PalFish Hiring Process: A Step-By-Step Guide

Teaching online has been such a saving grace to me the past few months. I constantly rave about how much fun I have teaching my cute and insanely smart Chinese students.  PalFish is a well-known online teaching company based in China. They make it super easy by allowing you to teach straight from your phone, tablet, or iPad. The hours are flexible and you have the ability to teach from anywhere in the world.

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My PalFish classroom set-up!

What you need to know

  • Job requirements:
    • Have a TEFL, TESOL, or other teaching certification
    • Have experience teaching kids (preferred)
    • Native English speaker with a neutral accent from Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, or Canada
    • PalFish is also open to Filipino English teachers (separate application link)
  • The pay rate for the Official Kids Course ranges depending on your points (bonuses and how many classes you teach. You will get an extra 5 ¥ for being on-time to class. These are the pay rates per class:
    • Level 1: 50 + 5 ¥
    • Level 2: 55 + 5 ¥
    • Level 3: 60 + 5 ¥
    • Level 4: 65 + 5 ¥
    • Level 5: 70 + 5 ¥
    • (Trial classes are set at 50 + 5 ¥, regardless of your level)
  • There are two types of teachers on PalFish:
    • FreeTalk Teacher – you cannot teach Official Kids Course classes as a FreeTalk teacher. ‘FreeTalk’ is conversation based classes where students can call you and you will tutor them. These students are primarily teenagers or adults. You can set your pay rate. You do not have to be a native speaker.
    • PalFish Official Teacher – you can teach both FreeTalk and Official Kids Course classes. The Official Kids Course is the main focus on PalFish. These lessons are already prepared for you and designed for kids.
  • You will need an iOS (iPhone or iPad) or Android (phone or tablet) based device to teach.
  • Peak teaching hours Monday – Friday 6pm – 9pm, and Saturday – Sunday 9am – 9pm in Beijing time.
  • Starting April 27, 2020, new teachers will need to pass a 2-class probationary period to become an OKC teacher officially.

How to apply

Use my referral link / invitation code 79108257 when you sign up and I will be there to help you every step of the way! I will help maximize your chance at landing a job working at PalFish and answer any questions you having during the application process and getting started as a new teacher. I have already helped several people, I’d love to help you too!

When you click the link, it will ask you to enter your country code and phone number. Then you will fill out your user name, country, and invitation code: 79108257 

Next,

  • Download the PalFish teacher’s app from Google Play (Android users) or the App Store (iPhone users)
    • If you already registered before, you can still use the invitation code: 79108257 in your PalFish teacher app. To enter the invitation code after registering:
      1. Find the “Me” tab in the bottom menu
      2. Click the gear icon (settings) on the upper right
      3. Click the “Inviter – Enter invitation code” field to enter the code.

Fill out your application

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This is my profile photo for PalFish. It’s fun and clearly shows my face. A plus is that you can also see my classroom!
  • Photo – make sure it is appealing, fun, and kid-friendly
  • Teaching certificate
  • Education and work experience
  • Text intro
    • This should be at least 100 words
    • Include your name, nationality, university, teaching experience, your interests, and what you can offer
    • Use simple words, as potential students and their parents will be reading this too
    • Emojis! Emojis will make your introduction much more appealing, as people in China really love them.
  • Audio intro
    • This should be at least 30 seconds. Ideally, 40 – 60 seconds
    • Talk slowly and make sure your pronunciation is clear
    • Include your name, experience, interests, and what you can offer (basically a summarized version of the text intro)
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Feel free to use my text intro as an example!

Set up a payment method

PalFish offers payment through Payoneer (similar to PayPal) or you can link your Chinese bank account. Rumors are that PalFish is working on potentially offering a third method – paying directly into your home bank – but it’s not currently available yet.

Interview

The interview is just a short 25-minute demo lesson. You’ll be teaching to an empty classroom, so it’s very relaxed. PalFish will watch the recording of your class shortly after. Make sure to introduce yourself and your classroom. Have props related to the vocabulary words – if you can’t buy or print – draw (be creative)! Remember to use the AR filters and lots of TPR. You got this!

Before my own interview, I spent time watching other people’s interviews on YouTube. This will give you an idea to see what PalFish is looking for.

Quiz

This is just a short quiz over the handbook. It’s super easy and you just take it over again until you answer the questions correctly.

Ways To Adjust To Life Abroad

Moving to another country can be tough. The environment, food, air quality, and mannerisms can be different than what you’re used to. This is especially the case when moving from a western to an eastern country and vice versa. After 10 months of living in Vietnam, I am officially adjusted and can’t imagine my life any different. Most of it has been good, but some of it has been really dang hard. I’ve compiled a list of a few things that helped me during my adjustment period while living abroad: 

Try learning the language

Although it’s pretty easy to get by in bigger cities without knowing any of the language, knowing even a little bit can completely change your experience while there. This is especially the case in Vietnam, where a handful of the Vietnamese don’t know much English besides a few simple words or phrases. Knowing the language makes it so much easier to find more local spots and friends. It also never fails to put a smile on someone’s face when I attempt to speak to them in Vietnamese (or even a belly-laugh as they ask “are you trying to speak Vietnamese to me?” when I completely botch what I am trying to say).

