Tintin, bagels, coffee and the Star of Sai Gon.

5th May 2021

Coffee shops, as I drill into my students, are ubiquitous in Sai Gon, so cafes need something special to make them stand out, to encourage people to go there by choice, not merely out of convenience. One such cafe is:

Cà Phê Cô Ba

4-6 Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000

The cafe exudes an old-world charm, a romanticised exotic and mysterious Sai Gon. Dark-wood furniture, a twirling staircase, the aroma of fresh coffee; it requires but little imagination to picture the spirits of beautiful Vietnamese ladies in áo dài, amidst the heady scent of perfume and opium.

Enhancing the ambience, the main room has antique sewing machines along one wall, while the wooden shutters display the boy reporter Tintin on his (unofficial) visit to Viet Nam.

Furthermore, there is a back story. The cafe is named after Trần Ngọc Trà, born around 1906, and named ‘The First Beauty of Sai Gon.’

I’ve had to rely on some online translations, but it appears Ms Ba Trà was a great beauty who intoxicated powerful and wealthy men with her charm. Unfortunately, as her looks faded, she became addicted to gambling and ended her days in poverty.

You can read more (in English) here: https://vtc.vn/nguoi-dep-sai-gon-dung-bua-ngai-lam-tieu-doi-10-ty-phu-ar140046.html

The coffee is pretty average but the price is reasonable considering the central location. Incongruously, the cafe is situated inside a modern office block and is reached by lift. The sounds of modern Ho Chi Minh City, of people shouting into mobile phones, and advertising covering every space bring one back to the modern world.

Review on Tripadvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293925-d14159617-Reviews-Ca_Phe_Co_Ba_Dong_Khoi-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html:

Serendipity – I had to go into my bank, which had moved to a new location, and afterwards, driving around a famous ex-pat area of District 2, I discovered this:

I haven’t had a bagel since my last visit to London, way back in 2020, and that was factory produced, purchased from a supermarket, in a pack of six. There was nothing for it – I simply had to go in, get my coffee ‘n’ bagel fix.

I opted for the classic smoked salmon & cream cheese, along with ice coffee.

Motorbikes, coffee and bagels … a sign of changing Sai Gon.

Bagel with ‘everything’ (poppy seed, sesame, cheese). My bagel cost about £3, the BLT £2, coffee just over £1.

The verdict ? Well, delicious, of course, nostalgic, you betcha, but a bagel … ? No, not what we have back in east London (where there are still two all-night bagel bakeries). It was more like crusty bread, bagel-shaped, as opposed to the chewy, doughy texture I am used to (goes without saying that bacon and ham are not on the menu in Kosher delis).

However, I was delighted to find this store and though it’s a little far away, I’ll be happy to return.

Meanwhile, I noticed a New York Bagel store in District 1 … I shall try that in due course.

IELTS Mindset 1: Lesson 5 Review

14th April 2021

May be an image of 1 person
Do you want to join Thay Paul’s class ? “I willl give it my utmost consideration.”

New vocabulary

unique – one of a kind, nothing else like it

imminent – going to happen or start very soon

you get what you pay for (or you pay for what you get) – if you buy something cheap, you get bad quality

to romanticise – to make something ordinary more interesting

to fantasise (fantasize US English) – to wish for something great to happen

use your imagination / give your imagination free reign – it is OK to pretend, to make up a better story

I will give it my utmost consideration – I will think about it very, very carefully (and then say ‘no’).

firstly, secondly, additionally, another point is, on the other hand, however, finally, in conclusion, to sum up, all things considered – all ‘signpost language‘, to help organise your ideas.

Are you ready to rock ?

May be an image of 1 person
Miss Ngoc in Sai Gon … hey, ho … let’s go !

I’ll be burning the candle at both ends because my IELTS test is _______________ .

Remember, you don’t have to tell the absolute truth in your speaking test. It’s totally OK to ________________________________ .

I picked up this shirt at Saigon Centre and, yeah, it cost an arm and a leg, but just feel the quality … you ____________________________________ .

We booked a really reasonable room at the beach, but the water was cold, the sheets were stained and there were bugs everywhere. We totally _____________________________________ (use past tense).

Thay Paul, we have a new class of students. They are extremely lazy and unmotivated and only want to play with their phones. Would you like to teach them ? ________________________________________________ .

What did you do last weekend ? “I sleep.” Is that all ? Ah, c’mon, do better, ______________________________________ .

Quick – fire round

No photo description available.

You planned a day out for my friend Ethan. Describe these photos using as many IELTS features as you can:

No photo description available.
No photo description available.
No photo description available.
Highlands Coffee opposite the Rex Hotel 2012

Areas to focus on: being confident about answering the Part II questions, so we shall work on fluency and developing the ability to speak for longer periods without hesitation.

