Sunday, December 18, 2011

Death of Kim Jong-Il

So, news broke today about the death of Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean dictator. I've had a few friends in the U.S. message me and ask me what the atmosphere is like here in S. Korea since the news came out and what the S. Koreans think about it.

I didn't know until I got to work and it was on my CNN homepage - I think the Korean Yonhap news agency broke the news earlier than that in Korea. On my way to work, I didn't notice any big differences or hear any people discussing it. I'm not hearing any discussion of it in the office, either, but my Korean is limited (I'm not hearing his name pop-up, though, but I do wear headphones at work). There are no parties in the street (at least in Suwon) and people aren't cheering about it or anything. It's just another day. I have seen very few "outrageous" reactions by the Korean people to world news events in the four years that I've been here and most of those were over events sensationalized by the Korean media (i.e., they were "told" to be outraged and to have a reaction).

The S. Korean government, according to Yonhap, is keeping tabs on things in the DMZ and other volatile zones and putting the military on alert. They are definitely keeping an eye on what will happen in N. Korea during this time of leadership change and such. President Lee is also urging people to remain calm and go about their business as usual. I'm in an office building and can't see much of what is going on outside, but I'm not noticing too much of a reaction in my neck of the woods.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Butterfinger Pancake

Finding a place like iHop or Denny’s for a good ol’ American-style breakfast is nearly impossible in Korea. But fear not my pancake and good sausage missing friends! In the Seoul area, Butterfinger Pancake comes to the rescue in Gangnam and another branch in Bundang. There may be other branches in the southern part of the country, but I’m not familiar with that area so much. Butterfinger Pancake offers a full menu of breakfast and dinner items and is open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. So if you feel a need for a good, hearty breakfast after an early night out or a late night out, swinging by might not be a bad idea.

I have been to both the Gangnam and Bundang locations and both are good. I can provide shaky directions from a friend that lives in Bundang to that branch (thanks Eunyoung!). It’s located at the end of Jeongja Café Street. From Jeongja Station on the Bundang line (yellow on your maps), take exit 4 and turn left. At the end of the street, turn right and walk past a bunch of cafes. Butterfinger Pancake will be near the end of the street on the left side. Here is my friend’s lovely map she drew for me in messenger:
Note: She's 5 years Korean years that's 27 :D

For the Gangnam branch, if you’re traveling by subway, from Gangnam Station exit 10, walk straight down the street and turn left between The Body Shop and Café Bene. It will be on the second block (I think) on the left side of the road. From Sinnonhyeon Station, come out the exit in front of Kyobo Towers and walk straight down the street towards Gangnam Station and turn right between The Body Shop and Café Bene. If you’re traveling by taxi, the best way that I can tell you to get there would be to tell the driver to go to “Gangnam Kyobo Tower,” then follow the directions from Sinnonhyeon Station.
Note: Due to upgrades to Gangnam Station, the exit number is now 10

After turning, Butterfinger Pancake will be about a block down the road on the left side. Just look for the line of hungry people waiting to eat.

And there will be a line. Unless you go during the week when people are working or go early in the morning when people are sleeping off hangovers on the weekend, you’ll be looking at a good 20 minute wait at least. But it’s totally worth the wait. The prices are quite steep, but if you’ve been here for a bit, you know they always jack up the prices of anything that foreigners are going to buy.

One of the omelette platters with country-fried potatoes and pancakes.

French toast with a sausage patty and biscuit on the side.

The breakfast menu has a variety of pancakes available including with bananas, or strawberries, or pecan gingerbread. I haven’t tried too wide of a variety of things here – I tend to lean towards a breakfast platter so I can have eggs, a sausage patty, hashbrowns, and pancakes. I have to say that the sausage patties here are some of the best I’ve had anywhere, and I’m not a very big fan of sausage. My friends that have tried the French toast and omelettes say they are very good, as well. Oh, and they have real biscuits here, so you can order sausage patties on the side and build your own sausage biscuit :). I haven’t tried anything on the lunch/dinner side of the menu since I can get those items just about anywhere. I’ve heard the burgers here aren’t bad though.

One of the breakfast platters with pancakes, bacon, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, and a sausage patty with an extra sausage patty added (because they are just damn good).

So, despite the steep prices, it’s really one of the few places to get good breakfast in the area.

It's so good you can almost ignore the blatant copyright infringement.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Public Transportation: Taxis

The third type of public transportation I’m going to blog about is the taxi dun dun DUN!!! While taxis can be scary (as I note here:, they are also super convenient and can be found just about anywhere. That is unless you’re actually looking for one. Taxis seem to have a radar that knows when someone wants to flag one down and they immediately vacate the area. I don’t know how many times I’ve been walking towards a main thoroughfare and can see dozens of taxis zipping down the road, but then, as soon as I get there to catch one, they are all suddenly on the opposite side of the road *grumble*. But oh well. Despite this snag in my plans, they are convenient.

General Info
Taxis can generally be found passing by on just about any street, but catching one can be difficult depending on traffic and the location. The best bet to catch one is to go to a taxi stand. In Yeongtong, there are a few that I can point out:
1) Next to Homeplus (by Coffee Bean)
2) In front of Grand Mart (across the street from Homeplus)
3) Deluxe taxis will be parked in front of the vet clinic next to Holly’s Coffee
4) Next to NOW Bar near A Twosome Place
5) By the foot bridge at the entrance to Yeongtong.

Payment for taxis is generally cash – I’ve never used another form of payment. However, many taxis do have T-Money card terminals in them and credit card terminals. You can look on the window for a sign that says “카드 Taxi” (card taxi). You can also ask for a receipt if you’re able to be reimbursed for you taxi fare by your work. You can just say “yeongsujong” (영수증) and it will get the point across without having to bust out a full sentence in Korean. Drivers will sometimes be very reluctant to take cards as payment because then they can’t fudge their numbers.

