Tourist Tips: Apps To Download For Your Trip

This next installment of Tourist Tips should be much shorter and simpler!  As always, I’m tailoring this series to answer common questions from TripAdvisor and other social media travel groups in which I participate.

Today’s topic: Apps. Must download, must have apps! Let’s get to it. Short and sweet today and I did this post in one sweep! Didn’t take a week, aren’t you proud?!?!?! Each heading is a link you can click to get to the appropriate webpage for download.

**NOTICE: Some Korean apps will require a Korean phone number to register. A Korean phone number is actually used as a form of legal verification matched to your ID to prove that it is you. You must request a code by SMS and then enter that on the page when you create an account.

This is not necessary for Kakao Talk, Naver Map, Kakao Map, Kakao Metro, Kakao Bus.

Navigation

Kakao Talk

Every country and even region has their own free messaging app. Kakao Talk is Korea’s. Literally EVERYONE (and I mean literally – 97% of Koreans have a smart phone) use this app.

It’s a messaging app to use between friends, but also you can do things (if you have Korean ID and phone number) like buy movie tickets, send gifts to friends, pay at stores, make reservations at hair shops, online shopping…literally EVERYTHING.

For you the visitor it’s most important because EVERYONE will have it. The hotel staff, the tour guide…and you won’t need to use your phone to call anyone. The app features free voice and video chat. 

Naver Map

Naver Map is a Korean map service that again, everyone uses. As I’ve said over and over and over (I swear it’s like beating a dead horse) – Google Maps is not reliable. Google and the government don’t play nice together, so they have limited access. Google Maps will only work for basic transportation directions.  Walking directions do NOT work on Google, but you can still follow around the little blue dot.

Naver Map is my go to map service. The app now features English support after the Olympics. Naver Map is VERY detailed down to the exact address and subway exit to use and is always trusted.

App Store (iPhone) Download

Google Play (Android) Download

Kakao Map

Kakao Map is, as you’d guess, owned and operated by Kakao, the company that owns Kakao Talk. I use this map service sometimes, and it’s just as good as Naver….but Naver is my go to choice. Works just as well as Naver Maps.

Kakao Metro

Kakao Metro is a standalone subway app (again designed by…you guessed it….Kakao). It is EXCELLENT and above and beyond better than any other subway app.

The subways in Korea are marked by car and door number. So if you look on the ground (or the screen door) you will see a number like 7-2, 2-3, etc. Say it’s 7-3, that means Car 7 Door 3.

The car and door number are VERRRRRY VALUABLE info for finding your exit and transfer points. Some stations are huge, have 15 exits, etc. This will tell you exactly where to stand so you can be right at the appropriate stairwell closest to your exit.

I RELIGIOUSLY follow these directions and always stand at the proper door.

When you transfer, some stations only have transfer access in one way. Meaning that the transfer to a different subway line in one direction can be at the opposite end of the other direction. So the car number and door is vital to putting yourself in the right direction and place for your transfer.

Tip: If you stand at the exact door for transfers/exits, it can often be VERY crowded. Just go down one door or two over from that to have a bit more space.

Kakao Bus

Kakao Bus is an app that is designed in basic English, BUT you must be able to decipher/follow the Korean for bus stops.

This app is very useful as it tells you the bus stop information and when the bus is coming, and the direction that it is going.

It’s very popular for Koreans, but again, without Korean ability – bring your patience.

Kakao Taxi (Kakao T)

Now this is a popular app for taxi hailing, and I only write about it because everyone always asks about Uber or similar services. In Korea, there is no Uber. There are literally 5 which are registered taxis that drive black cars. They are literally about 5 times more expensive than a regular taxi.

You can generally find a taxi on the street no problem. If it is late at night in popular nightlife areas like Gangnam or Itaewon, it will be VERY hard to get a taxi. Even then, Kakao Taxi doesn’t always work.

The main catch with Kakao Taxi is that, no matter if your location is exact, drivers always ALWAYS call you.  So, if you can’t speak Korean or don’t have a working phone number, you might have your taxi cancelled because the driver doesn’t want the difficulties or hassle. It’s lazy and annoying, but sadly, it’s just how it is.

The app is in English, but again, don’t expect the drivers to speak it. They’re just regular taxis with this hooked up to a phone in their car.

