Understanding the Korean Spice – And how to be at one with Kimchi

I get a lot of tourists saying to me, “Rob, I’m a foodie! Take me some place good to eat where all the Koreans go!” Or, “Rob, I’m an adventurous eater! I want to try new things!”.
Seeking out for some of the exotic
Seeking out for some of the exotic
I say, “Alright, let’s do it! I know just the place”
And they say, “But nothing spicy. I don’t like spicy.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 9.22.30 AM And then my mouth just drops. Whaaaaaa?? How can you tell me you are any sort of self-respecting adventurous eater of foodie, if you can’t indulge in anything spicy? It is the crux of Korean cuisine and the centerpiece of every dining table here. Look, I get it. You were hurt once. Stung…and you don’t want to feel the pain of it again. But that was years ago…it’s time to move on!

kimchi
kimchi

The Korean spice is a very different kind of spice. Other spices will give a sharp sting on contact and leaving a lingering singe in your mouth. Others you’ll feel it after you ingest it as it makes its way through your stomach and eventually scorches the other end of your gastro-extremities. The basic Korean spice is a bit of a warming spice. You won’t feel it right away, but as you fill your stomach with beef, rice and kimchi. And more beef, more rice and more kimchi…you’ll start to notice some tingling sensation in your taste buds. Things are starting to get warmer but you can consume it at a pace where you don’t overwhelm your mouth with any singular flavor.

soon dubu jiggae
soon dubu jiggae

Continue reading Understanding the Korean Spice – And how to be at one with Kimchi

8 Things Commonly said by Tourists visiting Korea

Happy New Year 2015! And may this year be another great year for people to come to Korea.

A very rare species in Korea:  The Garbage Can
A very rare species in Korea: The Garbage Can

Being a tour guide in Korea, it’s funny to hear some of the same comments and questions over and over again from tourists. In doing so I’ve compiled some the top 8 as well as responses to debunk a lot of what is said or misconceived about Korea. Whether you are visiting Korea or are an expat entertaining guests who visit here, it’s good to equip yourself with some knowledge on how to address some of these observations. 1. “Since Korea is home to Samsung, Galaxy phones must be cheaper. Where do I get one?”Wrong. Samsung phones, as well as a lot of other products of Korea are actually more expensive here than anywhere else in the world. Even with the taxes and tariffs, you are better off buying them where you are from. Samsung claims that they are being fair with the prices due to the difference in “distribution systems”. What does this mean? Probably something to do with the vast competition other markets have vs Korea’s limited competition (which in turn creates a cartel). Whatever the reason is, bottom line: Samsung products are NOTICEABLY more expensive in Korea when in fact they are originated from here. In fact, a great gift for your hosts in Korea would be to bring them a new Samsung phone.

The Galaxy S5 phone sells for 918,800 Korean Won or approximately $830USD
The Galaxy S5 phone sells for 918,800 Korean Won or approximately $830USD

* On a side note: Because of this oligopoly, it tempts other foreign companies to come in and take advantage of us as well. Take for instance H&M and more recently IKEA. These companies are globally known as cheaper brands, but when they first came to Korea, they tried to charge higher than their normal prices here. They soon lowered their prices after informed netizens called them out on this. Too bad Korean netizens don’t have power over our home grown companies. I really need a Hyundai right now. 2. “Ooh, they have cider at this Korean restaurant. Let’s order that!” – Wrong. Cider in Korea is not the alcoholic drink that you are thinking of. It’s actually a word to describe a non-alchoholic carbonated drink similar to that of Sprite or 7-Up. So if you order cider at a restaurant, often times you will get that or a Korean local take on the beverage with Kin or Chilsung Cider which tastes lighter. Cider one of those English loan words that have been beaten up pretty bad after being loaned over two times through the Japanese Occupation (1910 – 1945). If you can just imagine a Japanese person back then trying to show a Korean how sophisticated they were with English you would come up with words like nan-ning-gu (난닝구) and bban-seu (빤스). Sound familiar? Somewhat? Kinda? It’s a derivative of the words “running-shirt” and “pants”, but you have say it a couple times in your head before you can actually make the connection. You then have to take it to the second-derivative to fully understand that it actually means…hold it…wait for it… “tank top” and “underwear”, in the Korean language. You can’t call this Konglish because it’s not our fault. But older-generation Koreans will use the words back at foreigners fully expecting that they will understand it thinking it’s English.

it's not what you think it is
it’s not what you think it is

Continue reading 8 Things Commonly said by Tourists visiting Korea

A brief look at the Seoul Metro and getting around

South Korea is a nation of about 50 million people…

..of which, 24 million of us live in the greater Seoul area. That’s roughly half the entire population.

