From the south to the north and to the press conference

Classical music, chandeliers and a buffet that is one of a kind. No, I´m not talking about a romantic five stars restaurant in Paris but about the press conference for iglidur® on tour in South Korea.

From the south to the north and to the press conference

The voice of Ernie Kim, country manager of Korea, is supporting the atmosphere when he welcomed the journalists and opened the fourth press conference for iglidur® on tour.

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Only three speaker were scheduled. Hyungtea Kim, product manager for bearings, followed Ernie on his warming words. He introduced several of the many possible applications in the automobile as well as presented the wide range of igus® products.

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Last but not least, I informed about the retrofitting of the car and shared the experience I made during the last three months (oh my god, already three months????? The time went by incredibly fast).

All in all it was a great press conference with even more journalists than expected. It was the first time since the start of iglidur® on tour that a press conference took place in the middle of the tour. We have already been touring through Korea for almost one week.
As South Korea is kind of small (in comparison to the former trip-countries China and India) we could not only see different kind of landscapes but also  important historic sights. As our bearings are all corrosion free and therefore can stand salty sea water easily, it was kind of natural to visit the Korean sea side. Iglidur® has been to the Indian ocean as well as at the sea in China. It was only logical to do the same in Korea, in particular as Korea is famous for its pretty sea shores.

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Our first destination was Donghea. Donghea is a traditional port city that is not only home of many small sea food restaurants (there was one street with at least ten of the same restaurants next to each other) but also has a beautiful white sand beach that stretches along the coast for several kilometers.

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From Donghea it took us north along the coast. The landscape gradually changed and got more mountainous. We stopped by at the most famous mountain scenery in Korea. Actually, it was one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes I have ever seen.

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The Taebaek mountain range is located in a national park. The shape of the mountains, the dozens of waterfalls and the diversity of wildlife makes this  area to a main destinations for traveller from all over Korea (by the way, it is very easy to distinguish South Korean traveller from other tourists. When South Koreans are going out in nature they always wear trekking clothes. Perhaps I´m wrong but this has been my experience so far). We climbed the Seoraksan mountain (1708 meters) that is the most famous mountain of this region. From there we had a stunning view.

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After we could place an igus® flag on the top of it, I´m sure this flag will last forever and in 2000 years people will pilgrim to this place, we continued driving north up to the point where we couldn´t go further anymore.

https://youtu.be/XdjDc1GEAWU

I surely don´t need to tell you that the Korean peninsula is roughly split in half by the most heavily armed border in the entire world and that North and South Korea are still “at open war” with each other. After the Korean War in the fifties, a strip of land has been established as a buffer zone that is stretching for 2km on either side. This strip of land, also called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), had been worked out between North Korea, South Korea, China and the United Nations as part of an agreement. After a long process of registration we were allowed to enter the zone with iglidur®.

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I took this photo already as a picture of the day but want to post it again. To bring iglidur® close to the fence, so to a point that is in the focus of international politics, has been for me one of the highlights of the whole iglidur® on tour trip yet.

Throughout the whole time of the existence of the demarcation line, the South has discovered four tunnels that were dug by the North. These infiltration tunnels served the purpose of possible invasion by the North and to infiltrate spies and assailants to the South. We had the chance to visit the one that was detected last.

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We are currently in Seoul. You have not the feeling that there is a threat from the North at all but if you are looking closer than you can see that the situation has been taking seriously throughout the whole time. This rocket launcher is located on a hill above Seoul and likely serves to intercept possible rockets from the North.

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That´s all from me today,

I keep you guys up to date,

yours Sascha

Gosa

We already made in total more than 10.000km on conventional but also dirt roads, passing the Indian desert, seashores and stunning mountains. Of course, our bearings are still in a perfect shape. They are used to run much longer.
Now we have started in Korea where we are targeting at least 2000km more.

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Although it is still cold, spring is coming. Everywhere on the way you can see this nice blooming trees.

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We left from our branch in Incheon directly the day after I had arrived and headed towards Asan. As I am used to Chinese dimensions, I would say that Asan with its 290000 citizens is a nice and small village.