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Attend as many events and classes you can

Especially in bigger expat hubs like Ho Chi Minh City, there are always events and classes going on to meet other people. Even just getting out of the house can help with the initial homesickness. There are several things you can go to such as yoga classes, live music, city clean-ups, drag queen shows, and my personal favorite: taco cook-offs! Put yourself out there and make friends both local and foreign. Foreign friends are much needed, but really what’s the point of moving abroad/traveling if not to meet locals, listen to their stories, and get to know their culture? The Vietnamese friends that I have made are some of the most generous, kind-hearted, and fun people I have met. They are always more than happy to tell me about their country and show me all of the good spots to eat and shop.

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Living a balanced life

“Everything is a balance” – isn’t this what people always say? Well, they’re right. For the first few months living abroad my life was consumed with work and that’s all I really had time for. I was constantly exhausted and my depression was creeping in. I was unhealthy mentally and physically, as I didn’t make time for my physical health, social life, and most importantly – “me time”. After evaluating what I really needed, I decided to cut back my working hours and really focus on myself. I noticed such a difference in just a few days after making this adjustment.

Practice self-care

Going along with the above, making time for yourself is so so important! Make sure to fit things into your schedule that refresh you, relieve stress, and bring joy. Every morning before work, I wake up 30 minutes early to meditate, stretch, or journal. All of these things calm my mind and make me feel energized for the rest of the day. Having a healthy lifestyle such as eating well and exercising regularly has a tremendous effect on how someone feels physically and mentally. Other good self-care activities can consist of massages, facials, creating art, reading, and much more. Find what works for you and make sure to incorporate it into your schedule whether it’s daily or weekly. 

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Research research research

I did so much research before moving overseas and I can’t stress enough how much it helped me. Any free time I had I was reading blogs, watching videos, and talking to expats about their experiences and advice. Although culture shock is inevitable, I was able to understand/empathize with the differences that maybe would have caused frustration if otherwise. I understood the currency, knew how to get around, what food to try, and simple Vietnamese phrases that I would need to know.

Give it time

It sounds so simple, but it’s actually pretty difficult to practice patience when things get rough. I’ve been in love with Vietnam since day 1, but the first few months were like a rollercoaster of emotions. I was constantly sick as my body was adjusting to the environment and pollution, exhausted from long working hours, and easily irritated at the smallest of things because I was so worn out mentally and physically. I knew I would never go home that quick, but the thought occasionally popped into my head on how easy it would be back in the States. BUT MAN am I glad that I just gave it time because all of those things have past and now I’ve never been happier.

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Although adjusting to life abroad can be hard, it’s one of the most fun and exciting things! You’re constantly being challenged and exposed to new things. I’d love to hear your stories about your big move overseas!

Until next time,

Hales

Q and A: Teaching English In Vietnam

I had jokingly typed into Google “how to teach English abroad” and thought it was the most far-fetched thing ever… Until I realized it wasn’t! If you’re even slightly thinking about teaching English, just DO IT! Making the decision to uproot your life and move overseas is scary, but what’s scarier is the regret I knew I would have for the rest of my life if I hadn’t taken the jump.

Here is a list of questions I am frequently asked about teaching English in Vietnam:

What qualifications do I need?

In order to obtain a work permit, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and a TEFL/CELTA/TESOL certificate. Taking a course to get your teaching certificate gives hands-on experience and makes you more attractive to potential employers. Here is the link to my blog post talking about my TEFL course experience. Although you don’t necessarily need a degree to teach English in Vietnam, you will have less job options and possibly a lower pay (you would also risk working here illegally, but that is the case for many expats who live in Vietnam).

What organization did you go through?

There are numerous organizations to choose from, but I chose International TEFL Academy (ITA). They have connections around the world and are highly respected. The first step is to call and get set up with an advisor. Your advisor will help you figure out which TEFL course to enroll in, find a job, and get ready for your big move abroad. Here is the link to ITA’s website (if you call or sign up for a course through ITA, please let them know that I referred you).

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What documents do I need for a work permit?

-Degree in any field (original document)

-TEFL/CELTA/TESOL certificate (original document)

-Background check (within the last 6 months)

-Health check (this can be done in Vietnam)

-Copies of your passport and visa, along with 2 passport photos

**Please note that your degree and background check will need to be notarized and authenticated. US citizens are able to do this at the embassy in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, but some countries are not able to do this in Vietnam. Before you come research your country specific information!

Should I find a job beforehand?

Although most places prefer in-person hires, there are some that will hire you before arriving in Vietnam. That being said, I would still highly recommend waiting until you get to Vietnam before finding a job. This will not only give you more options, but will give you the opportunity to check out the school and leadership before accepting a position.

