Posted by: Bill | June 7, 2012

Farewell Bangkok, Hello NY!

Last day in Bangkok.  We leave the hotel late tonight.  Ready to be home but not looking forward to 30 hrs of travelling.

When setting up business visits, I had not planned to visit Tyco Electronics in Bangkok.  After all we had already visited their distribution center in Singapore, and one of their finance people took us out to lunch in Penang.  But when I received an email from TE, specifically inviting us to visit their sales office in Bangkok, how could I refuse?  TE has been such a great help to us on these trips over the years, and their continued support and generosity is greatly appreciated.  After giving us a very informative presentation about not only their business, but of the business climate in Southeast Asia, they gave us a brief tour, and then took us out to a terrific lunch.  We had, you guessed it, Thai food!  Thanks to Ms. Sureeporn for setting up this visit.

After lunch we scattered to do various things before we leave this evening.

Mr. Rakkiet explains Tyco’s sales strategy to the group.  Rakkiet is his first name.  Most of the people we met went only by their first name, because their family names are so long.  For example, Mr. Rakkiet’s last name is Hongkanjanapong.

The group with Tyco’s staff.  They also gave us gifts before we left.

The streets of Bangkok.

These little open air food courts are everywhere.

In this climate, frequent cold drinks are a necessity.

Bangkok is known as the Venice of the east.  There is a great deal of water transportation available.  You can just barely see them, but in the photo directly above, there are people swimming alongside the boat.  In reality they are scrubbing the boat at the water line.  An unenviable task in the greenish brown water.

Another common form of transportation in Bangkok are the ubiquitous Tuk-tuks.  Yesterday we saw about 8 girls pile into one of these things.  The tuk-tuk drivers are infamous for taking you where they want you to go, rather than where you want to go.

It is amazing to see shops, homes, and restaurants positioned in these dark little alleys.

I’m not sure but these appear to be the Bangkok equivalent of Boy Scouts.

A pickup game of football (soccer).  Football is a popular sport throughout Asia.

That’s it!  We absolutely loved Bangkok.  It was a great contrast to Singapore and Malaysia.  This has been a great trip.   I’ll probably have one more post to wrapup once we get home.  Stay tuned.

Posted by: Bill | June 6, 2012

Sanmina and Suits

Our company visit was with Sanmina-SCI today.  Sanmina is an electronic manufacturing services provider.  That means they manufacture many of the electronic components found in some of the most popular and recognizable brands of electronic gadgets and subunits.  We were given a presentation about the company and taken on a very interesting plant tour.  Then we were given snacks and a shirt!  Thanks to Mr. Phichid and his staff for their hospitality and generosity.

After the company visit, we split up and went our separate ways.  I went with a group to the National Palace, but it was too late and we weren’t able to get in.  Besides, we found out that we weren’t allowed in while wearing shorts.  Instead we went to a nearby temple to see the Wat Pho Reclining Buddha.  Thailand is a much more homogeneous culture than in Singapore and Malaysia, and the vast majority of the citizens here are Buddhists.

Some of the guys were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their tailored suits.  They went to be fitted for suits the day before yesterday and the suits are ready today.

Above:  Mr. Phichid of Sanmina is explaining the global reach of their company.

The smocks are to prevent ESD (electrostatic discharge).  We also got footies.

Would you hire these men?

This is a woman we’ve affectionately named “denture lady”.  She makes and sells dentures from this little stand under the skytrain overpass.  I’m not kidding.

A long distance view of the Grand Palace.  It’s big.  Really big.  The king has reigned from here for over 60 years.  These people love their king and queen.

At the entrance to the Wat Pho temple.  Taking Ashley to a temple is always a risky proposition.  Come to think of it, taking Ashley anywhere is a risky proposition.  Ashley has no filters.

Would you hire these men?

That’s it!  Tomorrow is our last day in Bangkok, and our last day for this trip.  We leave late at night, so there should be time for one more blog post.  Until then.

Posted by: Bill | June 5, 2012

Rock Stars !!!

What an amazing day.  This may well be the most enjoyable and satisfying day in any of the trips that I have led, and there have been a lot of great days.

We have been wanting to do some type of “give back” to some of the communities that we visit.  Some little type of community service or something to show our appreciation of the generosity and hospitality that we receive while on these trips, and to immerse ourselves a little deeper in the culture.  We hoped to be able to do something with children especially.  Well, I don’t think you can call today’s experience quite what we were looking for, because we pretty much did all the receiving, but it was incredible nonetheless.

I mentioned our desire to do something with children to my contact at Somboon Advance Technology and she immediately arranged for us to visit Poolcharoen Witthayakhom School, a high school outside of Bangkok.

The title of this post is entitled Rock Stars, and that is what it felt like.  From the billboard sized welcome sign we saw when we arrived, to the welcome speeches, the tour, the activities, and finally the (almost) tearful goodbye at the end, we were treated like royalty.  I have never seen anything like it.  It was truly a heart warming and humbling experience.

