Teaching is tough work!

February 11, 2015
Monday night I had a full class of Tet anxious youngsters who simply could not stay in their seats. Maddening. Tet is a holiday bigger than Christmas in The States, so it’s all they could think about. Two of them hadn’t even brought a pencil to class, so you know their minds were not on studying.

I tried to be sympathetic, but 90 minutes is a long time. I had lots of activities, but they could not focus for 2 minutes at a time. I got tired of telling them to quiet down, stop talking and to SIT DOWN. Finally kicked out the worst offender and told the rest that we would NOT be doing music since they wouldn’t behave. (I always write a list on the board of what we are going to do each class. Music is a bonus–if we have time and they are good.) I had them get out their workbooks and do the next pages. The fourth time I heard, “Teecha, homework feeenish.” I said, “I don’t care. Work on the next pages in the workbook or sit quietly. (we only had 5 minutes left) Next one to get up from their chairs will be kicked out.” Thirty seconds. THIRTY SECONDS! That’s all it took before someone got up! So I kicked the kid out.

The class got quiet, then. But I feel so icky after a class like that. I just want to drink a couple shots of whiskey and go to bed. Fortunately, I had no whiskey, but I did go to bed. Maybe I take it all to seriously, but I want them to learn.

But last night was great! Yes, they were excited about Tet, but they could at least focus for 5 minutes. I had a ton of activities since there was only ONE paltry page in the textbook to cover. That’s simply not enough for a 90 minute class. Still, I had to tell them constantly to get back in their seats. But it was better. And they had a great time, too! Rhyming and Tongue Twisters have been surprisingly fun and productive exercises. It forces pronunciation while they laugh their heads off. It’s especially crucial for Vietnamese because they are not used to pronouncing the last letter or two of a word. Making them rhyme words forces them to see and say the whole word. Surprising how many try to rhyme sounds in the middle of a word. And the tongue twisters do the same with even more laughter. Sorry it took me so long to figure out what a great exercise these two are. So simple, too. If I were staying, we’d next work on simple poetry or replacing the words to a song with their own lyrics. Could have been fun. But I’ll use it at the next school.

Simple really does work, too. Surprised at how often kids like to come up and write on the board. I often use this as a warm up exercise. “What’s your favorite activity?” (for a unit on sports or free time) or “What pet would you like to have” (for a unit on animals. It starts to get interesting when someone writes “dragon”). I have three different colors of dry-erase markers and let them pick their favorite color to write with, which delights them. And for kids that finish their text book exercises early, I’ve found going around the room, checking the answers and drawing a smiley face on correct papers, does wonders to keep them interested and gets others to finish their work! I try to make each face slightly different, too. I’m getting good at it. They are thrilled by this! Also, the word perfect usually isn’t in their vocabulary. So I teach them that perfect means VERY, Very, very, very, VERY, very, Very, very good. Which they find hilarious. And then all you have to do is write perfect on someone’s page. They beam.

I’ve developed/stolen/adjusted several activities recently for use in class (clearly, knowing I was leaving has been a productivity booster for me):

Bankrupt is a simple vocabulary review. You put all the flash cards on the board. Two teams. Each team, one at a time, sends a person to the board to pick a vocabulary word. They have to say the word, then they get what’s taped behind the card: Money ($100 to $5,000, a great way to reinforce numbers), Bankrupt (lose everything) or Donation (give your money to the other team). They typically don’t know the meaning of bankrupt or donation, so that’s two new vocabulary words, too.

Jump! Is a vocabulary game where I draw a line in the floor and write “true” on one side and “false” on the other. I tell everyone to stand up and walk to the line. Then I pull up a flash card and say either the real word or a false word. They have to jump to the correct side of the line. Ridiculously easy and they get to burn off some energy. These kids sit too much. But don’t we all?