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What type of school should I work for?

There are quite a few options when it comes to choosing a school in Vietnam. Many English teachers who come to Vietnam work at language centers. Teachers at language centers typically work in the evenings during the week and all day on the weekends (around 20-25 hours a week plus lesson planning time). The hours are like this because most language center students have school or work during the day. The typical class size is around 15-25 students. Another valid option is public schools. Teachers who work at public schools usually work week days between 7 AM – 5 PM (hours vary between these times as some periods you may not have class) and Saturday mornings. The class sizes for public schools are normally about 40 students. I personally work for a private kindergarten where full-time hours are from 8 AM – 5 PM with a 2-hour lunch/nap break from 12 – 2 PM. The ages at most kindergartens range from 18 months – 6 years old.  If you have a degree in education then you are qualified to work at an international school, which has a higher pay.

What are the start-up costs?

Start-up costs include any expenses you may have the first 2-3 months before getting a paycheck. I would recommend bringing around $1,500 – $2,000 USD to be safe. Typical expenses during this time are rent, food, transportation, and toiletries. Keep in mind that many landlords in Vietnam require a 3-month deposit (my roommates and I were able to talk our landlord into a 1-month deposit and lower monthly rent – try to negotiate). Start-up costs also will depend on the area you live and lifestyle. Living closer to the city center and spending money on more Western items will be significantly more expensive than if you lived more locally. For example, a Western meal can be around $10 while a Vietnamese meal can be less than $2.

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How is the pay compared to cost of living?

The pay for an English teacher in Vietnam all depends on the teacher’s qualifications and the school they work for. Native English speakers (citizens of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and South Africa) with a degree and teaching certificate can make roughly $1,200 – $2,000 USD per month. This money goes a long way since Vietnam’s cost of living is so low. Most people spend around $600 – $1,000 USD per month in Vietnam. This allows one to live comfortably, travel often, and even save money. Personally, I am able to finish work at noon, go to a personal trainer twice a week, travel once a month, and have multiple spa days! In America, this would literally be impossible for me to do.

Teaching English allows you to change lives, explore other cultures, and grow as a person. It has truly been an amazing experience so far and I’d love to help others who wish to do the same! If you would like more information about living / teaching abroad, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

Solo Trip To Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur has been at the top of my travel bucket list since I can remember, so it’s only right that I go there for my solo trip during Vietnam’s holiday! I will admit, it wasn’t one of my favorite places that I’ve visited (keep reading for my reason why), but it’s a great place to go if you only have 2 or 3 days to spare. Malaysia is full of so many different ethnic groups: Malay, Bangladesh, Indian, Chinese and more! Because of this, there are not only so many different people of various backgrounds to get to know, but authentic places to eat and things to see. Here are some things I did as a solo female traveler in Kuala Lumpur:

Islamic Arts Museum

The Islamic Arts Museum is a beautifully put together museum displaying thousands of Islamic artifacts, with an emphasis on Islam in Asia. Unlike many other museums that I have been to in Asia, the Islamic Arts Museum actually have their artifacts explained in English as well. Entrance to the museum is roughly 14 RM. There is also a nice gift shop and restaurant you can stop in when you’re finished admiring the artifacts in the museum.

 

Thean Hou Temple

This Chinese temple is absolutely breathtaking. There is so much color, and whoever constructed this temple really paid attention to the small details. Like most places on this list, you should get there early as it gets crowded. Entrance is free, so why not take the short drive and stop by?!

 

Chinatown – Petaling Street

Although you can come during the day, I recommend hitting up the night market! There are various shops lined up for you to shop your heart out at. When you’re finished shopping, take yourself to one of the restaurants in the market for some delicious Chinese food!

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Batu Caves

This place hit my bucket list way before moving to SE Asia and it did NOT disappoint! The Hindu temple is located inside the Batu Caves, but in order to get to it you have to hike up 272 colorful stairs. There are hundreds of monkeys as you make your way to the temple, which makes for an interesting hike up! Once you’re finished, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the food shops located near the entrance.

 

Petronas Twin Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers were once the tallest buildings in the world, but are still the tallest twin towers in the world. You can admire their remarkable structure from the KLLC Park while you’re relaxing from a long day of exploring Kuala Lumpur. Inside the twin towers is the Suria KLLC shopping mall, which is a literal heaven for any shopping lover! This mall is six floors of shops, restaurants, a discovery center, and a movie theater!

 

Alor Food Street Night Market

As a food lover, I am so sad that I waited until my last night to come here! During the day it’s just a typical street lined with restaurants, but at night the restaurants move tables and chairs on the street. Jalan Alor becomes packed with other various food vendors and crowds of people. The food is all SUPER delicious and there’s a little something to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. There’s Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese – you name it. You can sit down at a restaurant or snack your way down the street with all of the different vendors. It’s a food lover’s dream come true!

