Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Adventure Preparedness: Buying A Scooter

Buying transportation sucks but adventures are critical. It also sucks 100 times more when you don't know how it works or where to get started. When it sucks that much it's easy to take the path of least resistance and just stay home and not do anything. DON'T DO IT!!! Adventuring in Korea is too awesome to be missed.

Over the next few weeks we are going to try and demystify buying transportation in Pyeongtaek, or at least make it seem a little less scary. First on the menu, how to get your adventure loving butt onto a scooter seat. Starting with...

Three Options for Buying A Scooter In Pyeongtaek
and the Plus and Minus of Each

1) Individual Seller on Facebook Buy & Sell Groups or Seoul Craigslist

  • Plus: There are lots of foreigners who need to unload their motorcycles and scooters quick so they can be weirdly cheap. Many of the online foreigner individual sellers speak English as a first language.
  • Minus: Paperwork can often be sketchy as hell. Many scooter/bikes on these sites are without paperwork or maybe the lost some of it. Maybe you think you have what you need but by the time you find out you don't the last owner is out of the country. High turnover owners have questionable bike maintenance track records.
This was where we started our hunt for scooters and we thought it was the route we were going to take since we are super cheap. It's also a system we're comfortable with using. However, it turned out to be too much work. Sellers didn't know much about their bikes, we didn't feel comfortable with their assessments of their engines, some didn't have paperwork, others were too far from us to be worth the effort. Maybe if we were in Seoul or had tons of time to shop, but in the end it was too much work for not enough gain. We NEEDED (ok, maybe wanted) a scooter NOW! Not in a few weeks.

2) ACS Korea

  • Plus: They speak English fluently. They also work hard to make sure the bikes they sell have been checked out and are in good shape. They sell primarily to US Military and don't want any complaints so they do their best to sell quality. They respond quickly and know a lot about registering SOFA bikes. They will make an honest recommendation about what are their best bikes.
  • Minus: The bikes they are offering might not be in your area. You won't get a test drive before you order. You will pick the one you want and it will be delivered at a cost of 50,000-100,000 won depending on your location. It will also take a few days for your scooter to arrive. They don't have a huge selection.
We actually found these guys through a FB group but they are scooter sales people living in Koreal. Not folks about to jet. They have more than one bike, they know the rules for registration, they have a reputation to think about so we decided to give them a try. They were quick to respond and very forth coming with information and recommendations. Despite my reservations about working with a foreigner focused business, we bought my scooter from them and was very satisfied with the cost, quality and service. We absolutely wouldn't hesitate to buy from them again.

3) Geomgang Autobike 금강오토바이
Contact Information in the South of Seoul App

  • Plus: Very friendly and helpful. Went out of his way to find us the perfect bike. We told him what we wanted and he built it for us for the price we wanted in 36 hours. Small shops often give great deals on accessories when you buy the bike and provide solid follow up services.
  • Minus: He doesn't speak English so you will need to use a phone translator. Not open on Sundays so weekend shopping can be hindered. Not huge selection of bikes on hand read to go out the same day.
After my husband took delivery of my scooter from ACS Scooters he immediately decided he also wanted one. Since ACS didn't have any more 125cc in our price range we started looking around town. Most of the bike shops didn't had poor selection, weren't open, or didn't seem excited about customer service. Not until we got to Geomgang Autobike 금강오토바이.

He didn't have what we wanted in house, but we told him what we wanted and he built it for us for the price we wanted to pay. He did fast and excellent work. We grew up doing small engine repair and the work we saw him do was exceptional. We did have an issue with the bike the day we first picked it up (quite common when first riding a completely rebuilt bike so we weren't upset) and he put it back on the stand and had everything worked out within 12 hours and zero attempt to charge us anything. We took it on a three day road trip right out of the gate (NOT what you should do on the first day of a re-built engine) and it ran like a dream. We absolutely will use him again.

Costs and Process for Buying a Scooter

So you now know where to get your bike, but what are the costs and how do you get it ready to legally ride? Let's take a look at what you will need to do in order to feel the wind in your hair riding through the rice paddies.

SCOOTER COST: A new, average auto bike in 2017 in Korea is going to run between 2,300,000 - 5,000,000 won. We aren't talking fancy imports.  A solid, average used scooter is going to run 500,000 - 1,000,000 won for a 50cc and maybe 700,000 - 1,500,000 won for a nice 125cc with lost of wiggle room in the middle.

LICENCES: You will need to have a valid Korean drivers license to drive a scooter in Korea. You only need a motorcycle endorsement for bikes over 125cc.

INSURANCE: You will have to get this before you can register your bike. It can be done very quickly and over the phone using online signatures. We use Sami Tut at 010-8321-3222 for all of our insurance needs. One year of Insurance is often between 200,000 - 400,000 won depending on driving history, bike type, etc. We pay about 230,000 a year since we have lived here a while and had no accidents.

