10 Ways to Get Around Bangkok

Getting around Bangkok can sometimes be extremely frustrating, as you can often find yourself slowly inching forward in what seems like a never ending traffic jam. However, there are several ways you can travel around the wonderful city, sometimes without having to see a single car.

Getting around Bangkok can sometimes be extremely frustrating, as you can often find yourself slowly inching forward in what seems like a never ending traffic.

However, there are many alternative ways to getting around the city. Check them out –

1) Bus

Taking the bus around the city will definitely not help in avoiding those traffic jams, but it will cost you next to nothing.  Some of the red buses are actually free, and some of the orange ones have AC!

BKKbus.JPG

Source

2) Tuk-Tuk

Ohh the good old ‘tuk-tuk’. The most touristy and fun way to see the city, but also the most expensive. Be warned – over recent years, Tuk-Tuk drivers offer to take you anywhere in the Bangkok for only a few baht. Sounds too good to be true? it is! These drivers will take you to a tailor, travel agent or jewelry shop to get a ‘petrol stamp’. If you don’t buy anything from these stores, the owners can get very aggressive and forceful.

tuk-tuk-bangkok1.jpg

Source

3) Bangkok MRT

Many people are unaware Bangkok actually has a subway system, as it doesn’t cover the more popular tourist areas of the city. However, if you plan on going anywhere in the Bangkok Metropolitan region then this an effective, cheap and reliable way of getting there.  It is also worth noting that the MRT connects to the Bangkok BTS train route.

Hua_Lampong_MRT_station.jpg

Source

4) Taxi

A taxi will take you anywhere you want to go. They are cheap enough, just make sure you ask to use the meter. Upon seeing a foreigner, some taxi drivers will try to overcharge, sometimes 10x what the journey should cost.

Taxi-meter_in_Bangkok_04.JPG

Source

5) BTS

My personal favourite. The Bangkok Mass Transit System, or BTS Sky Train, is exactly that: a train that is elevated above the city’s roads. The BTS is not expensive to use and covers some of Bangkok’s most popular areas. The air-conditioned cabins provide great views of the city as you travel from station to station.

Bangkok_Skytrain_2011.jpg

Source

6) Boat

The river Choa Phraya runs throughout Bangkok and out into the Gulf of Thailand. Travelling up and down the river by boat is easy and affordable.

download.jpg

Source

7) Canal Boat

Hundreds of little canals stream off from the Choa Phraya river and into the city. Local boats run regularly up and down these routes and take you to places that the big river boats cannot reach.

bangkok_khlongboat.jpg

Source

8) Motor-taxi

If you’re alone and don’t have much luggage, it might be more cost effective for you to travel by motor-taxi instead of an actual taxi. This tends to be a little more dangerous, so make sure you ask for a helmet and hold on tight!

motorbike-taxis.jpg

Source

9) Foot

The heat puts the majority of people off from walking around the city, but apart from being free, exploring by foot can give you a unique perspective of the Thai capital. Bangkok is rammed with narrow Soi’s (Thai for street/alleyway) which are brimming with character that is not visible from a taxi or bus.

images.jpg

Source

10) Bicycle

Another very cheap way of seeing the city is by bicycle. If you are brave enough to face the humidity and the Thai roads, then give this a try!

go-bangkok-tours-13

Source

If you’re going to Thailand, don’t forget your travel guide:

– Liam

Teaching in Japan: Part 1

My first week in Japan

by Rachael Hornsby

After months of saving for flights, researching jobs, and attempting pretty unsuccessfully to learn some basic greetings in Japanese, I was eager to get over to Japan and find out for myself what it was like. I packed up all 25kg of my life in my snazzy new Tesco suitcase, said goodbye to all my friends and family, and left my lovely England once again so see what the homeland of sushi and sumo was to have in store for me.

Having caught the travel bug teaching in Thailand for a year, I had decided to set my sights on a new Asian adventure, and since everyone I’d met who’d been to Japan had loved it, and there are such great TEFL opportunities there, it seemed like an ideal place for the next step of my journey. Rather than choosing one of the many jobs I perused online, I decided to play it safe and follow a friend to a job and location I knew she had loved, and took a position teaching kindergarten in Kurume, a small city on the island of Kyushu in South West Japan.