There are lots of requests for info about bus and train tickets. BUT the apps only work if you have a Korean credit card, not a foreign one.

Korail – KTX, ITX, Mugunghwa (Slow Train) Tickets + Korail Passes

**Train tickets are ONLY available for purchase 30 days before departure.

SRT Rail (Gangnam Area High Speed Train To Busan, Gyeongju Etc.) does not offer any English support online at this time. The app is said to have Korean, but still requires a Korean credit card. Best to purchase at an SRT station.  99% of tourists will only use KTX as it’s closer to Hongdae/Myeongdong. SRT is only good for those staying in Gangnam as the main station is Suseo….which is a bit far out of the way.

T Money Bus Ticket Website 

This is one of two bus websites. This website features most of the routes from Express Bus Terminal (Gangnam) and a few from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and Nambu Bus.

KOBUS

This is the original bus ticketing website that features several lines. There are sooo many buses and lines that it’s even hard to explain to Koreans. They just know which apps to use and where to go 🙂

*With Korea bus apps – enter your phone number 010-555-5555. You don’t need a number to register, but they just want a number to send a text with the reservation.

Food

There are many many many Korean delivery apps. However, these don’t offer English support AND you typically need a phone number to confirm delivery in case of problems (or to register for service).

Feeling adventurous and want to try them out? The main one is:

Baemin – App Store OR Google Play

The easiest way to use this:

Set your address by copying and pasting the Korean from your accomodation email.

Scroll on the main page to 맛집 랭킹. This means Ranking of Restaurants in your neighborhood based on reviews and overall popularity. It’s literally how I order all the time.

After you play around with delivery – be sure to hit the button 만나서 결제.  This means pay when the driver comes.

English Speaking Korean Help Apps/Sites

There are several services that exist to help foreigners with things like online shopping, baseball tickets, and food delivery. They are:

Go Wonderfully

English speaking concierge service that operates roughly 9 AM – 6 PM. They’ll help with concert tickets that don’t have an English site, online shopping, food orders, train tickets, etc.

Help Me Emo

This is a delivery assistance site for Korean food delivery. Must have Kakao to communicate with them for your order. Easiest way to get regular Korean favorites delivered to you!

Shuttle

This is a popular delivery app for foreigners that want to have their favorite foreign restaurants. As most of these places are in Itaewon, be warned that there can be hefty fees the further away from Itaewon that you are.

There are several Korean hotel apps that offer cheap “love motels” for a night at 30-50,000W. Unfortunately, you need a Korean number to register for these. That being said, I’m offering them purely as info for you to try them.

Yanolja

Yeogi Oddaeyo

 

That’s all for today’s tourist tips! I did this one so fast I can’t even think of what I’m gonna do next….it’s Saturday night and time to go out :-)!

 

 

 

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Yeosu Weekend Trip: Food & Restaurants

Welcome to Part Three of Five on my Yeosu weekend getaway with you know who! Part Two featured Tourist Sites & Attractions, while Part One was an overview to the City of Yeosu.

Today I want to get to what is, arguably, Yeosu’s strongest point. FOOD. The entire Jeollado Region of Korea is known for having THE best and often cheapest food in the entire country.

Yeosu is famous for three things: agujjim, seodae hwae (sashimi), and soy sauce marinated crabs (ganjang gejang)..

Agujim is a braised fish dish served all over Korea. Yeosu is famous for it. Technically, the fish is “braised angler,” but 90% of foreigners wouldn’t know what the hell kind of fish that is (and it’s kind of ugly). So I’ll describe it. Chunky, flaky white fish. No annoying as fuck tiny bones. Clean taste. Good texture.

I would say it’s braised in spicy red pepper paste, spices, soy sauce etc.  But to quote Wikipedia:

“The dish is seasoned with hot chili pepper powder, doenjangganjang (soy sauce), minced garlic, and chopped scallions to make it spicy and hot.[2] However, other ingredients such as kongnamul (soybean sprouts), mideodeok (미더덕, Styela clava), and minari (미나리, water dropwort) also play an important role in giving agujjim a refreshing and fragrant flavor.[2][3]

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Agujjim, braised fish with spicy sauce, bean sprouts, vegetables

This dish was our first stop on the list. We went to “You Know Who’s” favorite place when he was a kid. Many of his friends said it had become super popular over the years and changed, but You Know Who still loved it!

