Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Registration System for Fall Bus Trips

UPDATED: April 30th 2018 to include any changes

In 2017 we took a big leap of faith and launched our ride-share Pyeongtaek Beach Bus trips. We cobbled together the best reservation system we could at the time and spent the summer making notes on how to improve. We then sat around with scratching our heads and asking ourselves, "How will we make these changes with zero budget for expensive trip planning systems while also not putting too much of a burden on our volunteers?"

These are the questions we struggle with all the time, "How do we provide a top of the line experience with no resources?" Somehow we keep coming up with solutions. This time was no exception. Of course, now we just keep our fingers crossed that it works as well as we hope it will. New systems can always have surprises and glitches (especially ones built in an extreme no-budget situation). So please let us know if you run into any so that we can trouble shoot them or come up with a new way of doing things. All of this is always a work in progress.

So here it is! All registration for South of Seoul events will now be "Members Only" through the app. Look for the REGISTER for Activities tab in the South of Seoul home screen to get started. Doesn't it look lovely? We have two fall hiking trips planned.

Next you will arrive here. The first thing we want to draw your attention to is up in the left hand corner. See those three little lines? That's where you can now go to confirm your payments have been received. In addition to being able to see it in the app, you will also get a confirmation email once we have received your payment and added you to the ride-share Departure Roster.

If you click on the REVIEW my upcoming trips you can quickly see if we have received your money or not. You can also find the payment information if you didn't take it down when you made the reservation. It also details our cancellation policy so you aren't surprised by it. We have to do this to keep trips running smoothly. If we don't volunteers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off messaging folks about are they/aren't they going. Not as much fun as it sounds. 

Ok, now you are ready to go register for trips. Click on the banner and you will go to a list of planned ride-share events. We will try to keep them in order of date they happen. Select a trip and click on it.

Now you need to do TWO things. 
1) Add how many people are going (HURRAY!! No more having to enter each individual attendee on a different form! Honestly, that was a hot mess. It was the best we could do at the time.) 
2) You will also select where you need picked up.  We have the pickup times posted as well for easy reference. Please arrive 10 minutes early for easy loading.

Although we don't have integrated payments (because it adds a great deal of cost to each seat and we aren't really selling anything, just collecting ride-share fees so it's not really an option to do it any other way.) the system we use requires that we have address fields. However, you can just provide your email and phone number and then write N/A in the other fields. We don't actually need to know where you live, just need to have the fields for the system to run smoothly.

You DO need to add a list of who will be on the bus. We need this for records. Don't use line breaks or it will struggle to submit, use commas to separate names.

Now just click through the payment options and we are done! Hurray!! 

We think this is going to be much better for everyone involved but if it's not please feel free to let us know what is going wrong by emailing us screen shots at southofseoul@gmail.com. 

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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

How To Use Our App Area Directories

Have you been wondering how to get the best out of our Area Directories? Have you wondered why we have them organized the way we do? There actually is a lot of method to the madness and it's high time we break it down for you. Here is how it all works and why.

First, Pick an Area to get started.

The South of Seoul Area directories are organized by Administrative Districts. This is the Korean term for things like counties, boroughs, or parishes. Often the Administrative District also contains a city or town of the same name. This can be confusing. Just like the USA has New York, NY, Korea has Pyeongtaekdong, Pyeongtaeksi. It's important to know what Administrative district you live in order to get started.

The Asan-si Administrative District borders Pyeongtaek to the south and southwest. It doesn't have many large towns and cities but it does have excellent cultural sites, outdoor parks, hiking, and a cool tourist area called Crystal Village that's built to resemble a Mediterranean town. Since it's northern border is near Camp Humphreys, the Asan Directory is very useful to those that live in Paengseong, Pyeongtaek.

Cheonon is a special kind of district for large cities and it borders Pyeongtaek to the South on the eastern side. It is a larger city with excellent shopping and fewer crowds than Suwon or Seoul. Cheonan also has lovely hiking, scenic areas, nightlife, arts programs, festivals, and COSTCO! Subways and trains run between Cheonan and Pyeongtaek until late at night.

Pyeongtaek-si is the Administrative district that contains both the USA Camp Humphreys Army base and Osan Air Base. These bases are located about 30 minutes from each other in two different towns. This is the epicenter of South of Seoul's activities. Due to the fact Pyeongtaek contains two US military bases it has many foreign restaurants.

Second, decided how you want to look for things.

There are a variety of issues that make organizing our Area Databases difficult. Here are some of the variables that make it hard to follow traditional western database structures:

  • Two alphabets
  • Two languages
  • Multiple cultures

Due to these issues there is no perfect solution and we can't simply use a simplified "search".  A new user can't do a blind search for what they have never heard or don't know how to spell.  Newbies need a way of seeing what's in their neighborhood without having to go outside and roam the streets. This is why we created our a-typical organizational method that uses three systems: Search, Neighborhood, and Spotlight.

Search:  Use this to quickly find if we have what you are familiar with.
The fastest way to get started is by using the search field. You can enter keywords or restaurant names. Remember, not everything from your home country is available here so sometimes this can feel frustrating. Sometimes what you want isn't available the way you want it and you need to explore information to find a substitute. That's why we also have created the following Directories and don't simply rely on a fancy search button.

Food & Fun: Learn about new tasty and interesting things by neighborhood.
So your search didn't work out like you had hoped because what you want to do isn't in the area, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything to do or eat. There are just DIFFERENT things to do or eat in Korea and the South of Seoul team organized the Food & Fun directories to help you become better acquainted with new things close by. Scrolling through neighborhoods will help you understand the unique things Korea offers that you will soon fall in love with and miss when you go home. 

Spotlight: Meeting Your Immediate/Critical Needs by Topic
When you live in a foreign country dealing with a new language can make meeting basic human needs surprisingly difficult. When you need groceries, you just want groceries, and you don't want to stress about anything else.  That is why we have created needs based directories that are area wide. We don't sort these by neighborhood because you need to IMMEDIATELY know about ALL the hospitals in Pyeongtaek and not just the ones near you. Here is how to make the most out of these Spotlight Directories:

Once you have found the directory that meets your needs. Click on the map icon. You can find it on the top right of the screen in iPhone. This shows you where you are (the blue dot) and where all the grocery stores we have entered are, compared to you. You can click on the red dots to see the name of the grocery and to click through to directions.

Now that you know how we have organized our directories, here is a quick look at how listings end up in the app.

South of Seoul is not a commercial app. It is a locally based volunteer organization that crowd sources information so we are always in need of your help. We gather information from users via submissions through our online form and via the Pyeongtaek Food & Fun Facebook group. From the submissions we chose places that are:

  • of exceptional quality
  • offer something unique
  • have special social relevance or something foreigners crave

We also focus our attention on independent businesses and do not not list most franchise businesses, unless of course they have social relevance or meet a special foreigner need.

Our directories will never be an exhaustive list of every single thing in Pyeongtaek. We don't have billions of dollars like Google or Facebook. We have no paid listings nor paid advertising. We are not supported by either the USA military or the Korean government. We are entirely independent and everything we do is for the betterment of the community. Volunteers use their own equipment and resources to create South of Seoul while also working and caring for families.