Travelblog Day 16: Last day of the trip

After breakfast, around 7:15 am, we boarded a next boat and traveled for about 40 minutes to get to the first landscape, Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho. This is the largest of its type in the whole Mekong delta. During this visit, we had a chance to board a merchant boat that sells pineapples. After spending 2 hours at the market, our journey back to Ho Chi Minh began. On the way back, we had a stop at an interesting point to rest and had lunch. The same evening some of the students even had their flights to Switzerland.

We would like to thank Dr. Braun and ZHAW SML for offering us the opportunity to do the study field trip. It was a unique experience for everyone. We also thank Wei Sun and Tra Mi Cong for their assistance in facilitating our organization in China and Vietnam. Ultimately, we would also like to thank the companies we had the pleasure to visit. They have given us an insight into their processes and showed how things work in Asia thus increased this unique experience. We hope that the study field trip will keep taking place many years to come and wish the future participants an exciting, experiential journey.

Goodbye

ZHAW Emerging Markets Fieldtrip 2019

Travelblog Day 15: Mekong Delta – Ben Tre & Can Tho

After 2 weeks of intense and interesting company visits, the last part of our trip was to visit the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a huge labyrinth of rivers and islands with floating markets and villages surrounded by rice fields. We were picked up from the hotel at 07:30 am. After 2,5 hour drive we arrived at Ben Tre. Our tour of the region started here. Boats are the main means of transportation. We boarded our boat, which took us on the rivers of the Mekong Delta.

Our first stop was a coconut factory. The Ben Tre area is famous for its coconut candy. Local women work in small factories making these sweets spending their hours boiling the sticky coconut before rolling it out and slicing them into pieces.

Later transportation got small and personal. We were divided into groups and got on small row boats. Now it was Dr. Braun’s time to show his rowing skills. We drew for 15 minutes under Braun’s leadership. During this 15 minutes trip, we enjoyed the fresh air along the canal and beautiful water coconut tree scenery.

After a little walk, we got on tuc tuc’s. Some of us had some difficulty fitting into the tuc tuc’s. After a 15-minute ride, we boarded a large wooden boat for lunch.  We were shown how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and made our own spring rolls. After spending 2.30 hours on the boat we drove to Can Tho to stay overnight.

Can Tho is home to 1.5 million people, and it is the capital city of the Mekong Delta. When we arrived at the hotel, some of us went directly to the roof of the hotel where a bar was found and watched the sunset. The last evening of our trip we ate at a restaurant where we could also watch Federer’s semi-final match against Nadal.

Travelblog Day 14: Ho Chi Minh – Last company visit

Today was our last company visit before heading to the Mekong Delta to end our trip.

The bus driver picked us up on time and we headed out. After driving 40 minutes we arrived near a spacious and lush company campus where our host company was located. Only to notice that we were on the wrong side of the road. This was a bit of a challenge to walk with a group of 14 people over a road at rush hour time. But with a couple of hand signals and confidence to just walk on over the busy street we succeeded.

The company we visited was Swiss Post Solutions Vietnam where Jen Nguyen, Customer Management and Anatolijus Fouracre, Managing Director, gave us an introduction to the company and their IT Projects. We received an excellent insight into the operations of SPS Vietnam such as digitization, data processing and software development. The expertise of the entire onsite team was impressive.

They also gave us a tour of the whole building where we could see how their program and OCR (Optical character recognition) system works. This system analyses various documents that need to be digitalised and transforms them in a computer readable format. This information can later be used to gain useful customer data and patterns which is then processed for a personalised shopping experience.

It was interesting to see that they have customers all around the world and that pne of their main customer base is the United States.

In the afternoon we enjoyed walking around the city and going to different craft beer breweries before hitting up some street food stalls in the evening.

Day 13: Ho Chi Minh City

After a more or less flawless journey so far we had 2 minor incidents today.

We arrived at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City on time. The passport check took 1 hour but everybody was connected to the internet via mobile phones which eased the waiting time.

The luggage, which was already put beside the conveyor belt, was already waiting for us. One luggage piece was missing so we searched the remaining belts for it. Without success. Tra Mi was left without luggage and had to get some clothes for the remaining days. (Note: Her luggage finally arrived on Thursday evening)

Luckily we had accommodated for some buffer time to mitigate the risk of being late. So we headed on to the bus and made our way to the Shoe factory. We arrived at the location at the agreed time 13:08. Our guide then phoned the company to ask if he was at the correct gate. They sent us somewhere else just to call us again and tell us to come back to that same location where we had been before. After some misunderstandings and 1.5 hours later, stuck in huge traffic we aborted the mission to visit the factory and instead made our way to the hotel where we arrived at 16:00.