The restaurant name is 조롱박 which does not translate to English easily…..literally Jo Long (or Rong) Bak . Google Maps has an even worse English name for it, Jolongbag. It’s true meaning is a dried out gourd used to drink rice wine. Presumably, this gourd is used to hold the rice wine vinegar, seasoning, food, ANYTHING 🙂

 

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In Korea’s small cities, literally EVERY seat is on the floor. Good luck finding a table!
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Included with these dishes is a variety of sides and a big bowl of rice topped with salted, dried seaweed. As we ordered both dishes, we got all the side dishes. The variety can vary based on which item you order. BUT, all have unlimited refills.

We also ordered another dish, seodaehoe. This is another example of Korean not translating well to English haha. Seodae is a type of sole, and hoe (pronounced “hway”) means raw. Served like sashimi. The pieces are very firm, nice and chilled, similar to tuna sashimi, tossed in a spicy, sour, rice wine vinegar and red pepper sauce. Also mixed in are cabbage and some various onions. VERY tart and refreshing.

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Seodaehoe, Sole Sashimi Marinated in Rice Wine Vinegar, Red Pepper….

Total cost for our meal: 40,000W. Now, you don’t have to eat this much. In fact, you can order just either of the dishes. One is more than enough. But we were being glutttonous and HANGRY!

That afternoon, we did A LOT of sightseeing. So, our next meal was for dinner at the Yeosu Fish Market. Again, these terms are searched in Korean, so they might not display in English on your phone or computer.

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Yeosu Fish Market By Day
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Blurry camera work is endearing, right? Somehow, I only took TWO blurry pics. Inside are rows and rows of stalls like this. All are literally the same price.
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All quiet for the night…

At the fish market, you choose any stall. Honestly, they’re all the same in price and quality. The worker will chop up your fish at her stall and plate the sashimi.  While she’s doing that, you will go to the “restaurants” next door. Choose any one that has a seat.  There, you will pay a small table charge of around 2-4,000W per person.

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The row of restaurants where you eat your purchases.

The restaurant staff will serve you beer, soju (of course, for extra) and free side dishes. After you eat all of the raw fish, they use the fish bones (from your fish) and make a spicy stew out of it. So all in all you get a giant meal out of this fish.

We spent 30,000W for the big plate of raw flounder (off-white color) and 10,000W for the raw squid (bright white color). We also spent around 20,000W on alcohol and the table charge. So all in all 60 for the two of us.

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Flounder “Sashimi” (Squid, too) with side dishes and a regional soju.
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My FAVORITE sauce for dipping is a spicy, vinegary fermented red pepper sauce. SO tart, sour and a little spicy!
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Spicy Stew from Fish Bones

 

After the fish market, we tried to go to Romantic Pocha Street, but they shut down oddly early. So we just visited a random hof near our motel. Nothing special to write about really. Some fried shrimp for 20,000W.

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Scrimps!!! Also included was some soup and random side dishes like CORN SALAD. Mmmmmh Corn and Mayonnaise!  AND YES, that’s cabbage covered in mayo and ketchup. No, I didn’t eat it.

 

The next day, we woke up and headed back downtown. As You Know Who grew up in Yeosu, we had a nice chat with the taxi driver about the changes in Yeosu and everything. So, logically, we asked him to recommend a lunch place. And we ended up at Daeseong Sikdang.

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Exterior of Daeseong Sikdang.

They have all the usual suspects of key Yeosu menus, so we went for fried fish. At 10,000W per person, we received two kids of fish: 삼치 (Spanish Mackarel, pronounced samchee) and 갈치 (hairtail fish, pronounced galchi).  One portion featured both fish pan fried and cost 10,000W per person.

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The main course. Big hunks of fish! While it may look small, it was very filling portions for a lunch. And heavy (but in a good alcohol soaking sort of way).
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Kimchi is the name of the game for these side dishes at the top. Then on the left is a root vegetable, followed by some black beans and nuts in a sweet syrup. Bottom forefront picture is hardcore……it’s a kind of fish intenstines made into a spicy “sauce.” Slightly sticky, very funky, and you just eat it with rice.
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The other goodies from forefront to the right: eggplant in sesame oil and seasoning, bean sprouts, tofu, fish cake and spicy pepper, and some sort of green that was pickled/Korean-ized. Great descriptions, i know.

