Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 29th Fall MATO Festival In Front of Camp Humphreys


Here is what you need to be doing tomorrow, Saturday October 29th, the MATO Festival. Trust me, it's pretty darn delightful. It's good, old-fashioned classic fun. Think small town festival with the simple delights of childhood. It's heart warming.

Even though I had seen the posters and such, I didn't actually go one until this summer. Now I'm sad I missed all the others. Also, I didn't even go on purpose. I was coming back from Costco and stopped off to grab a bite to eat only to discover a big old party happening on the shopping street outside of the Camp Humphreys walking gate. To be honest, I had even avoided the festival up until this point because the fliers and signs looked boring and I need real motivation to do something like leave my house on a Saturday.

Well, I was wrong and I admit it. This is a lovely and fun event because it's so darn community focused and makes you feel more connected. So I am encouraging you to get out there and be a part of this wonderful community party. Dress the kids up. Eat too much candy. Do the crafts. Hangout with your friends and drink in the streets (at least that's what I do at festivals).

There will be live music, dancers, booths, crafts, cotton candy and more. The perfect thing to do with a family on Saturday. This won't be too big or stressful and English is everywhere, this is the perfect event that lets you mingle with your neighbors and entertain yourself and the kids.

ALSO, tomorrow just happens to be the fall MATO Festival and they have coordinated it to coincide with Halloween. They will be having a costume contest for the kids and adults. Here is the information for those looking for an awesome Halloween event for the kids. There will also be trick-or-treating at local businesses but I don't have the information on that.

Get you there and celebrate fall before winter hits and you don't want to go outside for three months.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

PIEF is Having KIMJANG!!!! Do ITTTTT!!!!!


Thursday, November 3rd 11am-2pm

It's that time of year again, time to make kimchi! and you need to sign-up for PIEFs upcoming event. Really... not joking... do it.

Kimjang / 김장(making kimchi as a community) is one of the most important experiences you can participate in while living in Korea. It's not about the food so don't skip it even if you don't like kimchi. This is about the community and working together to make something people will cherish throughout the year. It's a fulfilling and enriching experience that you can't quite put into words and I consider it the best thing you can do while living here.

So, why do I love it so much? Although I had made kimchi at home before, I can't say I understand it's value until I gathered with a large group of people to make it together. The first time I experienced it was when I went home with my bosses family for the weekend to help her aging parents make it for their family. Who knows what I expected, but it wasn't what I found. First of all, it's hard work to make kimchi for the year. It took two days and fifteen people to do everything the old fashioned way. During that time stories were told, dinners were had, and bonding was done. It was beautiful. It was real.

Up until that point I had sort of dismissed the larger kimchi events hosted by government programs as just another publicity stunt, but after my own experience I realized these mass kimchi making events aren't just about show, they are also about heart. It's an expression of love and companionship. To invite someone to make kimchi and to accept the offer is a beautiful point of bonding and agreement. It brings you together.

If you are going to do one thing while you are here, do yourself a favor and go to a kimchi making event. Embrace it even if you don't like kimchi. Slow down. Let go of what you believe you know about this country you live in and be in the moment. For one day, don't be jaded. A whole world of experiences can be found stuffing cabbage leaves with special sauce.



Monday, October 24, 2016

Fresh Salmon Restaurant 생 연어예찬

Stole this from their Facebook because I forgot my phone ㅠㅠ
This fresh salmon restaurant in Songtan has been of interest for me for a while, however I always seem to be in the neighborhood either too early, too late or too alone. This last week though, I decided to not let "too alone" get in the way and I swung in to see if they might have something for a hungry single person.

Turns out they do and it's delicious and cheap. For 6,800 (or something near that) they have what is basically a salmon "poki bowl" and it's pretty darn big. It also comes with a fishcake soup which makes the meal on of the best deals in town and I will be eating it a lot.

However, if you aren't eating alone this also may be the best place in Songtan for feasting on affordably priced fresh salmon. I plan to go back very soon with a friend and try out some of their larger sushi places that were VERY well priced, and based on the quality of fish in my poki bowl, should be excellent.

The restaurant does NOT have an English menu and the owner doesn't speak English as far as I know. He has assumed that foreigners don't like sashimi so he hasn't put any effort into marketing to us (I asked him and this was what he told me). He wasn't trying to be rude he just doesn't realize a lot of us LOVE raw fish.  I say, let's show him how wrong he is. I think this could be a foreigner favorite since they also sell plenty of affordable saki.

Anyway, if you love salmon and are looking for a crazy good deal on it - go here now. Understand that the menu will NOT be in English but you can easily use your translator to figure it out. It's not a complicated menu. They are also open AFTER 5.00pm so don't show up for lunch.

This is going on my list of regular places to eat since it's both affordable and healthy.

