Thursday, April 27, 2017

Recommended Air Quality App

We love to be outside and spend most of our time outside, so avoiding smog is important.
It's true. The air quality this  year the air quality in Pyeongtaek is the worst we have seen in our seven years here. However, it hasn't really been cramping our style too much because we have been testing out some handy air quality apps that help keep us headed to the best places to breath. That's right, you can use your hand phone to avoid the worst air quality. Let's talk about the myths of air quality and how understanding them can help you spend more time outside on the right days at the right times.

MYTH 1: All Korea is smoggy. No reason to go anywhere this weekend.
Korea is surrounded by ocean and covered in mountains. Heading an hour south, west or east can change everything. It's nearly impossible (but has happened) for the ENTIRE country to be smoggy all at once. Sure the air quality is terrible in Seoul or Pyeongtaek or Busan,  or other major cities. However, it doesn't mean that every inch of Korea is covered in smog. It means that cities and city adjacent areas are covered in smog. It also means it's time to consider going to the beach, mountains, or islands for some outdoor time. Check your app so see where the low smog areas are and go there on the weekends.

MYTH 2: The sky is blue today. The air must be perfect! (or vice versa)
It's also important to not that bad air quality isn't always something you can see. Sometimes a beautiful blue day can be terrible. Also, low visibility doesn't always mean bad air quality. This is ESPECIALLY true in Pyeongtaek in the spring and fall when temperatures from the ocean and the rice paddies are creating a lot of fog and mist. Just because it's white out doesn't mean it's smoggy. It just means we have cold and warm air mixing. Check your app to see what the actual levels are.

MYTH 3: I checked my app this morning. I better not go outside today. (or vice versa)
Smog is in the air and the air is moving, especially in west Pyeongtaek where winds come off the ocean. Hour to hour the winds move smog around. It might be terrible in the morning and then cleared out by lunch time. Or the other way round.  It's important to choose and app that gives you updates on big changes in air quality so you know immediately when things have gotten better or worse.

MYTH 4: If it's bad in Pyeongtaek City it must be bad in ALL of Pyeongtaek. 
Not true at all. West Pyeongtaek tends to have far better air quality than downtown. It's important to find an air quality app that has detailed information about the Pyeongtaek area so you know where the besting hiking trails or the best parks to hangout in for the day. Don't stay inside just because it's bad in your neighborhood. Check your app and head toward the best air.

What we use: Air Matters
The app that we are really loving right now for keeping informed about local air quality is Air Matters. We especially recommend using it with the Notifications turned on. As active people, we find it incredibly usefully to be immediately notified of the changes in air quality in our area. We also like the fact that this app allows us to track multiple areas in Pyeongtaek so that we are always aware of where we can go for a walk. Here are some screen shots from our favorite app so you can see how useful it is and maybe give it a try.

We track multiple neighborhoods since we are out and about all day.
Keep notifications on to always stay current.

Area map helps you quickly see which way to go.

Even though Bijeon was terrible in the morning, it was the place to be in the afternoon.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Earth Day 2017: Wrap Up

Before we begin, we want to make sure to thank the City of Pyeongtaek for donating the trash bags, PIEF for their consummate support, to PUB 210 for donating a prize and of course Sig Flips the Table who brought this idea to life and brought us all on board with her vision. We look forward to catching the video of the event from On Your Mark World in the near future.

When Sig Flips the Table decided to head-up the First (hopefully annual) Earth Day Pyeongtaek we were really excited to support her efforts. We are big lovers of the earth and all it's air and other cool stuff the keeps us alive. Plus, we love getting together with people and working. Nope, neither of these things are a joke. We love Earth and work.


Since we are sort of in charge of documenting and sharing what's happening around town, our Earth Day was a bit longer and more busy than most of the groups. We started in Paengseong and then moved over to Songtan. We were super excited to see a variety of different groups out picking up trash and bringing the communities together.  It was pretty inspiring to be honest. Here are few of the Earth loving folks who pitched in.






Here you can see a before and after of the magic that we worked. It took four trash bags to clean up this particular lot.



However, in Songtan (nearish Osan AF Base) we found a different story.  Despite the fact the SOS group seemed to be the only ones active in the area on Earth Day, the place was super clean. The residents do an amazing job. The business area needed some work, but the parks and residential areas were nearly spotless. Even the empty lots weren't that neglected. We felt very proud of adopted neighborhood. It's defiantly loved by it's residents. In an hour we only managed to fillup two bags between three people.