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We have customers everywhere in the world. Thus, also in the small town of Asan. There we visited the company Leepack Co., Ltd. Leepack is the leading Korean company for intermittent rotary packaging systems. Their product portfolio ranges from filling units and vacuum packer to rotary fill and seal machines.
As their machines are dealing with groceries they need products that are in particular corrosion free. Igus® products are not only offering this but moreover have other advantages. Figure out what Mr. Lee Sangkun, vice president of Leepack, likes in particular…

https://youtu.be/0SCdkj86oAc

…and also for how incredibly long they have been relying on igus®:

https://youtu.be/OYgl42o6-xA

In Asan we also had dinner and I had the chance to enjoy real Korean barbecue. I love it. Basically it is a table full of meat, vegetables and fish with a grill in the center.

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One of my new favourite dishes is kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish that is basically cabbage which is soaked in a salty brine. You can eat it with everything. I personally loved to put grilled meat on it.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Gimchi.jpg

It is a new experience for me that iglidur® is ready for driving when I arrive. This time everything went really without any problems. No sitting for two days in the customs office and no struggle to get a driving permission.

I expect everything to continue as smooth as it has begun. Igus® korea set up a shaman ceremony for the car. Thus, we are protected against any kind of bad luck.

To protect iglidur® on tour we prayed to several gods in both heaven and earth. Actually, to all gods that are controlling life on earth. To gain divine support we had to held a ceremony that is called “Gosa”. A typical “Gosa” ceremony consists of a memorial address by the ceremonial master, in form of country manager Ernie Kim, and a special table.

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The table is laid out with various foods, such as fruits, dried fish, rice, and most important, a pig’s head. The pig head represents money and fertility. This idea originates from that pigs can breed up to 15 at a time and a Korean word that comes originally from China. The word “Don” means in Korean both pig and money.

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To gain support of the gods, it is tradition to stick money in the ears and the mouth of the pig head.

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Then you kneel down and bow to the table.

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When the ritual is over, everyone eats and drinks together (also the pig head is part of the meal). In our case we even invited the neighborhood for joining us at the table.
After the ceremony a traditional band topped off the program.

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With good protection we are now starting in the weekend. We will visit some nice places and sights.

I keep you guys up to date and will tell you more in the next blog post,

yours Sascha

Beijing

Finally, we arrived in Beijing, the capital and political center of China.

PekingSquare of heavenly peace

Beijing marks an important step on our trip as from here we are leaving the coastal area to drive through the inland back to Shanghai. We arrived at the hotel late in the evening and stood up early the next day to visit our beloved customers. Most customers are located in the outskirts of Beijing. You cannot compare “outskirts” of Beijing with “outskirts” of, for instance, cologne. Here in Beijing this basically means 1-1,5 hours of driving to get there. One customer, who had the pleasure to welcome both car and truck, is a specialist for medical equipment.

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We met Mr.Ma, who is the chief engineer of this company. He wanted to show us one of their x-ray generators.
X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation that allows to look at the inside of objects. One of their x-ray generators is a mammography system that is used for scanning the breast for cancer.

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The doctor has the possibility to adjust the machine so, that he can exactly scan the part he would like to examine. It is all automatically so that he doesn´t need to do something by hand anymore. He can choose between three different settings of motion. One of the motion setting is carried out by DryLin® N.

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DryLin® is moving the plate, that is reflecting the x-rays, up and down along the y-axis.

Mr. Ma stressed that the plate is moving very smoothly and is making absolutely no noise. As he is working on lowering the noise of his x-ray machine, he intends to use more of our DryLin® products.

https://youtu.be/wU-6jVDYe60

Now to Beijing. Well, my first impression was that Beijing is completely different to Shanghai. Ok, the city has fewer people than Shanghai, but whether a city has twenty four million inhabitants or fifteen million makes no big difference. Beijing has skyscrapers too, but you never have this “metropolitan feeling” that you get when you walk through the skyscraper-canyons in Shanghai. This is surely also owed to that the streets are very broad. Some even have seven lanes, ON EACH SITE.

https://youtu.be/OmCbMYgOSKU

Nevertheless, in the rush hour you are moving forward in walking speed. The incredible high number of cars goes hand in hand with extraordinary high pollution. Yesterday, we had a day where you barely couldn´t see the car in front of you.

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As Beijing lacks this metropolitan “spirit” it offers more historic sights than Shanghai.
A very well known sight in Beijing is the forbidden city. The forbidden city was basically the palace in the Ming Dynasty.

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What can you expect at one of the most famous sights in the most crowded country of the world? Of course, a huge crowd.

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Still, despite the crowds it is a very pretty area containing huge squares and nice gardens.