REGISTRATION: You MUST register all scooters and motorcycles and you - unlike with cars - register it yourself. You MUST register it within 7 days of purchase or you will be fined. Some services will do it for you for an additional 100,000 but it's a waste of your money. You will register your scooter/motorbike at your local community center/residents center. Sometimes this can take a while to track down. They will not speak English but it's also very easy. You need to just fill in basic contact information on a form and they will do the rest. If you are here on a SOFA visa you will need to register your bike at the DMV that handles SOFA visas in your area.

NOTE!  If you are not military but living near a military base, you are going to run into the issue that everyone will tell you to register your scooter/motorcycle at the DMV. You should NOT do this. They will send you away. Find your local residents center and go there.

When you go to register you will need:
  • 1) three pieces of paperwork from the seller
  • 2) your Korean ID
  • 3) your Korean drivers license
  • 4) proof of insurance. (I simply texted messaged a screen shot of my insurance and text messaged it to the guy helping me. He printed it out.
You will pay your taxes at time of registration and they will be between 5,000 - 50,000 depending. We don't entirely know all the things this depends on. We paid 7,000 when we registered each of our old used bikes.

HELMETS: You must wear a helmet. They cost between 70,000 - 150,000 depending on what you are looking for. 

COST TO FILL UP: When we run our tanks dry it costs 7,000 won to fill up. We have long commutes so we fill up twice a week.

Now that you know the gritty details, don't mess around. Living in Pyeongtaek becomes immeasurable better with transportation of any kind.

Per usually, the places mentioned in this blog have all been added to the South of Seoul app for easy reference. You can download the South of Seoul app from Google Play or Apple App Store.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

5 Pho-king Fabulous Asian Restaurants

One of the benefits of living in an area filled with foreign immigrants and expats is having a selection of wonderful - what we call - expat home base restaurants. The places were expats from a particular area of the world gather to build community and feast on flavors we miss from home. This is a list of our top fav Asian expat hangouts. Oh, and they aren't all about pho, the title just made us laugh on a day we needed a good chuckle.

1. Pho Nho Vietnamese
Pyeongtaek Food & Fun

This is like hanging out in the families kitchen while their friends come over. The food is think with strong Vietnamese flavors. It's sweet, sour, hot, cold, and magic. Understand that this isn't a fancy restaurant and it smells strongly of Vietnamese food magic which might be too much for those without an adventurous appetite. This one is so good it gets two photos.

2. Thai Buffet (No sign on the door)
Asan Food & Fun

This isn't the cheapest option on the menu but it is an amazing deal. 20,000 per person. They have both pots of daily Thai treats as well as an all you can eat shabu shabu spread. They have only advertised for Thai people, but they do speak English. This restaurant isn't in Pyeongtaek. It's in Dunpo which is a small Asan town that bumps up on the border of Pyeongtaek near Camp Humphreys.

3. Kantipur Northern Indian and Nepalese 
Pyeongtaek Food & Fun

If you looking for some home style Northern Indian treats you have found the right place. This is where we go when our friends with mom's from that region are feeling homesick. The do it right, even down to the egg hidden in your Biryani. We especially love the appetizers which could make up an entire meal on their own.

4. Chingdda-o Shabu Shabu and Lamb - Chinese
Pyeongtaek Food & Fun

This might be a little too authentic for the average person.  It's filled with Chinese workers who hangout here in the evenings, both inside and outside on the streets. Since shabu shabu (or hot pot) came from China this is a great place to eat it. Here it will be spicy. They have many other Chinese dishes as well. It's very popular for it's lamb skewers as well.

5. Chinese Street Food
Pyeongtaek Food & Fun

This super cheap corner food hut has some lovely Chinese street food treats for only 1,000 won. You can easily fill up spending only 1-2,000won. It's a favorite for me when I'm in a hurry and don't want to spend all my money.

For address and WAZE directions to anything on this blog download the South of Seoul App from either Google Play or Apple App Store.

Why we do this:
We made the app to accompany the blog because it's easier to keep update with current information. In the past we've tried keeping the information on the blog but it's too hard for us to maintain the information in two places at once over time. Since we compile and write blogs around a full time jobs without compensation, we need to do it the most efficient way possible with as few steps as possible. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

We Go Together Summer /Fall Camp

South of Seoul is excited to announce the first FREE Pyeongtaek City Youth Center camp for Korean and American students!

