Getting the MOST out of Angkor

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I’ve seen a lot of Angkor Guides out there that insist on providing you with an in-depth history of each temple. The thing is, you’ll see and learn as you go so there’s no need to have encyclopedic knowledge of the whole park before you get there. It can be a pain sifting through the vast amount information for the tidbits you need, so I’ve compiled a bare-bones guide on how to get the most out of the Angkor Archeological Park:

COST

1 Day Pass: $20

3 Day Pass: $40 (any 3 days within one week)

7 Day Pass: $60 (any 7 days within one month)

WHAT TO BRING

I’ve seen some extensive packing lists for exploring the Angkor complex—flashlights, compasses, maps, you name it. Honestly though, my own advice (especially for those going in the summer months) is to pack as light as possible.

-> Wear light, loose-fitting clothes in bright colors to deflect sunlight.

-> Comfortable shoes are a must—you’ll be going up and down hundreds of steep, uneven steps as you explore and you’ll be walking on rocky terrain.

-> Summer temperatures hover in the mid-90’s at best, so start each day with at least 2 large bottles of water. You can always leave one (or more) in the Tuk Tuk while you explore.

-> Sunscreen: If you tend to burn, make sure to layer it on.

DRIVER

The best way to fit in the most sights in the least time is to hire a Tuk Tuk for the day. There are countless available on the street and most hostels are more than happy to arrange one for you. Typically costing $10-$12 a day, the drive can act as your tour guide.

Believe me, they do way more than just drive—they help you with obtaining your tickets and if youget a multi-day pass they will pick you up at your hostel each morning. Many have guide books with them and will try to teach you a bit about the temples as you go and wait patiently while you explore.

-> An important side note is to LISTEN CAREFULLY. They will often tell you what entrance to meet them at and where you can find them.

FOOD

Again, this is where your driver will be a great resource. While there are plenty of carts selling drinks near the temples, food is harder to come by. Your driver will know nearby areas full of restaurants or street food, depending on your preference, and will wait while you have a lunch break (or take the opportunity to grab some food himself).

SCHEDULE

For those who are budget-conscious but still want to see the majority of temples, I’d best recommend the 3-day pass. Most drivers will have suggestions on how to spend that time, but in general:

Day 1: Use this day to do the minor outlying temples—they take longer to drive between and are harder to cram in at the end if you haven’t gotten to them yet. This is a great way to get acclimated so you can be better prepared for a more strenuous Day 2 & 3, while also seeing some more remote temples many tourists tend to miss.

Day 2: Now that you’re into the swing of things, make this your most adventurous day by getting through the largest complex, Angkor Thom, and its surrounding structures. Angkor Thom covers more than 5 square miles, at the center of which is the Bayon, recognized by its 216 stone faces.

This will also keep you close to Phnom Bakheng, the famed sunset point. It’s a must-see, but remember that it is best to get in line quickly, as it fills up long before sunset commences. Also, keep in mind that while you’ll be climbing up in the daylight, you will be descending in the dark which will indeed be more difficult.

Day 3: Angkor Wat—saving the most famous/recognizable for last is a great way to make sure you stay motivated, because by day three you may be sunburned, achey, and a little worn-out. At the same time, Angkor Wat itself is smaller compared to all you may have seen on Day 2, so you can either get a later start or an early finish to get in some much-needed relaxation.

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-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #10 – THE ALMIGHTY FLASHCARD (2)

For this TEFL Tip, I’m going to write another post on flashcard activities.

You can find my first post here

Activity – Run to the ______ (Listening)

Age – Pre-K, K, Primary

Level – Beginner

This activity mainly focuses on listening and is one of the most simple but effective listening games you can play.

You start by teaching new vocabulary to your class using a selection of flashcards. Spend some time making sure the children understand what exactly the pictures are and ensure they pronounce the words correctly.

Then, check how much they have learned!

Scatter the flashcards throughout the classroom, stick them to walls, chairs, or if you’re a giant goofball like me, even your forehead.

SHOUT a word and the students need to listen and run to the flashcard of that word. Kids love it!

As time goes on, use more flashcards to ensure some of the children aren’t just having lucky guesses.  Also, giving a few students the chance to play one by one, maybe even against the clock to see how many they can get in time helps strengthen each child individually. And why only run? You could ask the class to skip, hop, crawl, etc. each time.

Give it a go &have fun!

-Liam

3 Myths About Niagara Falls

So I recently took a trip out to Niagara Falls, something I’ve been wanting to see for years. When I mentioned my plan to friends, the general reaction was always, “Why?”. Their opinions ranged from indifferent to overly negative whether they’d been there before or not. Undeterred, I hopped a 7-hour bus from Chinatown up to Niagara to see for myself. So did any of those negative insights hold true? Let’s see…

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“You’re gunna get soaked!”