Three Truths and a Lie: I give them four statements about me. I tell them three are true (then explain the word truth) and one is false (and explain the word lie). They vote on what statement is a lie. These are the sentences I use. Three truths: I lived on a farm as a child. (To them, anyone who was raised on a farm and is my age, did not go to school, so they always think this is false.); I had a pet lizard. (I usually have to show them pictures of lizards to make sure they know the word. This makes them squeal with delight.); and I like the color red. Then the lie: I don’t like strawberry ice cream. (Which I’ve learned to say in Vietnamese, so they think I need to use this phrase). They never guess correctly and it always gets some discussion. Then I have them do the same exercise and work with a partner to guess the lie. The exercise combines reading, writing, speaking and they often learn a new vocabulary word or two. Easy.

Red Hot/Ice Cold: The concept of “getting warmer” and “you’re cold” doesn’t mean the same thing to them. For them it’s just temperature. But most want to learn American English, so I teach them that when someone is getting close to an idea or a thing, they are “getting warmer” or if they are right beside the thing they are looking for they are “red hot.” It mystifies them, so I always model it—with a piece of candy. This helps. Then I ask for a volunteer to leave the room while I hide candy for them to find. It’s hard to get that first volunteer sometimes, so I usually have to pick the best English student and promise them they can keep the candy when they find it. It doesn’t take long before the whole class joins in, guiding the student to the hiding place, using the correct words and even understanding them. Also works with words like closer, beside, near, far away, over, on top of. My only problem now is how to choose the next student because everyone wants to volunteer!

I went to the market: Every class has a unit on food, so I use this with everyone, eventually. I start off with, “I went to the market and I bought…..apples.” The next student says, “I went to the market and I bought apples and oranges.” Each student has to remember the items, in order, and add a new one. Hilarious. Also good for teaching some, a few (countable and uncountable nouns) and plurals. Vietnamese are VERY good at memorization, so it’s surprising how long the list gets before someone messes up.

Restaurant: I saw a fellow teacher use this with a unit on food and I’m filing it away. She teaches them simple phrases. “Can I help you?” “I would like….” Then the vocabulary flash cards go up on the board. Two students are customers and one is the waiter. The customers “order” the food from the board and the waiter selects the right cards and brings it to them. You can add a cost to each item if they also need work on numbers. For older students, you make up a simple menu and practice ordering food. It’s practical. This would work with household items or electronics or maybe banking for money/numbers, too.

Directions: I used Excel to make a map. It has lots of streets, landmarks, a hospital, a pizza place, bus station, train station, parks, statue, pond—any vocabulary you want to reinforce. I pre-teach phrases like “turn left” “go three blocks” or “walk until you see…..” Then I pair them off and have them sit facing each other. I give them each a map and a starting location. One student gets the ending location and has to talk the other toward it.

Mr. Bean: Have you seen Rowan Atkinson do this character? Hysterical. Go to YouTube right now and search for Mr. Bean. It’s almost entirely pantomime, no language. Pair off the students and sit them in chairs facing each other so that one can see the screen and the other can’t. Then play a 3-5 minute short Mr. Bean video (which you downloaded off the internet for free). The student who can see, explains the action to the one who can’t see. Then switch.

I also do rhyming words and tongue twisters, which none of them seem to have been given before. And I do some of the standards, too, like Pictionary, Taboo, word scramble, and hangman (except I use a guy with a parachute hanging over the ocean with a shark. They love sharks.).

I’m convinced that games are better for reinforcing language than anything else. I simply have to learn more and find different ways to let them use language while having fun. When it works, it’s fun for everyone—especially the teecha.

And my next adventure is…..

I will miss my students here in Vietnam. This is a typical class of 7-8 year olds. I had expected to teach mostly adults and be working on SAT and college prep courses. They never got them going, obviously. Not sure there was ever an intention to do so. But, turns out, I like teaching kids.
I will miss my students here in Vietnam. This is a typical class of 7-8 year-olds. I had expected to teach mostly adults, SAT and college prep courses. They never got them going, obviously. Not sure there was ever an intention to do so. But, turns out, I like teaching kids.

Turkey! I’m going to a new job at the beginning of March.

