Day 16 – Everything has an end

The official study trip ended on the 6th February with the journey back from Beijing over Frankfurt to Winterthur. The voyage back was unproblematic and the group arrived safe & sound but exhausted in Winterthur. I wish all those who extend their Asia trip individually e.g. to Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Thailand or Vietnam a safe and inspiring continuation!

With the end of the study trip, we have now time to reflect on all the impressions and insights we got during the past two weeks and I’m looking forward to further discussions. (Sebastian Scheidegger, Sandro Meier, Stephan Bodenmann)

Day 15 – Beijing and the Forbidden City

Day 15 was the final day of the International Management 08 class in China. After numerous check-ins and check-outs in various cities and hotels we packed our bags for the last time and left the splendid Prime Hotel.

Our first stop of the day was the Tiananmen Square. It is the largest city square in the world with 440’000 m2. It is named after the Tiananmen Gate which translated means Gate of Heaven’s Pacification. The gate separates the square from the Forbidden City in the north. On the southern side, the square borders to the Qianmen gate. After we crossed the Tiananmen Square we entered the Forbidden City at the south gate, walking underneath the oversized, 1.5 tonnes heavy portrait of Mao Zedong. The Forbidden City was China’s imperial palace from the Ming dynasty until the end of the Qing dynasty. It comprises 980 buildings and covers an impressive area of 720’000 m2.

The next stop of the day brought us to Tian Tan, the temple of heaven. The temple complex was built during the same time as the Forbidden City and was used by the reigning monarch to pray to heaven for good harvests.
Since the temperatures in Beijing were rather low, the students were looking forward to the warm restaurant and a last traditional Chinese lunch.
The afternoon brought another interesting insight into the Chinese culture with a visit of a traditional Chinese tea-house. We learned about the importance of tea and its ceremony.
Our last sightseeing stop before dinner was the Hutong area of Beijing. It is known for its traditional buildings and the small narrow streets.
The most famous dish you can get in Beijing is probably the “Beijing Duck”. To round off a successful study trip, we went for a last dinner and enjoyed and exquisite meal and reflected on the past two weeks.

Day 14 – Quiet Beijing & Near Sights

One day after Lunar New Year, Beijing was empty. But the fact that there where just few cars driving was a perfect precondition for our sightseeing day in and around Beijing. We got to our destinations quickly and there was almost no smog! The first stop was at the Badaling site of the Great Wall. It was simply impressive to see a small part of the 8851km long wall. We were very astonished by the imagination of how many hours of work had to be put into this monument. Sporty people of the group started to talk about how it were if one would organize a (half) marathon on the wall; those were also the people who felt the urge to run instead of walking slowly. The decision to take the steeper route rewarded us with an even better view, plus we had a good laugh looking at the other side, where the majority of tourists went.

After an unsatisfying lunch (one of many in China so far) at a huge tourist restaurant, we proceeded to the Ming Tombs where 13 emperors are buried. One of them is Zhu Di, also called the Yongle emperor, who changed the capital from Nanjing to Bejing in the 15th century. To have a glance on his burial place, one has to pass various gates and buildings. Continue reading

Day 13 – Happy Chinese New Year!

First of all, happy Chinese New Year to all! 2011 is the rabbit year, a lucky year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves, so congratulations and good luck to all those bunnies out there!

Getting ready to celebrate!

This day was very particular for each one of us, given the fact that it was our free day when we landed in Beijing.
Wake up call was at 3:00 AM and already at 4:00 AM we were on our way to Ho Chi Minh Airport. Everybody was very tired, but to our surprise some were still full of energy from the night before. Our flight was leaving at 7:05 AM so we had some time to sleep at the airport. After almost 3 hours of flight we made a “quick” (almost 1 hour) stop in Shenzhen, which resulted to be quite funny by the fact that we were asked to abandon the aircraft with all our belongings in order to pass security, while they were disinfecting the airplane. Apparently this is very common in China when a flight arrives from southern Asia. The Chinese tend to disinfect aircrafts arriving from these regions to prevent any germs and virus from entering the country. Afterwards we had another 3 hours flight until Beijing. When we arrived all noticed the drastic climate change, it was freezing cold! However, it was impressive to see parts of rivers frozen by the cold weather.

Chinese New Year

We were transferred to the Prime Hotel. The hotel was located in the center of Bejing, very near from the Wang Fu Jian district, Bejing’s most famous shopping street. After we checked-in into the hotel, everybody was free to plan their late afternoon. Some stayed sleeping, some went to shop in the center and others to explore and taste some odd delicacies at the special food street, as scorpions, maggots or snakes etc. Others passed their time bargaining for souvenirs at the Chinese market, which was also located in the Wang Fu Jian Street.

Christine Kolp, Corinne Bayer and Eléonore Ost

Day 12 – Chau Doc to Saigon & New Year

Day 12 started with a busride back to Saigon and the students had the rest of the day off. Since we had been in this hotel before, we all felt like coming back home. Some days before, many students had ordered a tailor to come to the hotel. By now on day 12, the suits, shirts & ties were delivered – some were ok, some were not.

