Custom building motorbikes in Hai Phong

When I returned to Vietnam after holidaying in Jakarta for 6 months I bought an old Honda Husky/Rebel that had been custom build by 2 young Vietnamese guys. It was a mongrel of a bike with lots of things that were mixed and matched, but the bike had good bones and I bought it as a future project.

At that time I was living in a small beach town called Quy Nhon. I thought it would be pretty easy to find someone to customize it for me, but I thought wrong!! Nobody in Quy Nhon had any idea how to fix it let alone customize it.

When I left Quy Nhon to live in Hai Phong I decided to have the bike shipped to my new home in the hope that I could find someone here to do it. After a few months, I got lucky after seeing a FB post, so I headed down to see this old Vietnamese guy who was apparently fairly cheap and pretty good with bigger bikes.

We meet and I give him the following list of repairs/customizations:

  • strip the bike and paint the frame matt black
  • strip all the chrome and paint it matt black
  • chromed wheels to be painted matt black
  • rebuild the engine and gearbox and paint matt black
  • get rid of the handlebars and replace with straight bars and fit risers
  • rewire the entire system
  • fit a new performance carburettor
  • new speedometer and tachometer
  • new lights and indicators
  • new battery
  • new starter
  • new seats
  • new performance tyres
  • Replace the control switches on both sides of the handlebars
  • move the horns from the sides of the frame and place 1 only in front
  • extend the left and right front foot pegs by 4 inches (maximum amount possible)
  • every nut and bold needs to be replaced with new ones

So, 5 months and 8 million VND later it’s ready to be picked up and I’m fairly happy with the job he has done. I hate sitting on a motorbike and seeing scratches and things out of place so I really just wanted to clean the bike up, and he has certainly done that. The quality of work is what you would expect for a small mechanical workshop in Vietnam – it isn’t Orange County Choppers quality!! But I’ll let you judge for yourself

Chippy’s perfunctory performance

If you are adventurous, flexible, and willing to immerse yourself completely in Vietnamese culture, DTLC is the place for you.  A school that essentially is a myriad of schools, DTLC provides the logistical platform for teaching in many primary and secondary schools throughout Haiphong and its surrounding area.  You will also teach at the centre itself, thus diversifying your professional portfolio with multiple teaching environments.  With lesson plans prepared for you and travel arrangements carefully coordinated by the directors, all you need to do is show up and teach with enthusiasm, with patience, and with an open, flexible mindfulness.

Bear in mind, though, Haiphong is not for the faint of heart.  A compactly compressed city teeming with people and motorbikes, Haiphong is a city of contrasts, with third world decay juxtaposed with large, clean parks, with industrial wastelands coiling around new suburban neighbourhoods, and finally, with rain-scoured, crumbling tenements scattered between pristine townhouses and apartments.  The population density can at times be maddening, and the lack of English spoken here gives you the sense that you are in the “real” Vietnam.  Also, there are very few Western restaurants here, yet you will quickly begin to enjoy the local cuisine of pho, bun cha, banh mi, and com.  Heavy on vegetables and light on meat, the local food is cheap, healthy, and delicious.

The topography is relatively flat, and the climate reflects all four seasons with summers hot and humid and winters cool and dry.  Near the mouth of the Red River Delta, the surrounding countryside is primarily flat farmland, yet there are beaches and mountainous islands nearby at Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island.  These two easily-accessible spots are world-class beautiful and are major tourist destinations.  Whenever Haiphong begins to weigh you down, you can always escape to the tranquillity and fun of these retreats.

Overall, DTLC is a great way to travel, learn about a new culture, gain valuable teaching experience, and make some money.  But, remember, as Dorothy finds out in The Wizard of Oz, you won’t be in Kansas(replace with wherever your home is) anymore.

From a Teacher that Broke His Contract with DTLC

Chances are by this point in your ESL job search you’ve read a lot of negativity about DTLC, but you’re probably still thinking that working in Vietnam would be cool, and wondering if the Dang Tuan Language Center is as bad as your Google search is telling you.

Whatever issues DTLC has had in the past (whether they were genuine or inflated by a disgruntled former employee), my time at Dang Tuan was well-spent and my memories are pleasant ones.  DTLC is legit, the much-touted “Fat Foreign Uncle” rocks, the staff at DTLC are completely supportive as well as a great deal of fun, the city of Hai Phong has a lot to offer, and the job itself is one that I’m glad to have taken.

I was able to teach in three very different settings: primary schools in very much a rural setting (where often we teachers were the first westerners the students interacted with,  it was as if we were The Beatles, and every day was a blast), Secondary schools in the fairly large city of Hai Phong, and in what DTLC refers to as “the AB center”, loosely equated to a Korean-style hagwon.  Each setting is dramatically different from the others, but all made me a stronger teacher.  Working in different settings (oftentimes on the same day) prevented a monotonous rut, and that I’m very thankful for.

I am also thankful for the staff, interns and teachers that I was surrounded by.  I liked Rodney (“Fat Foreign Uncle”) immediately during our initial Skype interview, and that never changed.  He is a terrific coach, a wealth of teaching information, an expert on all things Vietnamese and a guy that you’ll want to hang out with. Same goes for all of the “Red Shirt Gang” (as a teacher you’ll be expected to wear a provided DTLC shirt, which is red), a great mix of Vietnamese teaching assistants, interns from all over the globe and a staff filled with much kindness and great smiles.

