Bình Quới Village

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Bình Quới is a quiet little village up in the Binh Tanh District of Ho Chi Minh City. Having spent so much time in the craziness that is HCMC, we thought it would be nice to get out for Thanksgiving.  The drive is only about 30 minutes, and it was well worth it. While there isn’t much to do there other than take pictures, it is a good break from the city.

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The reviews on TripAdvisor had a lot to say about the wedding pictures that this place is famous for, and that was not an exaggeration. The only other people there were couples and their respective photographers. Not to mention, there was a girl who wanted to steal Hope away from me.

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All in all, Bình Quới was a great way to spend our Thanksgiving Holiday away from family.

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Here is a video I made as well:

GoPro Thanksgiving

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LanguageCorps

I kept the plan to teach abroad  a secret for quite some time. Hope told her close friends that we were planning on doing this, but I didn’t tell the majority of people I knew until about 6 weeks before the move. I didn’t want to build up hype for it, JUST IN CASE something prevented us from actually going. For those that didn’t know, our original plan was to teach in Japan. A friend of mine, Jon Hogwood (@hollywoodhogwood) was teaching over there at the time, and it seemed like the best option for us. After  applying for countless jobs, Hope had a few interviews while I had only been contacted by one school.

After more research about programs to help you get a job teaching abroad, we came across LanguageCorps. Their site looked promising and they offered training in the country of your choice. Not only do they offer TESOL programs everywhere from Spain, to Vietnam, to Turkey, to Peru, they also offer lifetime job assistance in any country that they offer a program in.

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After weighing our options, Vietnam seemed like the best choice. We originally signed up for the course on August 11th, but decided it would be better to get accustomed to the culture flip in SE Asia before jumping right into classes. We settled on the August 25th for class and bought a plane ticket for July 21st.

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Our LanguageCorps training started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the Marady Hotel. Some classes were at the hotel, while others were a Pannasastra University. I didn’t realize how much went into teaching English as a foreign language until this course, but was much more prepared for it after. They cover English grammar, local customs,  classroom management, local language lessons, and many other helpful things for new teachers.

One thing that made the course even better was the excursions that were included. Our first weekend, we took a bus to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. The trip was well planned, and even though the roads got bumpy, you can’t forget that you’re in Cambodia. Oh, and the temples were pretty cool too.

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The next weekend, we took a trip to Sihanoukville, a beach town in southern Cambodia. By that time, we had sat in class all day with everyone for 2 weeks straight now, so that everyone knew each other pretty well at this point. It was a rainy weekend, but Hope and I have never been big on tanning so it wasn’t a big deal. If anything, it forced the group to hang out even more.

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We had a good group of people, 8 of which were heading to Thailand, 2 to China, 2 were staying in Cambodia, and 8 of us came to Vietnam. When we got to Vietnam, it was all observed teaching from here on out. We would start our day with a Vietnamese language class followed by a period of lesson planning. After lunch, each one of us would teach a class of adults for an  hour and a half a day.

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Every morning before class we would eat breakfast in the alley. Everyone was about the pork and rice, but I live that Banh Mi life, so I just hung out with them. Hien Ngueyn and Linh Ho were our liaisons in the Vietnam-portion of the program and did a great job. Everyone was offered a job within a couple of weeks and now we’re all working residents of HCMC.

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Hope and I made a great decision choosing LanguageCorps. We made great friends, and have already done things in our lives over here that we would have never done otherwise. For everyone that has asked me about teaching abroad or would just like to know more about it, check out their website: www.LanguageCorps.com for more information.

Getting a Job

When we started our 2nd half of training in Vietnam, we were given a list of the top language schools to work at in HCMC. Every job had its perks, but one stood out above the rest, VUS. VUS has around 14 language centers in HCMC spread out through different districts. The schools come well-supplied and well-maintained, along with having a good reputation with the community. The main benefit for us to work at VUS was the amount of vacation time available. As long as you request off in advance, you can  basically have off of work whenever you want. That works out great for us because it allows us time to travel throughout this side of the world. Good news, within 2 weeks of receiving our TESOL certificates, we had our interviews/demos and were offered jobs with VUS. Bad news, Hope was offered a job in Tan Binh district and I was offered a job in District 6, which is not exactly next door.

VUS was the job we wanted though, and besides, a transfer was promised in the near future.  Shortly after Hope was offered a job, we found the perfect apartment in the Phu Nhuan district, close for her, not so close for me. The drive is manageable though, and it gives me more experience in these ‘driving conditions’.