10 million of us live within the Seoul city limits, but then there’s an additional 14 million of us that live in these surrounding satellite cities like Incheon and Bundang that make up the Gyeong-gi Province.

But we are all inter-connected through a network of subways, buses and trains that make up our public transportation system here. It’s a system that’s heralded by not only Koreans, but expats living here because its breadth, depth and ease of use. Number-coded, color-coded, in 4 different languages it makes anyone coming here for the first time feel like a true Seoulite.

It is also said that you can meet any one of the 24 million people in just about an hour!

…granted that you meet half-way^^

But it just goes to show here that if you need to meet someone here in Seoul, you really can! This makes connections in Korea easy, meeting your friends, making business happen or stalking your favorite K-pop celebrity.

I can’t stress how clean and safe our transportation is, not to mention Korea in general.

The future of KoreanTourGuide.com

Getting from Point A to Point B.

2014, so far has been a remarkable year for us. After winning the Viator award for Top 10 Guides, we saw people approaching us from all over the world to do tours for them or even ask us to do interviews. We even hosted Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child. That emboldened us to start up this website, KoreanTourGuide.com. One thing I am grateful of is that we have a great team. In the beginning it was tough to expand just the two of us, but now I feel we can handle just about any request that comes through our inbox. But as we grow, how do you scale a business based on our original chemistry and personalities? This is the characteristics that our customers loved about us. Our customers rave about our service and we are overwhelmingly flattered.

We know a lot of people, yet its so hard to find people just as passionate about tourism as we have. Anyone living in Korea who speaks perfect English would better want to work in a salary job over at Samsung or Hyundai. Why? Probably because we are all deeply directed by what our parents say is safe and what society tells us we should have. I was in the same unremarkably average category as well until something traumatic happened in my life* Now I don’t see the economy of money, but I see the economy of utility, but that’s enough for another blog post on its own.

11 Ways to be Unremarkably Average
click on the pic for something hilarious but so true…

Going back to what I was saying before, It’s going to be tough to find a way to replicate or come close to what we do. In the meantime, we are happy taking on the workload we have, but obviously we want to do so much more. We want to show people the beauty of this country and it’s people. We want to tell the world of the successes Korea has made and to deconstruct it so that its applicable to us on an individual level.

That is more of the romantic overarching dream we have and ultimately its branding Korea as a country. We will continue to tell the story of this on our tours, but in the future we need to be more sophisticated. Integrating it with the social-commerce, social-crowding and shared type economy is a key tactic, but I’ll save that for a later blog post as well. Think Uber, AirBnB and in real-time.

Getting from Point A to Point B is what we are doing. In between is KoreanTourGuide.com and hopefully its going to be a travel adventure on its own. So for now, please cheer us on and give us some love and support as we develop this website to be more informative for people coming to Korea.

KOREA IS VERY SAFE. SAFER THAN..

Coming to Korea from a country, say America, you will immediately feel how safe it is here. Lifestyle9.com just came out with their top 10 list of safest countries to settle. The top 4 countries are in Asia and they go as follows: Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea (America is #88). They only give descriptions for the top 3, so we’ll go over Korea specifically. When you come to Korea, without saying a word, foreigners immediately feel unthreatened. There is this sense of social order that people tend to abide by. Nobody gets in your face about anything unwarranted. Nobody is out seeking to get attention. Nobody shows any outward attitude. Yet if you approach any young Korean person randomly walking on the streets with a question, they are immediately happy to help you find your way with a friendly smile. Continue reading KOREA IS VERY SAFE. SAFER THAN..