We have been working  for months with the Pyeongtaek Youth Center to create this (and another upcoming) FREE summer camp for students this year. We also added Sig Flips the Table as our personal adviser in order to make sure military parent's needs and opinions were well represented in the organization process. Everyone's efforts paid off. The first camp will be held is for grade school students (birth years 2006, 2007, 2008) and will take place over two days (8/2 and 9/9) Even though this this camp is spread over two days in two months, it's considered the same camp so students who register for this camp must be available to attend both days.

The camp is first come first serve. 
The first 15 applicants will be accepted to BOTH days of camp. Due to space, only two kids from each family can attend. Remember, these are not two different camps, but the same camp over two days.
Additional applicants will be placed on the waiting list.
  • LOCATION: Pyeongtaek Youth Center (Near Lotte Mart. They have a HUGE amazing facility with so many resources. We are so lucky they are interested in working with US families.)
  • LUNCH: Included. (Provided by Pyeongtaek Youth Center)
  • DATES: Wednesday August 2nd and Saturday September 9th 
  • CAMP TIME: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • ATTENDEES: 15 American students / 15 Korean Students
  • EVENT MANAGERS: Pyeongtaek City Youth Center and South of Seoul
  • TRANSPORTATION: Provided for Free. (Transportation to and from the Camp Humphreys area with pickup locations in from on Camp Humphreys walking gate and PIEF Center.)
  • Each camp will have a South of Seoul families representative in attendance. 

CAMP DAY 1: 8/2 Camp (Wednesday) 

Children will organize into groups and get to know each other through group games and play. After lunch, children will go to the woodworking studio at the Youth Center and work on a project with the new Korean friends they made.
CAMP DAY 2: 9/9 Camp (Saturday)

Let's take everyone to the market! Children will explore a traditional Korean market, buy ingredients then make themselves lunch. Afterwards, they will try their hands at Korean and American styles of cheer-leading.

A quick heart-to-heart about being a no show at free events:
It's VERY important that if you register for ANY free events that you attend or at LEAST give 48 hours advance notice so that others on the waiting list can be included. Many highly organized free events for foreigners hosted by other organizations have up to a 70% same-day no show rate. It puts great stress on the organizers who lose hope and a desire to serve the US military community.

Honestly, between us, we all have a social responsibility to honor both the work and generosity of area organizations and the tax dollars used to fund them. It's a huge undertaking to host these free events for foreigners while dealing with the culture and language barriers. We can fulfill this responsibility by simply showing up as promised.

For this particular situation, if everyone who signs up followings through, there will be more and more free camp opportunities. So please help a wonderful opportunity grow by simply showing up for the free camp you signup for :) 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sign up for a Family Tour of Seoul

We started with the Summer Pyeongtaek Beach Buses and now we are expanding into family trips to Seoul! Diana from Brooklyn English Used Books presented us with a plan to create relaxed, comfortable bus tours lead by local Korean Volunteers and we couldn't say now.

The first trip Diana is planning is to the ever stunning and culturally relevant palace area of Seoul called Gyeongbokgung. This an absolutely must see spot that can be complicated for families to get to due to traffic and/or transportation issues. Not now!!! Now you can simply join a very affordable volunteer tour (19,000 won per person) and spend the day enjoying the sights and relaxing with your kids.

You can learn more CLICKING HERE to see our FB EVENT :)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fire Cooked Lobster


This is another one of those places I expected to hate and didn't. There are so many ways a Lobster Roll can go wrong and I've tried most of them. Even when I had one in Maine the lobster was tasteless, barely there, and it cost like $15 while not filling me up. (Even remembering it makes me sad). But enough about them. Let's talk about this Fire Cooked Lobster joint.

Last night on the way to TacTac I was totally seduced by the affordability of this Lobster Roll (9,000 won each) and the fact they were cooking the tails with a blow torch. Honestly, if you light it on fire or put it on a stick I'm going to eat it even if it's food I normally hate. I'm paying for the experience. Can't tell you how many crappy things I've eaten because of this. (I don't actually love everything I try. I just only write about the things that make me happy for some reason.)

Much to my surprise and - maybe even - annoyance. I completely loved the Lobster Roll. It's so douche and gimmicky buy it was also good and reasonably filling (on a hungry day I might eat two). The weird sauce they put with the chips was even fun to eat. Weird, but tasty.  I can't wait to go here again. I'm so hoping they keep up the great work keeping the lobster tails cooked to perfection. It made such a difference. (I really don't like rubbery lobster or crab).

This is a wonderful addition to Pyeongtaek. I'm hoping they are super popular so that they can maintain their quality and focus on doing what they do right.

For address and WAZE directions to anything on this blog download the South of Seoul App from either Google Play or Apple App Store. We made the app to accompany the blog because it's easier to keep update with current information. In the past we've tried keeping the information on the blog but it's too hard for us to maintain the information in two places at once over time. Since we compile and write blogs around a full time jobs without compensation, we need to do it the most efficient way possible with as few steps as possible.


