Interlude: Bangkok city-break.

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.

Alan from Bury, UK
Alan & JJ waiting for the river ferry to Wat Arun.

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.

No farang (westerners)

And as I have become vegetarian, I bought this: three items and rice for 50 THB (about £1.20)

Sorry for the blurred image – I must have been in a hurry to eat.

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.

Yet Thailand is only 90 minutes away …

IELTS: Have Love, Will Travel.

10th February 2019

Lesson Notes for Monday 18th February

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

Taxis

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.

And, to link with the title, an appropriate travel song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20S_kwNb4rg

The Sonics ‘Have Love, Will Travel’.

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.”