A variety of speaking exercises and pair work to help you on your travels.
Booking a hotel room
adjoining rooms– rooms next to each other
amenities– services, shops, transport
bed and breakfast – small hotel or a room in someone’s house.
complimentary breakfast– free, included in the price.
Deposit – money paid in advance
High season / low season– popular times
housekeeping– cleaning staff
late charge– extra fee for not checking out on time.
Rate– the fee per room per night, per person.
vending machine – machine that sells snacks, drinks.
You are going to Bangkok and need to book a hotel. What questions would you have ?
How much is the rate for 4 people ? What time is check-in / out ?
Could I book adjoining rooms ? What is in the area ?
Where exactly is the hotel ?
How do we get to the hotel from the airport ?
Approximately how much is the taxi ?
Make a list.
Take turns being a tourist and working on front desk / booking.
Language to use:
Receptionist: Greet the guest / Ask for ID (passport, ID card). Check how many nights the guest(s) are staying / Ask to see booking confirmation /
What else could you ask ?
Guest: Explain you have a reservation / Present ID and booking confirmation. Ask about amenities in the hotel and what to see in the local area.
You could check if the hotel has a laundry service // can they book a taxi ? / do they organise tours ? Are there vegetarian restaurants in the area, or banks, money exchange, hairdressers ? What else could you need ?
Now … your experiences:
What was your favourite hotel room and why ?
Conversely, what was your worst room ?
What was bad about it ? In what way were you disappointed ?
How did the service excel ? Was it good value for money ?
Would you strongly recommend it ?
How did you find the staff ? Was it easy to get to ?
I like to play guitar // I love to listen to music //
I + like + verb+ing + object: I love playing guitar
NEVER – I like to listening to music
Tell me about yourself:
At university, my major was accounting and I have worked for 8 years.
Boy = son Girl = daughter.
I have one son, who is 3 and one daughter who is 1.
My manager is a lady (or woman) and she is professional, very friendly and nice. She has short black hair and an oval-shaped face. Usually, she wears a short black dress. My manager, whose name is Dung, always helps and supports me.
Pho is the traditional food of VN. It is soup with noodles, meat (beef, chicken), vegetables and herbs. It can be spicy if we add chilis. It comes with fresh herbs, vegetables and lime.
New idiom: bear with me= please wait a very short time.
My friend is a 29 year-old man. He has an oval-shaped face and short black hair. He is not very tall, he is quite short. However, he is very friendly and funny.
Adjectives– size then colour.
He has a large black bag. She plays a big brown guitar
adverbs– very, (a lot) quite (a little)
London is very expensive. Bangkok is quite cheap
exterior / interior = outside / inside
I went on holiday to Singapore with my friend. We went to a shopping mall and visited some museums and enjoyed the food. Seafood at Singapore is very cheap compared to Viet Nam and it was very delicious. I bought some clothes and shoes for my baby. We stayed for four days and the flight took two hours. I will return and revisit the shopping mall.
Two friends are in a coffee shop
Cath This is a great cup of coffee ! Ok, what shall we do next ?
Di I have to run to the bank. I need to deposit some money.
Cath Good idea, I wanted to use an ATM. I also need to buy some dollars.
Di You can check the exchange rate at my bank. It’s not far, we can walk.
Quick questions: How was your weekend ?
My weekend was quite fun.
How about (tell me about) the evening ?
We watched TV and listened to some music. I like V-Pop
I like K-pop very much OR I really like K-pop.
Where is the bank? Where’s the bank ?
How do I get to the park?
Is there an ATM nearby ?
Turn left or turn right
keep going until you …..
take the second turning on your left
cross the road / street by the ….
go as far as the …… then ….
It’s opposite the …
We are at the bus station and we need coffee !
Is there a coffee shop nearby ?
Yes, turn left then go straight and keep going and it’s on your left.
Excuse me, where is the hospital, please ?
