MALAYSIA In Malaysia, steamy jungles and white beaches coexist alongside glass-and-steel skyscrapers and ultramodern shopping malls. Kuala Lumpur, the capital, is the starting point for most corporate groups. Established in 1857 as a tin-mining settlement, KL (as the natives call it) has grown to an international hub of 1.3 million people with a mix of Moorish mosques, Hindu temples, and colonial mansions sandwiched between sleek high-rises.
And anchoring the city's skyline are the latest symbols of Malaysia's ambitious building boom, the 1,483-foot twin Petronas Towers, the tallest buildings in the world.
A tour of the city frequently begins with a stop at the Padang, or Dataran Merdeka, the historic square where the Malaysian flag replaced the Union Jack close to 40 years ago. Chinatown, the heart of the old city, is the place to find exotic oddities such as Chinese medicines by day, and knockoff Rolexes and T-shirts by night.
KL's most popular park, the 170-acre Lake Gardens, is available for cocktail parties or other corporate events. On a hilltop overlooking the Lake Gardens is Carcosa Seri Negara, two turn-of-the-century colonial mansions surrounded by 40 acres of landscaped gardens, also options for corporate parties and receptions.
For large groups, The Shangri-La, one of the city's top hotels, is also available to host theme parties or dinners for as many as 2,000 persons in its Grand Ballroom.
Just an hour's flight from Kuala Lumpur off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia is Langkawi, an archipelago of 104 islands. There, luxury accommodations can be found at the Datai, on Langkawi's northwestern tip, with private villas set dramatically against a jungle backdrop. Superb group lodging is also available at the newly opened Radisson Tanjung Rhu, nestled in 1,000 acres of rainforest on Langkawi's northern end.
Langkawi offers a variety of group excursions. The Radisson can arrange a day trip by catamaran to the tiny island of Pulau Payar, with snorkeling and a glass-bottom boat ride to observe the coral and marine life. Equally memorable is an all-day guided boat tour of the mangrove swamp and some of the island's limestone caves, with a stop at Barn Thai, a Thai restaurant made of teak wood set deep in the swamp.
For small groups, the Radisson Tanjung Rhu can book a three-night cruise of the islands on the Colombaio Star, a top-of-the-line yacht with six twin-bedded cabins.
Another option is a stop in Borneo, in the South China Sea off the southeastern coast of Malaysia. Sarawak, on northwestern Borneo's coast, has ten national parks, including the spectacular Gunung Mulu. There you'll find the world's largest cave, as well as a wildlife rehabilitation center where domesticated orangutans are readapted to the jungle.
The area is home to more than 25 different ethnic groups, some of which can be visited in their traditional longhouses. Borneo Adventure, a tour operator, arranges wildlife river journeys and other nature-based trips.
Kuching is also worth a visit, particularly for its native handicrafts, which are for sale in the small shops along Wayang Street. The Kuching Hilton and the Riverside Majestic offer accommodations for corporate groups.
Beach lovers and golfers may want to head a half-hour north to Damai Lagoon Resort, which is also close to the Sarawak Cultural Village, a 15-acre "living museum" that affords a fascinating look at traditional tribal culture.