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March 23, 2017 | The Go with the Flow Tour Stage 2: Destination Vietnam and Cambodia

In stark contrast to the wintry PETplanet headquarters we left behind, here in Ho Chi Minh city, my first stop on this section, we are basking in temperatures of 35 degrees – and with humidity to match. Fortunately, I did bring an extra supply of shirts along with me.

Although I've already been here for four days, I'm still suffering from jet lag and am constantly awake by 6 o’clock in the morning. At least it’s a break from the working day. Since last Tuesday, the Propak Vietnam Fair has been underway in the city, ending tomorrow. On Monday I managed to weave my way through the bustling metropolitan traffic, which mainly consists of motorised two-wheeled vehicles, to meet up with our contact at the trade fair Jenny, who accompanied me through the hall which is still under construction.

The "Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center", at a mere ten years old, is still very much a youngster in the exhibition stakes, and, as I learned, is soon to be extended with additional halls. The need for this in the emerging Vietnam growth market is hardly surprising, especially when I looked at the exhibitors and their presentation on yesterday's opening day.

Many international stands, and some familiar faces, were there such as Mikel Urain, head of ABC Compressors, Bericap's Asia representative, represented by Andrew Tan or Sacmi, to name but a few. For our Thai customer Great-PET, Propak proved, two years ago, a very successful launch pad into the Vietnamese market, as I learn in an interview with their CEO, Mr Lam.

The press conference, at which were present, amongst others, the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) and the ITA (Italian Trade Agency), also confirms the consistently positive mood: the market is on the move. In the coming years, a 50% increase in PET is predicted. Well, there’s nothing like good news! We'll have to come back here again and again.

So far, I have been spending the evenings in different places to experience as many different facets of the local cuisine as possible. I can now state with confidence that the food and hospitality here are absolutely fantastic. The fried shrimp went down especially well. What is noticeable is that Ho Chi Minh city is an absolute mecca for tourists. A fantastic choice of tempting excursions, plus the markets and shops, hotel accommodation and restaurants – there is no end to the city’s attractions. In the city centre, you see more westerners than Vietnamese, which I confess I find somewhat disconcerting, or least more noticeable than from previous (PETplanet) visits. Saigon (probably the better known but now obsolete name for what is now Ho Chi Minh city) must have seen it coming, or so it seems.

Especially fascinating here, I find, are the motorcycle and scooter taxis, which are everywhere and which are half the price of a regular taxi. For those who like to run the gauntlet of cars, two-wheelers and people on the streets, just take the plunge and give it a go! I've done it twice so far. It was pretty hairy and quite a bit faster than it looks, because the drivers are experts at carving a path through the traffic.

So that is the story so far.

Hope you enjoy my next blogs, stay tuned!

Yours Kay Barton

P.S.: Did you notice the PET bottles next to lord Buddha? :)