The highlight of any trip to the falls is a boat ride out into the mist. These boats run from both the Canadian and American sides, with the American Maid of the Mist boats beginning operation in 1846 and Hornblower Cruises operating the boat tours from the Canadian side since 2012. Now, it’s true that it’s cold, windy, and wet…but this is why they provide you with the biggest ponchos I’ve ever seen in my life. Americans get blue while Canadians get red and believe me, they’re gigantic. Definitely longer than I am tall, with long sleeves and drawstring hoods. You can barely tell there are people on the boats rather than giant walking garbage bags. You’d have to put in serious effort to get yourself soaked.

“Eck…it’s SO commercialized…”

Niagara Falls are arguably some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, and definitely the most famous in North America. Yeah, it’s true that the name and image is plastered on everything from t-shirts to shot glasses, but ya know what? So is Angkor Wat. So is Mt. Everest. So are the pyramids at Giza.

Passing by souvenir shops or paying admission doesn’t mean the falls have lost any of their power or presence.

“It’s boring…once you’ve seen it you just turn around and go home.”

This was the most common complaint I heard and I’m convinced that people who believe this never took a whole 2 seconds to look around. While it’s true that the Niagara, New York is a somewhat empty town, it does boast historical Fort Niagara, a remnant of New France built in 1726. For those with an interest in history, architecture, or photography, it’s an incredible must-see. Beyond that, Niagara, Canada has casinos, museums, waterparks, arcades…it’s seriously like a tiny Vegas.

This was one of those trips that revived my conviction to always make my own opinions. Don’t let naysayers discourage you from getting out there and experiencing new things…it’s all about perspective. Yeah, sometimes you’ll be disappointed, but more often than not you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

-Ashley

3 Ways to Keep in Touch With Your Parents While Backpacking

3 Ways to Keep in Touch With Your Parents While Backpacking

Traveling the world during our younger years is liberating, to say the least. It helps us expand our psyche and learn about our surrounding environment more thoroughly – although, it often comes at a price. We’ve previously written about  how difficult it can be telling your parents about moving abroad and the same goes for backpacking.So, what are the main things we should consider when we are traveling abroad to help ease the pain of being away from our loved ones?

#1 Constant communication

Operating on a different time zone shouldn’t be an excuse for not keeping in touch with your parents or family, in general. With innovations such as Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Viber it opens up endless opportunities to keep lines of communication open between both parties. The best part is that you don’t even need to take a laptop with you while traveling, many travelers run these apps through their mobile devices. The only thing you’ll need to rely on is a solid WiFi connection, which most hostels, hotels, coffee shops and restaurants will readily provide you as long as you purchase something from their establishment.

#2 Play online games with them

The beauty of mobile is that is provides a lot of mediums where people can connect. A fun way to engage with your parents is to play mobile games with them, while chatting with them along the way. Having fun with them while playing something that you’re both interested in can be very heartwarming and help both parties get over the fact that you aren’t seeing each other on a regular basis.

Although, this is a wonderful way to keep in contact with your family members it probably won’t be as unbelievable as a pair of sisters who were reunited after being separated at birth. The sisters were reunited after 60-years of being apart, after their 9-year love affair with an online bingo game helped them discover they were actually long lost sisters. This goes to show that playing games online can in fact bridge the gap between you and your family, even with the most incredible results.

#3 Update your social media accounts regularly

Updating your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts regularly will give your parents the ability to see what you are experiencing on a daily basis. This will help them see what a life-changing experience you are having, and put their minds to rest. Giving them a first-hand account of the places you are visiting will also give them a medium to reply to and engage in conversations with you regarding the many wonderful landmarks you have experienced along your journey across the world.

If you have any tips for our readership of the best ways to keep in touch with your parents while traveling, please leave your comments below.

-Ashley

EPIK

This post is the second part to – http://tefltravelling.com/2016/01/26/the-korean-hogwan/

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is a program set up to help students learn English throughout the country. EPIK has been in existence since 1995 and has been used by thousands of teachers and students. Run by the Korean government, it is operated in public schools located all over Korea, catering to both elementary and high school.

EPIK should not be mistaken for the Korean private school system: The Hogwan.

Many ESL teachers choose to teach with EPIK for wide varieties of reasons that are briefly listed below:

Pros

Housing

All EPIK program jobs come with free housing; however, utilities are not included. Accommodation is usually standard but fine for its purpose.