 

Central Market

The Central Market is actually one of the more enjoyable market experiences I have had. As most markets are crowded with people and have vendors urging you to buy something, the Central Market didn’t give me that impression. Although there were a few stalls very similar (especially ones selling clothing), others seemed to be somewhat unique. I wasn’t being pushed this way and that by other tourists or being yelled at by the shop vendors: “you buy something”. The inside also has aircon, which is quite nice in the Malaysian heat / humidity.

Things I didn’t get to, but you should:

  • Masjid Wilayah Mosque (Also known as the Federal Territory Mosque)
  • Kuala Lumpur Tower
  • Brickfield’s Little India
  • Botanical Gardens

Cafés

Feeka Coffee Roasters 

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Lemon and ricotta pancakes / iced white coffee

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Avocado toast / kombucha

A • Toast – Breakfast & Juice Bar

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Potato wrap / iced white coffee

Accommodation:

Nous Hotel KL

When I walked into this small boutique hotel, I was genuinely confused on how it had such great ratings as it’s really not the nicest. As soon as I met the staff I realized why. They were are all so welcoming and helpful throughout my entire stay. Anytime I came in and out, they greeted me by name and started conversation with me. When I first arrived, I forgot to get cash out to pay the deposit (that you get back when you leave), but they weren’t bothered and allowed me to pay whenever I was able to get to an ATM. I also forgot an adapter for my phone charger, so the front desk worker (Haider) gave me his charging cube for the weekend. I also mentioned how Vietnamese coffee was my favorite, so Haider went out the next day and bought me packets of Vietnamese coffee. The hotel also provides refillable water bottles and a water dispenser so I didn’t have to bother spending money on water. It may not be a five-star hotel, but being only $14/night and having such an amazing staff, I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough.

Tips:

  • I used Grab throughout my stay in Kuala Lumpur and although it’s an easy means of transportation, it became a little frustrating. The Grab drivers in KL cancel frequently and take their time picking you up (I typically waited 15 minutes for a driver that was 3 minutes away). If your schedule is time sensitive, keep in mind the time it may take for you to get a ride. Next time, I will give KL’s public transportation a chance!
  • I went as a solo female traveler, and although I felt fine once I got to each of my destinations, I was pretty uncomfortable trying to walk places. I was constantly bothered by men trying to talk to me, get my number, or walk with me to wherever I was going. Although I’ve become accustomed to a small portion of it from living in Vietnam, it was to a-whole-nother level in Kuala Lumpur. I ended up calling it quits on walking and just booked Grabs everywhere because I felt so uncomfortable. If it wasn’t for being bothered every 5 minutes, I think my time in Malaysia would have been a lot more enjoyable. Just a heads-up to any solo female travelers! Be safe! 🙂 (P.S. none of these people were locals, all were foreigners! The local people were nothing but kind!)

If you have any questions about my time in Malaysia or life in Vietnam, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

A Trip To The Ancient City – Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is rich in history, culture, and character. I have yet to see another city like it. I was weary to spend my 4-day weekend in yet another big city, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Although it’s the capital of Vietnam and a large city, it has an amazing vibe. There’s plenty of greenery covering the streets and buildings. You can also easily drive about 20 minutes outside of the city and be surrounded by tranquil countryside. The architecture in Hanoi has a French influence, making the Vietnamese/French style buildings aesthetically pleasing. Here are some of the things I did during my weekend trip to the ancient city of Hanoi, Vietnam:

Halong Bay

Halong Bay isn’t in Hanoi, but seeing as it’s only a few hours drive outside of the city, I don’t think anyone should take a trip to Hanoi without visiting Halong Bay. It’s emerald waters is comprised of thousands of limestone islands topped with beautiful rainforests. I’ve heard hit or miss reviews on Halong Bay, but my personal experience was very good. Halong Bay was named one of the world’s natural wonders, and for good reason – it is breath-taking. Four hours and a couple bus, boat, and ferry rides later, we finally made it on our cruise. It was very peaceful sitting on our boat while we floated through Halong Bay. We also got to experience the bay and limestone islands closer up by going kayaking. On the way to get to our accommodation for the night, we were able to watch the sunrise on a private boat. We stayed on Cat Ong island, which is a small private island just a 20-minute boat ride from Cat Ba Island. The next day was more relaxing, as we got to enjoy our morning on the beach and took a short hike to see a panoramic view of Halong Bay. The other option we were given was to go on a hike through Cat Ba National Park, which I aim to do my next time around. I will say, certain parts of Halong Bay are very touristy, but we were lucky enough to go with a company that strays away from the busier parts (we went through Camillia Cruise). My friend and I also ventured off while kayaking to an area most people don’t go, where we found a lot of trash floating in the water. It was definitely eye-opening to see how far Vietnam still has to go in becoming more environmentally conscious (and made me more aware of my waste production as well). All-in-all, it was an amazing visit to Halong Bay.

