Hong Kong, Taiwan and South China
Hong Kong is breathtaking. This vibrant city with its skyline and the nightly light show that always starts at 20:00 immediately had me under its spell. Once I had just about got over the jetlag, I took the ferry over to the island around Central. Again, this is a magnificent cityscape with a lot of greenery between the rows of houses. By chance I happen upon a beer festival, which runs through several streets, with numerous small stands displaying beers from all corners of the globe. With the mercury hitting 35C and very high humidity, however, I resist temptation and limit myself to a bottle of water (in a PET bottle, naturally). Only in the evening, with the skyline spread out before me, do I treat myself to a “Tsingtao”, probably the most popular Chinese beer and my own preference when I am on the road.
Next morning I have to be up early to get to the airport. The company Hon Chuan from Taichung is expecting me: they are the largest one-stop all-rounder in Taiwan when it comes to beverage production. Chairman Keith Dai discusses the Chinese market with me. The company operates 17 facilities, manufacturing preforms, bottles and caps, as well as carrying out bottling and labelling. The headquarters houses not only various showrooms, but also a museum on the history of packaging. It even has its own cinema. In one of Hon Chuan’s aseptic plants nearby water for Coca Cola is being filled aseptically on Sidel equipment.
I just about managed to get to the airport in the nick of time, only to be informed at check-in that due to typhoon “Nida” all flights were cancelled. Hon Chuan staff kindly organised a hotel for me, so I enjoyed an unexpected stay in Taichung. Julia from the sales department who had taken care of all the arrangements already during the day, picked me up from the hotel in the evening, and we went off to buy a few essentials as all my luggage, right down to my writing materials, was at my hotel in Hong Kong. We then had a meal together. A big thank to you all for your help and support
It is Tuesday afternoon and I get a flight back to Hong Kong. The typhoon situation was not terribly clear until the last minute, and the airline staff suggested that it might be advisable for me to reckon on another day in Taichung. In the event, I was lucky, and after a two hour delay we flew back to Hong Kong (although the landing was rather bumpy due to the strong gusts of wind). On Wednesday I meet the water bottler Watsons Water, the oldest and the world’s largest bottlers of purified water, which has won awards for its most recent PET bottle and cap design and since 2015 has used 100% rPET in its bottles.
Sadly, it is time for me to bid farewell to Hong Kong. There was no-one available to see me at Vitasoy, so I set off on my way to China, or more accurately to Shenzhen. Here I have two appointments, one at the local office of mouldmaker Otto Hofstetter and then on to water bottlers C’estbon. In theory the journey from Hong Kong to China is easy. With just one change I reach the border in about an hour on the MTR, the local metro. Here at the “Lo Wu” stop, the MTR terminates, and from Hong Kong to China the journey is more or less on foot. In about half an hour I’m in the country and, unfortunately, I find myself with a taxi driver who hasn’t the faintest idea how to get me to Otto Hofstetter, despite my fantastically clear directions in perfect broken Chinese. Off we went in completely the wrong direction to somewhere at the back of beyond, we then give it up as a bad job, unload everything, find a different taxi and hope for the best. It works, and I just have to make a quick call to Johnson Li, my interview partner, to tell him I will be a little late. Finally I reach my objective, no thanks at all to the useless taxi driver and the heavy traffic, and find myself at last in the local office of the Swiss toolmaker. To my consternation, there is no-one around, because everyone is eating, and I’m standing on my own in front of closed doors. Lunchtime. But the kindly doorman runs quickly into the restaurant, which seems to be just a couple of buildings further along, and about 5 minutes later Johnson comes running out, accompanied by wife and child. The air conditioning in his office, when he opens the door, comes as a welcome relief to me, because outside it must have been getting on for 40C. Over coffee I learn about the services the company provides and how the Chinese market is developing in terms of PET Moulds.
I have to keep a watchful eye on the clock as my appointment with C’estbon, an hour’s car journey away, beckons. Once there, Husky Representatives Eric Zhang, Regional Manager Beverage Packaging and his colleague Alan Qin welcome me to their facilities. In the meeting room, three representatives of C’estbon, one of whom is the Vice General Manager Mr Hans Hou, are waiting for us. I was treated to an interesting account of the company’s history and culture. Cantonese not really being one of my strong points, Eric from Husky was fortunately on hand to translate throughout the entire conversation. After the appointment I took a taxi to the railway station, and caught the train from there to Guangzhou, my next destination. In the evening I finally arrive at my new hotel. I write until midnight before sheer fatigue overtakes me.
Today, Friday, I meet the mould and machine manufacturers Guozhu Precision Mold from Guangdong, who were responsible, among other things, for the first Rotary Blow Moulding Machine to be built locally in China. Janet, a relative newcomer to the company, picks me up in the morning and takes me on the one and a half hour journey to the factory. Once there, Laura Cai, the Overseas Marketing Manager is already waiting for us. After an exchange of pleasantries, we drive with colleague Sharon and their driver, to a beautiful traditional restaurant set amongst the green hills close to the company. For our delectation we had Dim Sum, appetisers of seemingly inexhaustible variety and a multitude of fillings. Dim Sum is the typical food, when several people are gathered together. It is simply delicious After the meal, I am given a comprehensive tour of the factory. The return trip takes at least as long and with the again oppressive temperatures I look forward eagerly to an air-conditioned restaurant in the evening. Janet gave me a tip. Once there, I was regarded with some amusement by the hotel staff, because I was keen to eat Dim Sum again, but apparently it is not the done thing to eat it on your own. Nevertheless I managed to get my Dim Sum, which was served on a small side table. I decided to choose just three different varieties, principally to see what sort of quantity I would be getting. Unfortunately, due to language difficulties I order, amongst other dishes, chicken legs with a lot of gristle on them. The other two dishes were very good, but after the first chicken leg, I gratefully declined the remainder.
It’s Saturday, but sleeping in is not on the agenda. Promptly at 8:30 the young assistant Maggie from mouldmaker Yizumi comes to collect me. We go to Shunde, near Foshan, about an hour away from Guangzhou. My interview partner James Zhang has unfortunately had to cancel at short notice, whilst we were in the car, because he had urgent family problems to do with his father. Instead I meet Karen Yu, the Overseas Marketing Director. After my article about Yizumi following the Chinaplas 2015 exhibition, I am delighted to be taking a tour of the main factory site, as well as four other sites situated nearby. I get an insight into the company’s various market sectors and its philosophy. Company-owned parks and sports fields are available to all staff. At lunchtime, (this will come as no surprise), Dim Sum is again on offer, and the company restaurant serves an impressive selection. The wonderful thing about Dim Sum is that there are so many different varieties that it never becomes boring.