Due to circumstances back home I had to (very reluctantly) break my contract, turn in my red shirts and leave Hai Phong.  The Dang Tuan Language Center was very understanding and kindly paid me for my time working with no nonsense and no passive-aggressiveness.  DTLC was more than honourable, and I’m more than grateful.

Whatever cynicism you’ve read about Dang Tuan Language Center, I can assure you that working in Vietnam is indeed cool, and a position with DTLC is worth pursuing.  You get to be a Beatle, and you’ll receive a lot of joyous enthusiasm.  I hope to return to Vietnam someday and raise a glass with one of the Red Shirt Gang again, discussing time well-spent.  Cheers.

Blog – Amy Sparg

Vietnam, off to the land of friendly locals, cheeeeaap food and gorgeous surroundings!!!

And like all exciting journeys, the airport was the place where I put a face a name and met up with Rodney – the Director of Studies. He has been a great pillar of support throughout my stay here in Hai Phong, Vietnam. His cool, calm easy-going personality, eased the transition into the Vietnamese culture.

As a first time traveller and teacher, I came to Vietnam on a summer contract. And for the too-short-a-time being here I feel like I have learnt so much and been on some unforgettable adventures.

The Vietnamese children for starters will most certainly crawl into your hearts, as cliche as that may sound. Their dedication to learning paired with their big beautiful smiles will make you feel right at home in no time, not to mention their eagerness for a high-five and a bear hug, whilst happily sharing their sweets and snacks with you.
And even though there will always be those rowdy few kids/classes – they are a minority in comparison, and let’s be honest we were not all saints at school, I know I certainly wasn’t.

DTLC has been nothing short of supportive – from walking into the centre and greeted by friendly smiles to the ongoing assistance I receive from the lovely TAs. Not to mention the flexible working hours that allow for much weekend travels- yes that is what weekends are for- from the bustling Hanoi within arms reach (just an 1 hour north) to the beautiful Cat Ba Islands and Ha long Bay (just over an hour North East) makes Hai Phong a good happy medium, a sanctuary of calm.

Onto the lifestyle in Hai Phong – As said in the other Blogs, the beer is fantastically cheap, not to mention the food.
For beer lovers- grab yourself a beer from any one of the Beer Hoi spots scattered around Lach Tray (just look for the yellow and red chairs and you’re set) and let’s be honest- 5 000 VND is a real WIN compared to back home (South Africa)! Then there’s the delicious Banh My (French Buguettes with an assortment of fillings from 12-20k VND, and if you’re a real discount-seeker then crack on down after 12 PM and you might score yourself lucky).

Not only on the streets do you feel the excitement but on one particular event (“my farewell”) at Rodney’s house, we got to swim in his pool and drink Coung’s famous Mojitos (in the pool ) along with a buffet of fruits and cheese and the works. Amazing!

With all being said, I could have not picked a better company for the introduction to kick off my teaching and travelling adventures and get a real taste of Vietnam.

Fat Foreign Uncle Gets Interviewed by Hai Phong TV.

A friend of mine works at the local TV station and wanted to start a new TV program about foreigners living in Hai Phong. She reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in being interviewed. I reluctantly said YES!!

Fast forward to 8 minutes and 20 seconds to see the fat boy.  Fat foreign uncle on Hai Phong TV



Fat Foreign Uncle Talks About Vietnam. DTLC

If you’re thinking of coming to Vietnam to work, but you’re the ‘Politically Correct’ type or ‘Sensitive’ type, then don’t bother coming. The Vietnamese call a spade a spade and that’s one of the reasons I love them. There is NO politically correct culture here, if you’re fat, they’ll call you fat. If you’re ugly, they’ll call you ugly. You better get used to it, deal with it!! Vietnam isn’t full of sensitive types who need safe spaces and constant reassuring that they are worthy people.

They call me ‘Ong Tay Beo’ which roughly translates to ‘Fat Foreign Uncle’ and I love it. Wherever I go I hear calls of ‘Beo’ and it’s one of those things I just need to be tolerant of. I’m not here to change the Vietnamese culture, I’m here to integrate and learn about it, take it on board and live it.

Frequently I hear foreigners in the bars, around town, at home bbq’s and other places always talking rubbish about the Vietnamese and how the Vietnamese don’t know how to do anything correctly. They constantly complain that Vietnamese should do things the same as the western countries. This really pisses me off. If you want to come to Vietnam and live in their country then you better learn to follow their laws and respect their way of life and culture.

Vietnamese are among the most well-rounded people I have met in Asia and when I hear these arrogant foreigners talking about how western culture is superior then it really gets me angry. There are plenty of foreigners here who are positive about the life here, the people, the culture and the lifestyle, and they’re the kind of people I like to hang out with.

You were fired- Deal with it.

After 8 years of working in the ESL industry, I have pretty much come across every type of teacher and human being, but I’m yet to hear one teacher who was, in their mind, fairly dismissed from their job position.

Schools or employers usually don’t fire people for no reason, that’s my experience. People who get fired in the ESL industry are like people who have car accidents ‘It wasn’t my fault’ they say. How can this be?

Some teachers like to think that they are Gods and can do as they please. Come to class late, arrive at school late, come to work still drunk, don’t bother to iron their clothes and the list goes on.

When will teachers in this industry realise that this is a job, they have to service paying customers and if they don’t they’re out? Do you think that’s unfair?