Welcome to the drone entrepreneur month where the focus will be on drone owners and and how they use them for business. Landon was the first drone owner I met in Chiang Mai. He is one half of the american travel blogger couple from San Diego. I’m jealous that they go to live the digital nomad lifestyle in a personal and business partnership. In this interview we will discuss camera’s, drones, business, travel packing tips, and a top tip for traveling a a couple.
In this episode you will learn:
Expenses for a couple in San Diego versus South East Asia
How they funded their travels
How to pack travel gear, drones, and camera gear in South East Asia
Flying drones in Halong Bay Vietnam and anxiety
How they distribute their videos and content
How long it takes them to create their great blog posts
The challenge of maintaining the nomadic lifestyle
Kyle is a local success story in Chiang Mai who had an idea for a travel shirt while traveling in Asia. He developed a stylish high performance Travel Shirt and successfully raised close to $92,000 US on Kickstarter. I was fortunate Kyle was generous with his time and we manage to sit down at the Sangdee Cafe in Nimman to record a 2 part interview. Kyle is a tall guy with an imposing physical presence, but once we started talking it’s hard not to be engaged by his story and the way to tells it. In the first part you’ll learn about Kyle’s early travels in Thailand and what led to the creation of the travel shirt. I also get a bit deeper to and learn more about his mindset and how he leveraged relationships to accelerate his knowledge. Kyle’s approaches business seriously and the experience and wisdom you’re going to hear on this episode is both interesting and golden.
You will learn:
Kyle’s background and story and journey to creating the Travel shirt
His approach to doing business in Asia and China
What Chiang Mai was like in 2004-2007
Kyle’s journey to Burma in the early days
How Kyle leverages his strength of relationship
How Kyle leveraged the strength of the community to accelerate his education to start on-line business
The story behind the travel shirt
How Kyle manages his relationship with his backers
If you take a look at Chiang Mai Thailand on the map you can see that is nearby destinations such as Myanmar (Burma), Laos Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. In fact South East Asia is home to Siem Riep and Hanoi, which are currently within Trip Advisor’s 2015 top 5 destinations. I’ve been working and living from Taiwan for the past 2 years and for the past 3 months Chiang Mai has been my base. I’m going to explain why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deeper in South East Asia.
Chiang Mai is currently one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads, people who earn their living on-line through an overseas income. The reasons for this are many from great weather, good Internet, it’s safe, cheap, and easy to find monthly accommodation. Digital nomads like to live in a location from a month to 6 months and then move onto the next destination. Even if you are not a digital nomad Chiang Mai is still a great base if you prefer slower longer-term travel and want to explore more of South East Asia as I have done.
As a creative digital nomad in my late thirties I prefer a little comfort and have become more settled. I’ve found 2 places in the world other than Vancouver I have lived and called home. That is Taipei, Taiwan and Chiang Mai Thailand. Thailand offers 30-day tourist visa’s for most Western countries if you just show up with your passport. Some digital nomads like to get the coveted triple entry 60-day tourist visa. This allows you to maximize your stay in Thailand for up to 9 months. I’m not the visa expert here and this is not the scope of this article. My point is that if you choose Chiang Mai as your base you can travel to a neighboring country and return for another 30 days to relax in Chiang Mai. Here are some countries I visited during my stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand – an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Chiang Mai is one of those special destinations in the world that has a lot of offer with few trade-offs. It’s surrounded by mountains and blessed with mostly sunny dry weather. You can enjoy local living in the trendy area of Nimmanhamen, which has an abundance of bars with live music, restaurants, coffee shops, massage shops, and co-working spaces. Many foreigners enjoy living here or want to live here for this reason. I credit discovering this area to a prominent digital nomad named Johnny FD who shares a lot about living life here. Of course Chiang Mai is not all about Nimman and you might want to take a Red Truck or Tuk Tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple up on the mountain. You can even rent a scooter for $70 US a month and have real mobile independence. The night market is good to get some good cheap buys like a wood smartphone cover, elephant pants, or a cool t-shirt. If you want to live here it’s as simple as walking to an apartment to ask for the price and take a look at the suite. Get a simple studio for $200 US or get a comfortable luxury condo for $500 US and you’ve got your base in Chiang Mai
Highlights of Chiang Mai
My comfortable apartment and enjoying living in Nimman and Chiang Mai
Meeting new like-minded friends to work and party with
Working at cool co-working spaces like Camp and Mana
Good cheap local food like Pad Thai’s and Chicken Basil Rice
Enjoying a Leo at a local live bar or from the Nimman Hill Rooftop
Renting a scooter to drive up into the mountains to visit a Buddhist Temple or enjoy the scenery
Taking some photos in the cage with Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Going for good cheap Thai, foot, and oil massages
I believe Myanmar (Burma) just opened up to tourists in 2012. Myanmar’s main city is Yangon, which is a comfortable one-hour flight for less than $127 US. The people in Myanmar are so friendly and curious about where you are from. I think it’s because they recently opened up to tourism and are not used to seeing tourists. In July 2015 the first KFC opened in Yangon and Western fast food. It was crazy busy, and compared to some local options is a luxury experience. This is the exception though and most of the country is still unspoiled by the west. The country is safe and the food was excellent.