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We saw Indias landmark, the Taj Mahal. Now we also had the chance to get to know Chinas landmark, the Great Wall. We visited a section of the wall that is not far from Beijing. Afterwards, I must say that this wasn´t the best idea. To repeat my question from above: What can you expect at the most famous sight in the most crowded country? Too many people again.

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Nonetheless, it was impressive to know that you are at the biggest sight in the world and that this particular wall had stretched about 8800 km across old China. Nowadays, the largest part of the wall is dispersed and only the maintained parts are in a good shape (by the way, it is a myth that the wall is visible from space. It is too narrow. Ok, I haven´t been in space yet (idea for iglidur® on tour the second? haha) but at least this is what google is saying).

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Unfortunately, we couldn´t find a better spot for a picture with both car and wall. Still, it is more the historical moment to be with our iglidur® on tour car at the Great Wall of China, that matters.

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The next stop we are aiming at is Luoyang, which is about 800km south again.

I keep you guys up to date,

yours Sacha

Quingdao – Jinan (400km)

Today, I would like to show you a bit closer the truck that is accompanying us during the China trip.

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I think it´s worth it as the truck seems to attract a lot of people. Both in combination, car and truck are a huge success. Basically, it is a normal truck that has been modified. Within five minutes we can turn the truck into an exhibition booth where we are showcasing a wide range of our products. Furthermore, we are presenting igus® china in a small clip.

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For our customer we offer the “whole package”. On the truck he not only can have a direct look at our products, but also approach us with technical questions.

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Every day dozens of customers are handing over their contact details (and this not only due to the famous igus® cups they get as a reward afterwards 😉

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Usually, after the visit of the booth, we turn the attention to our iglidur® on tour project. For everyone we offer a drive with the car. Most people think about the project as a great idea, but often add that it must be a real adventure to drive with this certain city car once around the world. Below you find a small clip I made to share some “impressions” with you:

Two days ago we arrived with iglidur® at the yellow sea in Quingdao. To be honest, I haven´t  heard of the city before, but I got to know that it is a famous beach-holiday mecca for Chinese and other Asian tourists. For sure, it is growing fast. When you are coming close to the city you only see construction work going on everywhere.

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The city has a nice beach. I can imagine that in summer it must be totally overcrowded. Although it is Winter, the beach is full of people.

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In Quingdao we met one of our suppliers who delivers us with goods for exhibitions (By the way, the main street is not called “Marktstraße” any more, but something in Chinese ;)).

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Sascha Kurtenbach, born in cologne, has been living in Quingdao for about ten years. Although he speaks Chinese fluently, he mentioned that he only knows about 3500 signs. This is not enough to read a newspaper (the average Chinese knows about 5000 signs and a professor at a university about 10.000). For me every word sounds the same. I can imagine that it must be really tough to learn this language.

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In the last post I mentioned that I would like to present people involved in our project.
As the truck is in focus today, I would like to take this opportunity to show you its driver, Mr. Wang.

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Mr. Wang is 35 years old and father of two children. He is from Henan province where we are going to visit a famous temple soon. Although he has been working as a professional driver for decades, it is his first time seeing a truck like this. I asked my colleague to ask him about his opinion. For him it is very special to be part of this project as he can do more than just driving. When the truck has transformed, he always helps us at the booth. For instance, he hands over leaflets or guides customers to someone who can answer technical questions.

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That´s all from the east of China so far, I will keep you up to date, yours Sascha

The first days

Welcome to the land of the dragons. Well, I haven´t seen dragons yet. Nevertheless, some skyscrapers, especially the Shanghai tower with about 630 meters, is at least as impressive as a dragon. My first thought when I arrived was just “Wow!”

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This City is incredibly modern. Starting with an airport highway that is much more modern than any German highway, I have seen so far. Still, despite some wow-effect-skyscrapers I cannot tell you so much about Shanghai. I haven´t had time to discover the city yet, but surely will do soon and then report you. Therefore, I´ll spare my report about the city for another blog post. So far, I can only say that Shanghai reminds me a bit of New York what is surely owed to the stunning skyline. Nonetheless, the skyline would even look better with a small orange car in front of it.

Well, the car. Customs is cleared, but we are still waiting for the driving approval. Meanwhile, we brought the car to the service center to get the liquids refilled that they have removed at the airport in Bangalore.