But it did not end there.  Somboon graciously took us out to a local noodle shop for a traditional (and delicious) lunch, then to a popular Buddhist temple and market, and then on to their plant for our company visit.  There we learned about Somboon’s business, manufacturing automobile parts, but more importantly we learned about Somboon’s serious commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.  CSR is a growing trend, where companies are realizing that their responsibility is not just to their shareholders, but also to their employees and their communities.

As I said, it was a great day.

This sign greeted us on our arrival.

Just one small portion of the happy students we met today.

This young lady is one of several who greeted us.  Each student gave a greeting in a different language: English, French, Chinese, Cambodian, and a few others I can’t recall.

These students are showing us an important science project.  They make balls of natural materials, including water-cleaning organisms, and throw them in the water to help clean up pollution, which is a problem in Thailand.

These are the balls and materials.  There are a few types of soil, rice husks, charcoal made from burnt rice husks, molasses, humus, and a liquid containing the organism.

Here is a picture of them making the balls.

And here’s a picture of us helping.

After cleaning up from making the eco-balls, we were given a demonstration of traditional Thai dancing.

And then we tried it.  Yes, we were pretty bad at it.  Our hosts got a big kick out of it.

And here’s a video of us trying it out.  Sorry for the jumpiness but I’m trying to dance and videotape at the same time.  I’m pretty sure my dancing didn’t get any worse.

The school has 2200 students, and I think they all wanted to be in the photo.

Here’s the principal of the school, wearing a pair of plastic “Clarkson” sunglasses.

Each of us was given three students as escorts for the visit.  This is my posse:  Gitar, Kwan, and Amy.

And this video is a little something for my young friend Sean, who I know is reading the blog.

Here is Ms. Jiraporn, of Somboon Advance Technology, explaining their place in the automotive industry.

We were given hats and radios for the plant tour.  Here’s the guys practicing for the Secret Service.

Somboon is committed to environmentally friendly practices, including providing green space at their facilities.

Here is the group planting Chinese Watercress.  Employees and visitors are encouraged to harvest, and plant various types of flowers and vegetables in the green space.

And here is the group harvesting Chinese Watercress.  The harvested vegetables are sold to the employees and ridiculously low prices.   A huge bunch of this watercress will be sold for 5 baht (about 16 cents US).

Well that is it for today.  If you are tired out from reading the blog, think how we must feel.  I neglected to add that it was a blazing hot day today, well into the 90s with over 90% humidity.

Thanks to Ms. Jiraporn for arranging both our visits today, and to everyone at the school for a welcome and program that we will never forget.

We have a company visit tomorrow morning.  See you tomorrow.

Posted by: Bill | June 4, 2012

Lizards and long rides

Today was a national holiday, so we did not have any company visits today.  Some went to the zoo, some went on a bike tour of the city and outskirts.  We are still loving Bangkok, but man it is hot.

Two visits tomorrow, a school and an auto parts manufacturer.

Don’t ask.

Scenes from the zoo.  Sam almost stepped on this big lizard.

A local night market, close to our hotel, and the river.

The highlights of Thailand?  Coke in a bag!

Scenes from the bike tour.

Until tomorrow….

Posted by: Bill | June 3, 2012

Sawasdee Bangkok!

Sawasdee is the traditional greeting in the Thai language, accompanied by hands together and a very short bow.  We have received a lot of these, ever since we stepped on the plane to Bangkok.

Bangkok is a great place so far.  The people are friendly, the food is good, and everything is inexpensive.  We are looking forward to our time here.

Here’s the group leaving our hotel in Bangkok.  We are headed out to the Chatuchak market, one of the largest weekend markets in the world, covering almost 30 acres.

Our first meal in Bangkok.  At the market, we sat at the first place that would hold us, and ordered a meal.  A bottle of water and an entree cost us 55 baht, which is about $1.75.  The food was great.

Sights from the market.  Chatuchak market is a confusing mass of stalls, streets and alleys, with literally anything you would think of purchasing.  You could spend weeks there and not see it all.

A bottle shaped building.  I just thought it looked cool.

This fruit market is just outside the front entrance of the hotel.

Shannon, Dan, and Ashley at the Asiatique market on the river here in Bangkok.

Tomorrow is a national Buddhist holiday, so we have the day free.  Check back to see what we did.

Posted by: Bill | June 2, 2012

Last day in Penang

Today was a free day, and most of the group headed out to the beach.   I walked out to a local park where there was an Indonesian Food and Craft Festival.  This is a joint effort between the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to foster good relations between the two countries.

We are off to Bangkok, Thailand early tomorrow morning.

These good folks prepared my lunch at the festival.  I got 3 Indonesian fried watchamacallits for 2 ringgits (about 67 cents US).  I have no idea what they were, but they were tasty, and my stomach hasn’t exploded, so I consider it a success.

I have more pictures, but they won’t upload, so that’s it for today.  The next installment will be from Thailand.  See you then.

Posted by: Bill | June 1, 2012

Fruit !!

Today we visited the Tropical Fruit Farm, on the Northwest of the island.  Thanks to Mr. Quah for taking time to explain the history of the farm and his unique vision for business.  The farm boasts rare tropical and sub-tropical fruits from all over the world.  The farm’s purpose is not only to attract tourists, but to educate people about fruit farming and hopefully interest local people in cultivating and thus preserving some of these rare types of fruit.  It was a great visit.

