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