*** This listing and all other restaurants reviewed by South of Seoul can be found in the South of Seoul app which can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple App Store. ***

Discount Manga Book Store 만화 할인 매장



This is a post for the super nerds who love comics and Korean language.

If you are a  lover over the manga / manhwa style you are going to love this discount bookstore located a short walk from AK Plaza. There are sooooooooo many books as well as quite a few puzzles (random) and manga inspired toys and trinkets. Keep in mind, these books will be in Korean but it's another great way to practice the language if you are learning.

For whatever reason, this store name can't be found on Naver by address or by phone number. You can basically only find it by walking by so I thought I would give you all the heads up.

Phone Number: 031-611-5214
Address: 경기도 평택시 합정동 672-4




Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jessica Hair / 제시카헤어



Many people are asking about where to get their haircut in Pyeongtaek. Both myself and my co-inhabiting trouble maker go to a place in Seojeong-dong called Jessica Hair. We've tried many different places around Pyeongtaek, but at the end of the day we come back here. Even reviewers on Naver overwhelmingly support this place.


Do they speak English? I don't think so, but their menu is in English so that's not a problem. My other-half can't communicate in Korean either, but he still goes here to get his hair cut and he has curly crazy hair that most places really mess up. The ladies and Jessica always have him looking sharp. He brings a picture and they check in with him along the way. He feels comfortable.

These types of price sheets are usually different but close to the real price. lol
I love them because they do what I ask, and I ask them to do some pretty weird stuff (from a Korean standpoint) and make it look as good as I'd hoped it would. At first they were like, "You want us to shave what?" but now they are used to it and keep me looking almost normal.

The prices are super great. My hair cut runs 20,000 with a wash and dry. 

We never make appointments for cuts, we just walk in. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Boiling Crab & Shrimp


한국어로 쓴 블로그도 있어요: blog.daum.net/southofseoul

There are some days when I feel like I fall asleep on the job, like when I realize I haven't posted a blog about Boiling Crab & Shrimp in Pyeongtaek when this is THE place I go for cooked seafood in town. I love the messy bags of fresh seafood that make me feel like I'm in a little US port town stuffing my face.


As a person that often has to eat dinner alone, due to a work schedule that conflicts with others, I like the fact that I can come here and, for 15,000 or less, I can get a nice seafood dinner in a relaxed environment. The chill, bright atmosphere is relaxing and I like to watch the military base outside the window. Since I never go there it's like seeing into a hidden world. 


Of course, if you have a group of people then Boiling Crab and Shrimp becomes even more of a deal with large bags of seafood price affordably for your hungry family. The Snow Crab back works out to be 23,000 - 29,000 ish per person when you split it. That's an awesome price for that much quality seafood so grab your friends and make a night of it at Boiling Crab & Shrimp.

*** This listing and all other restaurants reviewed by South of Seoul can be found in the South of Seoul app which can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple App Store. ***



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ceviche 210


한국어로 쓴 블로그도 있어요L: blog.daum.net/southofseoul

Goodness, where do I start. About a week or two ago I posted some photos from Sabor Peruano, which is a Peruvian restaurant in Songtan that I've enjoyed for years. It was always a lovely break from what was a mostly Korean diet. Still, I've only gone a few times a year for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Even though I always enjoy it and I love South American food, I'm not driven to go back every month. Maybe it's the decor or the fact the hours didn't work with mine, but I never became a regular.


When I posted my most recent meal, which I had enjoyed just fine, a member of Pyeongtaek Restaurants & Things to Do said that they had enjoyed Ceviche 210 even more. "What is this Ceviche 210? Where did it come from?" I asked. How could I have missed the fact there are TWO Peruvian restaurant near my house?


Well, it turns out that it opened while I was on holiday in the US in late August and I somehow walked right past it during my last "new restaurant" walk in Songtan.  What a mistake. I've been missing out for months now.


Ceviche 210 is adorable and delicious. It's owned by a hard working family who have obviously poured their heart into the space and the menu. Their sauces are perfect: not overly salty or spicy or greasy. After taking my first bite I started to - rather unattractively - shovel the food in my face. It was so good. I just wanted to eat.

Here is the thing though, I think it's so good that I'm distracted by that fact. I can't objectively tell you who will like it. What I can say is that I went early and the place filled up quickly around me. The other tables were ALL talking about how they have been there multiple times, tried multiple dishes and loved all of them - so I know I'm not the only one with an immediate addiction here.

As far as I'm concerned, this is - hands down - the best foreign food in Songtan. Once again, this is my personal opinion and I expect others will have different ones. I haven't tried the new Brazilian Grill yet, but I don't know who they could be better. This goes right to the top of my list and I wish I was eating here again tonight except that I have dinner plans at MANNA the Kitchen so I think I'll survive.