First of all, completely NOT Mexican food and I totally don't care. I'm not selling you on this because it even resembles a taco - it's more like a burrito you make at home when you are cleaning out the leftovers and you think, "Hum?? That's pretty good. Also kind of strange... but I like it." I mean, it was a total mess but I scarfed it all down and felt good about it (maybe because it's a lot like the "Mexican" food we made in Alaska in the 80's & 90's). Didn't regret it. Will totally eat there again and think, "What am I eating?" but still be totally ok with it.

If you are a super picky eater where everything has to be "authentic" and just like home please don't go here. This isn't for you. Just keep walking. To go McDonalds or something. For everyone else who like a fun little adventure you might just find a delightful little place to eat some weird Kor-Mex food. Personally, I don't care if people from other cultures experiment with food and flavors. That's how we come up with interesting, inventive new things to eat.

Plus, it has Jarritos and you can't go wrong with Jarritos in a cute lunch stop with an adorable owner eating food wrapped in a tortilla. Maybe it's my seven years in Korea, but I was a content little waegukin.

It's not terribly cheap but not horribly expensive. One "taco" (which is more like a small burrito) and a Jaritos was about 8,800 won or something like that. Can't really remember. Didn't break the bank, but did make me scream "I should have gotten two". They also haven't made their menus yet so if you have zero Korean skills it might be hard to order.

For address and WAZE directions to anything on this blog download the South of Seoul App from either Google Play or Apple App Store.

Why we do this:
We made the app to accompany the blog because it's easier to keep update with current information. In the past we've tried keeping the information on the blog but it's too hard for us to maintain the information in two places at once over time. Since we compile and write blogs around a full time jobs without compensation, we need to do it the most efficient way possible with as few steps as possible. 

5 Favorite Finds Tongbok Market Young Forest 청년숲

Last week a newly renovated area of the Pyeongtaek Tongbok Market opened to the public. Last night we finally had time to check it out and we are in LOVE! So romantic and prettyyyyyyy. One of the best dates I have taken myself on in a while (I adore eating alone).

This super clean, white, bright delightful little corner of the city is easily the hippest, most adorable place to be right now.  It's like walking onto the set of a drama where young dreamers have opened shops. You can sit and watch people all night long.

Keep in mind, this is not "for foreigners" although it's filled with things we all love. It's for Korean's so it's not filled with tons of English although most of shop keepers knew at least something. Just go and embrace the adventure. It's almost impossible to go wrong.

This area is NOT big. Maybe 1 block long by 1/2 a block wide. It's like a cozy little hidden paradise. It's so fun to walk through the history and comfort of the traditional market and then emerge here surrounded by a little hipster haven.

This is my new favorite place to be and it needs to be yours too. Grab your favorite boy or girl and get here for a date ASAP! It's very new which means it's only about 1/2 filled and yet it's still awesome. Right now there aren't lines and fights for tables. Go now before that changes.

Now let's talk about our five favorite finds at Tongbok Market Young Forest 청년숲

Fire Cooked Lobster
We want to eat all their lobster rolls. Plus that we only about 9,900 won each. Perfect. (read full blog here)

Weird taco/burrito hybrids that we honestly kind of enjoy. Ok, we totally were happy but we also know lots of folks will judge us for liking something so totally not Mexican but called a taco. We don't care. It's a lovely change of pace from other places in the area. They also have Jarritos which is a selling point on it's own. A drink and a "taco" set me back around 8,500 won or something close (read the full blog here)

OMG Fresh Market
There is a lot going on here, but the most important thing happening is vegetarians can eat here. You can add your name to the cookbook and they will message you when the items are in season. Honestly, there is a lot more going on here and we will get a full explanation. It's so friggen hipster it's almost too much. Completely love it. Most likely a terrible business plan. We don't care. Looking forward to getting our text message about salads.

Sweet 1981
Mostly this is a bakery but it's also a coffee shop. Once you are finished stuffing all the food in your thankful faces, stop by to top yourself off with the necessary sugar and caffeine 

Board Game Cafe & Pub
Are you completely full? Now it's time to go drink!!! and play some games.

For address and WAZE directions to anything on this blog download the South of Seoul App from:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Useful Phrases for Tour Bus Drivers

In Korea one of the coolest things is how easy it is to charter a bus and do a group tour. It's crazy affordable. Usually between 300-550,000 won depending on the size of your bus (24 or 44 people) and where you are going. The one hurdle that foreigners will have when booking a bus is communicating easily with the driver.  Since we are all about empowering everyone to get out and enjoy all that Korea has to offer, here is a set of phrases to help you feel confident in booking a tour for your friends and co-workers and seeing the country on your own terms. (Some of these are specific for Pyeongtaek).


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