Highlights of Myanmar
Walking around taking in the sunset and night atmosphere of the Shwedagon Pagoda
Buying good and cheap Myanmar whiskey, rum, beer, and coffee
Checking out a chic Shisha rooftop Martini bar
Riding an e-bike temple hunting in Bagan
Enjoying the wide selection of curries and rices
Siem Riep Angkor Wat
Siem Riep is a 1 hour flight from Bangkok and Chiang Mai is 1 hour from Bangkok. The main reason to come here is to visit the famous Angkor Wat temple and the other surrounding temples. You can enjoy a comfortable stay with a swimming pool at a good price. You can hire a Tuk tuk to enjoy the sunrise and visit Angkor Wat and visit the Angelina Jolie temple (Ta Prohm), where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed.
Highlights of Siem Riep
The experience waking up early to see an Angkor Wat sunrise
Temple hunting on Tuk tuk
Renting an E-bike to self ride through the city and the temples on my own
Relaxing at my hotel with a swimming pool
Chilling for drinks and food at Pub street during day and night
The delicious jungle burger
Using US currency
Going to Vietnam is a different experience than the other countries. It’s worth it for the food though. Hanoi is less than a 2-hour flight from Bangkok and you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance. It costs about $45 US and $18 US to ride into town. I recently discovered that like Saigon it has heavy scooter traffic where crossing the street is an experience in itself. You can try Chicken noodle soup for breakfast and some pretty good western food. You can walk through the old quarter and enjoy good eats and shopping. Trip Advisor’s poster image gave me the impression that Hanoi would be more laid back and offer natural landscapes. However, I made the best out of the situation. I stayed in the old quarter at a central well reviewed trip advisor hotel for $18 Us.
Highlights of Hanoi
Good and cheap chicken and beef pho
Cheap and good Vietnamese sandwiches
Excellent spring rolls
A food tour where I got to discover street foods
Enjoying Vietnamese coffee French style people watching
Good shopping for Fedora or military style hats
Going for a sunrise walk around Ho Kiem Lake
Enjoying a Hanoi beer with cheese sticks
Making local friends at Gecko bar and Highlands coffee
Enjoying a Hanoi beer at Avalon lounge with a view of the lake
Filming the craziness of Ta hien
Getting my selfie stick from the market
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Saigon was my introduction to Vietnam. I heard some good things about it from other Digital nomads. If you haven’t been to Vietnam before you may find it chaotic and noisy. I found a great cheap well-reviewed hotel in Trip Advisor that made this stay more comfortable. It was hard to find but was located in a narrow alley that introduced us to the morning street markets right outside our hotel. I enjoyed French influenced foods like crepes and sandwiches. Some of our favorite restaurants were located in the French area near the Notre-Dame Basilica. The military museum is interesting some fun photo ups with military tanks and planes as well as learning about the war. I hated the night market and if you’ve been to the Taipei night markets this doesn’t compare. This city will keep you on your toes and isn’t boring.
Highlights of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Trying out Vietnamese coffee and buying a coffee maker and bag to take with me
The Chu Chi tunnel tour – The friendly and funny guide and making a new Irish friend
Getting buzzed at a Chic Australian owned lounge at Happy hour
Cool photo ops at the War Remnants Museum and the cultural experience
Pho for breakfast and crepes for dinner
I know I’m just scratching the surface. If you’re interested in learning more about Chiang Mai , Thailand, or South East Asia then sign up to my newsletter. I’m thinking of creating guide to include the following
Chiang Mai living guide
The actual hotels I stayed at, flights I took, and how I got around
Sample costs so you don’t get taken advantage of
Where I got travel insurance for myself and my gear
Survival tips – How to get around and not get taken advantage of
Must try foods and restaurant recommendations
Info on Sim card plans
Tips on where to get the best Photo and Video ops
Food and drink maps
I’m also thinking of writing why Taiwan is an ideal base to explore Japan, China, and Hong Kong
In my 3.5 years since leaving corporate and returning to corporate I’ve made some mighty failures and had some small wins. It was painful to share my 3 biggest failures as an Entrepreneur, but hopefully you can learn from them and gives me a chance to reflect on what I’ve learned.