Sometimes getting your destination communicated to your driver can be impossible no matter how hard you try. Sometimes drivers just refuse to understand what you’re saying to them in Korean because they expect you to not be able to speak it, or they just don’t know where you want to go. There are two possible solutions to this: show the driver the address in Korean, or use the “Free Interpretation” number posted in the window. A way around this is to have the address or place printed out in Korean. If they don’t know where it is, they’ll either punch the address into the navigation system that nearly all taxis have nowadays, or they’ll call their dispatch place and ask them. Now, if you know where you want to go but don’t have it written down in Korean, you can always call the number posted in the window and explain it to the translator then give your phone to the driver and the translator will relay the information. This number is only available during certain hours, though.

A few things to watch out for when catching a taxi are illegal taxis, picking up extra fare, and the charge if you’re going between cities.

Illegal taxis aren’t a common problem, but they are out there. You can always check the car’s license plate and see if it starts with 자, 바, 아, or 사. Only taxis are issued these opening letters on license plates. If the license plate doesn’t start with one of those, then it isn’t a legally licensed taxi. It’s a good idea if you’re by yourself at night to make sure you’re catching a legal taxi and not some perverted old man.

Occasionally you’ll run across a driver that wants to stop and pick up someone else while there is already a fare in the taxi – especially if you’re going to a common place. I know I’ve had my driver stop and pick up someone else that is going to Samsung for work when I’m already in the taxi. Doesn’t seem like a bad idea really, but it’s illegal. The driver will pick up the extra person and then try to charge both parties the full cab fare.

If you live in a city near Seoul, like Suwon, you might find yourself out past later than the buses and subway run times yet not wanting to stay out the entire night to wait for them to start again. Your only option then is a taxi – and they know it. If you do this often, you might be familiar with the meter fare for the distance, but drivers will often try to negotiate a price for the ride (like 40000 won) and not use the meter. Sometimes this might be your best option if you’re unsure of the meter cost. Also, if you’re using a meter, the driver will charge you for tolls separately and also add a 10000 won “inter-city fee” to the meter. If you’ve negotiated a set fare beforehand, they typically will not try to add anything else to the fare amount.

Car Taxis
There are basically two types of taxis in Korea: regular taxis and deluxe taxis. Regular taxis come in a variety of colors, except black. If you see a black taxi, that is a deluxe taxi. Regular taxis’ base rates start out at 2300 won before midnight and then go up to 2500 after midnight... at least I think it’s midnight - I’m not out very late anymore. The base rate will get you a distance of 2 kilometers. The fare will increase by 100 won for every 144 meters. I’ve noticed an increase in “green taxis” in the Suwon area. These are hybrid vehicles and can be spotted by the “GG” or “Go Green” slogan on the sides. They also have light green striping on the body of the vehicle. Drivers will sometimes speak a bit of English and try to engage you in a broken English/Korean conversation. Sometimes drivers will try to take you a long route to where you’re going because they figure you don’t know any better, but if you know enough Korean to direct them the direction you want to go, they’ll usually stop trying it.

Deluxe taxis are black with a yellow light encasement on top. These taxis will start at a base rate of 4500 won for 3 kilometers and then increase by 200 won for every 164 meters. I typically avoid these taxis since they cost more, but sometimes the difference isn’t that much really if you're going a shorter distance. The deluxe taxi drivers will have a better driving record and they often speak more English than the regular taxi drivers. These taxis also typically have more room inside and the drivers will help put your stuff in the trunk.

International Taxis
There is a subset of the regular taxi that is an international taxi. These are orange in color and will say “International Taxi” on the side. These are typically found by the airports and in foreigner-heavy areas like Itaewon. These drivers will be near fluent in either English or Japanese. International taxis can also be reserved for a time period for a base cost. Reservations can be made here: It’s been my experience in Itaewon that they will only pick up foreigners that don’t look Korean and don’t speak Korean.

Jumbo Taxis
A different type of taxi that is available is the jumbo taxi. These are vans that can hold 8 passengers or just a lot of stuff. These can often be found at airports or near large department stores. Make sure the side of the vehicle says “Jumbo Taxi” (there are other vans out there that charge differently).

Water Taxis
Seoul also has water taxis available along the Han River. These can be a fun little jaunt down the river and maybe even quicker if your destination is near the river. You can check fares and pier locations here: You can even use your T-Money cards for these, as well as cash and credit card. You can also reserve taxis for a river tour on this site.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Public Transportation: Trains

The second type of public transportation available is the train. Seoul has a very expansive subway network that is currently being expanded – I believe they just finished the extension from Gangnam to Bundang. Just outside of my apartment building in Yeongtong, there is subway work that seems like it will never end. I believe this construction will connect Yeongtong to Bundang. Other cities in Korea also have subway systems (like Busan and Daegu) that provide convenient transportation. In addition to the subway, passenger trains also run throughout the country, including a high-speed train, the KTX.

The subway is a super convenient way for foreigners to get around Seoul since learning the buses in the area can be difficult if you don’t live in that particular area. Plus, with a regular population (not counting visitors) of over 10 million people, the streets can be a bear to navigate through even on good days. If you don’t mind being crammed into a metal box with dozens of other people as it hurls down a track, then this is the transportation method for you.

I believe the starting time for the subway is 6 a.m., and the ending time depends on the line – but this will usually be about midnight. If the subway stops and you aren’t to your destination yet, oh well! Sucks to be you. Go get a taxi.

The subway is easy to navigate and has signage displayed in English, Chinese, and Korean. A map of the subway system is also standard on any non-smartphone purchased in Korea, but it may only be available in Korean. If you have a smartphone, iPod touch, iPad, or Galaxy Tab, subway map apps are available for free in their respective app stores. If you have none of these and want to go old-school, paper maps are available at subway stations. I don’t remember how much each stop costs on the subway because I’ve never used an actual ticket – I always charge-up and use my T-Money card just for simple convenience.