Just a minute

Speak for one minute on:

Food in your country

What you do in your free time

Your family

Holidays in your country (e.g. Tet, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc)

A link to last week’s notes: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/04/07/ielts-mindset-1-lesson-4-review/

See you next week

May be an image of 6 people

Young Learners, Level 6: adjectives and adverbs review.

8th April 2021

No photo description available.
A typical Vietnamese breakfast; pork, noodles, fresh vegetables and noodles.

Objectives:

Encourage students to speak in long, interesting sentences.

Making the use of adjectives and adverbs a natural part of their English

Develop their ability to express themselves, giving reasons (because) and examples (like, such as)

Show them how much fun English can be by the use of idioms (once in a blue moon, it’s raining cats and dogs)

VOCABULARY BANK

Match the word(s) to the meaning

gigantic / enormous __________ everywhere

tiny / petit _____________________on time

delicious / mouth watering ___very rarely

difficult ________________________ yummy / tasty

once in a blue moon ______ big / huge

punctual______________________ clever

intelligent ____________________ hard

ubiquitous ____________________ very small

IDIOMS:

once in a blue moon

piece of cake (very easy, no problem)

it’s raining cats and dogs (very heavy rain)

NOW … practice:

Street food in Vietnam is (everywhere) ___________________ .

No photo description available.
Traditional English fish and chips. Very yummy … but what are better words for ‘yummy’ ?

Thay Paul loves fish and chips because it is (yummy)_________________ and _____________________. However, it is not very healthy so he only eats it __________________________________________(very rarely)

The man is (very big) however the lady is (very small)

May be an image of 1 person

Mr Paul is saying hello to an elephant which is a very (clever) __________________ animal.

This rabbit is always (on time) _________________

Is it (hard) ____________________ for a gorilla to play drums ? No, it is easy – it’s a piece of cake.

Don’t believe me … OK, just watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=La7B8mBnTXs&ab_channel=TomSinger

The capital city of Viet Nam is _____________ . It is a large( very busy) city. Motorbikes are (everywhere) ___________________. Street food is cheap and (yummy) __________________________.

However, sometimes it rains very heavily. In this photo, Thay Paul was (not happy) because ____________________________________.

No photo description available.
Ha Noi 2015, raining cats and dogs.

Adverb practice

always

usually // often // normally

sometimes

rarely

once in a blue moon

never

EXAMPLES:

May be an image of 1 person

I always eat fruit because it is extremely healthy

No photo description available.

I usually read a book when I drink coffee because I love reading.

May be an image of 1 person

I sometimes drive my car to work because it is fun. However, driving in Viet Nam is ________________________.

No photo description available.
Singapore 2019

I rarely go to Singapore because it is extremely expensive.

No photo description available.

I only go home to London once in a blue moon because it is so far away

I never smoke because it is extremely unhealthy !

NOW … your turn: tell me what you do and why.

I always … because …

I usually … because …

I sometimes … because …

I rarely … because …

Once in a blue moon I … because …

I never … because …

May be an image of 5 people and people smiling
Goodbye, Thay Paul

See you next week

Coffee in Sai Gon

7th December 2020

Describe these pictures, using adjectives and your opinions.

Highlands Coffee has great coffee, air-con and free wifi. Having said that, the service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !

Vietnam is famous for coffee; coffee shops are ubiquitous. In fact, there are so many, it’s hard to see (difficult to understand) how they stay in business let alone turn a profit.

Be that as it may, let’s use this as a learning opportunity. To practice making longer sentences, and as a warm up exercise, the students can ask each other, “Where do you go for coffee ?”

Tips:

Don’t answer the question directly and immediately; Begin with a short introduction:

Sai Gon has so many coffee shops, some are cheap while others can be quite expensive although they have a wide range of delicious coffee. Personally, I like going to …

Then

Explain:

  1. How MUCH do you like it (adverbs) ?
  2. What kind of coffee (adjectives) ?
  3. What do you think about this ? (opinions)
  4. WHY do you like it (give reasons)
  5. Interesting words, phrases, idioms

Personally, I like Tap Coffee which is an independent shop where I live. I enjoy going there so much because the owner is very friendly and tries to speak English with me. There isn’t a lot of choice, so I order cappuccino with hot, fresh milk. In my opinion, it is good value and tastes delicious. What I like about the shop is the free wifi, the comfortable chairs and the atmosphere. Furthermore, it is usually very quiet and it therefore a good place to read. I love to put my feet up, kick back and sip my damn fine coffee.

Before the exercise, elicit and board as many relevant words and phrases as required. The students have a discourse marker list, so I could insist that they use certain words (moreover, therefore, consequently etc). Additionally, I’ll need to explain vernacular phrases such as ‘kick back’ and ‘put my feet up’.