What can you learn from my experiences? Outsourcing my website to Odesk – I had heard from my colleagues in my MBA class and the Vancouver startup community about sites like O-desk and E-lance. I decided to shell out $2500 CDN to a company in India to do my website using O-desk. I took my time to carefully research the team and everything. I was even pleasantly surprised by the mockups. After that the project just went downhill. I saw the working prototype and even though I had an assigned project manager there were huge miscommunications. After 4-6 months I saw that I was not going to get my site and I was left my some useless code and files. I eventually decided to get it built locally in Vancouver even thought I knew it would be more expensive. I started by the big names and they eventually referred me to a talented local team called IdeaHack that built me this site.
I could have saved 4-6 months and $2500 CDN by hiring a local team right away. Hire local to where you are.
Your website is your foundation and hub on the Internet. Expect to invest some time and money upfront. It will pay off for you in the long term
Outsource smaller things like a logo not larger things like a website
Putting all my eggs into a MBA Business Plan
Our final MBA project was a super business plan where me and my partner at the time co-wrote a business plan to start a luxury tour company in Vancouver. I left a good job in Vancouver as an IT manager and sold my apartment that was contingent on it being successful. I spent a lot of money on administration and legal costs incorporating and worrying about logo trademarks. The first tour was failure and I realized while doing the first tour there were a lot of things we overlooked as we weren’t in the industry. First, the travel industry in Vancouver is seasonal. Unless you come here to ski the best time to travel here is in the Summer time. The second is that to tie up hotel rooms from a nice hotel like the Fairmont for a tour on a discount you need to pre-pay them and take responsibility for them if they you can’t sell them. This was high risk and not on the business plan we had worked on almost full-time for 3 months.
On the positive side I hired a video production company that ended up inspiring me to combine by existing passion for Travel, which is a huge part of what I do to this day.
Don’t rely solely on a business plan and be prepared to make adjustments if things don’t work out
Have the mind-set of putting our small experiments and investing more time and money into those that work
I would instead try something less risky like try to market and sell and existing tour for another company
Don’t worry about administration costs until you prove you’ve got some sales to prove you have an existing business
I was in a rush to leave the corporate world and start my dream and make big money right away. I was spending lots of money on a website, and camera equipment, rent, and travel. If I could do it again with the wisdom that I have now I would have gone on a working holiday to Taiwan with my camera equipment. Taiwan would give me access to high speed internet and a low cost environment allowing me time to experiment. I would have started listening to podcasts from Internet entrepreneurs like Pat Flynn on smartpassiveincome.com and building up an audience
Don’t be in a rush to change the world so quickly. I spent too much money too quickly and making costly mistakes before learning from others that had already had success
Vancouver wasn’t the right environment for me. It’s expensive, cold, and expensive to travel from. Look at your environment and decide whether it’s right for you. If not access all your options. In my case Taipei, Taiwan is a better environment for me. I’ve got access to low cost living, safe, fast internet, cheap travel, and I can learn Mandarin.
Next month will be my first year spent year living in Taipei, Taiwan. I think it’s a good time to reflect and share some of my experiences for those that are interested. In this article I’ll share the experience of learning chinese in Taiwan after 1 year and some useful tips.
I had a great experience in my second semester at Shida (aka Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center MTC). The most important factor for me was I had a great teacher. Having spoken to numerous former Shida students this is a common explanation. To cut to the chase what are my thoughts on studying at Shida for 6 months:
As much as I hated the beginning it gave me a strong foundation in chinese
It was a good chance to make international friends and meet new people
It was a chance to revisit the college atmosphere
The program is time intensive
The teaching style is traditional old school in contrast to the western style which is more facilitative
The program at Shida provided provided a good foundation. A foundation that consisted of learning to read, write (pinyin, mps, chinese characters), and speak. Our classes were scheduled everyday for 2 hours with a chinese teacher with international students 8-10 students. The teacher spoke chinese about 70 percent of the time and English 30 percent of the time. The school in general attracted a diverse international student population. My first class had students from Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, England, and Italy. My second class had students from the US, Tibet, Germany, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This offers an interesting learning environment in the classroom as some students like those from Japan don’t speak much English, but are good at Chinese writing. Like my American and English classmates I found the most difficulty writing the Chinese characters.