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The view of Halong Bay from our cruise

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located in the Ba Dinh Square of Hanoi. It holds the embalmed remains of Ho Chi Minh, attracting crowds of people every day. It’s only open for a few hours each day, typically in the morning. Something also to note is that for about two months out of the year Ho Chi Minh’s body is shipped to Russia to be touched up. I would suggest getting there early, as the line gets extremely long. Typically the wait is supposed to be around 1-2 hours, but I tried to go on a holiday weekend where the line stretched to be about 3-4 hours. It’s safe to say that I decided to just view the Mausoleum from the outside this time around.

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Temple of Literature and National University

The Temple of Literature and National University was constructed in the year 1070 and was the first university in Vietnam. It honors Vietnam’s finest scholars and signifies the beginning of a uniform educational system in Vietnam. Students used to be able to come and rub one of the turtle statues’ heads in order to gain good luck on an upcoming exam, but in order to preserve the statues, touching them is now prohibitted. Many people also come here to take graduation photos, as it makes for a picturesque background (there were 3 different groups taking photos when I went). It is a very big tourist attraction, so you should come early in the morning.

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Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge was one of the four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built. It was bombed many times by air attacks by the American army, which destroyed many spans of the bridge. The spans still remaining today remind us of an unforgettable past. The bridge has become a living historical relic. You can walk along the bridge where there are street vendors, views of banana fields, and the Red River. Tourists will also hop onto the train tracks for a picture, but you have to be careful as a train still runs through.

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Train Street

This is by far one of my favorite things I did during my trip to Hanoi. You can simply type ‘train street’ into Grab and your driver will more than likely know where to go. At first glance, it’s just a small residential area with train tracks where the street should be. As you keep walking, there are various cafés that offer tables around the tracks to watch the train pass through. The shop owners set tables and chairs on the tracks for people to sit, eat, and enjoy the atmosphere. Like clockwork, when it’s time for the train to come people pick everything off the tracks and move to the side to watch it go by. Afterwards, everyone goes back to what they were doing: putting the tables back on the tracks, eating, and taking photos. It really is amazing to watch. There are a few times the train passes through the area each day. We decided to go to the 1:15 PM time, but came an hour early to take photos and find a café to settle in at. We enjoyed the experience so much that we stayed for the next train at 2:30 PM! It’s definitely a can’t miss when visiting Hanoi and less touristy than the other places we visited.

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Hoan Kiem Lake

The legend behind Hoan Kiem Lake is that in 1428, Emperor Le Loi obtained a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against the Chinese oppressors. After the successful battle against the Chinese invaders, Emperor Le Loi visited the lake again. He was boating through the water when a giant golden turtle appeared. The turtle explained that he was sent by his master, the Dragon King, to retrieve the sword from Le Loi. The Emperor returned the sword to the turtle, who swam back beneath the green waters.

Hoan Kiem Lake is the symbol of this elegant and charming ancient city. Being at the center of Hanoi’s historic district, Hoan Kiem has become a huge gathering spot. Amidst the lake is Turtle Tower, The Huc Bridge, and Ngoc Son Temple. Early in the morning the streets are blocked off from automobiles and the locals come to run and do Tai Chi. It is very peaceful as there aren’t many tourists about yet, so it is nice to grab some coffee and take a walk around the lake. Hoan Kiem Lake is located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where later in the day there will be street performers, vendors, and markets all around. A perfect place to enjoy the lake and some performances is at The Note Coffee (located at the northwest corner of Hoan Kiem Lake). This coffee shop is covered in little notes from people who have come from all over the world.

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The Note Coffee

West Lake

Located in Tay Ho District, West Lake is a nice place to go in order to get out of the hustle and bustle of Old Quarter. You can walk around the lake while stopping to get some bò bía, which consists of coconut and honeycomb wrapped into a roll by flat pancakes. Here you can also visit the Trấn Quốc Pagoda or rent a cute swan paddle boat. There are also various places to grab a drink or bite to eat around the lake.

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Trấn Quốc Pagoda

Cafe Giảng

Cafe Giảng was founded in 1946 and most famous for its cà phê trứng (egg coffee). If you haven’t had egg coffee yet (or even if you have) this is the perfect place to try it. Its chief ingredients are egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter and cheese. The founder of Cafe Giảng developed the recipe in days when milk was scarce in Vietnam, so he used egg yolks to replace it. The sweet egg yolk taste and bold coffee flavors balance each other out perfectly. It gets packed with locals and tourists, so coming early will not only be a great start to your day but save you the headache of waiting for a table.

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Egg coffee with chocolate

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral was constructed and completed in 1886. Its beautiful architecture is magnificent to look at. Located directly outside of it is a statue of Mother Maria. A good place to eat with an incredible view of the Cathedral is La Place.

