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July 5, 2017 | Finale in Laos

The weekend was over before I knew it thanks to my foreshortened Saturday and all the report writing. As if that were not bad enough, I have no confirmed appointments for Monday despite all my best efforts, meaning that I could end up kicking my heels. All my best laid plans had gone astray. My two appointments planned for Tuesday with the local Sipa representative and the new Asia chief Romain Reyre from Engel had been knocked on the head. Weera Eiamrattanawong, the Bangkok Branch Director of Sipa asked for the appointment to be brought forward to Monday. Angel originally wanted to meet me Tuesday morning, but because of Sipa I had already pencilled him in for Tuesday afternoon. In order to avoid any more confusion, I kept to the appointments as arranged, and made my way over to the city centre near the Sukhumvit road, where Weera was already awaiting me. From here, Sipa manages its service team and handles sales for the whole of South-East Asia. Over an authentic Italian espresso we discuss the challenges of the different markets and Sipa’s development in the region. Once again on the way back in the Editourmobil we get stuck in the traffic. In fact, I shall have to turn back again very shortly, because later in the afternoon I’m meeting up once more with my PETplanet colleague Michael Maruschke. We start off again at the Old German Beer House and from there we continue via a second pub to our favourite Suda restaurant. My tip last week had convinced him. After the meal, since it is still early evening, I deliberately had the taxi drop me a few streets from the hotel and wander through the little food stalls. The variety of foods on offer here has to be seen to be believed. It would take a lifetime or more to sample all the delicacies...

It is Tuesday and I’m meeting Romain Reyre, who arrives at my hotel - by motorbike. "It’s a lot quicker", he explains. The position of President South-East Asia, which Romain holds, has only recently been created. Prior to this, the packaging expert worked for Sidel for 19 years in various locations around the world. Now Engel is expanding their local representation in Bangkok. And with this final appointment, the Thailand part of the tour also comes to an end. Tomorrow morning, Wednesday, I am heading for Laos, the final part of the entire tour. On my last evening in Bangkok, a city that I have taken completely to my heart, I decide to return once again to Anis' Bistro, a very small restaurant with a conservatory, nestling between the houses in a side street. The Thai curry is sensational.

Now here I am in the departure lounge of Bangkok airport. A tiny machine from Lao Airlines will take me to Vientiane, where tomorrow morning, Thursday, I have an appointment with Lao Brewery, the largest local beer and CSD producer. After a relatively short flight, I have the feeling of running into a brick wall on leaving the terminal buildings. In the plane I had to adapt to Arctic-level air conditioning of 16°C, outside meanwhile Vientiane was roasting at over 35°C and 95% humidity. I have no plans today, and almost all the reports have been done, so I dump my things at the hotel and take a little wander round. The Mekong, which separates Laos from Thailand, is practically on the doorstep. But I quickly realize that it is no fun to be wandering around for too long in this heat. What I need now is an air-conditioned place to eat and, for a change, I don’t want Asian food, but some solid European fare! After popping briefly back to the hotel, I walk in the early evening around the famous night market, which offers lots of clothes and souvenirs in addition to a variety of street food.

It is Thursday and I am on my way to Lao Brewery. I am quite tired because I did not have a good night’s sleep. The hotel is a noisy disaster. But after a quick caffeine fix, everything is a lot better. Duncan Crow, the Supply Chain Manager, welcomes me in his office at the enormous site. So this is where the omnipresent Beerlao originates, which I found everywhere in Thailand. With a 95% share of the beer market, it is safe to say that the bottler is quite successful here. Carlsberg is also a shareholder since the 2000s. But I'm not here because of the beer, but because of the water market and the Pepsi products, which are bottled here as well. With three factories, and KHS equipment, amongst others, the brewery, half owned by the state, serves all the important areas in Laos. As I am touring the facilities I happen upon a German KHS expat, who is just about to change the InnoPET Blowmax to a new water preform type. As it turns out, the Berliner has lived and worked from Shanghai for five years. Finally, to end the day, I cannot resist buying a chic Beerlao shirt in the shop.

A wonderful conclusion to a very eventful editour! And so, sadly, the South-East Asia Roadshow chapter has reached its conclusion. We would like to thank all the companies who have given us the opportunity to visit them and ply them with questions. We also thank our supporters from the machinery manufacturing sector, and, of course, the team at Messe München / drinktec. Thank you for making this exciting South-East Asia project possible.

Now, to all our readers and friends of PETplanet, we would like to welcome you to the great drinktec trade fair and cordially invite you to visit the PETplanet stand, where you will find brief profiles of all our visits together with masses of useful information.

Warmest greetings from your globe-trotting editor and project leader!