It was fabulous to get to meet people we've only seen online, give back to the community that's given us so much support for the last seven years, and support the wonderful tradition that Earth Day as become over the years. Hopefully next year even more people will get out and celebrate together here in Pyeongtaek.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Edge Sports Bar: Soul Food Sundays


Neighborhood: Songtan /Shingjang

We love a good weekend breakfast/brunch. It's been one of our weekend traditions for over 20 years. After moving to Korea, however, that tradition was put on hold until restaurants started moving to Camp Humphreys a few years ago. Still though, we hadn't found an in inspiring place near our home in Shingjangdong (aka: SED/Songtan/Osan AF Base Main Gate) and it's bugged us. We are tired of driving.

Motivated by my hate for life behind the wheel, last week I stopped into the Edge Sports Bar to see what was up. If you haven't heard of this place, don't feel bad. It's hard to find and sometimes even harder to understand. The edge is an eclectic space that's decor is so dated and kitsch that it's cool again. Over the recent years it's had a few different owners who didn't seem to have much of a vision for what it could be, but not it seems to be tipping toward something interesting.


Most notably, I learned they are starting Soul Food Sundays. From 10-5 they have a guest chef serving up his own special take on classics like grits, mac & cheese, collard greens, etc as well as breakfast all day. With this wonderful news, last weekend we stopped in and gave it a try. We ate their special for the day (Shrimp & Grits) as well as their Chicken & Waffles. Both dishes were eat-the plane-clean good, but our favorite was definitely the grits. It was wonderful to have a unique taste of home that we can't get in other restaurants in the area. Not a lot of Soul Food in Korea and we certainly do miss it.



We also like that they are planning on doing a different special each week so there is something to look forward to each Sunday. We have definitely finally found our weekend breakfast spot in Songtan.  Thank goodness we don't have to drive to Humphreys anymore on our lazy days. If you are a lover of soul food, please get out on Sunday and fill-up because there really isn't anywhere else you're going to find it.

WAZE PIN/ID: Edge Sports Bar and Grill

This business is listed in the South of Seoul app which can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple App Store.

PS: The Edge also has regular breakfast on Saturdays from 10-2 for those who can make Soul Food Sundays but would like some chicken & waffles, pancakes, french toast, etc. Just ignore the shady entry and stairs. Everyone we have met has been completely delightful and the kitsch decor is delightful. 



Monday, April 17, 2017

Seoul Survivial Tips: Hammock Cafe


Going to Seoul is filled with wonderful delights, beautiful memories, and - for me - exhaustion. All the new things, the walking, the planning, and general busy pace of city life makes me want to curl up and die... I mean take an afternoon nap. Thankful, in Korea I have the option of just taking a rest. It's one of my favorite parts of life here. 


This weekend I decided to try a new place that I've not visited before. It happens to be located in one of my favorite areas of the city not far from the palaces, in the middle of adorable coffee shops, galleries, and artisan shops.

Located on the third floor, the Nazzzam hammock cafe is a soothing escape. The owner (who speaks near perfect English) maintains a quiet and relaxed atmosphere where all you have to do is sit your butt in a hammock and fall asleep. She even brings a blanket and covers you up, adds privacy curtains if needed, and makes you a nice cup of tea when it's time to go. It was the PERFECT amount of rest to help me get the most out of my trip. I can't wait to go back.

Pro Tips: 
When you arrive be sure to take your shoes off, put on some slippers, and then tuck your shoes in one of the bags hanging by the door. 
Closes earlyish, between 5-7pm This is best for grabbing a nap before or after lunch.

General Information:
Cost: 6,000 won cash for an hour of rest, includes a cup of tea.
Website: www.nazzzam.com
Address Korean: 서울시 종로구 계동 115-1 3층 
Address Romanized: (3rd floor, 115-1 Gye-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul)

For those who are unfamiliar with Seoul, you can easily get to the hammock cafe from Pyeongtaek:
  1. Take the bus from Songtan or Pyeongtaek to Nambu
  2. Catch the Orange Line going north 
  3. Exit at Anguk station and walk from there. 
  4. Use a maps app on your phone for walking directions.





Friday, April 14, 2017

Now Booking: Bus to the Daejeon Barefoot Festival


TICKETS: 18,000 won roundtrip
Sunday May 14th, 2017 

Let's get our feet dirty and celebrate the coming summer. South of Seoul;s and Bundang Social Club are teaming up to sponsor a bus to the Daejeon Barefoot Festival leaving from Jeongja Station at 7:50 AM and the back side of Pyeongtaek Station at 8:50AM. This is one of South of Seoul's favorite spring events. The path is stunning and the mud delightful. 

The festival has a great variety of fun activities, including traditional music, dancing, walking barefoot through tranquil mountains, fun performances, hand crafts, a 7km walk, and even a 13km "marathon!"