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The view of St. Joseph’s Cathedral from La Place

Places to eat:

  • The Hanoi Social Club
  • La Place
  • Nhà Hàng Ngon
  • Home Hanoi Restaurant

Places to stay:

  • Annie’s Little HaNoi
    • 9 Ngõ Hài Tượng, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
  • Gecko
    • 85 Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

If you have any questions about my trip to Hanoi or life abroad, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

Pros Of Being An Expat In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Almost 7 months ago I made Hồ Chí Minh my home and it has been spoiling me ever since. Not every day is a bed of roses, but Việt Nam has enriched me with so many new experiences and growing opportunities that I will forever be grateful for.

Over the last few years, Hồ Chí Minh’s expat community has grown immensely, and continues to do so. Here are a few reasons why I, as well as many other expats, have chosen Hồ Chí Minh as a second home:

Lifestyle

One of the main things that bring aspiring English teachers to Việt Nam is the low working hours for good pay. A typical work week for English teachers is around 20 – 25 hours, giving plenty of free time. The pay is also high compared to the low cost of living, which allows for a comfortable lifestyle, frequent travel, and a little money left over for savings.

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Travel

With Hồ Chí Minh containing one of Việt Nam’s main airports, it is cheap and easy to travel within Việt Nam and Southeast Asia. There are many beautiful places in Việt Nam to travel to that are just a quick bus or plane ride away. International travel is also fairly cheaper here than it was in the US. It’s easy enough to book a last minute plane ticket to Malaysia without breaking the bank. Of course, this all depends on the type of traveler you are. If you’re wanting to stay in a nice resort it’s going to be pricey, but if you’re down with hostels then it can be very cheap. After moving to Southeast Asia and seeing the beauty it has to offer, my bucket list of destinations has expanded drastically (RIP to my bank account).

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Cheap Beauty Treatments

Back in the US I was hardly ever able to have a spa day, as it’s ridiculously overpriced (along with basically everything else in the States). Luckily, ‘Nam has blessed me with all things cheap – massages, facials, nails, the works. Don’t get me wrong, there are many expensive places here too, but why would I go to those when I can get a killer gel mani / pedi for 350,000 VND? Ladies, are you ready to move here yet?

There’s Always Something To Do

Hồ Chí Minh is a big city packed with millions of people, which means it’s always filled with things to do. There are night markets, DIY classes, and various shows. My favorite Friday night outing has been going to the past 2 Sofar Sounds shows. Seriously, amazing. I have a love / hate relationship with Bui Vien, but it’s definitely a must-see as it’s filled with various bars, clubs, and restaurants! If none of those do it for you, there are always the tourist hot spots like The Café Apartment, Post Office, or War Remnants Museum.

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Before my second Sofar Sounds show. They discourage having phones out during performances, so it’s a nice way to disconnect and relax.

The Unreal Coffee Scene

Việt Nam is the perfect place for coffee lovers, as it’s one of the world’s largest coffee exporters. Whether it’s the famous cà phê sữa đá, drip coffee, avocado coffee, egg coffee, coconut coffee – you name it, Việt Nam has it all. There are at least 5 coffee shops on every street and most of them are so cute and offer a unique experience.

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Shelter Coffee & Tea – one of my new favorite coffee shop finds. Avocado coffee (left) and cà phê sữa đá (right)

Food

Don’t worry, Hồ Chí Minh has most western food to satisfy your cravings (if you find Ranch though, please hmu), but the real deal is how delicious and underrated Vietnamese food is. There’s nothing like sitting on a small stool on the side of a road eating a plate of cơm tấm. If you can tell me where I can find better bún thịt nướng or bánh mì, that’s the day I will leave Việt Nam. On top of how amazing the food is, I can eat most meals for less than $1 or $2 USD. There’s no beating it, really.

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Bánh tráng nướng (Vietnamese Pizza)

If you have any questions on my life as an expat in Hồ Chí Minh, please feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

4 Days In Chiang Mai, Thailand

Located in the ‘Land of Smiles’ is Chiang Mai, Thailand – a city rich in culture and beauty. It’s filled with hundreds of temples, khao soi, and local markets. The main thing I wish I would have done differently in regards to my time here was to stay longer. There are numerous things to do in and around the city, but here are some things I did during my time here:

Visited various temples

Chiang Mai is comprised of over 300 temples, which makes it hard to figure out which ones to go to in such a short time. My friends and I followed the map of temples from Big Boy Travel’s website, who narrowed it down to the ones that are a must-see (link to the website is below). We probably went to around 10-15 temples during our visit. My favorite was Wat Chedi Luang, which is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. It does cost a small amount to get in, but it’s totally worth it. It’s breath-taking and full of history. Other notable temples are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Sri Suphan. Wat Sri Suphan is made entirely out of silver, but unfortunately if you’re a woman you cannot go inside.

https://www.bigboytravel.com/asia/thailand/chiangmai/freewalkingtour/

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Wat Chedi Luang – the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Wat Phra Singh

Bua Tong Waterfalls

Bua Tong Waterfalls (also known as ‘Sticky Waterfalls’) has a lot of hit or miss reviews, but it’s a total hit in my opinion. Something in the water makes the rocks rough rather than slick, so you are able to climb up and down the waterfall. After you finish climbing, you can chill out in one of the pools of water or grab a bite to eat at a food shop.