I’m leaving Vietnam at the end of the month to start a new job in Istanbul (not Constantinople). I have been to Turkey once as a tourist. I loved the people, the history and especially the food. Lots of wonderful cheese, olives, baklava, kebabs, manti (a dumpling), yogurt with rose syrup, stuffed eggplant, dolma, mezes (appetizers), doner, lahmacun (Turkish pizza)….

I am going to get so fat.

The school here in Vietnam finally put out a schedule and my last day is Wednesday. After that starts the Tet Holidays which I’m interesting in experiencing. I’ll be leaving Bien Hoa shortly after for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where I’m trying out a capsule hotel. It’s inexpensive–about the same price as a hostel–but with more privacy. There’s little space and shared bathrooms, but how much space do I really need, anyway? It’s located right where I need to be, too. I’ve got a few day-tours earmarked and even a cooking class that I’m interested in. Plan to spend much of the time reading, working on my writing, and it’s time to do some work on the blog, too. So I’ll be busy.
Turkey: I fly out of Ho Chi Minh Airport and arrive the next morning in Istanbul. Someone from the English school I’ll be working at will pick me up at the airport. I have a Turkish Visa already and a brand new (52 pages!) passport, so anticipate no issues. The school has an apartment/dorm, but I don’t yet know where it is. They have 10 different schools around Istanbul. Nine are on the European side, so that’s likely where I’ll live. (And where I want to be, too. Public transportation is better on that side and it’s near several historic sites.) The accommodations will be near the school where I teach.
In the meantime, I’m reading up on Turkish culture and trying to learn a few words. Merhaba, everyone! (hello)
Please don’t worry about me. My life probably looks pretty messy from the outside, but it’s really all working out. I’m OK. It’s an adventure, remember?
2041085_635245273355095000-Ver2-1Expect lots of pictures of Tet–Lunar New Year. (there are several at the bottom of the page) Chuc mung nam moi–happy new year!
Other boring details:
I may be a crazy traveler, but I’m not stupid (despite the rumors). I do take precautions. I’m registered with the US State Department’s STEP program, so I get travel alerts. They also have the information about where I am and when I’m traveling. I’ve listed my brother as my “in case of emergency” person. Sorry, bro.
THERE ARE NO TRAVEL ALERTS FOR TURKEY. It is listed as a place about as dangerous to visit as NYC. Actually, there’s less violent crime and fewer people have died in terrorist attacks in Istanbul than NYC in the last couple decades. I promise I will not get anywhere near the eastern border of Turkey–those areas are simply not safe for a pasty, white girl, like me.
Holiday decorations at Pegasus Center in Bien Hoa. Lots of red and yellow!
Holiday decorations at Pegasus Center in Bien Hoa. Lots of red and yellow!
A "flowering" tree in Bien Hoa, decorations for Tet.
A “flowering” tree in Bien Hoa, decorations for Tet.
They get substantial tree branches and cover them in silk flowers, like this, to look like flowering trees. The red envelopes are stuffed with money and given to children. No wonder my students are restless about Tet!
They get substantial tree branches and cover them in silk flowers, like this, to look like flowering trees. The red envelopes are stuffed with money (I’m sure these are empty) and given to children. No wonder my students are restless about Tet!
Holiday prep in Ho Chi Minh City!
Holiday prep in Ho Chi Minh City!
This will be the year of the goat! Decorations in Ho Chi Minh City.
This will be the year of the goat! Decorations in Ho Chi Minh City.
Tet decorations in Ho Chi Minh City. In most cases, they seem to have left up the Christmas decorations (minus most of the Santa Claus and trees) and simply added more red stuff for Tet. This is the big holiday in Vietnam--schools and offices close for 2 weeks.
Tet decorations in Ho Chi Minh City. In most cases, they seem to have left up the Christmas decorations (minus most of the Santa Clauses and trees. I saw a few reindeer, though) and simply added more red decorations for Tet. This is the big holiday in Vietnam–schools and offices close for 2 weeks.
This is how they do train crossings in Bien Hoa. Two men actually stand at the tracks, all the time. When I train goes by, about every hour, they stop the traffic and roll out metal screens across the tracks and wait for the train to finish.
This is how they do train crossings in Bien Hoa. Two men actually stand at the tracks, all the time. When a train goes by, about every hour, they stop the traffic and roll metal screens across the tracks and wait for the train to finish.