Yes, go straight and then turn left on second avenue keep going straight , the hospital is opposite the park.
Answer these two questions:
I have finished work at school. I need to go to the police station but I don’t know the area.
Xin loi, sorry, I don’t speak Vietnamese. I must go to the police station but I don’t know this area.
so / very / extremely / incredibly
It is hot = it is so hot !
What did you do ? Past tense
On Saturday I drank beer and ate seafood for example, I had shrimp (prawn), octopus, fish, squid. We had lots of fun. Some people drank about six beers but I only drank a little.
Travelling to Thailand
In Thailand, the food is extremely hot (spicy) because they use a lot of chilis.
My Sony camera is very good (excellent) because the picture quality and colours are very clear.
The lens can zoom in 50 metres. The camera was reasonably-priced however, if you buy more lenses, the price increases.
I’m going to take pictures NOT I’m going to taking pictures
For these exercises, refer to the previous blog (‘Holiday of a Lifetime’). Put class into small groups and assign a city to each one. The groups have to make a presentation, using advertising-style language: hyperbolic adjectives, expressions, phrases. Furthermore, they must really ‘sell’ the holiday, so they can practice their intonation and stress skills.
The blurb contains the selling points, while the practicalities has information. The style should change for these two parts – the teacher can demonstrate.
Today, lots of new words to help you describe the area in which you live (the area you live in). For my classroom-students, I can listen to pronunciation and help them with natural rhythms but online students should use a dictionary with sound … then practice, practice, practice.
Where do you live ? What’s the area like ?
Remember to link words together – it’s called ‘chunking’ in IELTS language.
I live in a:
quiet, residential street. Peaceful at night.
lively and busy commercial area, many shops
dirty and dusty industrial part of town. Very noisy.
Tuesday morning, alarm set for 5.00 am UK time (12.00 midday in Bangkok), at the Tube before 6.00 for the 90-minute, three-train ride to Heathrow Airport. From there, Thai Airways to Bangkok.
I got the early Tube (London underground trains) because the first line is so busy, and I had a suitcase and a shoulder bag. Luckily, all three trains came within one or two minutes, while most of the journey was quiet (apart from some idiots playing videos on their phones out loud). Hard to concentrate on my book (‘Notes From Underground’ by Dostoevsky). By the time of the flight, I’d read a third of it.
Repacking at the airport, putting the coat in the case, then onto the self-service baggage tag print-out, which I’ve just about mastered by now.
Checked-in, security checked, re-belted and all gadgets back in the bag. A lot of time to kill. A lot of pointless, over-priced shops in which to wander, no intention of buying anything … except coffee.
Eventually time was killed or wasted or passed but ironically enough, not flew; we boarded … and just as the flight to London, this was very cold. Air-con turned up (down ?), no doubt to combat the Corona Virus, but it was like eleven hours in a flying refrigerator. The bathrooms were even colder. Before long, people were sniffing, blowing noses, sneezing. The precautions seemed to be making people ill.
The flight ? We got there, that’s all that counts. Generally, the worst thing about travelling is other passengers. There was a young chap (sturdy, young & healthy, but was stuck down by the sniffles) two seats from me who simply could NOT keep still, and naturally, at one point, the lady (term employed with irony) in front put her chair all the way back.
Next problem – we arrived very early, even ahead of schedule but I couldn’t check in to the hotel until 2.00 pm. More time to kill. I had an over-sized cappuccino at the airport and slowly meandered to the Citylink train. The airport, as the plane, freezing. The train, as the airport, freezing and the BRT (subway) … freezing. Still only 8.30 am. I took an iced Thai tea in a cafe near the hotel and read, still wearing my jumper (a jumper ? In Thailand ?), and the cafe … freezing.
I thought I’d leave my case at the hotel and walk around, head up to a shopping mall until check in time. However the hotel, when I arrived at 9.30 looking like I’d spent eleven hours in a flying refrigerator, found me a room, so a big ‘thank you’ to the staff of the Red Planet.