The school uses the Practical Audio-Visual Chinese Second edition book. We started learning the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols (MPS) system, which are used to learn how to pronounce a word. We also learned the 5 tones, our introduction to Chinese characters, and the pinyin. I hope I haven’t lost you yet. Every lesson would introduce about 20 to 30 new vocabulary words. To learn a new word you would have to have knowledge of Chinese characters, MPS or pinyin. The Chinese that was taught was called traditional, which are the more complex characters taught in Taiwan. Mainland China uses mostly simplified characters.
When I say knowledge you need to know how to speak it, write it, and understand listening to it. I consider these different skills. After we learned the vocabulary we would get into the syntax and grammar patterns. We would receive a dictation test every week, which would test our knowledge or the vocabulary, how to write, as well as the tones of each word. Following the dictation we would receive a test of the chapter, which would require understanding Chinese by listening or reading it and responding to it the appropriate patterns.
I have to admit I was overwhelmed the first several weeks figuring out how to cope with the overwhelming information. The largest barrier for me was the Chinese writing, the syntax, and remembering the tones.
The style of teaching is more traditional and dependent on the teacher you received. My teacher in the first semester was a bit older and traditional. She encouraged a lecturing style that left little time for questions. The school in general heavily emphasized Chinese writing and grammar syntax.
In my first semester I met friends from my class and other friends that I met from friends. The age group tended to be mostly in the early to mid twenties. As someone in my mid thirties I was on the older side of the demographic, but there were a few that were my age group or older. Socially it wasn’t too difficult to make friends with English speakers.
Some students traveled to Taiwan alone to study and were interested to meet new people and local language exchange partners. Some students were interested from the Asian countries like Japan and Vietnam were studying together and tended to be very tight knitted. It was difficult to communicate with some students from Japan. I was fortunate that I met a good group form my first class and we get together occasionally to hang out.
I hated writing. I’m not to fond of handwriting in english to begin with. In the real world I do it to sign signatures, fill out the occasional forms, and make entries in my diary. In the real world we are mostly typing. Perhaps for some people you may learn to read characters by writing them out 10 times every day. I prefer to use flashcards on my iPhone Place to learn new characters. Anyhow I left Shida knowing the main characters, which I see in most words. For example: 大 (da) ，人 ，的 (de)，小 (xiao)，中 (zhong) , 個 (ge) 。In the real world if you remember the pinyin for these words you can type chinese on your phone.
Reading a paragraph or dialogue is intimidating when put on the spot. In my first class the Japanese students had an advantage and it showed. There were many times I felt helpless as I realized I was illiterate for some words. I wish the school wouldn’t do this to students. It’s cruel especially when students have different levels to begin of with. My preferred method of reading was to use flash cards and then see the words in different contexts like in the dialogue. Reading and pronouncing eventually helped the characters sink in.
We got to do some individual practice for patterns in class, and some individual practice with other students. There is not however a lot of rail conversation practice in the program and unfortunately not many students practice outside of class. You will find most of the english speaking students reverting back to english. I made an effort to speak even though I would make many mistakes and still do. I believe you have to make these mistakes to learn and practice speaking.
What Shida gave me
I left with some english speaking friends that live in Taipei
I got a foundation in chinese – tones, numbers, dates, greetings, pronouns, and most importantly some food.
Learned about good learning tools like Pleco
Learning Chinese since Shida
Continuing to study the Shida way
Since leaving Shida I have made an effort to learn Chinese experimenting with different methods. I continued to study Practical Audio-Visual Chinese Second edition book 2 (the orange one) from book 2 chapter 3 by myself. I would study the vocabulary with the pinyin and chinese characters and listen to the mp3 sometimes. I found after doing this from March – July I have picked up most of the vocabulary from book 2.
Watching Chinese Tv and Movies.
I tried watching American movies with chinese sub-titles. This didn’t work too well as the words appear to quickly. There is a lack of chinese movies with english sub-titles, which would be a better way to learn. I also took advantage of having access to local Taiwan cable tv and a satellite box that I won in a draw. I found that the disney channel on channel 23 in the mornings or the teenage shows at midnight to be the right level for me. I’m a big kid at heart so I still enjoy watching cartoons so and I found they talk slower and I’m able to pick up more. I managed to pick up some expressions by doing this.