To conclude we can say that we had a very chaotic introduction to Ho Chi Minh City but on the other hand it was interesting to see how Vietnam differs in organising and carrying out things in comparison to China and Hong Kong.

Despite not visiting the factory we then had a bit more free time to explore the city which was also rewarding. The sheer amount of motorcycles that bustle around the city show how chaotic life is here. Yet somehow it seems to be how things work here and no accidents happen.

In the evening we met up with Jean Paul Hässig, Chairman of Swiss Business Association in Vietnam who has 30 years experience in Cotton Trade and has been living in Vietnam for 10 years and brought along his coworker Daniele who lives in Vietnam since 2014 (5 years). They gave us a very insightful presentation in the Cotton trade business which was very interesting. They discussed their personal opinion with us about the current trade war between China and the US. After that we went to a local Vietnamese restaurant and ordered various dishes to share. The food was very delicious. Overall we had a relaxing day with a good ending.

Day 11: Migros Hong Kong

Last day in Hong Kong. In the morning we went to Migros Hong Kong (Ldt). by taxi. Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed and were invited to a presentation. Ma Christa Koch, Head of textile MHK Aline Maritz, Trainee MGB introduced us to Migros Hong Kong. Migros Hong Kong is an internal service company and sourcing office in the far east for Migros. They focus on hardgoods, textile and food imports. Ms Koch and Ms Maritz, who used to study at ZHAW School of Management and Law, were very open in answering the pressing questions of the students. It was interesting to learn that almost 100 people work for the Hong Kong office as well as what goes into the sourcing process of Migros and all the quality measures that are taken to ensure ethically and safely produced products.

After the presentation and the QA, Migros invited us to a Chinese round table lunch with Dim Sum and the signature dish chicken feet, which was very delicious. 

In the afternoon we had a bit of free time which some used for shopping while others headed out to the Stanley beach.

Day 10: KMPG and UBS in Hong Kong

At KMPG we learned about the company’s activities in Hong Kong. Our Host Ewan Ye, orchestrated a very interesting program for us. Additionally, a group of KPMG expats and locals introduced us to the history and life in Hong Kong. They gave us an opportunity to ask about how private life here differs from Europe and they gave us their thoughts on what they think about the protests. The panel agreed that this unrest in this city, with almost 2million people or 25% of the entire population protesting peacefully against the extradition bill. Nevertheless, 

The situation is comparable to political events that happened all over the world, like Brexit or Catalonian independence movement in Spain. While they are optimistic that these protests move on peacefully, there are concerns about a possible by the security forces. As we write this blog, one day after the big protests on Sunday, the prime minister went on record to say that the extradition bill is „dead“.

At UBS we learned about the different business units acting in the Hong Kong market. Oliver Leisinger, who graduated at ZHAW in 2014, made it possible for us to meet high profile UBS professionals and learn interesting facts about the Asia pacific market. While it was interesting for us to learn about a bank that represents us Swiss people in Hong Kong, the most unforgettable thing was the view from the office looking from the 52nd-floor in Hong Kong Central towards Kowloon. A breath-taking view that makes everyone want to work in such an environment.

Day 7: Last day in Chongqing

The last day in Chongqing was a relaxed one. At 9 o’clock we got a transfer to the Chongqing municipal financial regulation bureau, which is a part of the financial departement of Chongqing government. They have set up a very professional discussion room with all necessary equipment and information. Director Zhang Hong Ming and three colleges were present at the discussion.

After an introduction of the financial regulation bureau by Mr. Zhang Hong Ming we as ZHAW also got introduced by Mr. Braun. After we got an insight in facts an figures of the fast and strong growth of Chongqings economy. It was very interesting to see the diffrences between China and Switzerland in terms of governmental investment funds and financial stability management. After the discussion at the Chongqing municipale financial regulation bureau we were invited to a local restaurant. And as every time we got served a lot of tasty food.

After lunch we made a small excursion into a supermarket which uses facial recognition AI to simplify parts of the shopping process. But the most interesting in this market was the water tanks with living animals to buy.

