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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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!

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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…

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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…

Work from your mobile phone?

I know the title of this post may seem a bit ‘scammy’ , but it really isn’t!

If you’re a native English speaker from the USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada, you could teach English from your mobile phone and make up to 22USD per hour plus bonuses. 

This is my main form of income. 

It funds my international travels and gives me the freedom to work from anywhere I want (with wifi). 

Teach English online

Im not going to sugar coat online teaching.  It’s convenient, pays well and rewarding…. but it is hard work.  You need to be high energy, passionate and dedicated.

If you’re looking for easy money or passive income, then stop reading.

However, if you feel like you’re a good candidate, then you’re in the right place. I am more than happy to talk you through the steps and help get you past the Palfish interview stage and increase bookings :)

I’ve helped several teachers in the past, so I know what it takes.

Interested? then….

  1. Private message me on Instagram and I’ll take you through the steps.

@tefltravelling


OR

2. Download the Palfish App and insert my invitation code – 45012005

You can then get in contact with me via the teaching app.  It has fantastic messaging facilities.

This is 100% free.  Just like any other job, there are no fees etc.  You pass the interview, you get the job!

Simple. 

I’ll look forward you to helping you get started and welcoming you to our community.

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 – SOUTH KOREA: THE DMZ

The North Korean way of life is perceived negatively throughout most of the western world, but many of us are equally fascinated by it. North Korea is located north of South Korea (SHOCK); the two countries have been separated since the 1950’s, and now a 150 mile long & 2 1/2 mile wide barrier runs between them. This barrier is known as the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone.

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Anybody visiting or living in South Korea (it’s highly unlikely you’ll see many South Koreans there though) can visit the DMZ as part of a tour. The majority of the tours depart from Seoul and most companies offer both morning and afternoon options.

When I visited in 2015, I used a company called VIP Tours. They were very helpful and provided a great service. I’d recommend them!

You can check them out here VIP TRAVEL

VIP Tours and most other DMZ Tour operators offer several different options, two of the most popular being:

1) DMZ TOUR

The cheapest and most common option allows you to visit several interesting places –

The Bridge of Freedom – A park full of statues and monuments, built to console the families of both the North and South Korean people.

Dora Observatory – From here you can look into North Korea. On a clear day, it’s very impressive.

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Dorasan Station – A brand new railway station built to connect South Korea and North Korea. However, in 2008 the North Korean government stopped the service accusing South Korean government of a confrontational policy. So now it stands empty.

DMZ Theater & Exhibition Hall – Full of artifacts and information on the Korean war and the DMZ itself.

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The Third Infiltration Tunnel – My favourite part of the tour! In 1978 a tunnel was uncovered. The tunnel was built by North Koreans trying to pass under the border. The tour allows you to travel deep underground and see for yourself.

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2) DMZ & JSA TOUR

The second option allows you to visit all of the above AND the JSA or the Joint Security Area. The JSA is where North and South Koreans discuss diplomatic engagements and negotiate.  This option does cost a bit more and require a but more time, but a good experience for those who are interested.

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If you are interested in the Korean war and/or are curious about mysterious North Korea, or maybe you just have some time to kill in Seoul, I’d definitely recommend checking this tour out!

If you’re going to South Korea, make sure you take your guide to ensure you don’t miss anything –

TEFL TIP – 5 Ways to Increase Bookings (Online ESL)

In the world of online ESL, the phrase increase bookings is universal and becoming more and more common due to current market.

We’ve all struggling to fill our booking slots at one point or another, so I know how frustrating and de-moralizing it can be.

TEFL TIP - 5 WAYS TO INCREASE BOOKINGS (ONLINE ESL)

Here are 5 simple tips I think will help you increase bookings and stand out from the crowd, regardless of whatever platform you teach on:

How to Increase Bookings

Consistency

Parent’s LOVE fixed slots and consistent availability. It’s important to many parents that their children have some type of routine when studying. There are a lot of online ESL platforms that only allow fixed bookings for this exact reason.

Aside from a fixed schedule, it’s also super important that your teaching style is consistent. I know it’s hard to be upbeat of those days you’re not feeling great or when you haven’t had time to drink a cup of coffee, but try your best to keep it business as usual.

