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March 29, 2017 | Company visits, cultural life and culinary delights

It is Wednesday and in my “things to do” file, I have an appointment with the RTD tea manufacturer URC, represented by Mr Sunil Pandit. URC has already been featured in the PETplanet Vietnamreport 2010, so I'm obviously keenly interested in seeing what has happened in recent years. URC produces among other products the famous “C2” drink.

As in 2010, however, the manufacturer keeps things very close to his chest, and a meeting in the factory itself is definitely not on the cards. Eventually some useful nuggets of information trickle out such as, for example, that production has roughly doubled since our last meeting. After the meeting, I spend about an hour talking to the local representative of our tour sponsor SMI, Mr Dennis Gan, who will be supplying me with information on the latest developments in South East Asia and offering support for some visits.

On Friday after Propak, there are two appointments, firstly with the mould and machine manufacturer Duy Khanh and then with CALOFIC (Cai Lan Oils and Fats Industries Company), the well-known edible oil manufacturer, whose products include the "Neptune" and "Simply" brands. As agreed, my temporary Editourmobil complete with driver picks me up in District 1. In some countries of Southeast Asia, doing the driving yourself is definitely not recommended, better to hire a chauffeur. The combination of chaotic traffic and driving conditions, inexperience and unfamiliarity is a sure recipe for disaster. There is also the simple fact that for foreigners, driving is simply too complicated. So I organised a small Editourmobil-Tourbus which came complete with a driver, Mr Tam. On the way to Duy Khanh, I find that Mr Tam completed the course in half the estimated time thanks to some savvy driving and frequent use of the horn. Pretty good. I let him go for a ride round, and I use the time to visit the supermarket to buy and try out a few mysterious drinks in PET bottles.

Finally arrived at the company, I am surprised at first that the facility complete with workshop is located virtually in the middle of a residential area. As I was to learn later, he was one of the first to build in the area, and everything else was later built around the company. Duy Khanh also manufactures preforms and blow moulds, making the company one of the pioneers of local tooling, as well as the first local manufacturer to create a compression moulding machine for closures.

After the appointment, it’s back again to the Royal Towers, where I am welcomed by Calofic. It is only the local office, but quite satisfactory for a first discussion. Mr. Peh Ping Teik, my contact here, was interviewed by PETplanet back in 2010. Since then the output for the oil producer has doubled. If all goes to plan, I will be heading off to the southern of the two Vietnamese factories this week where I will be taking a look at the production facilities.

At the weekend the first thing I notice: the constant change from 35 degrees outside temperature to icy air conditioning has given me neck ache. After finishing my reports, I head off into the city to do some sightseeing. I end up at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, the Reunification Palace and the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. A sensational opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of Vietnam. Let's see if I can make it to the War Remnants Museum during the week...

Meanwhile, if I don’t feel like taking a regular taxi, I can use the Uber app to book a scooter taxi, which gets you there for a ridiculously low price, helmet included! But I can only indulge in this fun way to travel during my free time, which is mainly when I am looking for somewhere to eat in the evening.

After a weekend of swelteringly high temperatures, my Monday appointment begins in the blissful surroundings of the air-conditioned Editourmobil and the genial Mr Tam, as we set off for one of the largest OEM bottlers here in Vietnam, whose products are not for the local market but the worldwide market outside Vietnam. The range "Rita Food and Drink" includes countless different drinks and packaging varieties, one main product being a series of drinks based on Aloe Vera. As you can see Flowy in the Showcase room looks really at ease!

The traffic back to the hotel is horrible and I am glad I am not in the driving seat. Whizzing by, a few centimetres away from a collision, cars and vans, and worst of all the two-wheelers dodge in and out of the traffic. Tomorrow and on Wednesday we continue to the plants of Ngoc Nghia, a PET pioneer in Vietnam and producer of preforms, PET bottles and closures. The excitement continues!