Free Flights

EPIK provide an entrance allowance for teachers to purchase airfare to Korea (this is reimbursed during your first month). Upon competition of the contract, EPIK will also provide an allowance for teachers to purchase a flight to leave the country.

Paid Vacation

EPIK allow teachers 18 days paid vacation in addition to the 13 – 15 national Korean holidays. Vacation days can be used during the summer and winter breaks.

Regular Hours

In my personal opinion, one of the main differences between an EPIK and a Hogwan are the working hours. All EPIK schools run between 8/9.30 – 4/5.30, 22 hours of which is teaching time. Hogwans can start and finish at a wide variety of times and teaching hours drastically change between each one.

No Parent Involvement

Another HUGE benefit of EPIK over the Hogwan system is the lack of parental involvement. In many Hogwans parents basically run the show, which is not how a place of education should be run. In most cases, EPIK schools are run by professionals and people with experience.

Bonus

After a year at EPIK you will most likely be offered the chance to re-sign your contract, for which you will be given a re-signing bonus. It is also worth mentioning that for each year you stay at an EPIK school your salary will increase.

Training

Being an EPIK teacher requires you to participate in an EPIK training program.  This can be great for those with little experience or those looking to create a social circle within Korea.

Cons

VISA Process

The VISA process to work in Korea normally takes time and can be quite costly. In addition to the usual documents required for the E2 visa, EPIK candidates also need to provide 2 letters of reference.

Application Intake

A job at a Hogwan can be found all year round but this is not the case at EPIK. February and August are EPIKS two main recruitment periods; they need to have teachers in the country before the semester starts so they can complete the EPIK training programs.

Located Anywhere

You can be placed anywhere. EPIK places teachers not only anywhere in Seoul, but anywhere in the country. However, couples that apply together will stay together.

Training

EPIK training can also be a con because you can fail it.  Also, you won’t necessarily find out your location until after training and they are sorting you onto buses.

It is clear that the pros of working at an EPIK school dramatically outweigh the cons. Many argue that there is simply no contest between the Hogwan and EPIK.

Whether you chose to work for a Hogwan or use EPIK, it is always recommended that you use a good recruiter with a great reputation.

-Liam

#TRAVEL – ALASKA: Frosty Fur Rendezvous

Alaska is rife with untamed wilderness and is the ideal location for climbers, hunters, and fisherman alike. Much of its appeal lies in the fact that there are still areas yet unexplored, offering the chance to walk where no one before you ever has. Whether you’re seeking the calm of a perpetually dark winter or the energizing vibes of 24-hour summer sunlight, Alaska is the escapist’s dream.

Yet even beyond its breathtaking landscapes, the Land of the Midnight Sun holds a rich cultural history filled with tradition. At no time of year is this more apparent than during Fur Rondy, the largest winter festival on the continent. For those who don’t have the time to travel Alaska at their own pace, Fur Rondy offers the best sample of what Alaskans are most proud of.

Fur Rendezvous has been taking place in Anchorage in late February and early March since 1935, when the celebration was first added to annual swap meets held by fur trappers. To date, the festival still hosts some of the city’s largest actions of fur, hide, and horns, as well as a three-day Native Arts market featuring hundreds of vendors & artists from the local tribes, including the Athabaskan, Eskimo, and Aleut cultures.

If fur & handicrafts don’t pique your interest, Fur Rondy is host to well over one hundred separate events, including winter sports tournaments—you can plan ahead to take part in pond hockey, snowshoe-softball, ice-bowling, and even cornhole competitions! For the more daring adventurer, the Running of the Reindeer is definitely a prime event. Much like Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls but mellowed out for the laid-back Alaskan lifestyle, this footrace through downtown Anchorage presents the challenge of outrunning a herd of reindeer all while raising funds for Toys for Tots.

Naturally, the competitive spirit has carried over into less-traditional events as well, with one of the most popular events being the Outhouse Races—participants take their favorite outhouse, dress it to the nines, put skis on the bottom, and race them in the streets! That essence of foolishness carries over into many light-hearted evens, including the “Mr. Fur Face” beard competition at the Miners & Trappers Ball, and the giant blanket-toss used to send revelers flying high into the air!

By far, the biggest event of the 10-day festival is the 3-day, 75-mile World Championship Sled Dog Race, which has brought together mushers from all over the world since 1946. The timing of the event is instrumental in getting residents pumped up in anticipation of the 1,150-mile Iditarod, which begins at Fur Rondy’s end.

Of course, Fur Rondy holds your fair staples as well, including carnival rides, ice & snow sculptures, skating, and fireworks—so there’s definitely something for everyone.

-Ashley