Despite its convenience, sometimes the subway’s not quite the fastest way to get from point A to point B. Sometimes taking a bus or taxi might be the best if you’re crunched for time, even though the taxi will cost more (unless you’re splitting it with some friends). Some problems with the subway can be that you might have to make more than one or two transfers to get to where you’re going or there may just be too many people and you have to wait for the next train. Seoul really isn’t that big of a city size-wise, but traffic can make it feel like it’s absolutely huge, so if traffic is light, a taxi might be the quickest way.

And it wouldn’t be Korea if you didn’t have to deal with the occasional drunk old man on the subway or the car that smells like stale soju and piss. Sometimes I’ve been out with a friend and as the train is zipping by us to come to a stop, we spot a nearly empty car and do a little happy dance because it means we can actually get a seat. But nope. The happy dance is premature. The Koreans have abandoned the car because there’s some drunk old man stumbling around trying to talk to people. I once had a drunk old man scoot across the floor on his ass to follow me to my new seat as he looked offended by my moving away from him (he wanted a lighter so he could smoke his cigarette). The other two people in the car (an American guy and his Korean buddy) motioned for my friend and me to follow them to the next car and leave the drunk man to his drunken babbling and pining away for a lighter. Being bothered by sloshed people seems to be worse if you’re a foreigner since I guess they decide to be all brave and “talk” to the weird looking people. This is where an iPod and pretending to sleep save the day.

Passenger Trains
The passenger trains are a fast and inexpensive way to get around the country. Trains might not go everywhere, but they can probably get you pretty close to your destination quickly. There are basically 5 types of trains available to choose from: the KTX (Korea Train eXpress), the Saemaeul, the Mungunghwa, the Nooriro, and a commuter train (can’t remember the name) that basically runs a couple of times a day for people commuting for work from smaller outlying areas. Each train has its own designated stops so your starting point and destination will determine which train is best for your trip.

The KTX is Korea’s high-speed train and gets you from Seoul to Busan or from Seoul to Mokpo in less than 3 hours. The KTX doesn’t stop at all stations, unfortunately, but Suwon was finally added as a KTX stop in 2010 (about freaking time!!). This will be the most expensive way to travel, but it’s super fast and nicer than the other trains. Even if your starting point isn’t a KTX station, you can transfer at one and still save a good chunk of time on your trip.

The Saemaeul stops at a lot of stops and is slower than the KTX but cheaper. The Mungunghwa is even cheaper than the Saemaeul and often smells like stale piss in the cars, and I have no clue why. The Mungunghwa also stops at fewer stops than the Saemaeul. The Nooriro is also cheap, but I’m not too sure about how many stops it makes. An example of paying a couple of extra won to make your day easier is traveling to Suwon from either Yongsan or Seoul Station on either the Mungunghwa or Saemaeul. At the end of a long day of tromping around Seoul, getting back to Suwon in 30 minutes instead of an hour combined with the knowledge of knowing I won’t have to stand for that time period makes it worth taking a train back instead of the subway. Granted, I then I have to get from Suwon Station to Yeongtong, but that’s a pretty short trip by taxi or bus.

Check out their website to book tickets online, check routes, and check prices: The site is available in English and Korean. Click on “Booking” to check ticket information.

If you plan on taking the ferry from Busan to Japan and then traveling around Japan by subway, there are some special packages available to get you from Seoul -> Busan -> Japan. Go to and click on “Railroad Traveling” > “Foreign Railroad Traveling” to check out these packages.

HappyRail Pass
Another convenient item offered by KORAIL is the HappyRail Pass. This is a pass exclusively for foreigners to use over a set period of days. I don’t really know how worth it is unless you plan on traveling by train A LOT over a course of a couple of days. There is also a KR Pass available, but I’m not exactly sure what the differences are, though. These cannot be used for the subway or commuter train. For information on these passes, go to and click on “Railroad Traveling” > “Foreigners Railroad Traveling.”

AREX is the airport train system in Seoul that takes you to and from Incheon International Airport and Gimpo Airport. I've never used these trains (there are 2: an express and a commuter) to go to the airport since I live in Suwon and just take the shuttle bus. For information on the routes, fares, and schedule go to Expansions are planned in the future for connections to the southern parts of the country.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Love Cookie

Finally! Yeongtong has a little foreign food market! It’s not very big and doesn’t have a huge variety, but it might have enough to lighten the load of groceries being carried back from Seoul. For me personally, being located a block away from my apartment is a huge advantage over making a trek to Itaewon. It’s called I Love Cookie and is located between the Worldmark building and Café Benne. I was going to take a picture of the outside but was in too much of a hurry to scurry home and savor the spoils of my shopping – Dr. Pepper, mmmmm.

A few of the items that I can remember that are available here include 2 lb blocks of Kirkland cheese (for 15000 won), large jars or Ragu spaghetti sauce (5000 won), 12 oz cans of Mtn. Dew and Dr. Pepper (1000 won), bottles of ranch dressing (7500 won), packets of seasoning (taco, gravy, etc. for 3000 won), and if you’re really feeling like splurging, cans of EZ Cheese for 12000 won. I also spotted Polish sausage, a whole turkey, Hormel Complete microwave meals, macaroni salad, potato salad, BBQ sandwich meat (beef, pork, or chicken), and cans of soup and chili but didn’t check the prices. There are many other items available, too, that I can't remember off the top of my head during my quick run through.