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Originally, I had no intentions of teaching children, I only wanted to deal with adults who WANTED to learn English. Only after having my weekends filled up with kids classes did I realize that these kids are fantastic. Anything you tell them to do, the majority of them will oblige, such as grilling for pictures.

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The best way for us to get our teaching hours in is by pulling marathons on the weekends. For instance, I have three 2-hour kid classes and one 3-hour teen class on Saturdays followed by four 2-hour kid classes on Sunday. I’ve said it before,but teaching English as a foreign language to kids is similar to working in a bar, everyone is always yelling and you can’t understand anything they are saying.

Ho Chi Minh City 1st Impressions

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Our first hotel in HCMC was the Nang Vang Hotel in District 3. I had no complaints on the accommodations, whatsoever. We only had to walk 90 seconds to our classes at LanguageCorps, we had a banh mi cart across the street, 2 pizza places on the same block, a chicken on a rope outside,  and there was a 24-hour Family Mart around the corner (to be honest, after being here awhile, it turns out there is a Family Mart, B’s Mart, or Circle K around every corner).

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The first thing we noticed about HCMC was how clean it was. Compared to Bangkok and Phnom Penh, this place was amazing (atleast in District 3). Everything seemed more organized, put together and modern. After being in the other cities for awhile, I couldn’t imagine LIVING in either one, but HCMC was different. Yes, the traffic is insane in all three, but atleast in HCMC it had an ‘organized chaos’ to it.

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After graduating LanguageCorps with our TESOL certificates, we left Nang Vang for another hotel called Quy Tanh. Quietly situated in an alley in District 1, it was a great place to hang out until we found jobs and a permanent apartment.

After arriving at Quy Tanh, we realized that we neededscooters if we wanted to get around the city with ease.

The Bash Bros. were formed shortly after.

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Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City

Sihanoukville was the last time our entire LanguageCorps group was together.The group that was heading to Thailand left straight from the beach. The remaining group members were subjected to another 4 hour bus ride with nonstop  ‘Logan’s Gooch’. As soon as we returned fromour weekend trip to Sihanoukville, we were thrown into tuk tuks outside of our hotel.

Apparently we were a little behind schedule on getting back from the beach.We were immediately taken to the bus station and thrown a bus (where we were the only foreigners). It was amazing how our fellow passengers were unable to hold in their bodily functions, or at the very least attempt to hide them from us. Overall, it wasn’t too bad of a trip, especially after we got past the border. We were picked up in District 1 of HCMC around 9pm by Hien, the head honcho for LanguageCorps in Vietnam. She took us out for dinner and got us into our new home for the next 2 weeks, Nang Vang.

BorntoBunk

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During our time in Cambodia, I submitted a picture of mine for a travel photo contest.I ended up winning the weekly contest which included a camera and some hostel stays. The company lets people  book hostels throughout Asia. After talking with the company for awhile, we reached an agreement. I would make videos of my travels for their site, and they pay me in hostel credit. Here is the first video that I made and is now currently featured on their website:

Check out their site, they have a lot of great deals and travel tips:

www.borntobunk.com

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

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The last excursion in Cambodia had us heading south to the beach.  It wasn’t exactly what we were used to seeing in Thailand, but this was the time that we weren’t teaching mock classes, so no complaints. Luckily, being that we were still in the rainy season, we found the town to be very empty.

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The downside of not having a lot of tourists was that all of the locals focused their attention on us. Everything from pedicures, hair braids, bracelets, and sunglasses, the young swarmed you as soon as you made your way onto the beach.

I mentioned this vicious cycle before in my Cambodian Children post, but I can’t stress it enough, as much as you think you don’t need a new pair of fake sunglasses, a Cambodian child will try to convince you otherwise.

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Sihanoukville can’t compare to what he had in Thailand, but it was a still a relaxing getaway from the madness that was Phnom Penh. I couldn’t imagine being there by myself, but with the group we had, it wasn’t too bad.

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Angkor Wat and Surrounding Temples

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Included in our training with LanguageCorps, we were also taken on a couple of excursions through Cambodia, one of those being Siem Reap. The town of Siem Reap was much less hectic than Phnom Penh, but it had a lot more tourists.