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Bua Tong Waterfalls – it’s a lot cooler than it looks in pictures, I swear

Elephant “Sanctuary”

My friends and I left central Chiang Mai for a day to stay at an elephant camp called Chai Lai Orchid. They have a great program when it comes to anti-trafficking, where they help and empower women. The cottage I stayed in was beyond adorable and the food was delicious. The people who work there are also super sweet and accommodating. Although I had a good time with the elephants and am convinced that they are just oversized puppies, the elephant camp was not how it was advertised. Their treatment of the elephants was also very questionable.

For starters, we had paid for a mud-bath tour, but it ended up being just us with two elephants in the river for 20 minutes pouring water and sand on them. The entire time the workers were giving the elephants and us instructions on what to do, so we were not able to just freely play with them. It was also advertised that the elephants were rescued, but we found out that they had always lived on this land (previously used for work). When we asked the workers which ones were male and female, we were told there were no males at the camp because their hormones make them too crazy. We later found out this was a lie, as there were two male elephants at the camp. One morning we were getting ready to leave, when we heard a loud elephant cry. Another guest we had made friends with showed us a video she had taken of a male elephant located near the back of the camp, with his two front legs chained together (the source of the cry). She informed us that he had been like this for at least a few days.

Like I said previously, not all of my experience here was negative, but I would not step foot in this camp again. I wish I had done better research before I stayed here, but it is all a learning experience. My hopes for this honest review is that others will be better informed and make a wiser decision than I had. There are many legit elephant sanctuaries in Thailand who rescue abused elephants and conduct their businesses ethically, that I’d love to check out in the future.

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The ‘mud-bath’ with two elephants at Chai Lai.

Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon is famously known for being the highest point in Thailand. We hired a songthaew driver to take us to all of the places we wanted to go throughout the national park. We went on a two-hour hike through the park (guided), where the views were beautiful. There are longer hikes you can go on, but we opted for the shortest one as we had limited time. Afterwards, we took a visit to the king and queen pagodas. Some other things we did on our visit was go to the waterfall, get lunch, and shop at a small outdoor market. 

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One of the views mid-hike

Massage from ex-inmates

There are two main massage chains (from what I can tell) in Chiang Mai that hire solely ex-inmates. This is a way to give women a job and second chance once they are released from prison. We went to Lila Thai Massage. It was a really cool experience and the women who work there were amazing. I would highly suggest checking Lila Thai out, as it is a great program.

Sak Yant Tattoo

Okay, this was my favorite experience from my Thailand trip. Traditional Sak Yant tattoos have evidence of being around since the 9th century. Historically, Buddhist monks would tattoo these magical markings onto warriors to bring them protection in battle. Although Sak Yant tattoos have been around for hundreds of years, they really gained popularity among westerners after Angelina Jolie got one during her visit to Thailand. There are various designs, each offering different powers or effects, but all are tapped into the skin by either a large steel tip rod or bamboo needle. They are given and blessed by Buddhist monks or Ajarns (non-practicing monks).

I went to Ajarn Sam at Sak Yant Chiang Mai to get my traditional Sak Yant tattoo. He was a monk for 5 years and has been an ajarn for the past 2. Ajarn Sam blew my expectations out of the water, to say the least. All he did was draw a single line on my arm and then free handed the rest.I chose the style of Sak Yant that I liked best and personalized the powers I wanted it to bring into my life. I had it blessed to bring forth contentment, mindfulness, and growth. At each end starts a spiral, which signifies the many earthly distractions we encounter. As we grow older and wiser, the spiral gradually decreases into a line pointing upward. This line signifies the path to true enlightenment.

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Receiving my Sak Yant Tattoo from Ajarn Sam

Things To Eat:

  • Coffee from Ristr8o
  • Khao soi, khao soi, khao freakin’ soi!!!
  • Papaya salad
  • Thai iced tea
  • Durian – the smelliest fruit in the world (I didn’t care for it, but I’d definitely say give it a try)
  • Mango sticky rice
  • Roti (banana and Nutella all the way)
  • Green and red curries
  • Pad thai (obviously)

Where I Stayed:

I stayed at Sri Chiang Yeun House and it was one of the cutest hotels I’ve been to yet. It had a very calming vibe and the staff was amazing. They were always accommodating, helpful, and warm to us. You can also come down and sit on their cute patio to enjoy a complimentary breakfast when you wake up.