The selection is small, but it might just have enough to draw in a decent crowd. (Homeplus has started carrying a wider variety of some items, too, like cheeses, so checking there isn’t a bad idea either.) The prices at these little foreign markets are always jacked up like crazy, but I honestly can’t remember how much things are in the US right now since I haven’t really done grocery shopping for 4 years there. But, these are still cheaper than having a friend pay shipping to send you a box of goodies that might get confiscated by customs anyway.
In addition to the Western items, there is also a decent selection of Japanese items, too (I don’t know what they are, though).

Happy shopping!!

A friend has told me that I Love Cookie also has a website:
It's not in English, but it has plenty of pictures so you can get an idea of what products they carry. If you are proficient enough in Korean or have a Korean friend handy, it looks like you can place online orders, too.

Oh, another good resource for imported goods is

mmmmm, sweet, sweet, Dr. Pepper...

Public Transportation: Buses

Public transportation in Korea is extremely convenient to use and easy to find. Compared to the U.S. it’s a bazillion times better. Trains, buses, and taxis make it extremely easy to get just about anywhere in the country quickly. Also, if you’re going to one of the closer islands near the mainland, ferries are available regularly throughout the year, barring bad weather. I’m going to make this a 3 part series on public transportation since there is so much to note about each of them. First up are buses:


The most common types of public transportation are the city and inter-city buses. I’m not too familiar with the bus system outside of the Gyeonggi-do area, but I imagine they’re similar. I live in Suwon and have noticed recently that the stops are getting more and more high tech. Most stops had the scrolling display telling you how long until the bus arrived, but now there is a touch screen system available at many stops that you can use to check routes and stops.
All stops will have a listing of buses that stop there and where they go. In Suwon, the green buses are city buses and the red buses are the inter-city buses (they mostly go to Seoul). The blue ‘M’ buses are inter-city buses and don’t allow standing on the bus. There will be a number displayed in the windshield telling you how many seats are left. The fare for the green buses is 1000 won cash or 900 won if you use a T-Money card (I’ll talk about this in a second). The red inter-city buses are 1800 won cash and 1700 won with the T-Money card. The other buses will vary based on your destination.

The T-Money card is a transportation card that you can use for buses, the subway, and taxis. Using the T-Money card will get you a 100 won discount on fare on buses and the subway. It’s also just convenient to carry and can be charged up at just about any convenience store (just look for the T-Money sign in the window) and subway station. You can also purchase a card at these locations, and if you’re lucky snag one of the cell phone charm ones that are harder to lose (mine disappeared in the abyss of my apartment apparently). It’s also worth noting that if you transfer between buses or between a bus and subway train within a certain time period (15 minutes, I think), the transfer is free. You can also use a credit card on the bus, too. When exiting the bus, you’ll scan your T-Money card again to register when you exited for transfer timing and correct billing for some buses.

A tip for folks living in Yeongtong, if you take a stroll over to Kyunghee-de, you can get a seat since the majority of buses in this area begin their routes there. The Yeongtong Park stop by ABC Mart and the foot bridge near Homeplus is the busies t stop, but I digress.
The majority of stops on the list of stops are going to be apartment names and such, so unless you live there or go there often, you’re not going to really know where it is. The important or major stops (like subways or major department stores) will be in English.

It's also worth noting that while the majority of buses that go from point A to point B will also go from point B to point A by reversing their routes. However, there are a few buses (mostly the red intercity buses) that will go from A -> B -> C -> A. An example of this the 5100 bus from Kyeunghee-de to Gangnam. You can take the 5100 from Kyeunghee-de, through Yeongtong, to Gangnam, to Yangjae, and then back to Yeongtong and Kyeunghee-de. You cannot go from Yangjae to Gangnam on this bus because it makes a loop through Seoul and doesn't reverse its course.

The cross-country buses will stop at terminals. Suwon has two of these and Seoul has a few (the most notable being the Express Bus Terminal). You can go just about anywhere in the country via bus, and this is usually cheaper than taking the KTX or other train. You can get just about anywhere in the country in about 4 hours. The two stations in Suwon are Suwon Central Bus Terminal ( and Seo (North) Suwon Bus Terminal ( The most popular and larger is the Suwon Central Bus Terminal located next to E-Mart and not too far from Suwon Station (south of the subway, I think) and not too far from the Ingyedong Homeplus. Seo (North) Suwon Bus Terminal is located north of the subway station. Several red buses to Seoul can be caught at these stations, too.

Now, another convenient type of bus available are the Airport Limousine buses. The two origin points for these in Suwon are Hotel Castle and Landmark Hotel (in Yeongtong). The buses also stop at other locations along the way and can be checked here The cost for the airport shuttle buses are 12,000 won and they run nearly all day about every half hour. They take about an hour and a half to get to the airport so plan accordingly. You can also take these buses from the airport (exit 7) back to Suwon. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with any other city’s airport shuttles.

Here is a list of a few major stops in Suwon (I'll add more when I think of them):
Galleria department store in Ingyedong – 갤러리아

New Core Outlet in Ingyedong (Kim’s Club grocery store is in here, too) - 뉴 코어 아울렛
I know that bus numbers 2-1 and 13-1 go here from Yeongtong

Station – 역 (Suwon station - 수원 역)
I know that bus numbers 5, 9, 2-1, and 13-1 go here from the Yeongtong area

Suwon City Hall (in Ingyedong) - 수원 시청

Samsung Electronics Complex’s central gate in Suwon (road signs will now say Samsung Digital City)- 삼성 전자

World Cup Stadium in Dong Suwon (East Suwon) - 월드컵 경기장
I know that bus number 7000 stops here on the way out of town to Seoul

Saturday, September 24, 2011

5 Ways Korea is Trying to Kill You

So, I’ve been in Korea for a bit now (about 4 years) but haven’t really written about what it’s like to live here. I think now is a great time to start mixing in blogs about living in Korea now that I’m all jaded and cranky :). Everybody has the happy wonderful blogs, but nobody tells you the negative things. If you’re easily offended by anything remotely negative about Korea, I suggest you grab a big bowl of kimchi and go look at kittens instead.