Back at the hotel we all get some free time to enjoy our last day in Chongqing. Of course we had also a little bit time to do some sightseeing in Chongqing. Therefore a little impression of the skyline of Chongqing.

-> Bye Chongqing, it was a pleasure!

Day 6: Autoneum, ABB and Hot Pot

We all knew we’re going to have a long day with two company visits and a dinner. So we met at 7 o’clock at the hotel lobby to embark our shuttle bus for a two hours trip. The first 30 minutes Mr. Braun shared some very interesting facts about our next stop: Autoneum.

At Autoneum the General Manager of Autoneum Chongqing, Mr. Liu Zhisheng, introduced us to the business and their high expansion in Asia with exports even to Africa. They are specialiced in heat and sound isolation for various customers in the car industry. Autoneum proudly presented their certificates for eco-friendly production with high recycling percentage and also quality certifications awarded by their customers.

As soon as the presentation ended, we got safety gear, which included safety goggles, high visibility vest and a pair of safety shoes. Safety measures are very important and they stated that they had no accidents the last 3 to 4 years (except one incident this year).

For the tour, we were splitted into two groups to walk around the production facility. It was highly interesting, because all the machines were in use and the processes were demonstrated to us.

After the first company visit everybody was hungry. Again our host, Ms. Wei Xia, told us a fine restaurant which was perfect to eat in a group. It was very delicious and a real experience with some chinese specialties.

Our second visit was the ABB Transformer in Chongqing. At ABB Mr. Frank Eggmann, Swiss Consul General, and the Swiss Economic Officer, Ms. Jasmine, joined us.

After video of safety the newly selected head of ABB transformers presented us their business and biggest projects f.e. the contribution of twelve big transformers for the “Three Gorges Dam”. After second changing into safety clothing (with helmet) we started our tour through the ABB production facility.

Frank Eggmann was so kind to answer any of our questions regarding China. For that we organised a conference room in our hotel and had a lovely and highly interessting discussion. And so togheter with Mr. Frank Eggmann and Jasmine we proeeded to a delicous “Hot Pot Meal”.

We would like to sincerely thank Mr. Frank Eggmann for his time and his contribution to our experience in China.

Day 5: Bye Beijing and hello Chongqing

We left Beijing early in the morning to visit our next destination: the metropole Chongqing. After a rather long domestic flight we arrived exhausted and hungry at the Chongqing airport. The shuttle service waited for us already and we arrived an hour later at the newly opened SinoSwiss Technopark (SSTP) at lunchtime. The first impression was a mix of being stunned and surprised. In front of us was a modern complex with some security guards at the entrance.

Hungry and two hours too early at the SSTP, our host Ms. Jojoe Xu, Executive Assistant, ordered for us pizza and french fries to the conference room and we had an enjoyable lunch together. At the presentation of SSTP we got a deep insight into the idea of the ambitious concept. SSTP targets Swiss innovative companies and will provide business development services to mainly Swiss SMEs and startups. Therefore, SSTP facilitates access to the Chinese market. We understood that the complex, which is already opened and accessable for the public, is getting filled with business life by the end of the year and negotiations are being made with different Swiss SMEs. Negotiations are on the way with diffrent Swiss SMEs.

The transfer to the World Traders Hotel after the visit of SSTP was fast and easy. During the transport we got a first impression about the biggest city of the world with its 32 million people which equals 4 times the population of Switzerland!

Chongqing is a breathtaking city like no other, full of hills and skyscrapers on different levels of altitude which gives a new style of skyline which we all have never seen before.

After a long day we arrived at the Hotel in Chongqing. Even if it was the first evening in Chongqing the most uf us just wanted to get some rest.

Day 4: Last day in Beijing.

Our last day started with a very interesting Q&A with Matthias Müller, a senior journalist who is working for Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) in China. He provided us unique insights of his daily life in China. Furthermore, we got the chance to ask an a wide range of political and economical questions. At noon, two luxurious buses arrived at the hotel. They took us on a highly anticipated visit to the Huawei testing Center. Different testing processes i.e. sound and connectivity were explained to us in the labs.

After the interesting tour, we headed back to the hotel but not before getting a generous gift in form of a book about the history of Huawei. In the evening we went for a splendid Beijing duck dinner to conclude our Beijing trip.