This trip is not a tightly planned affair. You will be on your own during your time at the Festival. No one is telling you what to do or where to go. Just freely enjoy yourself and your time in the forest. 


First Annual Earth Day Pyeongtaek

Our stretch of road.
We are excited to announce that we are supporting the wonderful blogger Sig Flips the Table in presenting Pyeongtaek's First Annual Earth Day on Saturday April 22nd. The City of Pyeongtaek has been fabulously supportive of this event and will be providing free trash bags to all participants. They can be collected at Pyeongtaek International Exchange Foundation in Paengseong or Songtan. Read Sig's the full article HERE: http://sigflipsthetable.com/2017/04/10/earth-day-pyeongtaek/ to learn the details and then join a local Earth Day team or sponsor a team of your own.

Team SOS will spend the afternoon cleaning a section of country road that runs between Songtan and Paengseong. This stretch of road is rural but also heavily trafficked by US military personnel and local fisherman. It's a beautiful area with excellent pick-nick locations so it should be a lovely day. If you would like to join us we would love to have you. We will start from the public parking lot located across from the large power plant. Just send us a message at southofseoul(at)gmail.com so we know how much stuff to bring.

Video blogger On Your Mark World will also be there to document this very cool event and make sure everyone knows that they missed. Looking forward to seeing all the photos and hashtags on the 22nd. Let's get out there and clean!!

When: 10am
Where: 평택시 오성면 안화리 47-3 
Lunch Plan: Let's have a picnic together. Everyone bring something to share.
What you need to bring:
  • Work gloves
  • Water
  • Clothes that can get dirty
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • A snack to share
  • A food item to share for lunch
What SOS will bring:
  • We will pickup the bags from PIEF for the group
  • We will bring extra water
  • Items need for setting up the picnic (eating utensils, cups, plates, etc)

Please share the posters below and the Sig Flips the Table's Blog with as many people as you can. This is our chance to show Pyeongtaek residents "Thank you" for their warm and understanding hospitality by pitching in and helping make the area shine.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Useful Phrases for Pet Owners

Always remember, if you don't feel comfortable speaking, you can simply show the server your phone and point the the phrase you need. You can also save these images to your phone for emergencies.


Although ideally we recommend visiting a vet with strong English skills, we also understand that this is often impossible. We also understand that even when a vet speaks English or an expat speaks Korean, misunderstandings still occur. We have compiled this list to empower pet owners to do their best for their fur babies in a stressful situation.

Korean Translation provided by Pyeongtaek Korean Tutors. One-on-one Korean language tutoring with a Certified Korean as a Foreign Language teacher.





















Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Jjajangmyeon / Black Sauce Noodles


Korean Chinese food is similar to American Chinese food in the fact that neither are Chinese food. They are booth abstract interpretations on a theme. There is nothing traditionally "authentic" about either style, but both are beautiful creations if you just let them be who they are and don't try to understand them as Chinese food.

One of the most popular Korean Chinese dishes is called jjajangmyeon (짜장면) and it's like the hamburger in the US - it's essentially fast food, it's everywhere and comes in varying levels of quality. Personally, I don't often eat this dish because - when made poorly - it gives me a stomach ache. However, when it's done right it darn taste. Once again, it mirrors the hamburger.

Recently, by sheer luck, I found - arguably - the best jjajangmyeon (짜장면) joint in town. Not just because the black sauce noodles are top-notch, but because the dumplings and shrimp friend rice are addictive as well. For weeks now I've been craving this place and fighting the urge to stop everyday on the way home from work. The only thing that has kept me away is that I already had plans or my fridge was full of food.



The jjajang was smooth, not bitter and not sweet. They also didn't go too crazy with the onions and cut up the other vegetables perfectly. Often the way the vegetables are cut is one of my biggest complaints, but here it's done right. They also treat the noodles very well: cooked perfectly, not too oily, and no clumping.


However, if you don't want noodles - the item we most highly recommend is the shrimp fried rice (새우볶음밤)which comes with a side of jjajang sauce. It's the best of all worlds. This fried rice isn't oily, the shrimp is cooked like a dream, and it tastes bright.


Also, if you go hungry you can get some of the best homemade dumplings in the area. Since most jjajang joints are focused on the fast food nature of the business, their dumplings are straight from the freezer. Great for the bottom line but not particularly delicious. These dumplings are handmade and filled with flavor.

Despite the fact this place isn't particularly beautiful and it's located in a factory that's awkward to get to - it's still totally worth it.

You can find this restaurant in the South of Seoul App.

(We chose to keep the address information and WAZE information in the app. This is done in order to make sure that information is current and only needs updated in one place when it changes. The South of Seoul App can be downloaded from Google Play and Apple App Store. We do not do this to be annoying. We do this for accuracy.)