By Jake Culian
Well our grand journey has come to its last stage. After leaving Shanghai we traveled further into Southeast Asia and ended up in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. Since we arrived late on a Friday night we spent the weekend doing cultural tours. Our first tour took us down into the Mekong River Delta where we took multiple boat rides, some nice walks and a motorcycle buggy ride. Here we’re enjoying the warm temperatures, the river breeze and coconut milk.
The second day of our cultural tour took us through the Presidential Palace and the Vietnam War Museum. Featured below is the exhibit on Agent Orange. At least for me personally it was definitely one of the rougher sections of the trip. From the perspective of a business person it makes me think about the long term consequences of the sort of chemical products we create and use in business as well as on a daily basis.
The first company visit we had was with a Vietnamese Pharmaceuticals company called Amvipharm. They are one of the companies working to fulfill the local need for antibiotics and dialysis fluids with plans to expand their productive capacities. This visit was interesting because it gave us a look at the countries growing health insurance industry. Afterwards we were treated to a lunch at a very tasty local restaurant.
The second company we visited was a commodities firm called Louis Dreyfus. This international firm has a “farm to fork” policy where they try to secure vertical control of their supply chain. This goes all the way down to creating symbiotic long term contracts with their crop producers where they help them become more efficient and sustainable. One of the things I found most interesting here was all the different ways they had to work to control multiple sorts of risk and their use of insurance, forecasting, and the futures market.
Over the course of the trip there were several opportunities to take additional tours or excursions, like an acrobatic show. Here is the possible tour of the Cu Chi tunnels which four of our classmates took part in. This tour shows some of the places and methods that the Viet Cong used to hide during the Vietnam War. I didn’t take part in this tour, but I’m fairly certain there’s no way I was going to fit in that hole.
Near and dear to many Portland natives is Nike. During our time in Vietnam we got to visit one of their 65 contract factories which produce almost half of their total footwear per year. We got to hear from both the local corporate side of Nike as well as talk to the local factories management and their ongoing efforts to improve efficiency. After coming seeing just how automated the factories in Japan were it was interesting to see the mix of automation and sheer manpower behind creating all these shoes.
Our last visit was to Datalogic, an Italian tech firm which mainly produces scanners and bar-code readers. This facility offered us some of the most direct comparison on the differences in companies in Vietnam and China. Datalogic and a firm I discussed earlier, Hella, had very similar layouts, but Hella made much more efficient use of its space and was far more organized. This all said Datalogic received a Priority Enterprise Certificate from the government of Vietnam which grants it many privileges.
As our trip came to a close we spent some time at the Vietnam International University where we explored their campus and visited with local students. After listening to short lecture we reunited with our professor and got right down to the serious business of singing. Many groups had gone out to Karaoke at various points on the trip, but here we had a live audience of local students. To wow them with our talents, our program director started off with a duet with one our cohort members and then we serenaded them with Chinese songs we had learned for the New year.
After we finished singing we dragged everyone down for the largest group photo of our entire trip. The students here had been extremely welcoming and nobody had booed us off stage so I think it was a pretty great success. Particularly fun for me was some assistance from a local student in finding an awesome Salsa club to go dancing at later that night in downtown Ho Chi Minh.
Well it was a crazy trip full of long plane rides, lots of buses, and even more awesome memories. Ho Chi Minh was definitely my favorite part of this trip, I loved the environment and the food was delicious. Here was our closing banquet where we talked about plans for spring break and enjoyed one more night spent with each other before many of us started our mad dash back to the US. While I went home the next day I highly recommend staying in Asia someplace, but do yourself a favor and make sure to rest a bit before you come back cause when you do school is waiting to start off sprinting.