IF a student doesn’t like coffee, then they can say where they go and what they drink. IF they don’t go anywhere or like anything (yes, I have had that in a class), then they can explain WHY NOT!

Key vocabulary: ambience // aroma //atmosphere

Grammar Note:

In a list of three, use one comma and a linking word (and):

The service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !

In a list of two, just use a linking word (and): 

Mega Mart has amazing choice and is good value for money.

How to make Vietnamese coffee

Tell me: what do I need ? What type of coffee is best ? Where can I buy it ?

New verbs: pour / stir / fill up / 

Make a long, fluent presentation.

Signpost expressions: used to help tell a story or a narrative. They allow the listener to help organise the information.

Useful words or expressions:

Firstly / afterwards / and then / following that /

don’t forget to … / you can always ….

lastly / finally / at the very end …

In your experience, what coffee is best ? Trang Nguyen, Highlands or Milano ? Maybe street coffee ?

Speaking practice:

Old Compass Cafe Saigon - Vietnamese cuisine, wine, cafe, events

Pat Well, I’m exhausted. I need a damn fine cup of coffee and a big piece of pie.

Sam There’s a Highlands over the road, or we can go to Coffee Bean or Milano.

Pat I’d prefer Tran Nguyen but it costs an arm and a leg. Highlands is also incredibly expensive.

Sam But great quality and superb cakes. Come on, I’m starving, I need coffee now !

Pat OK, hold your horses hahaha. After we can meet up with Thay Paul.

Sam Sounds good. Now … shall we have chocolate cake or fruit cake … ?

costs an arm and a leg = very expensive

hold your horses = please be patient and wait

Inside Highlands Coffee Shop

Quán cà phê “trong mơ” của những người Việt trẻ có gì? | Báo Dân trí
Highlands Coffee, a Vietnamese coffee chain

Sam Hi, I’ll have a large cappuccino, please. What do you fancy ?

Pat Tough decision. I’m going for the cheesecake and a slice of blueberry pie.

Sam Oh, me too. Big slice, no, only joking, I have to watch my weight.

Pat I think you look great. Lets also get some chocolate cake and we can share.

Sam Brilliant. Oh, did I show you my recent photos ? Here, on my phone.

Pat Let me see … oh, so funny. Who’s that ? The man next to Niall ?

Sam That’s Jimmy, he’s in Niall’s band. He plays drums and drinks like a fish !

Pat And that’s you, a selfie. You look adorable. Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth !

VietnamCupid on Twitter: "Selfie tip of the week: Know your angles… "
A very sweet young lady – butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth

drinks like a fish = drinks a lot of alcohol

Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth ! = looks very sweet and nice … but can be very naughty

IELTS: Introduce your answers, and speaking review.

21st July 2020

I Think I'll Go Home and Mull This Over Before I Cram It Down My ...

A good introduction is not just beneficial but imperative for an impressive IELTS response. Therefore, this blog will mainly, although not exclusively, focus on a strong opening gambit, an attention-grabbing prologue.

Useful expressions

If you need some time to think, employ one of these ‘time-buying’ expressions:

That’s a very interesting question 

Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ? 

It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …

Let me think …

How can I put it …

Well, I would say …

Quick warm up: What do you do in your free time ?

I meet my friends for coffee

One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends

Which answer do you think would impress the examiner ?

Now … your turn

Where would you like to visit in Viet Nam (or your own country) ?

DON’T answer immediately; introduce the answer by repeating or rephrasing the question:

Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.

Vietnam is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and amazing nature but for me, Hoi An is the one place I would love to explore.

1 Tell me about your hometown

Thank you for letting me introduce to you my hometown which is Da Nang, one of the biggest cities in Vietnam, although it is much smaller than Ha Noi or Sai Gon. 

2 Talk about a film you like

Talk about cinema or films in general DON’T immediately talk about your favourite film.

Watching films and going to the cinema is one of my passions, so choosing just one film is going to be terribly difficult, not to say impossible. However, if I have to select one film, it would be ‘Lost in Translation’, with Scarlett Johannsson.

3 Do you use computers at work or school ?

Laptops are an incredibly useful piece of technology. They can be used for work, hobbies, music and to stay in touch with friends.

Practice: try forming introductions for these questions

Home

  • Do you live alone or with friends / family ?
  • How long have you lived there ?
  • Is there anything you don’t like about living there ?
  • What sort of accommodation would you like to like in ?

Shopping

  • Do you like going shopping for clothes
  • Is fashion important to you ?
  • Do you have to wear a uniform at school or work ?
  • Where do you normally buy your food and why there ?