*** This listing and all other restaurants reviewed by South of Seoul can be found in the South of Seoul app which can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple App Store. ***


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sokcho Daepohang (속초 대포항) Visit


Last weekend we did a whirlwind trip to Sokcho in order to climb Mt. Seoraksan before the masses arrived for viewing the fall colors. Once that happens, all hell breaks loose and you end up taking 3 hours just to take a bus from town to the mountain (usually it's about 20 minutes drive). Since we aren't into all that traffic and insanity we find late September/ early October the perfect time of year to actually do the hiking and climbing in the area because it's not too cold and not too hot and there aren't too many tourists.

Of course, you certainly don't need to climb anything if you go so Seoraksan, you can just hang out in the valley and eat a nice lunch or take the cable car to the to of one of the peaks. Don't feel like you need to put yourself through the hell that is a mountain of stairs. Smart people just grab a cappuccino and sit by the river, or take a quick spin around the temples. We are not smart people so this is how our day went.


For only the second time ever in my six years of traveling in Korea, I made an actual reservation online for this trip. Mostly because I was traveling with others and wanted them to feel relaxed since one is currently doing his military duty and doesn't have a lot of time to relax.

Just in case there was traffic, I wanted us to be close to the park but also near the water so we could enjoy both aspects of Sokcho while we were there which meant we stayed in Daepohang (대포항), a tiny port just south of Sokcho. There isn't much there, but what there is is pretty awesome. Some of Sokcho's fanciest and their most affordable accommodations can be found in this area. It's a mix of working class and fancy. Since we aren't made of money we decided on  mid-level minbok pension (where you sleep on the floor). These rooms are excellent for groups because everyone just sleeps on the floor like a big old slumber party.


고형민벅페션 was 100,000 for the night for a room that held 5 people and had a kitchenette and lovely little balcony with a view of the town. The place was very clean and super quiet. We booked it via www.wooripension.com and found the reservation process painless and easy if you know a little Korean, if you don't then have a friend who does to book a place for you here.


Our choice of accommodation turned out to be an even better choice than we anticipated since we arrived into Sokcho late on Saturday night and didn't feel like running around town in search of anything. We wanted to park and be done. As it turns out, 대포항 has two separate areas for eating seafood on the water front, the affordable one just happened to be across the street from where we were staying. Talk about the best luck ever. We wandered through a beautiful little sculpture park next to the road and over to a long line of seafood restaurants keeping the fishing boats company.

The five of us had a rather large taste sashimi and spicy fish soup dinner for around 65,000 won total. It was one of the best 회 (Korean sashimi) meals I have had in the six years I have lived in Korea. Sokcho fish quality is far superior to other areas of the country. Since this particular fish market isn't in the tourist areas, it's much more relaxed, friendly and affordable. It's mostly local fishermen, taxi drivers, and the folks staying in the Pensions.

In the middle of dinner we did have to take a quick break to rescue a grandfather who fell in the harbor, but that's a story for another time. Let's just say it was dinner with a splash of adrenaline.


After a long nights sleep, we woke up and went to a convenience store on the other side of our pension's parking lot. They had a tiny espresso machine where we filled up on surprisingly good espresso for the morning. A tiny little restaurant next to the quickie mart happened to be open for breakfast so we stopped in for some Kimchi jjigae which turned out to be the best we have ever had with GIANT think cuts of pork belly and kimchi that would make your grandma proud. Our friend actually said, "This is even better than my mom's." Please, nobody tell his mother.






Once we were stuffed and caffeinated we headed into Seoraksan and started the hike. Of course, about 10 minutes into the park we stopped off at a cafe for another caffeine fix before charging up the mountain.


Who knows how long it took us to hike the mountain. All I know is that we made it to the top. The views all the way up stunning of course, but the fact it's stairs nearly the entire way is pretty brutal on your legs. For the last two days I have just been limping about and screaming out in pain pretty regularly. I can ride a bike for days, but about 5 hours of stairs turns my legs to mush. When I do this climb I have both equal things, "This is and awesome experience" and "I am the stupidest person ever. Why am I doing something so completely miserable when I could be eating a cookie by a stream?" In the end it was totally worth it because I caught three Pokeman at the top... oh, and the views were stunning.

Personally though, I think the best part of climbing the mountains in Seoraksan is that you are suffering together. Equally miserable as you hike through beautiful scenery and take in the stunning views. Then you get to complain about how much you hurt for three more days creating a truly bonding experience you will remember for ever.





And when you are finished with the hike you can get more coffee... where you can talk about how pretty it was and not really that hard at all. Which is a totally lie but feels true after you have survived.


Before leaving Sokcho we made one last stop in an area called Sokcho Food Town near "downtown" and stuffed ourselves with some delicious meat. The perfect meal at the end of a long days hike. We needed all the help we could get for the 4 hour drive home that night. These types of trips are brutal, but totally worth it.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Grab a Thread and Pull


Some of you who follow this blog, or my Facebook Page, or the Instagram, or even my semi-sad twitter feed might be asking, "What makes your stupid opinion matter so much?" My answer is simple, "Absolutely nothing." I am entirely unremarkable. 