Note: Some of my blogs about Korea will actually be helpful.

So let’s begin our journey… Ahhh…Korea: The Land of the Morning Calm. Ha! More like Korea: The Land of the Holy-Shit!-Hang-on-for-Dear-Life!!! Seriously. This country is a death trap for the unsuspecting expat – it seems that everything here is out to kill or maim you. Here’s my list of the top 5 culprits to keep an eye out for.

 5. Bad Smells
Imagine you’re out for a nice early summer/late spring walk – the sun is shining, birds are chirping, the smell of fresh bread is wafting from a nearby bakery, when suddenly BAM!!! There it is from out of nowhere: the unmistakable smell of shit.

You look around confused and check your pants to make sure that the kimchi you had with your lunch didn’t sneak up on you unexpectedly.

Fear not – it’s not you – it’s just Korea. The random open sewer grates near sidewalks will wait until the opportune time to send out a puff of toxic shit-gas to assault the unsuspecting passerby’s olfactory senses.

"Yes, come closer, my pretty..."

And as if the toxic shit-gas isn't bad enough, your bathroom drain will constantly emit horrible smells, not to mention the weird things people cook in the neighborhood. It makes you see the wisdom of those face masks they wear when they're sick.


I’m beginning to think they aren’t sick at all…

4. Metal Grates/Sidewalks 
People often ask me why I look down when I walk. Is it low self-esteem? Is it shyness? Nope, none of the above. It’s simply to watch where the hell I’m walking. You may ask yourself why this is so important (and if you do, you’ve obviously never been to Korea). Well, there are a few different reasons for this: The metal grates used for sending out shit-gas and water drainage get slicker than snot on a brass door knob when it rains. One misstep in shoes with no traction and bam! down your ass goes (I know this from experience). Not only are they slick, but I’ve seen many a Korean women in their oh so fashionable high heels crumble to the ground in a squealing heap of Prada and Louis Vuitton as a heel gets stuck in the grate. I often imagine some engineer that hated women designed the grates to be the exact size to latch on to heels at random as he laughed maniacally.


1.5 centimeters...perfect...

On the other hand, sidewalks are uneven, jumbled, jigsaw puzzles of bricks just waiting to trip you. And if watching for the stray uneven brick isn’t enough, you have the joy of looking out for all kinds of body excrement/ice cream/beverages so you don’t step in them.


If I zig around the ice cream, zag around the loogie, and then jump over the drunk, passed out man, I can make it home...

3. Scooters 
Scooters are Korea’s delivery mechanism: pizza, chicken, mail, McDonald’s, organs, whatever. Traffic is horrible and gas is expensive so it makes sense…until you realize that traffic laws don’t apply to them and you get ran over by a guy with Big Macs to deliver. 

Yup, on the sidewalk. Not only that, but you’ll find them weaving in and out of traffic, going through crosswalks, running red lights with no regard for anybody’s safety. As if sidewalks aren’t dangerous enough, now you have to keep an eye out for scooters barreling down them. But hey, if one hits you, you’ll at least stand a pretty good chance of having someone’s mangled pizza to munch on while you wait for the ambulance.


Like this but with more blood.

2. Public Transportation (Buses/Taxis) 
You might think that public transportation would be a super-safe way to get around, but that would be logic talking, and that just has no place in S. Korea. I’m pretty sure that bus and taxi drivers have to fail a patience test and be certified by NASCAR/Formula 1 before they are given their licenses. Buses have no problem charging right through red lights if they deem the way to be clear. They also take corners at no less than 30 mph. Now, this wouldn’t be too bad except that at any given time there could be 1 – 20 people standing in the aisle hanging on to little straps dangling from the ceiling for dear life…well, foreigners at least: Koreans look like they’re standing in line at the supermarket or sleeping. Not sitting down yet? Doesn’t matter – the driver will take off like the checkered flag has been dropped at Indy 500 and launch you and that 80-year-old grandma across the bus like a 4-year-old having a temper tantrum.


Half the people on those buses will need to change pants when they get home.

Taxis have no problem running red lights while blaring their horn – honking your horn while running lights makes it ok because you’re giving fair warning I suppose. They will whip around other cars and wait in the crosswalk at a red light so they can be the first one to take off at breakneck speed. All of this might make it seem like they are in a hurry to get you where you’re going, but at the same time, they’re pumping the gas pedal making the car do this lurching thing to maintain a speed. So if you get car sick easily, avoid most taxis in Korea because you’ll end up hurling all over the nice driver’s leopard print car seat cover. 

And while we’re on the subject of driving in Korea, the brake pedal is abused horribly by both bus and taxi drivers: there is no slow, easing stop. Oh no. It is a whiplash inducing slamming on the brake stop. They’ve apparently never been taught how to use the pedal to slow down properly, so keep your hot coffee away from your crotch.

1. Angry Ajummas 
If you’ve seen this video, you know what I mean. 

 An ajumma is literally any woman that is old enough to be married or is married. However, we refer to a specific type of woman as an “ajumma.” For your convenience, see the following information on how to spot an ajumma.

Cute but deadly

Older people in Korea get away with all kinds of shit: shoving past people in line, yelling at people to give up a seat, spitting on sidewalks, and farting during a conversation (not even joking on that one). Ajummas may look like cute and cuddly like a koala bear, but piss one off and you’ll feel their awesome ajumma rage. They possess deceiving supernatural strength and chase down a speeding bus at a bus stop.