Vagabonds expect bumps in the road

THings-that-change-forever-Mas-EdimburgoI’m leaving the school in Vietnam. Don’t be surprised by this. It’s been coming for a while. I haven’t posted much negative information in this (most) public forum, but I’m not willing to teach without a work visa and the school isn’t going to get me one. Don’t get me wrong, lots of people teach illegally for years, but that isn’t for me. The school is unhappy that I complain about it–and about constantly working 7 days a week–so they are ready for me to go, too.

KTV English in Bien Hoa, Vietnam has about 500 students and seems to be making money, but morale is low and turnover high, especially staff personnel. I don’t even bother to learn the names of new staff members, since most don’t make it a month. Bi-lingual Vietnamese teachers don’t fair much better. Most Native English speaking (NES) teachers last less than 6 months. The last NES teacher, Mike, didn’t even teach the entire month of December. The two before Bob and I left at 4 months.

The online reviews of the school are pretty bad and I wish I had read them before I came. Lesson learned. LOTS of lessons learned.

The big issue for me is the work visa, but KTV has not lived up to the contract we signed, either. The school hasn’t paid the first installment of my flight here (due last pay period). They over-schedule me (my contact says “up to 6 days a week” and I often work 7). They have paid me late each month (though they have paid), holding out taxes (which probably goes directly into their pocket since I’m an illegal worker). The schedule changes constantly so you can’t plan ahead. There’s no health insurance, sick leave or vacation. Not what I was promised. If you question anything, they threaten to fire you, because you “complain too much.”

And the threat isn’t just that won’t I have a job, but I won’t have a place to live, either, since I rent the school’s apartment (with Bob). I’ve been threatened several times and find this a stressful way to live.

There’s no legal recourse, either. Since I’m not a legal worker with a valid work visa, the contract means nothing. Which I’m often reminded of.

(Update: I wrote this a couple weeks ago, but am just now posting it. Last night I was paid (on time) for January classes. The business manager said she had “just read the contract” and realized that the things I was complaining about were true. She said I was a good teacher, she was sorry for over scheduling me and realized that she owed me half my travel reimbursement. She paid part of it and promised to pay the rest on Thursday along with payment for the classes I taught in February. I will never understand this school, but I greatly appreciate the attempt to be fair in the end. They’ve hired another teacher to take my place, so Bob will have a roommate to split costs with. I hope they treat them both better.)

I’ve learned other things about teaching too. Though it’s common, I don’t like the “round robin” scheduling method used here. I teach all classes and all ages, and may only see a group once a month. I never get to know my students–their abilities or needs–which means I’m less help to them.

I’m done.

When you’re a Vagabond, you have to expect bumps in the road. This is a minor pothole. I still think the people and the food are great in Vietnam. I like being a teacher and I am working to get good at it. I think I’m getting better, too! I don’t consider this job a horrible thing–it’s been teacher training boot camp: not a fun experience, but I learned a lot. I got to live in SE Asia for 5 months.

And, hey, I wanted an adventure! I got one!

Don’t worry. I have a plan. I have some money saved. I have more teaching experience than before. It will all work out.

So it’s not the worst situation. I’ve agreed to work until the beginning of the Tet holiday. The schedule came out yesterday, so I now know my last day is Wednesday. I will spend the end of the month in Saigon, doing day trips and getting some side projects done. Five months in SE Asia is enough. The heat is getting to me and I’m sick all the time. Maybe it’s polluted air and water or maybe I’m allergic to something. Certainly the stress of constantly being threatened with my job is a contributing factor.

I just want to get well and move on.

(Side note: Some of it was undoubtedly stress. Now that things are settled, I’m feeling much better. MUCH better. )

Coming home is hard to do

Did I mention this is paradise? Orchids everywhere.....This business wasn't even open and had flowers out front.
Did I mention this is paradise? Orchids everywhere…..This business wasn’t even open and had flowers out front.