After a long flight from Heathrow, and a short stopover in Seoul, I finally landed on Kyushu in Fukuoka, a city closer to North Korea than it is Tokyo. It was evening when I arrived, so my first sights of the island were just of big city lights on the drive from the airport with my colleague, with my main impressions being ‘why is everyone driving around in tiny white toy cars?’. My hotel on for the first night was pretty much like any other hotel, apart from the shower that only reached as high as my chest (the first of many ‘tall girl Japan problems’), and of course the infamous Japanese toilet, with its innumerous temperature, direction and pressure settings for your post-business ‘shower’- even more impressive than my beloved ‘bum gun’ in Thailand.

After a little tour of the not-too-exciting Wednesday night down town Kurume, my friend took me for my first Japanese meal to a gorgeous little yakitori restaurant. We sat at the bar eating sticks of meat and fresh salmon sashimi (my first ever!), surrounded by a strong aroma of tasty barbecuing and annoying cigarette smoke (it’s still legal to smoke inside here).

13006577_10153868129361077_5322181361152487791_n

Salmon sashimi, part of my first meal in Japan

I moved into my adorable little apartment the next day, which made me feel yet more like a giant (I get through my door ways with about an inch to spare above my head). The flat has all traditional Japanese sliding doors separating the rooms. The bedroom floor is all tatami (Japanese straw mats fitted together). The furniture is low to the ground, and the bath is deep, almost cube-shaped (my first few bath times were a bit of a floating somersault act!). It was one of the most stereotypically Japanese buildings I’d see yet, and I half felt as if I was moving into museum exhibit of what a period Japanese house should look like! I was also given a little moving in guide, complete with an ‘earthquake preparedness’ check list, which told you about how to get ready for an earthquake- it sounded just like the stuff we were learnt about in geography at school, so felt weirdly unreal, like I’d jumped into a textbook. Little did I actually know how soon this information would actually become relevant!

Other new essentials handed to me by my school included my inkan, which is a little bamboo stamp with my name on the end that I use instead of a signature for all my important documents (they could only fit the Japanese kana for my first name on- レイチェル, ‘Reicheru’), and my company car (woop!). I got off to a slightly awkward start driving. Having never driven an automatic car before, my foot tried to find the clutch and slammed the break down on my first drive, with a truck behind somehow avoiding crashing into us. But luckily Japan drive on the same side of the road as the UK, so after getting to grips with their road rules I was soon buzzing around town with ease down the city’s tiny roads the width of driveways. (Although I still sometimes set off my wipers instead of the indicators, as they’re on are the opposite side to my car at home. Some habits are hard to shake!)

My little automatic car ❤

The timing of the school year in Japan means that new teachers are lucky enough to experience the infamous ‘sakura’ season (the blooming of the cherry trees) almost as soon as they land. In my first week the blossom seemed to suddenly appear everywhere at once, making, for example the carp-filled canal below our building look even more picturesque. The way the blossom it is anticipated and celebrated in this country, helps you really make the most of it and appreciate the beauty. It’s a great example of the stunning nature of Japan that drew me here, and the people’s special relationship with nature that I think we should all try to emulate. As wishy washy as that is, they still know how to celebrate like any country here- with a good helping of friends and alcohol, specifically, in my experience, day drinking their way through cool boxes full of beer and sake under the blossom!

13062270_10153868109726077_2282527262126262670_n

Blossom at a park on my drive to school

At the Hanami (the picnic held under the cherry blossom trees) I had my first experience of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This is done at different events throughout the year in Japan, and put simply it is someone serving you a cup of tea, but it involves a precise process carried out by professionally trained tea ‘makers’ (no idea what the term is for that!). Ours took a quarter of an hour or so, and I could write a whole blog post on all the elaborate steps, but basically we knelt beside a lady in a kimono who was preparing the tea with a little traditional stove, were given a sort of swan-shaped sweet to prepare out palette, and after its long preparation, were each served a bowl of bitter green matcha tea, before watching whilst everything was methodically cleaned and put away. (I have since found out there are many different ‘schools’ of tea, with their own unique ceremonies, and this is just one specific style). The whole thing was so slow and delicate it made you feel quite peaceful, giving a nice contrast to the noise and energy of the party, but afterwards I still had a bit too much sake (not wanting to be rude and turn down drinks from my new acquaintances of course!) and ended up cycling home along a slightly wonky line…

944853_10153868129501077_1221863673140510310_n

My first week here was crammed with many more episodes, including starting my job at school, taking a trip to a stunning nearby temple town, and trying my first 100 yen sushi. And my first month here was even more eventful when the island was rocked by its strongest earthquake in on record…

The Korean Hogwan

Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?