If you have any questions about my trip to Thailand or life abroad, please feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

A Day (Or Two) In The Life Of An English Teacher In Vietnam

Since moving to Vietnam, I get a lot of questions on what my days typically look like. In reality, the daily activities here are not that much different than in America, but it’s more of that my lifestyle is different. I ashamedly admit that I spent most of my free time in America watching Netflix, with occasional outings. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that Ho Chi Minh is a busy city or that I want to make the most out of living in a foreign country or maybe both, but my lifestyle has completely changed. I hardly ever just sit in bed and binge watch Netflix now. I always at least try to just get out of the house, whether it’s going on an aimless walk, to a coffee shop, or to a museum. I work 8:00 – 5:00 PM every Monday – Friday, which is pretty rare for expats in Vietnam. Expats working as English teachers typically work evenings on the week days and all day on the weekends. My week days and weekends differ quite a bit so I will do a rundown of both.

Week Days

6:00 AM

This is when I wake up and get ready for work. Since I don’t work until 8, I normally go to The Coffee House by my work in District 3 every morning to get a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese milk coffee with ice). Yes, all of the workers know my order and have it put in before I even reach the counter with their hand waiting to scan my rewards. Yes, they also help me with Vietnamese pronunciation and yes, my pronunciation is still the worst, xin lỗi.

8:00 AM

I work from 8 – 5 PM, with a two-hour break from 12 – 2 PM for the kids’ naptime. This is normally when I eat lunch, grab another coffee, lesson plan, and then steal a kid’s pillow to take a nap too. After work I will book a Grab Bike home, but if it’s Monday or Wednesday I will head straight to Vietnamese lessons until 8:00.

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Another foreign teacher’s and my class doing yoga.

6:00 PM

I normally get dinner in my neighborhood around this time, either solo or with my roommates. My go-to places are Út Hương and Bánh Canh Ghẹ (both off of Nguyễn Cảnh Chân street in District 1). Vietnam isn’t necessarily known for its great customer service, but the customer service at Út Hương is probably the worst I’ve experienced. every. time. The only thing that keeps me coming back for more is the terrific food.

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Mì xào trứng at Út Hương.

7:00 PM

If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll head to either The Running Bean or Cộng Cà Phê (both are coffee shops) to get some work done for a few hours. If not, I’ll probably just run some errands and then work on stuff at home.

10:00 PM

After working with little kids all day, I’m normally exhausted so catch me going to bed early every night, not sorry about it. People in Vietnam normally wake up early anyway, so I like to as well … just not as early as they do. I can hear my neighbors out and about by 5:30 AM. Some breakfast places in my neighborhood are normally closing up shop by the time I leave for work at 7:15 AM if this tells you anything.

The Weekend

9:00 AM

The sunlight normally wakes me up pretty early in the mornings, but I tend to not leave the house until around 9 in the morning. The first thing I do on weekend mornings is take my laundry to get cleaned (exciting, I know).

9:30 AM

In the mornings I’ll go for a long walk, stopping at Phúc Long to get a smoothie and chocolate croissant then head to the park to get a little nature fix in this concrete-filled city. Every time I go to the park, I end up meeting a local or two wanting to practice their English, which gives me the chance to practice my Vietnamese.

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A Buddhist temple in Tao Đàn Park.

12:00 PM

Lunch time! My favorite lunch spot so far is Hum Vegetarian in District 1, where I got green curry and rice noodles.

1:00 PM

Around this time, I’ll try to do something more intriguing. A few things that I’ve spent my days doing is going to the War Remnants Museum, visiting temples in District 5, and going to a spa with an infinity pool in District 7.

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Thiên Hậu temple in District 5.

3:00 PM

With no shame at all, there is always a part of my day that will be dedicated to some coffee shop time. Vietnam’s coffee culture is out-of-this-world so you can’t not go to a coffee shop every day. I always go to my favorite place to get work done on the weekends, The Running Bean.

6:00 PM

My favorite time of the day – dinner time! I normally eat dirt cheap throughout the week, so I like to treat myself to nice meals on the weekend. One of my favorite finds so far is VO Rooftop Garden. The food is superb, the aesthetic is on point, there’s a nice view of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, and it’s decently priced for the location. A few weeks ago though, Ngân (a woman who owns a laundry shop in my neighborhood) invited my roommates and I over for a home-cooked Vietnamese meal with her, her family, and some friends.

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Having dinner at Ngân’s home.
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The dinner she prepared for us. She even made a ton of vegetarian food for Mima and I.

7:30 PM

My weekend nights are always different, but mainly consist of doing something in District 1 or 2. Right now it’s soccer season, so on game days there will be huge screens set up on the square of Nguyễn Huệ for people to sit and watch (it gets CRAZY – the Vietnamese don’t play around about their soccer). Some other things I have spent my weekend nights doing are going to rooftop bars, hitting up Bùi Viện (my feelings for Bùi Viện are bittersweet but I’ll spare you), going to a Sofar Sounds show, the movies, and more.

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After Vietnam beat Malaysia and won the AFF!

There you have it, a day (or two) in the life of an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!

Until next time,

Hales