Summer Time....and the living is ea-sy.


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Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hai Phong
July 3rd 2009
Published: July 7th 2009
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Feelin' hot, hot, hot



So it's the summer now. And it's hotted up. A lot. It's got up to the temperatures we were used to in Bangkok, complete with all the associated pleasures like constantly being covered in sweat. Unlike when we taught in Bangkok, here we have air con in the bedroom - which makes it so much easier to sleep. And, of course, we also have air con at work. The couple of times when it has broken has given us a big appreciation for anyone who teaches here without air con. 28 degree and humid, shirt and tie, a class full of pre-teens who haven't yet been introduced to deodorant......marking their books as a bead of sweat drips off your nose and smudges their work......

I'll leave it to your imagination.

So many classes, so little time



Luckily, most of the time the air con works fine. Which is great because living isn't really that "ea-sy" during the summer months teaching in Vietnam. Summer here does not mean a six week holiday like it does back home. The kids finish school for the summer, but, bear in mind that this is a country where most children go to school 7 days a week, and have such a high number of extra classes that they barely ever change out of their school uniform. Do you really think that they would be allowed 6 weeks off to forget all the things that they have had crammed into their heads?? No, no. It's the summer holidays, so less school. Only extra classes. So there is more time for more extra classes.

Most of the year they come to Apollo to learn English once a week, at the weekends, either Saturday or Sunday. During the summer months they come twice a year, once at the weekend and once during the week.

So, as you can imagine, that means more kids classes for us. Whereas before we taught adults (15+) during the week and kids at the weekend, now we teach kids all week. In fact, at the moment, I only teach under 18s. Kids have classes early in the morning. This used to mean early Saturday and Sunday classes and long weekend days. Now I do early mornings four days a week.

During July the kids have an added bonus to
Kris and his team Kris and his team Kris and his team

at the first day of the Apollo Olympics. It rained all day and we had to race inside!!
the extra classes in the summer. A picnic with their English teachers- the Apollo olympics. We take them to the ground of an orphanage in Haiphong and do lots of races and sports day type activities with an English theme. So we get to tie small kids together and make them race and mime for us! And we get paid for it! Awesome!

The bright side, and there is always one, is that usually our kids classes are pretty easy and the students are lovely. And the other one is that this only lasts until early August, and by then we will have a new appreciation for our weekdays and our weekends will seem a lot easier than when we had to do it twice a week.

On our tropical island....



Of course, there are many more bright sides to living and working here. It's the summer and this is the tropics. So we have some amazing places to spend our weekends. Just off the coast from Haiphong is Cat Ba Island. Part of Halong Bay archipelago, it's a small island with a large National Park in the middle, covered in jungle. It has a couple of beaches and a small harbour and it's lovely. It's a lovely place to spend the weekend. And it's so easy to get to.

For the benefit of anyone who's reading this to find out about Cat Ba, here is how to get there from Haiphong .

There are 3 different forms of transport.

Hydrofoil
There are at least 2 hydrofoils a day over to the island, at about 6am and then again at 9am. They take 45 minutes and depart from Ben Binh in the North of the city. You just turn up and buy a ticket; they are 130,000 dong.

ferry
There are two kinds of ferry - fast and slow. The fast ferry takes 2 hours, the slow one is, of course, slower.

bus-boat-bus
There is a bus that leaves from the Hoang Long bus company office on Hoang Dieu at 6am, 10am, 2pm and 4pm. You take a bus to a port outside the city, take a small ferry to the other side of Cat Ba island, and then take a bus across the island to the port. All three forms of transport are
Cat Ba harbour roadCat Ba harbour roadCat Ba harbour road

from our hotel room
included in the 100,000 dong fee. The journey is lovely. It takes 1 3/4

Once on Cat Ba you are dropped at the harbour, which is basically a row of hotels, most of which face the sea and have big windows overlooking the bay, the karsts and the floating village. They are really cheap, less than $10 a room for one with a bathroom, air con and TV. At night the harbour road is all lit up with lights like a minor Blackpool illuminations and everyone sits in outside bars or at little plastic chairs at small Beer Hoi bars. The beer is cheaper than Haiphong. Noone seems to have told the folk over at Cat Ba than holiday resorts are supposed to be more expensive than the mainland. Lets hope nobody does for a while, while the beer stays at less than 15,000 dong a big bottle.

Cat Ba has three beaches, a short walk around the coast from the harbour. They are conveniently, in Vietnamese style, called 1,2 and 3. We usually go to beach 3 where there is a posh resort. There is a beach in front of the resort, which allegedly they wanted to
Sunrise resort on Cat BaSunrise resort on Cat BaSunrise resort on Cat Ba

we don't stay here, but we use their sunbeds
make a private beach, but the communist Government said 'No'. Yey communism! So you can rent one of the beach sunbeds for a very small fee and spend the day lazing by the sea. A great way to spend a 'Saturday'.

There are also loads of trips you can do from the harbour - around the National Park and on a boat around Halong Bay. All the hotels sell them. We haven't done either here yet, we are simply too lazy. But we will. I'm sure.

How the other half live



Another thing we do to appreciate the weather is hang out by the pool in one of Haiphong's 4 star hotels. Last weekend we went to the Best Western Pearl River hotel, where they have a rooftop pool and sunbeds that we paid a mere 90,000 dong to use for the day. We got a free drink and full use of all the swish health club facilities.

When we taught in Europe, this sort of thing wasn't something a scruffy English teacher would get to see. Teaching in Europe pays about as well as, if not worse than, being a student, and you live as such. Shared accommodation, cheap food, a few cheap nights out but nothing expensive. When we had time off, we couldn't afford to go anywhere, except on some day trips around Madrid.

Teaching here is a totally different experience. Our pay, compared to the cost of living, is more than enough to have a great quality of life. We have a great flat with good facilities - air con, cable, wi-fi, a full kitchen, gardens, a guard and a guy to change the light bulbs! We eat out all the time, sometimes in some of the most expensive places in Haiphong. We go away to Hanoi and Cat Ba for weekends, and if we don't, we chill out in the local 4* health club.

In October we are planning to take 2 weeks off work and go to the Philippines.

Oh, and we didn't mention that we also save a lot of money.

Money and standard of living wise, there is no contest between teaching in Asia and teaching in Europe.

However, the downside is that we are so far away from our families and friends here. It's harder to pop home for a visit than it would be in Europe. If anyone has the patent to invent a teleport device, so we could just teleport home for a trip to the pub with our Dads, a proper Mum/Mam made Sunday dinner, a friend's wedding or a night out in Leeds with our mates, life would be just perfect.

We are coming home in December for Christmas. Put it in your diaries. We just passed the half way point here. It won't be long now.....







Additional photos below
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Ready to go outReady to go out
Ready to go out

admiring the view from our $8 a night hotel room on Cat Ba
Fish out to dryFish out to dry
Fish out to dry

before they make fish sauce with them
Drying your washingDrying your washing
Drying your washing

in the middle of the road. It's in the sun, so why not?
Cat Ba bayCat Ba bay
Cat Ba bay

fishing boats and floating village
Fishing folkFishing folk
Fishing folk

sealing their boats with tar
Cat Ba harbour roadCat Ba harbour road
Cat Ba harbour road

from further road the bay


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