Adapt

All ESL platforms are different. Some prefer their teachers to focus on phonics & pronunciation, wehereas others may want high energetic teachers who focus on speaking and using props. Do your research and find out what works for your employers and adapt your learning style!

Master your Craft

There is a wealth of resources online. Watch youtube videos, read articles and practice, practice, practice. Master your craft! Learn from others and go from being good at what you do, to GREAT! If you’re teaching students in China, my top tip would be to focus on pronunciation and correcting sentence structure. Always do this is fun and positive way, and don’t forget to give lots of encouragement.

Stand out from the crowd!

The world of ESL is saturated (especially during the pandemic), so put in that extra effort to make your lessons and classroom shine! Invest in good quality props and a fun, presentable background.

Be Passionate

This is the most simple, but effective tip. Show genuine passion and care. Try to enjoy what you do and take interest in your lessons. Students and parents will be able to tell if you’re turning up just to collect a pay cheque!

These are the areas that I think teachers should work on if they want to increase their bookings and fill their teaching schedule.

What tips would you recommend to struggling online teachers?

#TRAVEL – Indonesia: Peace in Ubud

I’ve never read the book Eat, Pray, Love, nor have I watched the movie. But, nonetheless, I heard Ubud, Bali was an interesting place to visit for reasons other than “It’s where that really good book/ film is set”.

I was right.

Ubud is located about an hour north of Bali’s main airport and is easily accessed by bus, van, car, and bike. If you are visiting after spending a few days in Kuta, the tranquil and relaxing atmosphere will be a welcome breath of fresh air. Many visitors go there to practice yoga, meditation and detox. Ubud boasts many health-orientated stores and calming areas, making it the perfect place to unwind and get back in touch with yourself.

That said, despite being a peaceful and chilled setting, there are actually quite a few things to do:

Monkey Forest

The most popular tourist attraction in Ubud is the monkey forest. For a small price, you can enter a reasonably large area of temples, trees and wilderness to observe wild macaque monkeys run around and interact with each other and their paying visitors (hold onto your camera with a strong grip).

Rice Fields

Turn left, turn right, go north, go south…Ubud has no shortage of rice paddies! I would definitely recommend renting a scooter and driving out of the town center to check out some of these beauties. They are oddly fascinating and undeniably beautiful.

Pools

Just because you’re away from the coast, don’t think that you’re going to miss out on some great waters (you are in Bali after all). The majority of hotels and homestays in Ubud boast spectacular swimming pools, many with infinity pools looking out into stunning green scenery.

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The Streets

Ubud’s streets are full of quirky cafes, homestays and old buildings. Hours can be spent walking around marveling at the various types of architecture and having a browse at what interesting products are for sale.

Chill Nights

The nightlife in Ubud is a world apart from Kuta. I love to party, but visiting Ubud allowed me to experience a more relaxed and cultural vibe. Whether you see a puppet show, walk the beautiful streets or have a cold beer at the jazz bar, you’ll always be wearing a smile across your face.

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If you’re in Bali, don’t skip over Ubud.

.. and don’t forget your guide!

#TRAVEL – Vietnam: Habitable Hoi An

If you only have the chance to visit one place in Vietnam, make it Hoi An!

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Hoi An is an ancient town, located on the coast in central Vietnam.

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It’s one of those places where you stay longer than initially intended. I think I ended up staying 3 days longer than planned. If it wasn’t for a flight booked to Singapore, I could have easily made it 30.

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Hoi An is a well-known hotspot on the Vietnam backpacker’s route that doesn’t shove the tourism down your throat like so many other places. However, it does have the perks of a popular place; a lot of things to do!

You can a bike (push or motor, depending on how lazy you feel) and ride around for hours absorbing the European style architecture and picturesque sights.

Bursting with nice restaurants and quirky bars, the streets are alive night and day!

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If you want a fun night and good music, don’t miss Why Not? bar

It also possesses a beach, which is a pretty nice place to lay with Mrs.Sunshine and drink a few beers in between cooling off in the blue ocean.

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Hoi An would be considered the ‘whole package’ to many backpackers. It has a lot of history, many activities to do and things to see, good nightlife and a beach!

It’s a winner!

Discover more of Vietnam, with this …