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From Siem Reap, we made our way to the temples, which turned out to be much better than we anticipated. We had a tour guide at the beginning, but after getting separated from him at the first temple, he felt like he wasn’t capable of giving us the rest of the tour (he lost face). It worked out to our advantage though,by the time we got to Angkor Wat we didn’t have to worry about being held back listening to him.

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I could copy and paste a bunch of facts about the temples from Wikipedia on here or I could just put all of the awesome pictures I took. These were from the 1st temple:

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Unfortunately, it was raining for the first 2 temples we went to. We were still able to see everything, but the raincoats we got from the kids were garbage. Here is the 2nd temple, also the one where Tomb Raider was filmed:

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After a couple hours of exploring, we finally ended up at Angkor Wat. This religious monument is even more amazing when you realize how old it is. The rain had stopped by the time we’d got there.

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Bonus trip to a hidden temple on the way back was a plus:

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คุณ ขอบคุณ (Thank you) Thailand

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Wow. It’s been a long time since we updated our blog. Where did we leave off…Thailand? We’ve been busy in Vietnam for a few months now, we’ll get back to that and attempt to fill in the last few  months’ worth of travel and memories.After 29 days in Thailand we were legally obligated to take a hike and find our next passport stamp.
Malaysia it is.
We took a minivan installed with karaoke playing Elvis Presley from Khao Sok to Surat Thani to catch our train. We had no idea when the train was leaving,  luckily we were able to catch the next train heading to Hat Yai. We looked at our train tickets and realized we were not assigned to the comfortable train car we had been accustomed to while traveling throughout Thailand. Instead we had the train that tourists don’t usually take, hence the stares and the fact that it was an open air car . Good company, pringles, books and music make a six hour train ride on rock hard seats in 3rd class go by a little quicker, not to mention the amazing scenery of southern Thailand.
We arrived in Hat Yai eager for the next leg of our train journey south to Kuala Lumpur. We asked and were told… ‘No train until tomorrow’. That led to us being bombarded with Thai Tour Bus hustlers and we decided our quickest route would be taking the sleeper bus. The sleeper bus was not what was promised, but we were able to make the eleven hour bus ride with only a two hour border delay. It was a positive experience, including making new friends and being invited to a soccer game in their hometown. Unfortunately, we were supposed to be in Cambodia in a week, and time wouldn’t allow us to join them.
We managed to grab a cab to the hotel we planned on staying at, but unfortunately check in was at 2 pm and it was only 2 am. We were informed of a hotel right across the street, and after almost 24 hours of nonstop traveling, we were ready to find a bed. Even if that bed was in a hotel that had rules including:
‘No extremists groups, No prostitutes, No drugs, No visitors’. Sounds good, we’re tired.
Bright and early we moved to the hotel with fewer rules, unclaimed hairs, and unfamiliar smells. The Tune Hotel in Kuala Lumpur is centrally located and rather nice. The rooms are small, but the location is prime and the hotel is one of the cleaner ones we’d been in that month. (for anyone interested in traveling to KL).

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Kuala Lumpur

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Our experience in Kuala Lumpur was unlike that of Thailand where the smiles were genuine, the food never disappointing (minus Bangkok) and the stares felt friendly. KL had has a great public transportation system and we were able to cover most of the city on the rapid KL in two days. We didn’t have an awful time, but we also didn’t thoroughly enjoy ourselves. We will return but leave KL out of our stops.Our last evening in KL was met with the observation of a fight, and by fight I mean, a drunk guy swung at our hotel’s door guy. This was followed by a drunk guy trying to start a fight with us while we were getting into our cab to head to the airport. This was our only bad experience and I am sure that our opinion could easily be swayed with the right local tour guide.


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Rapid KL

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Mal-a-zia. Good bye.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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The program that we our getting our TESOL certification through starts all of its Asia training in this city. In our group there were teachers going to China, Thailand, Vietnam, and some even staying in Cambodia. We stayed at a hotel called The Marady, which turned out to be better than what I expected for accommodations in Cambodia.

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The first place our groupvisited in the city was Wat Phnom.  We were told it was built in 1373, so it had quite a bit of history.

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After Wat Phnom, we made our way over to the Royal Palace. This place has a lot of history as well, unfortunately it was more of a discover it yourself kind of place. We would find later that we don’t do well with tour guides.

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The majority of our time in Cambodia was spent in Phnom Penh. While the city is a great place to visit, I wouldn’t want to stay there.

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