I had a wonderful time in Da Lat over the New Year’s. It’s a beautiful city with lovely, cool temperatures. There was even clover—something I’ve missed so much. (Though I didn’t find a 4 leaf clover) While this is a holiday that’s celebrated, this isn’t the big New Year holiday. Tet or Lunar New Year (called Chinese New Year in The States) will be in mid-February and I’m looking forward to the biggest party of the year.

I find that getting to a new place often goes well for me. I prepare. I ask questions. I have a map, a schedule. I’m ready. But I don’t seem to take as much care in my preparations to go back home. The return trip doesn’t always go so well. Like this particular trip.

I took the overnight, sleeping bus from Da Lat. It left at 11p, my reclining seat was open, as it should be. We left Da Lat on time, so it seemed that everything was going swimmingly.

As I got settled in, a man came to check my ticket. I said “I want to go to Bien Hoa” in my best (i.e. poor) Vietnamese. He didn’t understand me, so I said it again. He nodded yes, but his face was unsure. I repeated, “Bien Hoa.” He nodded his head and repeated. I knew the bus had taken on few passengers in Bien Hoa (I may have be the only one getting off there) and that it continued on to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) after. So I set my alarm for about 30 minutes before we should arrive in Bien Hoa. I slept easily, considering the circumstances. Not a deep sleep, but some shut-eye is better than none. When my phone alarm went off, I walked to the front of the bus and said again, “I want to go to Bien Hoa” in Vietnamese. “Yes, yes” in English, came the reply. “You want to go to Bien Hoa?” said a passenger, also in English. “Yes!” excited to find someone who spoke English. He asked the conductor how long until we got to Bien Hoa. “Twenty five minutes,” he replied, again in English. I felt confident that I would be home soon. Dawn was beginning to show and I walked back to my seat.

So I was quite surprised when 15 minutes later I was almost sure I recognized a business that should have been in HCMC, not Bien Hoa. Five minutes after that, we passed the famous Ben Thanh Market in the center of the city and I knew for sure. Yikes! We’d passed Bien Hoa completely! I don’t know if I slept through the stop or if they bypassed the city. I was more than an hour away from where I needed to be with no transportation. It was too early to call someone and besides who could come rescue me?

I admit, I panicked, but only for about a minute. I took a deep breath and started to make a new plan. It was now early dawn. I had money and had been to HCMC before. There was a bus that went from HCMC to Bien Hoa and I’d been told it traveled several times a day. I’d taken it before, so I knew the number. It was almost 6am by now and the sun was coming up. I knew the words for bus and bus station and five. There are always scooter taxis. I could figure it out.

So when I got off the bus, I was in the private tour bus compound. I needed to find the public busses. I thought I was near the Chinese Market, Cho Lon, so I might be able to find my way. I asked for help from the passenger who had spoken English and he apologized—he had thought I meant an area in HCMC. He took me to an employee who spoke a bit of English. I did my best to explain simply that the bus had not let me off in Bien Hoa. I could see he understood and was afraid I would be angry. “OK” I said with a smile. “Today, I want number 5.” I said in Vietnamese. He said, “OK” and took my arm.

He led me outside the enclosure. He took me to the corner and pointed to the ground for me to stand there. (I later saw a sign with words I believe meant bus stop and several bus numbers, including 5) Then he went over to two different men and asked them to help me. They did. When the number five bus came into view, they grabbed my arms and helped me on the bus like a child.

So within 15 minutes of arriving, I was already back on my way to Bien Hoa for the price of 15,000vnd (75 cents). What had seemed impossible just moments before was easy.

By 7:00a I was back in Bien Hoa at the public bus station. At that hour, only a single scooter taxi was available and he didn’t speak English. I wrote the name of the private tour company, FUTA. He said he understood, but asked what seemed an unreasonable price to take me there. But he was the only driver, so I hopped on. He was driving in the right direction and then suddenly began to turn left when I knew we needed to go right. I protested, “Here, here” I said in Vietnamese, pointing to the right. He shook his head no, pointing right. I insisted. He turned right. In a kilometer I pointed to the building, said “here” and added the word “orange” since it was the only orange building in the area. I handed him about half his requested price (which still seemed high to me) for the ride and he smiled and accepted. I wonder where he would have taken me if I hadn’t known the way? Phew!