A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.

Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).


It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).

It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact.  But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.

Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:

Pros

Salary

Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.

Free Accommodation

The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.

Severance Pay

The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.

Flights

Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.

Paid Vacation

By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).

Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…

Cons

Parents

The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.

Closure

Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.

Money First

As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.

Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!

Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea:

#TRAVEL – Taiwan: Taipei 101

#TRAVEL – TAIWAN: TAIPEI 101

In 2004, Taipei 101 (formerly known as Taipei World Financial Centre) was declared the tallest building in the world.  101 floors high, it stands out in the Taipei skyline and is visible for miles (pollution depending).

Taipei 101 lost it’s ‘Tallest building’ title to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, 2009.  As of 2016, Taipei 101 is now the 10th tallest building on earth. However, it is still well worth a visit!

Earlier this year, I was visiting Taipei on a budget (shock). I only had 2 days to explore the city and wanted to hit all the ‘MUST SEE’ places.  After doing some research I found that Taipei 101 made most Top 10 lists and in many cases was the #1 thing to see/do in Taipei.

Taipei has an efficient subway system that covers the main areas of the city.  To get to Taipei 101, simply get off at the conveniently named ‘Taipei 101‘ stop – SIMPLE!

The bottom floors are mostly occupied by food courts, shops, and tourists.  The real spectacle is on the 89th floor: the 360 Observation Deck.

Initially I was put off by the admission price to go up (12/11/2016 – NT$600), However, after seeing that you are taken there in the worlds fastest elevator, I pulled out my wallet.

The view from the observation desk really is incredible.  It gives you a panoramic view of the city and allows you to see so much you couldn’t from the ground.

I always love visiting the tall buildings in cities (e.g. Tokyo Skytree and the KL tower), the birds-eye view you get always leaves me temporarily speechless and can be appreciated at both day and night.

Admittedly, this is a short experience and quite expensive, but it is worth it.

  If you are in Taipei, don’t leave Taipei 101 off your list!

If you’re heading to Taiwan, you can’t go wrong with this travel guide –

TEFL TIPS #7 – Sticker Charts

Using a sticker chart when teaching TEFL is by no means an original idea! In fact, most ESL teachers probably don’t need me to tell them how to use a sticker chart effectively—but I am going to list some of the benefits associated with using this handy classroom tool. I think it’s important to note that studies suggest sticker charts are used most effectively when teaching ages 3 – 8 years old.

Sticker charts actually divide opinion among the teachers I know. Many (myself included) find them to be a useful instrument in the classroom, and would be lost without them.

However, others say that they use fear to control and motivate . They argue that a child would be afraid of failing, and not receiving a sticker would cause them to feel ashamed in front of their classmates.

This may also be true, but unfortunately, in an ESL classroom with younger learners, the language barrier is a problematic issue and not all instructions are fully understood. There needs to be a method in place to translate to the students that bad behavior won’t be tolerated and good behavior is to be rewarded.

So, with that said, I think the benefits of using sticker charts outweigh the negatives. Here’s why –

– Discipline

I would say that a lot of the good behavior in my classroom is because the students understand that if they don’t behave they won’t receive a sticker at the end of the day. I can combat any naughty behavior with the simple question: “Do you want a sticker?” Ideally, it would never get to this point, but it happens.

– Encouraging English

Encouraging English is very important in any ESL classroom! Students may be more motivated to talk in English if they were to receive a reward at the end of class.

– Minimizing the use of Native Language

Unsurprisingly, stickers can also be used to minimize the amount of talking the students do in their native tongue.

Teaches about goals/working toward something long-term

Children often count down the days until they finish their chart and receive their reward.  This is great at helping them understand the concept of long term goals.


Learning to be excited for others’ accomplishments

Students always find it fun to see a classmate pick their prize and find out what it is.  This may be because they can see what potential prize they could get, or because they are genuinely excited for their friend.

A sticker chart is by no means a perfect system, but it is easily understood by younger learners and can be used in a variety of ways.

Check out these fantastic sticker chart resources:

Websites

Teachers pay teachers

Pinterest

Twinkl

On Amazon

Click here!

Click here!

Click here!

#TRAVEL – Cambodia: Angkor What?