For those who know Bangkok, I’m staying on Surawong Road, nearest BRT is Chong Nonsi by Silom.
The hotel, by night:
I thought I’d feel better after some lunch, so I took prawn pa-nang curry. In the evening, near the hotel, I went to Jianng’s Healthy Fish Balls where, for 60 THB (£1.47 / $1.90):
Then a walk south on Silom to the Hindu temple, Wat Khaek:
Across the road is a soi (small road off a main road) with lots of street food:
The next morning began with traditional iced Thai coffee at The Coffee Club. 80 THB (£1.96 / $2.53).
Then a walk up (north) Silom to Lumphini Park. On the way, I spotted a soi (Soi 5) with a street market. Typically, there are food courts. It was still early, so I decided to come back and eat lunch here:
And I only saw two other farangs (foreigners) here.
At the end of Silom is the Metro, giving access to the park. While there, I made a new friend:
And then … “The rain began, the jolly old rain.” Before the rain got too heavy, lunch back at the market at Silom 5
Prawns and noodles 70 THB (£1.72 / $2.21), extra spicy sauce.
Later, not really hungry but thought I’d take a walk and see what caught my eye. I found Restoran Ibu, near Wat Khaek:
The food from the menu:
And the reality:
Just as good, I’d say. Ibu fried be hun for 100 THB (£2.46 / $3.16)
That night, the jet lag caught up with me. Couldn’t sleep, with the exception of a catnap around 4.30am, until 6.30 am and then only until 8.00 am. I gave up trying, and went out to read and NOT have any caffeine … instead, at a Cafe Amazon, by the Chong Nonsi BRT, a strawberry smoothie for 65 THB (£1.60 / $2.05)
Tomorrow is the flight back to Viet Nam, which should be painless, a mere 90 minutes, but I’m flying Vietjet and these smaller airlines tend to be low- down on airport take-off slots. Consequently, Vietjet has a reputation for always having delays. The last time I flew Bangkok to Sai Gon, the delay was longer than the flight.
And now, my final afternoon in Bangkok … and just twenty pages to go of my travel reading:
At 13.10, I finished the book, sitting in Lumphini Park. Time to walk back to the hotel, and some more street food – the market at Silom 10:
This is the stall I chose, spicy Thai vegetable soup (with prawn):
A mere 50 THB (£1.23 / $1.59)
For my last meal, where else but back to Ibu, this time for something traditionally Thai, prawns in coconut milk:
115 THB (£2.84 / $3.65). The staff are really friendly and I highly recommend this restoran.
And so, back at the hotel blogging. Reading, accomplished, curries – no problem, resting … not so much, but at least I’ll be home tomorrow – Unless Vietjet decide otherwise …
Red Planet – I paid about £75 / $96 for three nights. The rooms are fine for a single budget traveller and come with a fridge, large TV, safe and hair-dryer. The room also takes the three-pin UK plug.
On the downside, the walls are very thin (I can hear the chap in the next room talking and whooping and now he apparently has the hiccups). There is liquid soap, but this is not so good for hair, so bring your own shampoo, comb, also a toothbrush and paste. Being Bangkok, and near a night-time bar area, people come and go at all hours (this is a hotel, after all) and last night, there were doors banging until sunrise.
Room cleaning consists of changing the towels and supplying plenty of bathroom paper. Sheets not changed, but maybe if you ask nicely …
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?
This is the normal procedure (way / method) to hail a taxi in NYC. However, this would not be acceptable in Bangkok.
Hailing a taxi in Bangkok
Notice how the hand points down. In Thailand, people beckon (call) a dog with their hands up, so a taxi driver would think this was very impolite and rude. The driver would be offended; the hand signal would cause offence.