I retrieved my scooter, drove home and arrived before Bob was even awake. I took a quick shower and gratefully sunk in into my bed for a nap. Ahhhhhh!

1/7/15

Seems I go from one illness to the next. Perhaps this is how it is to move to a new country? New germs, new water and air, new food and weather. But the diarrhea I had was not new. It was worse than what I had hiking the AT, though only about 30 hours (instead of 4 months). Violent, too. I think I lost 5 pounds, without exaggeration! My stomach is actually flatter. This is not a great weight loss idea though. I also had a sore throat and swollen neck glands. Better today I feel much better, naturally, since it is no longer my day off.

On a positive note, I found a pharmacy nearby that sells Imodium. I used all of the anti-diarrhea meds that Bob had given me and was grateful for them. But now I have resupplied.

FUTURE EX-PATS: I can’t stress enough how important it is to bring ALL the medications and personal products you like with you when you go to a new country to live. Toothpaste you can find, but if there is a special hair product or make up you can’t live without, BRING IT. I’ve yet to see these brands in VN: Revlon, L’Oreal, Max Factor or Cover Girl. Medication is especially tricky. It may be cheap and readily available here, IF you can figure out how to buy it. It may not be available at all. The name may well be different or the brand or packaging. The dosage too. Or something you think of as a “common” analgesic may be outlawed here. (In Iceland I couldn’t get Tylenol. It was illegal. And I couldn’t get anything for A head cold without a doctor’s prescription). And most countries don’t have over the counter medications like in the US. A Pharmacist will have to give you something, so you have to be able to speak with them and ask for what you want. And they may not speak English. Be prepared, Scouts!

My latest revelation about VN: it is the land of dust bunnies! Of course every surface gets covered by fine dust. I have to wipe every table, shelf and the refrigerator top every three days or you can write your name in the dirt. With no way to close off the house, the air floats through freely—and frankly, you’d suffocate without that breeze in this heat. The fine particulates (from burning, cooking fires, manufacturing and god-knows-what-all) fall out everywhere in this white on white apartment. I’ve accepted it, begrudgingly. But the dust bunnies are unique. Sweeping isn’t enough. They breed from under the large pieces of furniture that are impossible to move without three men and a small boy to help. Then, right after you’ve swept and mopped, you turn to the still damp floor and them see them creeping out! They’re alive! And I didn’t want a pet! Move a chest of drawers only if you plan to sweep, dust and then wash the floor, walls and back of the chest (there’s 20 minutes of my day I’ll never get back). My bed is queen sized and wedged into a corner of a small room, immovable. The bed frame was built inside the room since it’s larger than the doorway. I try not to think of what’s underneath.  <SHUDDER>

New year’s day–tour of Da Lat City, Viet Nam

I had just two days to see the Central Highlands city of Da Lat, and I made the most of it. This second and last day in the city, I checked out of my hotel early, and headed out to a day tour of the area.

Our tour guide had fair English skills and was very sweet.
Our tour guide had fair English skills and was very sweet.
Da Lat has a lake in the center and mountains in the distance. Flowers are planted everywhere. If you have a house on the main street, you are fined for NOT planting flowers, preferably white ones.
Da Lat has a lake in the center and mountains in the distance. Flowers are planted everywhere. If you have a house on the main street, you are fined for NOT planting flowers, preferably white ones.
We started with a drive through the city, including the central roundabout, where traffic was pretty scary.
We started with a drive through the city, including the central roundabout, where traffic was pretty scary.
This is the entrance to the summer palace of the last king of Viet Nam. Bao Dai.
This is the entrance to the summer palace of the last king of Viet Nam, Bao Dai.

