time in Goa and knew I would want to get back after the conference. So, unfortunately I don’t have advice on how that works.
You WILL meet people and make friends! It’s inevitable! Don’t take it too seriously. It was a fun experience, but I worried before for no reason. It was very laid back. Oh and take photos. I wasn’t even thinking and didn’t take any!
I was generously hosted by Maduzi and JW Marriott during my stay in Bangkok.
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