Cultural differences are one way of inadvertently causing offence. However, some people can say, write or do things that upset other people:
The 45th President is famous for his somewhat un-presidential tweets. He is referring here to the North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-il:
However, in the interests of fairness, North Korean leaders have made comments that could be offensive to the USA. The former leader, Kim Jong-un:
And sometimes, within the same country, people can disagree with each. This is all part of a free society. The problem arises when people stop arguing the facts or beliefs, but start to attack people for their looks, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation. Some times, people can go too far in what they say:
This is the singer, and animal-rights supporter, Morrissey. He is talking about the treatment of animals in China, which he feels is intolerable. He can object. However, in this quote, he insults the entire country as seeming to be “a subspecies,” that is, not quite human. He makes his point, but do people understand his message, or get offended by his words ?
After a few months of teaching, I really needed a break. An old friend from the Manchester / Bury area of the UK was going to be in Bangkok for a few days, stopping off before continuing to New Zealand. He suggested meeting up, and I don’t take any persuading to go to Bangkok – it’s one of my favourite cities. I booked my flight.
We made arrangements to meet, and I went by river taxi, along the Chao Phraya River, passing the Grand Palace:
And Wat Arun along the way:
I got off at the last boat stop, then jumped on a bus (the fare was nominal – about 10 or 15 pence / 20 US cents). Thai people are so lovely; I showed my map and the address and other passengers explained to the conductor, then they all told me where to alight and how to get to the hotel. I was quite far south, near the Asiatique centre (I’ve not been there – it seems quite touristy, but maybe next time …) and didn’t know the area but looked for a nice coffee shop, asked the lovely lady for help getting on the free wifi, and waited to meet my friend Alan.
Al and his travelling partner JJ were staying in a VERY nice hotel. They had free boat shuttle to the BTS station so we took that then grabbed a taxi to the Grand Palace. For non-Thais, the entrance is 500 THB (£12) but it is a must-see sight.
I was changing hotels next day, moving from Banglumpoo (near Khao San Rd) to Silom, a backpacker area to a business centre. Next day we met up by the boat ferry, took the BTS a couple of stops, and just hung out in the air-conditioned malls. Alan was asking if there was fast food in Bangkok:
And he was curious about durian, so after he left, I shot this:
I used to love durian but I told a student this and she bought me three pieces. I couldn’t keep it in my hotel fridge (yes, it really does stink), couldn’t throw food away (at least not in my hotel bin, see above reason), so I ate it … all three sections.
I felt like I had food poisoning; dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t eat for about four or five days, absolutely no appetite.
I stayed at Red Planet, Surawang Rd, near Chong Nonsi BTS station and a great food court, full of locals, full of various curry smells.
And as I have become vegetarian, I bought this: three items and rice for 50 THB (about £1.20)
My hotel had a view of the Oriental Express Hotel:
It was the week after Tet in Vietnam, so there were still celebrations for the New Year.
But I couldn’t forget Vietnam:
The differences between Bangkok and HCM ?
Bangkok has an efficient and clean public transport system (BTS and Metro. The buses are better and safer than in VN but still a little dirty).
The noise. Traffic stops at red lights in Bangkok, people know when to cross the road without the danger of being hit. Motorbikes drive on the road NOT on the pavement. Traffic drives in one direction only. AND honking … this is considered impolite in Thailand, so the streets are busy but cars are not constantly beeping and hooting.
The taxis are generally trustworthy. If they don’t use a metre, say thanks you and look for a new taxi.
The food smells great, from expensive restaurants to cheap street food.
The people smile and are polite. They queue in order at train and metro stations.
Most people smoking are tourists, not Thai.
AND … in all my travels in Thailand, I have never seen anyone use the side of the road as a personal toilet; I see this just about every day in HCM. The Year of the Pig indeed.
But, unfortunately, I had to go back to HCM with Vietjet and, of course, before my 90-minute flight, there was a 2 and a half hour delay. Then back out into the Sai Gon sun. The taxi touts, the smokers, the noise, the horror, the horror …. and then back to work, back to screaming kids, apathetic adults and erratic wifi.