According to Wikipedia:

“Bảo Đại (lit. “keeper of greatness”, 22 October 1913 – 30 July 1997), born Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, was the 13th and final emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty, which was the last dynasty of Vietnam.[1] From 1926 to 1945, he was king of Annam. During this period, Annam was a protectorate within French Indochina, covering the central two-thirds of the present-day Vietnam. Bảo Đại ascended the throne in 1932.

The Japanese ousted the Vichy-French administration in March 1945 and then ruled through Bảo Đại. At this time, he renamed his country “Vietnam”. He abdicated in August 1945 when Japan surrendered. He was the chief of state of the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from 1949 until 1955. Bảo Đại was criticized for being too closely associated with France and spending much of his time outside of Vietnam. Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm ousted him in a fraudulent referendum vote in 1955.”

The is the palace, faced in simple tile, two stories tall. It was build in the 1930's.
This is the palace, faced in simple tile, two stories tall. It was built in the 1930’s and seemed rather modest to me.
The palace grounds were sculptured beautifully, a real contrast to the rather austere interior. There were also lots of money making ventures outside--small shops selling cool drinks, men dressed as old warriors that you could take a photo with and even a flower strewn cart pulled by a horse.
The palace grounds were sculptured beautifully, a real contrast to the rather austere interior. There were also lots of money making ventures outside–small shops selling cool drinks, men dressed as old warriors that you could take your photo with and even a flower strewn cart pulled by a horse.
You had to wear booties!
You had to wear booties! Aren’t these a fashion statement?
A reception room--because everyone puts orange, peach, blue and purple together.
A reception room–because everyone puts orange, peach, blue and purple together.
Here's the king....
Here’s the king….

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The grounds of the royal summer palace.
The grounds of the royal summer palace.
Sorry for the blurry photo, but the info is quite good, if you can read it.
Sorry for the blurry photo, but the info is quite good, if you can read it.
This is the oldest son's bedroom, done in royal yellow.
This is the oldest son’s bedroom, done in royal yellow.

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Clean, neat, probably ultra-modern in it's day. But not homey.
Clean, neat, probably ultra-modern in it’s day. But not homey.

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"Genever" Convention?
“Genever” Convention?
The view from the moon watching balcony.
The view from the moon watching balcony.

The Da Lat Railway station

The train station didn't really impress me, but everyone else seems to love it. It has not operated, except for a tourist excursion, since the 1970s.
The train station didn’t really impress me, but everyone else seems to love it. It has not operated, except for a tourist excursion, since 1968.
According to Wikipedia: "The architecture of Đà Lạt is dominated by the style of the French colonial period. Đà Lạt Railway Station, built in 1938, was designed in the Art Deco architectural style by French architects Moncet and Reveron, although it incorporates the high, pointed roofs characteristic of the Cao Nguyen communal buildings of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The three gables represent an art deco version of Normandy’s Trouville-Deauville Station.[7] The station’s unique design—with its roofs, arching ceiling, and coloured glass windows—earned it recognition as a national historical monument in 2001"
According to Wikipedia: “The architecture of Đà Lạt is dominated by the style of the French colonial period. Đà Lạt Railway Station, built in 1938, was designed in the Art Deco architectural style by French architects Moncet and Reveron, although it incorporates the high, pointed roofs characteristic of the Cao Nguyen communal buildings of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The three gables represent an art deco version of Normandy’s Trouville-Deauville Station.[7] The station’s unique design—with its roofs, arching ceiling, and coloured glass windows—earned it recognition as a national historical monument in 2001”
High ceiling of the Da Lat Railway station.The windows are painted, but it's chipping away.
High ceiling of the Da Lat Railway station.The windows are painted, but it’s chipping away.
This is the tourist train, which goes just 7km.
This is the tourist train, which goes just 7km, to the nearby tourist trap….I mean village of Trai Mat.