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During the inspection, we got to know that the automatic transmission for the gears shift is not working any more. It´s annoying, but won´t disturb our immediate tour plans as the car has semi-automatic, which means that we can drive it manually too.

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By the way, we have planned with about 6000km. From Shanghai to Beijing, to the great wall of China and back. This is the rough route (I cannot remember the names of the cities in between). Of course, there are dozens of places and cities we are going to visit. Our trip will last about three weeks.

On Monday we had the press conference. The conference had been opened with a speech by James Mao, CEO of igus® China, before Marc Poensgen (presentation of iglidur® in general) , Fred Lu (presentation of iglidur® in automotive) and Dirk Tietz (retrofitting process) followed. Dirk also introduced me as the driver. I followed him by giving a review about India and shortly presenting myself.

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After all, the program had been topped off with a traditional Chinese band playing for us and the car.

The press conference was very successful. About 57 journalists from 45 different journals, newspapers couldn´t wait to see the car that is going to travel their country during the next three weeks.

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Although we couldn´t take the car with us, we visited the first customer the following day. Our Chinese colleagues surprised us with a “show truck” for in-house exhibitions. I can imagine that both truck and car in combination will be very impressive. Even without iglidur® we were facing within half a day more than 250 visitors. And this ONLY at the branch of Johnson Controls, a leading manufacturer of car components (For instance, seats and batteries).

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Right now, I´m on the way to the Chinese driving administration. I hope we will get the permission today. Actually, this is already all I can tell you. Once the tour has started and I had the occasion to discover Shanghai, I can present you guys more about land and people. I will keep you up to date.

Yours Sascha

From the beginning to the end…

What a final of our Indian tour. Our car visited his family members.

From the beginning to the end..

About one hundred people were welcoming us when iglidur® arrived at the Indian headquarter of Mercedes (R&D department).

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Most employees were astonished when they got to know that their more or less “own” car, improved with igus® bearings, is going to drive around the world.
The managing director itself, Mr. Koellermeyer, took this occasion to say some words about our project:

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Furthermore, the leading engineer, who has already been using our products for the last two years, shared his thoughts with us:

We visited Mercedes on our way back from Chennai. Chennai is an automobile hub at the east coast. It was the last stop on our tour. Imagine yourself sitting in a sauna where a few million people are working and you a have the entire year 100% humidity. This is more or less the climate of Chennai.
We took off from Bangalore at five in the morning to be able to drive about five hours, to visit some customers and to find some nice places for pictures. This time I spare the drive and the customers and come directly to the nice places if you don´t mind.

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Up on a hill, overlooking the entire city is a cathedral. About one to two hundred meters below the square from where you have a stunning view on the city and the nearby airport is the parking place, the highest point you can reach by car. If you want to get further you need a special permission.
We went to the church a few kilometers south where we were looking for a talk with the Reverent Father in charge.
Reverent Father Aeja is working closely with make a difference, the voluntary network which will receive hundred Rs per kilometer we have driven. Not interested in our bearings but fond of that we connect our trip with helping children, he gave us not only a special permission to drive up to the cathedral but even accompanied us.

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The next day we woke up at five again. As we were at the east coast we wanted to take the occasion to have a sunrise picture with iglidur®.

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Unfortunately, we couldn´t take the car as close as we wanted to the water so that we continued searching for a better spot. A few kilometers west of Chennai is a small fisher village which at this time, was already full of life.

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Nevertheless, we took the chance to demonstrate that our bearings can endure not only unbearable heat and humidity…

…but also sand and sea water.

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It was still very early when we left for our second trip the day. We tried to find more tropical areas. A colleague has told about a hill with stunning views. Initially, we thought about going there shortly and then to continue to Bangalore but due to traffic we got delayed. Thus, we decided to stay over night. The hotel wasn´t the best but the view the next morning was worth it.

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I can barely believe that our India trip is at its end. The last five weeks went by incredible fast. The time has to come to say goodbye for me. I want to use this occasion to say thank you to all my Indian colleagues and friends. With your great hospitality and your support you made my stay here to an experience I will never forget.
In the plane on the way to Germany I was sitting next to a guy who had been traveling to India already four times. When I asked him about India he just said one sentence: Once you come to India, you always come back!
I agree on this. For sure, I will come back to see you guys again and to explore more of this country, of incredible India!

The next time when I will write you guys I´m in China. I take a few days off from the blog-writing business. See you guys in Shanghai!

yours Sascha