Aviary Photo_130707879923506920

The majority of people who travel to Cambodia take the time to visit the worlds largest religious monument: Angkor Wat.

Nursing a colossal hangover, I did just that.

Aviary Photo_130707879379877819

Angkor Wat is located close to the town of Siem Reap (the infamous ‘Pub Street’ is also situated there, hence the hangover) and can be entered for a variety of prices depending on the type of tour you choose. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, using the famous Khmer style architecture. Over the years, Angkor Wat has had its fair share of historic moments, but since 1953 it has been controlled by Cambodia. Now, it draws tourists like a moth to a flame and is overrun with cheeky little monkeys.

Aviary Photo_130707880566878947

Many choose to make the trip at sunrise, which is highly recommended. Unsurprisingly to anyone that knows me, I didn’t make it.

However, visiting in the afternoon was nothing less than breathtaking.

I’ve seen a vast range of temples and monuments travelling throughout Asia, but I can safely say that nothing has trumped Angkor Wat. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It’s gigantic and you can’t help but feel a bit like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider whilst you’re strolling around its neverending architecturally brilliant superstructure.

Aviary Photo_130707881249758890

I think I paid around 30 US Dollars for the day pass, but I would suggest the 2-day option if you have the time.

Aviary Photo_130707881625795020

I’d love to go back sometime.

Aviary Photo_130707880268899929

If you’re heading to Cambodia ,don’t forget your travel guide –

TEFL TIPS #4 – Verb of the Day

Verbs are the skeleton of any language. Most ESL learners know the basics:. ‘eat,’ ‘go’, ‘play‘ etc., but expanding this list is vital to those working towards achieving a higher level of both spoken and written English.

verb of the day

In my classroom, I introduced a method I call ‘verb of the day’. It’s pretty simple but effective.

Every day I spend a few minutes introducing a new verb and ask my students to use that verb in a sentence. In a few weeks, my students progress from using standard verbs: ‘I eat‘ ‘I go’ & ‘I like‘ to the more advanced: ‘I climbed’, ‘I jump’, ‘I travelled‘.

The more creative you are at introducing the verb (you could use a song, dance and games), naturally the more the class will learn. For the smaller kids, acting out the words can be very effective.

A list of verbs I use to teach in kindergartens – elementary school are as followings:

– stretch
– push
– pull
– visit
– bend
– think
– cry
– rush
– throw
– move
-chase
– bite

The older or more advanced the students the further you can go:

– quit
– shake
– whisper
– scare

I find these Verb Flashcards from Amazon super helpful in my online and brick and mortar classroom:

TEFL TIPS #3 – Storybots

If you are lucky enough to have internet access in your classroom, you’d be stupid not to take advantage of it.

Storybots

Youtube is full of useful ESL videos that you can play to your class to assist with teaching. While relying heavily on videos may be a cop out, using them selectively can help create a more dynamic classroom environment.

A channel I cannot recommend enough is Storybots, found here:
https://www.youtube.com/user/storybots

(recently changed to Netflix Jr)

I primarily use it to show clips when I teach the alphabet as a little break in between activities—the kids love the animations. Each video utilizes a large variety of words that can help expand children’s vocabulary. The music in the Storybot videos is catchy and after listening to a certain one a few times, the class will try to sing along!

Storybots also has an assortment of other songs that can be used for many different things such as ‘clean up’, ‘teeth’ and numbers.

Why not try to spruce up your lessons? Check it out.

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Every year hundreds of people fly to the “Land of Smiles” to teach English. The list of benefits this choice offers is so large that instead of focusing on them, I have compiled a list of reasons it may not be the best option for everyone. You may want to reconsider if…

You Want to Make A Lot of Money

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the teaching salary in Thailand isn’t the best. In comparison to the cost of living, you can live very well—but when it comes to making those international bank transfers every month, it can be a bit painful. That said, jobs at international schools tend to offer more money and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money and transfer their salaries home each month. You can save, but it definitely takes commitment.

You Want to Party 24/7

The Full Moon Party, Khaosan Road – YES, Thailand is a fun place to party. Alcohol is cheap and there is never a shortage of events to attend. However, if this is your primary reason for visiting Thailand, I think backpacking or a holiday would be a better option. Don’t get me wrong, over the course of my 18 months there I had an endless amount of raging weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should be the job.