Datanla Waterfall

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The line was simply too long, but if I'd had the time, this would have been the way to see the waterfalls. There's a rollercoaster! You have a hand-break to slow your gravity decent, then a cable that pulls you up. But the wait was over half an hour and this was only a 45 minute stop.
The line was simply too long, but if I’d had the time, this would have been the way to see the waterfalls. There’s a rollercoaster! You have a hand-break to slow your gravity decent, then a cable that pulls you up. But the wait was over half an hour and this was only a 45 minute stop.
The waterfall was very nice--but it would have been nicer without the strenuous walk. And this is coming from someone who hike 1,400+ miles the summer before.
The waterfall was very nice–but it would have been nicer without the strenuous walk. And this is coming from someone who hiked 1,400+ miles just a few months before.
...the waterfall was nice, but not worth the climb down and then up.
…the waterfall was nice, but not worth the climb down and then up. It’s clear that this isn’t the prettiest waterfall in the area, just the most developed. I’d say they understand this commercial, money-making thing.

The Big Golden Buddha

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I think "Big Golden Buddha" is pretty descriptive.
I think “Big Golden Buddha” is pretty descriptive.
The temple at the Big Golden Buddha.
The temple at the Big Golden Buddha.
The inside was my favorite temple! A riot of color.
The inside was my favorite temple! A riot of color.
I'm sure this is sacrilegious, but this reminds me of a Monty Python film, The Life of Brian. I really have to learn more about Buddhism....
I’m sure this is sacrilegious, but this reminds me of a Monty Python film, The Life of Brian. I really have to learn more about Buddhism….
A monk reads the sign at the Big Golden Buddha
A monk reads the sign at the Big Golden Buddha

La Temple

La Temple: Obviously, I can't read this sign, except that the first word means "temple" and the second word is the name of the temple: La.
La Temple: Obviously, I can’t read this sign, except that the first word means “temple” and the second word is the name of the temple: La.
The temple was quite busy.
The temple was quite busy.
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a monk lights incense in front of the great hall
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I believe this is the women’s quarters. I’ve stopped being surprised by the swastikas, you see them all over Buddhists countries.

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Down the hill from the Temple and Monastery complex was a lake.

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Lunch. I sat with a group of 5 teachers from the Philippines. They had been in VN for 2 years and were deciding on a third.
Lunch. I sat with a group of 5 teachers from the Philippines. They had been in VN for 2 years and were deciding on a third.
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Pork with morning glory vine. I’ve learned that when the menu says “vegetables” this is the one they usually mean. It’s good and they always add lots of garlic.

The Valley of Love is a popular place for honeymooners.

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I can’t quite call this the Niagara Falls of Vietnam, but it is pretty, though kitsch. I’d walked the length of the park to see the “butterfly garden” which I stupidly thought would have actual butterflies. Silly me! They were large, plastic butterflies, located along a winding path to the lake.
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OK, I did love the orchids…..
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I find it interesting that statues and most posters show non-Asian faces–only pasty white westerners–as the example of beauty, is this statue of two young people in love.
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I’m told that when the sit down toilet was introduced into Asia, people standing on the rim and squatting was a huge problem.

image image imageForest of Flowers didn’t turn out to be quite what I had imagined. This was a tourist trap, but at least a pretty one. There were two large warehouse sized rooms–one with mostly fresh flowering plants and the other with artistically dried flowers. The internet calls it a Preserved Flower Showroom, which I prefer.

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Of all the souvenirs, these are the only ones I had to think twice about. But I’d buy them because they are ironic, which is not the idea.
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The photos on the wall are made of dried flowers.

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Last stop, dried fruits of all kinds including tomato, strawberries, mulberries, persimmon and more.
Last stop, dried fruits of all kinds including tomato, strawberries, mulberries, persimmon and more.
A view of the valley
A view of the valley
I kept going back to Ken's hostel because they kept feeding me. Fresh fruit (watermelon and pomelo--similar to grapefruit)  with French pastries and tea.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomelo
At the end of the tour, they dropped me off at the Backpacker Hostel. I kept going back to Ken’s hostel because they kept feeding me. Fresh fruit (watermelon and pomelo–similar to grapefruit) with French pastries and tea. 

So....spa and massage I understand, but Karaoke?
So….spa and massage I understand, but Karaoke? Maybe this is what “full service” means in Asia?