The highlight of the day clearly was the new year spectacle.The

streets were jammed. Music at every corner, wild dragon dances and beautifully decorated trees let us feel the magic of Ho Chi Minh City. The park near us was packed with flowers, orange bushes and bonsai trees (a bit like their version of our christmas tree custom), the main street was also filled with flowers, lanterns and sculptures of all different sizes and colours, and there was a general party atmosphere.

The wonderful firework concluded the night and increased our excitement for the following adventures in Beijing.

Day 11 – Chau Doc: It’s All About Rice



After getting up at 07.00 o’clock, we checked out the hotel and set off for a 4 hours bus ride. Our destination was Chau Doc, located close to the border of Cambodia. The region is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam.

On our way we stopped after 3 hours at a brick factory in a typical rural village of Vietnam. The bricks are produced in a very simple manner, mainly by hand, and are fired in small ovens heated by rice husk (the outer layer of the rice seed), which are a waste product of the regional rice production. Next to the brick factory we had a walk through a rice field. Rice and brick production are an integral part of the housing in this small village and one can very well see the interrelation and dependency for people and community. Signs of it, especially of the brick production, are seen in all streets and sideways between the houses. The process from clay to brick takes about three months and a brick in Vietnam can be sold for 700 Dong, approximately CHF 0.035. Continue reading

Day 10 – Can Tho at its Best

The breakfast took place in the rear deck of the boats, the crew had already prepared everything in advance. The views as well as the ambiance were stunning, as the two heavy vessels, still tied together, gently floated upwards on the quiet Mekong River. The fresh morning breeze helped everyone to wake up quickly.

It took another one-and-a-half hours until we reached our anchorage, where we changed to small boats that would allow us to travel further river upwards and see Vietnam’s largest floating market.

There were an uncountable number of little barks and small rowing boats that sold almost anything related to Vietnamese food. There was a diversity of sights and scents, which carried on as we went onshore to visit a typical market in Can Tho. Pigs and chickens were taken apart with bare hands on the open street. The smell of this was not easy to take for everyone.

Continue reading

Day 09 – Ahoi!

Day 9 started with the familiar bus-ride early in the morning, this time in the direction of Cai Be. Due to the high amount of travellers on the road, as the locals were eager to go to their families for the Chinese New Year’s festival, the traffic was rather slow. The majority of the travellers were on scooters, motorbikes, or a form of this two-wheeled transportation. Some rode alone, in thick sweaters and mouth covers, others consisted of the whole family, father, mother and the child in the middle, few were transporting goods, overloading their bikes with boxes on every surface possible. Unexceptionally, all riders wore helmets. Along the streets one notices the poverty reflected in the shabby shacks and run down shops. Nonetheless, they exuded charm and colors from every corner. Once in a while one would see a luxurious villa amidst it all, representing the huge difference in wealth. Either way, the red communist Vietnamese flag with the yellow star was a common denominator along the streets. For resting possibilities, the coffee shops on the sides of the roads offered a relaxing break, with hammocks integrated. “Does one have to pay for the hammock services?” asked a fellow bus-rider. “No,” Nguyen Ngoc Thang, our tour-guide, answered, “the hammocks are free.” Continue reading

Day 08 – Good Morning Vietnam

At day 8 we dived into the Vietnamese culture. After a long trip from Shenzhen, China, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we finally reached the tropical climate. Due to a delayed arrival, we cancelled the first sightseeing part of the city. The day started at ten o’clock with a modest breakfast compared to the impressive one at the Shangri-La in Shenzhen. However, the friendly atmosphere of the city warmly welcomed us right from the beginning and we went to the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre of Ho Chi Minh City. The presentation was held in an unusual surrounding as it took place in a display room in between teddy bears and other Vietnamese export products. The woman holding the presentation was talking about the general economic situation as well as the influence of the WTO entrance. Additionally she focused on the emerging sectors and provided a broad outlook into the economic future in the year 2020. One major focus is set on the service sector, accounting now for 38% of the GDP, including the fields of finance, tourism and infrastructure. Continue reading

Day 07 – Shenzhen

After a delicious breakfast at our Hotel “Shangri La”, we went to see Wu Qubo from the Shenzhen Development and Reform Commission who told us a lot about the Industrial Zone in Shenzhen. He was the first host to use a professional translator which made the conversation seem more formal. He said that Shenzhen is continuing its efforts to grow economically, yet they will try to do so without exploiting the environment further. He said that they are very much aware of the pollution problems as well as water shortage.

After this meeting with a political representative, we visited the Swiss company Schurter which is producing electrical devices in the local factory. Managing Director Martin Bannwart was the one giving us a tour of his factory. We were surprised at the relatively small size of the factory and the low number of employees. This shows that even small businesses try to profit from the Chinese low-cost labour. The factory was rather basic. Continue reading