You Aren’t Willing to Embrace a New Culture

This is similar to the previous. Many people assume life in Thailand is like the travel brochures and the backpacking blogs. Of course, it can be, but the reality is that the majority of schools are positioned away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country and in my opinion allow for a more authentic cultural experience. I think it’s important to note that in many locations you could be the only English speaker for miles and find it impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge myself and grow—but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated.

You Don’t Like Kids/Want to Teach

The heading of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are a few too many teachers in Thailand who not only hate teaching but dislike children. I understand a lot of people choose to teach in Thailand to see the country or for a gap year etc., but I think a little interest in teaching and not a dislike of the age group you’re going to teach should be a minimal requirement. You’re going to be in the classroom the majority of the week—taking a job you don’t care about just so you can party and see the sites will only make the kids miserable and the workweek seem like a chore. Care about what you do.

You Don’t Like Spicy Food

Ok, this one is a bit of a joke. Of course, you don’t need to like spicy food to teach in Thailand, but be warned – it’s everywhere. The words ‘mai pet’ (Thai for not spicy) can save your life!

This list is basically a compilation of the various complaints I would hear from fellow teachers around the country. Maybe if people knew what they were getting themselves in for before going, there would be a lot less critical and negative stuff written about teaching in Thailand online. Do your research, and try to find a place that is not only suited to your interests and strengths, but also consider your weaknesses.

Top 5 Things To Do In Hong Kong

Top 5 Things To Do In Hong Kong


Hong Kong is one of the most famous places in the world. In February 2016, I was lucky enough to visit for a few days, and experience some of what ‘Asia’s World City’ had to offer.

Here is a list of my TOP 5 Things to do in Hong Kong –

The Peak

The Hong Kong Peak is normally described as “Hong Kong’s #1 Thing To Do”. I can see why. The Peak provides visitors with a panoramic viewing point looking down at Hong Kong City and the ocean. I don’t think I’ve drunk a coffee with a view like it before!
The best way to get to The Peak is by using the infamous ‘tram’ service. At some points during the journey, you will fear for your life – I am not exaggerating when I say that the tram will travel almost vertically, but just hold on tight & you’ll be fine!

The Cable Car & The Tian Tan Buddha

The cable car ride to the top of the mountains is optional, but really, unless you are down to your last dollar or have an extreme fear of heights – there is no option. This was my favorite part of my trip to Hong Kong and I would recommend anyone visiting to do it. The price is HK$130 for standard & HK$180 glass bottom (roughly $16/$23 USD).
The cable car to the Tian Tan Buddha is a steady, but fantastic experience. The higher you get, the more of the unusual landscape of ocean, buildings, and mountains will be revealed.
Soon enough, the outline of a giant Buddha will begin appearing and the buildings in the background will fade away.
At the Tian Tan Buddha itself, you can explore the immediate area of historical monuments, temples, and stores… just be careful of the cows. You could also choose to walk the 268 steps up to the Buddha itself.
The photos really speak for themselves…

Markets

I’m not a “shopper”, but damn, the street markets in Hong Kong made me want to buy a lot of shit I didn’t need. “Temple Street” and “Ladies Market” (not just for ladies) are just two of the night market areas in Hong Kong that boast everything from food to clothes to even wild stock.
It is easy to spend hours meandering around the bright colorful stalls, browsing the wide (and I mean wide) variety of products on sale. The hunger-creating smells of nearby street food and restaurants are the only thing strong enough to entice you away.

hk 6.jpg

Not just a city

The most surprising element of Hong Kong to me was it’s natural beauty. It really is more than just a city. Hong Kong has no shortage of mountains, islands, and beaches. Most of these can be accessed by public transport for little cost. If you’re in Hong Kong for more than a couple of days, I’d highly recommend venturing out of the city and seeing some of this spectacular terrain. It’s worth mentioning that 2 of the most popular islands to visit in HK are Lantau and Lamma.

Promenade

The most stereotypical selfie taken in Hong Kong is taken at the promenade. The promenade is a spectacular area at both night and day. I can see why many joggers choose to run along the waterfront and I can see why tourists flock to get a photo of the stunning electronic landscape across the water. It’s completely free, so it’s worth walking along it if you get the chance!

I hope this gave you some ideas of what to do in Hong Kong or provided you with some nice flashbacks of your time there. Is there anything you think should have made my list?


Feel free to comment below!

If you’re going to Hong Kong, buy your travel guide below. It has everything you need and more!