The rest of the afternoon was free.  Some of us went out to Fort Cornwallis (although not together).  The fort was built by Sir Francis Light in 1786, although the original fort was built from palm trees.

Above:  Mr. Quah explains the history of the farm with the group.  This was one of our most interesting business visits, as is Mr. Quah’s business philosophy:  “Go into a business where you have no competition”

Figs.  This tree was a big, spreading tree with huge leaves and arching branches.  It created a large, shady area.  In the searing heat of the day, we didn’t want to leave it.

This is a soursop, native to Central and South America, and parts of Africa.

This is our tour guide for the orchards.  We had him last year also, and I still haven’t quite caught his name.  He is a funny guy.  To hear him explain the health benefits of the various fruits, you get the impression that all you have to do is walk through the orchard every day and eat the fruit and you would nearly be immortal.   There is no fruit however, that will protect us from the life-sucking heat.

The views from the hills of the farm were pretty spectacular.  You can’t tell, but the group is standing in front of a pretty impressive precipice.

This is St. George’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia.  Although Malaysia is officially a Muslim country, there is freedom of religion.

This is the Queen Victoria Memorial Clocktower, built by a Chinese millionaire in 1897, to commemorate the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign.  There is another clocktower in Penang, but the Queen Victoria Clocktower is so famous, that the other clocktower is known as,  The Other Clocktower.

The statue of Sir Francis Light at the entrance to Fort Cornwallis.

We have a free day tomorrow.   I think the group is pretty much just hanging out at the beach, so I don’t know if there will be photos.  You’ll just have to check back tomorrow to find out.

Posted by: Bill | May 31, 2012

People keep giving us food….

Or that is what it seems like today.  We started today like every day, and that is at the breakfast buffet of the hotel.  A decent spread of Asian and Western foods.

Then we boarded a bus to DB Schenker, on the mainland.  DBS is a German freight and logistics provider that operates all around the world.  As soon as we arrived, they served us breakfast!  Well of course, not wanting to be rude, we tucked in again.

After a presentation of their business operations, and a tour of their warehouse, one of DBS’s clients, TE Connectivity took us out to a seafood restaurant for an incredible lunch.  Malaysian hospitality is a wonderful thing.    Thanks to Dave Thanabalan of DB Schenker and Shu Ying Loo of TE for their generosity.

The afternoon was free.

Adam and Matt couldn’t wait for the group.

Here’s the gang with the folks from DB Schenker and TE Connectivity.

Crabs!!  Notice the strained smile on Shannon’s face?  Shannon has had about 135 calories total on this trip.  McDonald’s better be prepared when she touches back down in NY.

I don’t really know if this table actually ate the crabs, but they had fun hitting them with hammers.

Above:  This is the Red Garden food center near our hotel.  It is a popular eating place for locals and tourists.  You simply pick a table, go around and order your food from the various stalls, and pay when they bring it to your table.  The food is fresh and very cheap.

Mmm.  Just like mother makes.

Tomorrow we visit a tropical fruit farm.  See you then.

Posted by: Bill | May 30, 2012

On the island

No pictures today.  We left KL this morning on a coach to Penang.  This island state has a very different look and feel from KL.  It is also the center of the electronics industry in Malaysia.

After checking in to our hotel this afternoon, we walked around a bit, and then scattered.  We have a business visit tomorrow.  Check back then.

Posted by: Bill | May 29, 2012

Chocolate!

This morning we visited Beryl’s Chocolate factory.  Beryl’s is a local chocolate manufacturer who is trying to compete in the very competitive high end chocolate market.  Thanks to Mr. Henry Tan for showing us the factory, and explaining Beryl’s strategy for competing in this face paced industry.  I think the factory was a bit of a surprise for the students.   You might think that the process of making chocolate would produce wonderful fragrant aromas.  It does not.  Fortunately we were able to sample the finished product in the gift shop and that turned things around.

Above:  Henry Tan explains Beryl’s marketing strategy.

The group and Mr. Tan.

The afternoon was free time.  After lunch a few of us went out to the Karyaneka Craft Complex.  This is an area to showcase authentic Malaysian arts and crafts.  Besides shops, there is an artist’s village where you can view, and participate with local artisans as they practice their craft.

Marissa and Shannon try their hand at making Batik, which is a Malaysian artform utilizing waxed and painted fabric.

Now Shannon and Marissa have a new skill set in case the whole Clarkson thing doesn’t work out.  And between you and me ……..

Here is Dan and Mr. Lazim Ismail, the batik artist.  Mr. Lazim was incredibly gracious and helpful.  And his work is absolutely stunning.

Today is our last day in KL.  We leave for tomorrow for Penang, which is an island off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia.   Everyone has been so friendly and helpful here.   I say this with every trip, but connecting with locals is the best way to experience the culture here.  We learned as much from Mohan, our driver, as we did from our official visits.

That’s all.  See you in Penang!

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