So beware the cute looking grandmas – they will rip you a new one and gleefully laugh as they dance a little hunched over jig on your dead body.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

BBQ Chicken

Well friends, I’ve had to find a new chicken place to get my chicken fix since DD Chicken closed. And I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I had been cheating on DD with BBQ before DD brought our long-standing relationship to an end. Yes…I am a dirty chicken ho’: I don’t care where it comes from, as long as it’s fried and delicious.

And BBQ Chicken is indeed delicious. I'm pretty sure that they mix a little bit of crack in with the flour. I swear to insert-your-favorite-deity that for several days after I first took some BBQ Chicken home, I was jonesing for more chicken…breaking out in cold sweats…stomach growling….hallucinating about chicken…Ok, maybe not that extreme, but it is some damn good chicken and I was craving it for a few days until I got some more. It’s also one of the more expensive, if not the most, fried chicken places around. The prices will range from 15000 won to 20000 won.
(I’ll scan in a menu later)

I usually get chicken from the branch inside the complex at work when I leave work at night and have a chicken craving – it’s very convenient. Unfortunately, unless you work for Samsung, you can’t access this one. However, fear not my fellow Yeongtongites, Yeongtongians waegookins!! There is a BBQ Chicken branch located between the Yeongtong Homeplus and Kyunghee-de. I, unfortunately, can’t give you an exact location, but if you wander around between the two places, you’ll spot it :D I’ve only ordered delivery from here since I live down in the 4 danji area and don’t feel like walking forever for my chicken fix. Ordering delivery from them is pretty simple if you know you’re address…just say hello and then tell them what kind of chicken you want. They’ll ask something about if you want a small or large soda, and then for your address. The people there speak just enough English to prompt you. And, if you’re lucky, once you order a few times, they’ll repeat your address back to you before you even give it because they have stalkercaller ID.

I’ve tried a few different kinds of chicken from here because sometimes my team orders it, but when I order it myself, I keep it pretty simple with either the BB Wings or the Olive-whatever Chicken Strips – honestly, when I order from work, I just point at the picture, and I order “BB Wings” for delivery because it’s easy. I don’t eat a lot of whole chicken (just white meat) so that’s why I don’t order a lot of the “soon sal” chicken (순살), which is a whole chicken cut up and fried.


Now, I’ve had a Korean friend warn me before that if you order a saucy chicken (no, it doesn’t have an attitude), they will fry the chicken in older oil since the sauce will cover up the darker batter color. I don’t know if it’s true, but eh, who cares: it’s fried chicken. I used to work at KFC when I was in high school, so I know how often the oil needs to be changed before it starts affecting the color.

There isn’t anything here that I’ve tried that I don’t like. The breading on the fried chicken is just, really, really good. I can’t really describe the flavor, but it’s yummy. The chicken is also juicy and not overcooked or undercooked.
So, for those that aren’t too hot with Korean, here’s a list of some of the words on the menu and what they are in English:

후라이드 (hu-ride) = fried
닭 (kind of like dawk) or 치킨 (chee-keen) = chicken
다리 (da-ri) = leg
웡스 (wings) = wings
칼슘양념 (cal-shum yeong-nyeom) = fried chicken dipped in a “calcium sauce” (not sure what it is, though)
매운맛양념 (mei-un-mat yeong-nyeom)= fried chicken dipped in a hot sauce
매운맛 닭 다리 (mei-un-mat dawk da-ri) = hot chicken legs
순살크래커 (soon-sal c-rak-ah) = I don’t know. I think this is the hacked up whole chicken fried in pieces
비비웡스 (bee bee wing-suh) ^^ - fried wings
스모크 치킨 (s-mo-kuh chee-keen) – smoked chicken
퉁다리비배큐 (tong da-ri bee-beh-que) = some kind of barbequed legs
골드휭거 (golduh hwing-gah) = chicken fingers (strips)

So, hope that helps! Good luck ordering chicken ^^

Monday, July 4, 2011

내고향 왕만두 (Hometown King Mandu)

I haven't blogged about too much Korean food despite being in Korea...sorry 'bout that, heh. I just don't eat a lot of Korean food anymore. One Korean food that I do still enjoy, though, is mandu, a.k.a. dumplings. There are basically two types or mandu: kimchi and gogi (meat). You can also get them filled with red bean paste as more of a dessert bun.

This new bun place opened in Yeongtong located diagonally across the street from Homeplus' front entrance a few months ago and, according to a Korean friend of mine, is a quite famous mandu place. I know a few times that I've walked by, there has been a line down the block waiting to order some mandu. There are tons of mandu shops all over the place and such, but apparently this one is better? I dunno. You can spot mandu shops by looking for the round metal containers that hold the deliciousness in a steamy warmness.

Now, 왕 in Korean means "King," so the large dumplings are king dumplings. They are large enough to be a meal on their own and only cost 1000 won! And they come in this adorable bag.

But I really don't want to imagine my mandu with a cute little winky face that reminds me of Rocketslime.

Anywho, this is a king kimchi mandu:

The filling for kimchi mandu consists of kimchi (duh), clear noodle bits, and sometimes bits of pork, so if you're vegetarian, you still might have to avoid the kimchi mandu. King gogi (meat) mandu will be the same except more meat and no kimchi. I prefer kimchi mandu to gogi mandu. When you buy the king mandu, the outside is made more of a breading than a typical dumpling wrap. They are too big for that and would bust open all over your nice shiny suit if they were wrapped in the dumpling wrap. You can also get mini mandu (10 for 3500 won here) at the mandu places, too.

Now, the other dumpling you can get is the red bean bun (찐빵 - "steamed bun"). These massive bad boys also cost only 1000 won.

To give you an idea of how large these things are:

They are definitely big enough to share with a friend, but all I had was Bessie. Here kitty kitty...

She didn't want any :(

So, there ya have a mandu place. You can get mini-mandu at any number of Korean places, but you can only get KING MANDU!!! at the places that specifically sell mandu.