Eavesdropping on conversations
I spend a lot of time at local cafe’s. This is a great environment to listen to natural social conversations from locals. You pick up some of the slang that they use. Eventually you begin to hear some of the same expressions being said that sticks. “對 啊“ (dui a = yeah!) ”不 可能“ (bu keneng = impossible). The beauty about Taipei is during your commute on the mrt or wherever you spend time you will be exposed to local conversation. If you pay attention you will soak in some mandarin.
Ordering food, shopping, getting a service
For myself this is probably that most effective method of learning. Live in Taipei long enough and you’re going to need to interact with locals out of necessity. Whether it’s making a reservation, a hair appointment, ordering coffee, taxi, or a dentist appoint you’ll need to figure out a way to communicate. Many times I would ask if you speak english 你 可以 說 英文 嗎？ ni keyi shuo yingwen ma? If they understand I would here (yi dian dian= a little). This would set myself up to speak chinese with some understanding from the speaker.
Lately I’ll just speak the chinese and see if they understand me. If they do I know they understand and give myself a pat on the back. If they don’t I’ll ask how to say this in chinese 中文怎么说？zhōngwén zěnme shuō.
If I don’t know a word I’ll use my handy app pleco to look up the words I need. I’ll listen to how to pronounce it and then try to say it with a local. I must admit it is frustrating when they don’t understand me, but I know this is part of the process.
Adding vocabulary through OCR
I add vocabulary whenever I see characters I’m curious about and see often where I hangout. If there is signage with english and chinese my pet peeve is that there is no pinyin, so I’lll use my app’s OCR to add the pinyin to my flashcard word bank.
This is very effective for practicing. The key to finding someone to practice with is that you need to have similar goals and that usually means the other person wants to practice english. It also works if you are at similar levels. It is ok if someone speaks a bit better english than your mandarin, but you will have a middle ground where you can both communicate. You also should enjoy hanging out so it feels natural. you should meet on a regular basis and obviously you should both practice speaking.
Hess pocket book
I recently started teaching engish at Hess. They give a pocketbook with provides english, pinyin, and chinese for teachers as a survival guide. They cover practical topics like bars, banking, hair salon, directions etc. It also comes with an MP3. I haven’t found a more practical educational resource to be honest. I’ve been listening to the mp3 on my commutes to work or look at the book when I eat by myself.
Technology to the rescue
I discovered some essential technology to help here. I downloaded the current version of google app. It still needs much improvement, but the technology is useful if you need some vocabulary on the go or if you receive a message in chinese characters and need some instance translation. Some usage scenario’s
Example 1: If I knew I going to rent a DVD or want to order a certain dish I didn’t have the vocabulary for I would look up the word in advance, the tones, pinyin, and listen to the pronunciation. I would then use the word with the storeowner to see if they understood.
Example 2: You receive a SMS message in chinese that you can’t read. Simply copy and paste into google translate to convert to English.
Another good app is called pleco, which has an chinese English dictionary and a really neat feature called OCR that lets you convert chinese characters to English with your smartphone’s camera.
These tools are useful as aids, but have not yet evolved to the point to eliminate the need to learn the language
At the one year mark I feel like I’m slowly making the climb from beginner-intermediate to intermediate. I can ask for things that I need independently most of the time.The most important being understanding a chinese menu, ordering, and understanding numbers. I can string together sentences and have basic conversations. Although I haven’t reached a level I’m happy with I’ve learned a lot more than I would being in Vancouver. Being immersed in the language in Taiwan has definately helped accelerate my chinese level. It is an empowering feeling when you are able to make an hair appointment or reservation in another language. At the moment I have started working so I’m struggling to find time. I get frustrated when a fluent english speaking Taiwanese person tells me my “chinese sucks”, but I’ll speak to a local that doesn’t speak much english telling my chinese is not bad for 11 months. So I think it’s relative to the person you are speaking with. There are some limitations to your social and professional opportunities because of the language, but this keeps me motivated.
My goal for the next 3 months is to improve my speaking and reading ability in common situations: asking for directions, applying for jobs, and social conversations. I’ve recently purchased a new book series recently published by the MTC so will add that to my learning approach. I try to remind myself this is a journey and to enjoy the experience here in Taiwan. From here I only move forward and opportunities open up the better my chinese gets. 加油！
Would you like to share your experience learning chinese in Taiwan?
Next time I’ll talk about these topics
Could I build a life and friends in Taipei and what adventures did I have ?
How did I survive and figure out the basics such as how to eat and find a place to live ?