Free Time

  • Do you do any sporting activities ?
  • What do you like to do at weekends ?
  • What would you change about your daily routine ?
Nanci Griffith - Once In A Very Blue Moon (1986, CD) | Discogs
Once in a VERY blue moon by Nanci Griffith

Review … from my recent classes, make sure you have learnt these words and expressions:

Keep your nose to the grindstone' - meaning and origin.
Put your nose to the grindstone

endeavour (to try) // outcome (the result) // ubiquitous (everywhere) // tedious (boring) // fascinating (very interesting) // sky-high (expensive)

once in a blue moon (very rare) // put my nose to the grindstone (work especially hard) // achieve on merit (to get something by working for it) // burn the candle at both ends (work day and night) // give or take (about, approximately) // big time ! (absolutely, totally, very much) // I’ll mull it over (I’ll think about it) //

although // additionally // therefore // moreover // having said that // on the other hand

Rewrite the following using IELTS-language:

English grammar is (adverb) boring and I spend about two hours a day studying grammar. I work all day, and go to evening class and then study. I study all day and night.

I almost never have any free time. If I have free time, I go to drink coffee. Coffee shops are everywhere but in some the prices are not cheap.

My friend Tom never studies. His uncle will give him a job, but I want to deserve my job. Tom is (adverb) lazy. I tell him to try to study grammar, to work very hard / but / he never listens. He thinks video games are very interesting. He (adverb) says he’ll think about it but nothing changes

so the result will be a ‘FAIL’

AE 456 - Expression: Burn the Candle at Both Ends - Aussie English
Unique coffee spot La Viet in Da lat, Central Vietnam | Coffee ...

Coffee shops in Sai Gon are ubiquitous although in some, the prices are sky-high.

Finally, if you did well :

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, July 26, 2019 ...

Adult Class Level 2: Recent review – once in a blue moon

28th June 2020

Coffee ~ ologist | Jun ji hyun, Korean actresses, Asian beauty
How often do you drink coffee with a beautiful Korean actress ?

To review recent expressions

once in a blue moon / not as much as I use to / not as much as I’d like to / from time to time / now and then / occasionally / only in my dreams !

How often do you:

Watch foreign films ?

movie 2003] Lover's Concerto 연애소설 - k-dramas & movies - Soompi ...

See your boss smile ?

Dealing with an Angry Boss

Play badminton ?

Rent Badminton Game in Lagos Nigeria - Fontt Enterprises

Hang out with friends ?

Cheerful asian young women sitting in cafe drinking coffee with ...

Go to the movies ?

Movie Theaters for Kids in the San Francisco Bay Area

Get a pay rise ?

On the Job by Anita Bruzzese: 6 Tips to Help You Get a Pay Raise

Linking words:

and / as well as / and also / along with

These link positives or negatives:

I like tea as well as coffee He plays football and also badminton 

Big C is quite cheap and also has a great choice

but / however / having said that / on the other hand

These link positives to negatives / negatives to positives:

Jet Mart is convenient. Having said that, it is (it’s) extremely expensive.

Czech beer is not easy to find in Sai Gon, however it’s fantastic quality.

‘therefore’ is a conclusion word:

Bài Ca Thịt Nướng King BBQ Hari Won - YouTube

King BBQ is outstanding and has a magnificent salad bar. Mr Park is reasonable (so-so) quality, but more expensive. Therefore, we will eat at King BBQ in future.

Theme: coffee in Sai Gon

Beautiful young asian woman drinking coffee in the terrace of a ...
People Drink Coffee On Street At Old Quarter In Hanoi, Vietnam ...

There are so many choices in Sai Gon. Tran Nguyen has the best quality but is very expensive. On the other hand, Milano is incredibly cheap and very convenient however, many people smoke there. Highlands is really popular. Having said that, it is not cheap. Street coffee is extremely cheap but terrible quality !

Listening exercise:

http://esol.britishcouncil.org/content/learners/skills/listening/having-meal-restaurant

Mamma Mia - Italian Restaurant & Bar ở Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội ...

Last Friday, I went out for dinner with Claire and Helen. Helen’s got a new job so we went out to celebrate. Claire booked a table for 7.30pm at her favourite Italian restaurant in town. When we arrived, the waiter showed us to our table, gave us some menus and took our drinks order. We were really hungry so we decided to have a starter and a main. We placed our order and chatted for a while. Our garlic bread soon arrived. We were hungry, so it disappeared very quickly! Next, the waiter brought our mains. He said, “Buon Appetito!”, which is Italian for ‘Enjoy your meal!’. Claire and Helen chose pasta and I had pizza. The food was delicious, but I couldn’t manage a dessert! Claire and Helen had some ice cream, but I just had a coffee. I can’t wait to go again!