Next up is a typical Japanese chain in Korea: Misoya. This used to be one of my favorite places to eat when I was teaching at Avalon years ago since there was a branch located right across the street from the hakwon in Dong Suwon. You can find these just about everywhere (or a similar place) in Korea. There are two in the Yeongtong area: one next to Papa John’s (near 1 danji) when you enter Yeongtong (where Kyochon Chicken used to be :( *sad face*) and one located diagonally from Homeplus near Nilli’s.

One of the best things about Misoya is that it’s not expensive: most meals will run between 6000 and 9000 won and are filling. I can’t comment on the quality of the sushi since I don’t eat it, but I’ve heard it can be hit and miss from my friends. However, I have tried the California rolls – I just pretend the fish roe are sprinkles ^^ (Yay! Sprinkles!!) The pork cutlets sometimes seem a little undercooked, and I’ve had to ask them to cook it longer. Pork is one of those meats that I absolutely have to have cooked all the way. I don’t go here as often as I used to, so I don’t have pictures of a lot of the food, but I do have a few (poorly taken) menu shots.

In addition to sushi and pork cutlets (donkasu) they have udon and bulgogi dishes.
The dish that I’ve been getting the most lately is the mozzarella cheese and pork cutlet. This is basically a mozzarella stick with some pork in the middle.

Meals also come with a cabbage salad with a...weird dressing on it. It used to be a Thousand Islands type dressing, but now I don’t know what it is. You also get a cup of miso soup, a bowl of rice, radish kimchi (ggakdugi, I believe), a dipping sauce for the cutlet, and some corn slaw (basically corn, peas, and carrots in a mayo dressing).

The food, to me at least, seems alright as far as quality. I would imagine Misoya is the Japanese-food equivalent of McDonald’s, so I wouldn’t base my whole Korean-Japanese food experience on Misoya. For a quick dinner or lunch, it’s a decently priced place to stop in and grab a bite to eat.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nilli's Pasta & Pizza

I’ve had several posts waiting to go up…I’ve just been lazy.

So we’ll start off with Nilli’s Pasta & Pizza. This isn’t a bad place to get some pasta or pizza…as you might expect. When looking for this chain, look for “Pasta & Pizza” in large letters – it took me a year of eating here at the branch by Samsung before I realized that it actually had a name. A few months ago, to my delight, they opened a branch in Yeongtong across from Homeplus. If you’re leaving Homeplus via the front entrance, cross the road diagonally to the right and it will be on that block (on the road that runs in front of Homeplus).

The Yeongtong location hasn’t been too busy when I’ve went in for dinner or lunch, which is a good thing since they don’t have a whole lot of space inside.

The prices are pretty typical for an Italian place in Korea. Pasta dishes will typically be between 9000 won and 13000 won (add about 6000 won if you want to make it a portion for two peeps), while the pizzas will run between 12500 for a margherita to 15000 for a gorgonzola. Sodas will be the typical (approx.) 2000 won that you find at Korean restaurants; however, you can get a basket of garlic bread (2 pcs.) and a soda for 3500, I think.

Speaking of the garlic bread – this is probably my favorite thing at Nilli’s because…wait for it…it’s not sweet!! Yup, at least as far as I can tell, it’s not that sweet garlic bread that so many places try to pass off on you. Granted, it is possible that my taste buds have been ruined after 4 years of living in Korea, so you’ll have to let me know if it tastes sweet to any of you.

Nilli’s offers red sauce pasta and cream sauce pasta dishes. The only pasta that I’ve tried has been the cream sauce ones (and non-seafood). The cream sauce really doesn’t have any flavor – it’s just plain white sauce. Luckily, they do season the chicken and such that they put in the pasta, but other than that there isn’t a lot of flavor to the sauce itself.
The chicken and mushroom pasta:

The pizzas aren’t bad – I’ve tried several of them (margherita, rucola, gorgonzola, etc.). They’re good for sharing with a friend as an appetizer but not really as a meal by themselves if you’re hungry. The crust is super thin and so are the toppings.
Here’s the gorgonzola pizza, which is a sauceless pizza with bleu cheese crumbles and white cheese that comes with a honey and garlic dipping sauce.

Overall, I quite like Nilli’s since it’s not very busy most of the time and the garlic bread is good. There are a couple of other places in Yeongtong (like Basta Pasta) and a new one in the Yeongtong Park area (haven’t tried this one yet), but I think I prefer Nilli’s over Basta Pasta because they seem to not be as awkward around foreigners.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I like big buns and I cannot lie, you oth… *ahem* Sorry about that..Well, today is Rotiboy/RotiMum/RotiPapa! I really don’t know the difference between the 3 chains, but they all have the delicious rotibuns. Their website might shed some light on it (, but I really didn’t care enough to go looking.

Rotibuns are actually a Malaysian bread based on a Mexican bread that’s been imported into Korea. A Korean dude was in Malaysia and said, “Hey, I like these! Koreans like bread! I’ll open a chain in Korea!” And so we have rotibuns in South Korea. Close enough to the real story at least… Anyway, the one in Yeongtong is a RotiMum and is located next to A Twosome Place across from the Yeongtong Kinex (and KFC). Rotibuns are also called “coffee buns” at some places, like Paris Baguette (I assume because rotibun is trademarked and because it has a light coffee-flavored sprinkling on top). Interestingly enough, “roti” means “bread,” so they’re literally “bread buns.” They often look like little hats because the bottom has flattened out around the edge. Mine that I got today just looks like a brown lump. :/

When you walk into one of the RotiWhatever stores, the first thing that’ll hit you is the smell of rotibuns baking. *sniifffff* Ahhh! The smell of them baking alone will make your mouth start to water – a sweet, buttery bun smell. And they taste just like they smell. They’re best when they’re fresh out of the oven, which is how they serve them typically. The inside is a sweet, buttery, light bread that melts in your mouth when they’re fresh. The outside is slightly crispy with a light coffee flavor. Mine had to endure a 15 minute walk home, so it doesn’t look quite as light and fluffy.