The theme this week is travel, and students will be expected to give an IELTS response to a question given by the examiner. To warm up (and allowing for the ‘rubber-band’ punctuality of Vietnamese), a quick exercise. Three groups of people arrive at Tan Song Nhat airport and want to get to their hotels in District 1. Maybe they have had a long journey, feel tired and disorientated, not knowing where to go.
What advice would you give them ?
What should they look out for ? What are the dos and don’ts ?
How to get from the airport to District 1
The cost to District 1 ranges from 150,000 to 170,000 dong. Do not use USD as it is an opportunity to get ripped off. Use only the two most reliable taxi companies, Mai Linh and Vinasun.Make sure you get a metered taxi.
The cheapest way is to take public city Bus # 152.
It takes you downtown to the Bus Station on the opposite side of Ben Thanh market. The fare is 5,000 dong per person and per piece of big luggage. It runs every 20 minutes from 6 am until 6 pm.
Or you can chose the new Bus 109
Bright yellow, to the City Centre. It runs through the main streets of HCM and the final stop is at Pham Ngu Lao. They run every 15-20 minutes between 5:30 am and 1:30 am. Cost for one-way trip is 20,000 dong and the entire journey takes approximately 45 minutes.
What would you recommend for these people:
Australian business men. Arrive at 10.00 am. Have no Viet currency, only $. Very hot and tired, just want a shower and sleep.
Canadian medical students. Arrive at 14.30. Have local currency. Want to save money but be safe.
French backpackers. Arrive 02.00 am. Very little money.
For IELTS, the students should aim to speak for one – two minutes, without repeating, hesitating or going off-topic (not answering the question). Today’s exercise is to describe a journey that the student has been on. They should mention:
Types of transport used and why
With whom they travelled
Good points / bad points
Why the trip was memorable
The exercise needs to be properly introduced, points arranged logically and wrapped up with a neat concluding sentence or two. Coincidently, I’m going to Bangkok tomorrow, so we could use my experience as a model.
My old friend was visiting Bangkok and, as Thailand is close to Vietnam, I decided to take a short holiday and meet up with him.
I flew with ….
Then took the BTS Skytrain
Then a …
To my hotel. I travelled alone, however I planned to meet up with …
The highlights of the trip undoubtedly:
Not forgetting the …
And Thailand is famous for the friendliness of its people…
The only black cloud was how short the break was, and having to …
All good things must end. It was an amazing trip and the fact that I could meet an old friend made it even more memorable. I hope we can repeat the experience, sooner rather than later.
The students must flesh out the notes, using adjectives, discourse markers adverbs and interesting expressions. Along with this, the voice must depict excitement or disappointment, indicate what is factual and what is an opinion.
Getting students talking can be a problem, so a simple ‘word bomb’ exercise could be a way of breaking the ice. I shall board the work ‘airport’ and try to elicit as much information or ideas as possible. However, one has to be sensitive to the background of the students. Many are young and would not have had the opportunities to travel that many western people take for granted.
The latter part of the lesson is dedicated to reading. To make this more interesting, I will recommend that the students work in pairs, take turns reading a paragraph, then report to their partner. This is repeated with the partner now reading and reporting to the original speaker.
Winding down, I’ve found some blogs written by non-native speakers which are positively riddled with mistakes. The students can then correct and improve the text, then read it to each other, or the class if they are feeling brave, for pronunciation exercise.
To end, we can look at some funny holiday clips from YouTube and ask if any of the students have had interesting travel experiences, all the time encouraging them to speak in longer and better composed sentences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XyXZL9nRvo
Listen for: “You pay good money,” ‘You look forward to …” “seduced by glossy brochure,” “I mentioned it,” “pneumatic drill,” “It didn’t turn out like that.”