This isn't something I started doing because I wanted to wow folks with my mad skills and be a super star. I just happen to do a crap-ton of stuff and folks started coming to me for information. Eventually writing the same emails again and again took up too much time. In order to make things more efficient (my main motivation in everything I do) I decided to document the highlights (that's right, I don't actually post everything I do and eat, only some of it) and make the information public. At that point - I must admit - things kind of got out of hand, and now here I am doing way more blogging than I ever intended.

When reading my blogs please try to always remember that even though I often share my opinions and love of things, I respect that what I like isn't for every person. That's why I also share information about things I think other people will love even though it's not my preference. My goal is providing access to information, not making others like stuff I like. (Of course, when I'm in love with a place I shout it from the rooftops because I want it around forever and ever.)

Let's take any sort of "fast food" for example. Fast food is basically the worst in my opinion. It's something I sometimes need, but never want. It does not make my heart sing. It just keeps me from having a medical episode. However, I know plenty of folks who think it's marvelous (like my poor misguided partner-in-crime) and I want them to enjoy it to their hearts content. I don't understand their feelings, but I support their joy and let everyone know when new options arise.

What I am trying to say is that just because I share information about a place or product, it doesn't mean that it's my most favorite thing in the world. If I adore something I will say, "OMG I am in love" and tell you it's amaze-balls and my jam. If I it's not my kind of thing, I'll describe the experience or product so you have more information and can make a decision for yourself.  

Of course there are things and places I simply will not mention. Usually they are doing something that I find violates human decency or they are unreliable. Two things I value in life are how people are treated and consistency in vision. Instead of filling the internet with more vial emotional vomit, I just don't mention places that have offended me on some level.

Another thing you need to know is that "fancy" isn't what I value most. I'm interested in more than how pretty it looks inside. Some of the most interesting people I've met, and most fulfilling experiences I've had were when I didn't judge and just experienced. There is so much more to life than a shiny facade and that's the part of the world I want to experience. That means some places and experiences I recommend might be challenging, but when I step back from my preconceived ideas I find magic there and I value that.  

What I am trying to say is that I'm not here to wow you with my importance or my knowledge, that's just a little something you get for free (had to say that because it makes me giggle). My hope isn't that you do exactly what I do when you come across an adventure, my hope is only that it's a thread you can tug that unravels your own magic.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Kenneth Kim Vineyards, like an episode of Parts Unkown


One of the best parts about writing this blog is that sometimes I get invited on cool adventures. Last week, for example, I had the pleasure of visiting Kenneth Kim Vineyards which is a petite winery about 50 minutes east of Pyeongtaek in a beautiful rural valley, hidden away from the hustle and bustle. Mr Kim built his little winery with an apartment for himself, a wine cave below, and a large working space that was modeled after a French winery of historical importance to Korea.


Mr. Kim, who graduated from Stanford and who spent most of his life raising a family and growing a business in California, fell in love with wine while traveling in Europe for work and living near California's gorgeous wine country. His passion for wine was so strong that he began making his own in 1993, and even brought the passion back with him to Korea. For years he wrote a respected wine column, imported wines, and did wine tastings in Seoul. He was featured in many publications, some of which you can read when you visit his space. His expertise helped to bring wine appreciation to Korea. He is a true pioneer in the industry and has wonderful stories to tell.



These days Mr. Kim has moved to rural Anseong to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside and focus on making his own wines. Despite loving the countryside, he still feels driven to share his passion with others. In order to do this, he coordinates wine events through his meetup.com Wine Connoisseurs of Korea Club group that you can find here: http://www.meetup.com/wine-784/ He also has a Facebook Page Kenneth Kim Vineyards.






When I went to visit Mr. Kim I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a man with a lot of passion for what he does, both in terms of process and history. He is full of the stories, ideas, and questions that make the perfect dinner companion. We talked about all sorts of interesting and fascinating topics and it left me feeling like I had dropped into an episode of Parts Unkown. How often do you get to meet someone who has spent so much of his life persuing a passion?

If you would like to have the pleasure of having dinner with Mr Kim while drinking beautiful wines from his vineyard and around the world, you need to check out his meetup group and get involved in future events: http://www.meetup.com/wine-784/

The next two next two Wine Connoisseurs of Korea Club events are:

Includes: A lot of free flowing wine and a shared meal.
Transportation: will be coordinated from Seoul (see meetup event)
It can also be coordinate from the Pyeongtaek and Songtan Areas
if enough people are in attendance. 
Tickets are 100,000 won in advance or 120,000

October 29th which is a Halloween Wine Tasting 

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