The RotiX stores will also sell other types of buns, like pumpkin, and coffee and maybe ice cream, too. Each one is a little different so it’s hard to keep track. The one here in Yeongtong has ice cream and coffee available. Rotibuns are fairly inexpensive at 2000 won each and are nice for alight snack while out for a walk. Some of the other buns will run you about 5000 won, but eh, who wants anything besides a rotibun anyway?

So if you haven’t tried a rotibun yet, stop into your local RotiBoy/Mum/Papa store and give one a go -They’re definitely worth it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Izakaya (Maetan-dong and Yeongtong)

And….back to South Korea. Let’s start back up with one of my favorite Japanese ramen places: Izakaya. The location that I typically go to is located in Maetan-dong in front of Samsung (this location is now closed or has moved elsewhere and I haven't found it again yet). There is a location in Yeongtong, but the exact location escapes me – I think it’s on the street that runs along the side of KFC, but I’ll have to double-check that. I’ve never been to the one in Yeongtong because I’m more familiar with places in front of work.

It's to the right of Freshburger (which I DO NOT recommend).

They serve a few other things besides ramen here, like some donkasu and random other dishes that I have no clue what they are. Izakaya is nice for a quick, cheap lunch or dinner: the bowls of ramen average about 6500 won and the sets, which come with a smaller bowl of ramen and variety of choices for cutlet on rice, for an average of 10500 won. The rice and donkasu bowls on their own aren’t very filling, so I’d recommend getting a set. I’m not sure what kind of ramen comes with the set and I’m too sure on getting it replaced with a different type. I know that one time I went with a Korean friend and he was able to get them to substitute the miso ramen for me. I should probably note that the only ramen I’ve eaten at Izakaya is the miso: they have two different kinds of miso ramen. The one I get most often is on the first page of the menu and has the spicy symbol next to it. I prefer the miso ramen because the soup base is miso instead of a fish base, which is what the other ramen soup bases taste like to me (I don’t like fish). The other miso ramen is on the third page of the menu and has half of a boiled egg on top and comes with mushrooms and 3 pieces of pork as opposed to 1 with the ramen that I always get.

As you can see, the ramen is topped with a copious amount of bean sprouts, corn, green onions, a piece of seaweed, and a piece of pork. This is the one I typically get because I always pick the pork out and feel better about taking out 1 piece instead of 3 :). Now, I love seaweed, but the seaweed they use in the ramen taste a little off to me, so I usually try to pick its sogginess out of my noodles, too. The ramen also comes with a little side of kimchi and pickled radishes. The kimchi here is hit and miss – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it just taste like old, nasty, spicy cabbage. The radishes, however, I love: I think they’re marinated in soy sauce or crack (much like the jjangjorim at Bon Juk).

I haven’t tried many things here since a lot of the ramen has seafood in it, but my Korean friends enjoy those ramens quite well. They also have dumplings on the menu as a side item that are baked instead of fried. I think they’re “gyozo” on the menu instead of “mandu,” but they’re the first item under Side Orders on the menu.

So yeah, I can’t really read the menu very well at Izakaya and can’t tell you much about most of the food, but I know the one thing that I always order is enjoyable and I probably look something like Naruto while I’m eating my ramen.
*image copyright VIZ Media

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lambert's Cafe II

So, I was back in the U.S. for a couple of months for family reasons, so I haven’t tried any places in Yeongtong for a while. However, there is a restaurant in Ozark, Missouri that is a great place to visit for good, down-home, Southern cooking: Lambert’s. There are 3 Lambert’s located in the U.S. with the 1st one being in Sikeston, Missouri (in the southeastern part of the state – a.k.a. the bootheel), and the 3rd one is in Alabama. This one in Ozark is Lambert’s Café II and is located between Springfield, MO and Branson, MO on highway 65. If you’re passing through Missouri on I-44 or US-60, it’s not much off your path to pay this place a visit – it’s well worth it!

Their website ( gives directions and offers a view of their menu. They don’t take debit/credit cards or reservations, so make sure you have cash on hand and time to wait (usually no less than half an hour).

The best thing, in my opinion, is the “pass arounds.” Servers walk around the restaurant with bowls of fried okra, fried potatoes, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and rolls and sorghum. One of most distinguishing features about Lambert’s, though, is the rolls aren’t just “passed around” but chucked at you across the restaurant by a server. Do people ever miss? Sure. Do people ever get whomped upside the head with a hot roll? You betcha. It just adds to
the experience.

This is the fried okra:

And this is the fried potatoes:

The other interesting thing is that the whole menu is pretty much all-you-can-eat. If you’ve finished your plate and want more, you just ask – that is if you’re able to squeeze anything else in after stuffing yourself full of delicious rolls with butter melted over the warm, yummy goodness…mmmm… warm, buttered rolls…

Ahem, anyway, the food is quite good and you definitely get your money’s worth: most all of the meals are only $11.99, plus all the “pass arounds.” At this outing, I had the meatloaf for some reason despite not being a big meatloaf fan – it just sounded good, and meatloaf is always a good comfort food. And it was. Just the right amount of seasoning and ketchup crust (top).

My meatloaf dinner:

My brother had the charbroiled chicken breast and seemed to like it despite thinking it was a little bit dry.

Ken had the chicken fried round steak (hen’s portion) and demolished it pretty well.

On the way out of the store there’s a gift shop if you feel the need to have a reminder of your visit other than the stretched waistband of your pants. You can also purchase rolls by the dozen for take out…mmm…rolls…