 

After our lunch, we headed over to the rail bike by taxi, did that quickly, then taxied back to Odong Island.  The good news about, really, every tourist place, is that, of course they have snacks and people hustling everywhere. Some of it is tourist crap, yes, but some of it is really good…. like this random street stall.

The lady was selling warm breads/pastry snacks from her tent. The crowd of old people meant the product was on rotation and was fresh.

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Only three choices here: “Flower Shape Bread” (really just the mold stamp is the shape of the national flower), waffle pie, and Old Style Hoddeok (Cinnamon Sugar pancake-like pastry)
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The Flower Bread, filled with Red Bean. Sweet, buttery, moist, way better than I expected.
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Hoddeok is a puffy, gooey cinnamon sugar pastry. But this is old style, which meant it was VERY thin and crispy.
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The aforementioned thin, crispy hoddeok with red bean bread

 

After exploring Odong Island, it was time for the MAIN EVENT…..soy sauce crabs!!!!!!!!!!!!! Soy sauce crabs are a Yeosu specialty. A) Because they’re delicious and B) they’re CHEAP.

In Seoul, at a popular place, ONE person costs 45,000W. In Yeosu? The MOST popular place is 10,000W for all you can eat crabs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What are soy sauce crabs? You know Wikipedia has the answers!!

Gejang or gejeot is a variety of jeotgal, salted fermented seafood in Korean cuisine, which is made by marinating fresh raw crabs either in ganjang (soy sauce) or in a sauce based on chili pepper powder. The term consists of the two words; ge, meaning “a crab”, and jang which means “condiment” in Korean.[1] Although gejang originally referred only to crabs marinated in soy sauce, it has begun to be called “ganjang gejang” these days to differentiate it from yangnyeom-gejang (양념게장). The latter is relatively a new dish that emerged since the restaurant business began to thrive in South Korea.[2] “Yangnyeom” literally means “seasoning” or “seasoned” in Korean but refers to the spicy sauce made with chili pepper powder.”

Soy sauce crabs are the main event, but there are also a spicy version in gochujang, seasonings, etc. (which secretly I liked better at  the first place):

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The soy sauce variety
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The Spicy Version

Now, while they aren’t the sexiest or cleanest food to eat, they are DAMN tasty. like GAH. So good we ordered 2.5 kg of them to our house.  This allowed us to eat at #2 Most Popular Place and we ordered from #1 Most Popular Place.

You Know Who’s Friend recommended we try a place called Cheongjeong Gejangchon. They are famous for their 갈치조림 (Braised Cutlassfish, pronounced Galchi Jolim). They also serve the crabs as part of your sides and you can get one refill of each.

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Restaurant Interior (Again, see, no chairs! All on the floor!)
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Braised Fish with Radish, Onion, Spicy Sauce, Seasonings Etc.
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All this for 16,000W per person. From left, the side dishes: kimchi, seaweed, a soybean paste crab soup, more white kimchi, black beans (slightly sweeet), shellfish, the crabs and then three kinds of jeotgal, which is like a salty fish innards/kimchi.
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Soy sauce crab. How to eat? Just bite and squeeze the meat out! The legs you can crack to get the other meat out. Soy sauce crab meat is NOT cooked.

 

We  STUFFED our fat faces that day, whew! Then we headed over to the other MOST POPULAR CRAB PLACE, 황소식당  (Hwangso Sikdang).

We just ordered a jar of soy sauce crabs to our house in Seoul. Very cheap, 30,000W for 2.5 kg. We ate them for almost a whole month, but they became TOOOOOOOO salty so we had to throw a few crabs away. This month we’re gonna get the spicy seasoning (yangnyeom) ones.

After making our purchase, we hopped in a taxi back to Romantic Pocha Street for the last two hours before our train. We literally squeezed every second of time full of activities. It was PERFECT.

Romantic Pocha Street has TONS of different dishes, with some more famous and even people wait in line for them!

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So this is a cold noodle dish, with vinegary, sour, spicy red pepper sauce. Tossed with it are some onions and lettuce….BUT a very unusual blend of pig’s feet, blood sausage, and sea snails. All sound strange, yes, but all delicious.

We picked one that was full and had like one table left. Random. Luck of the draw.  At this point in the trip, we were tired of seafood hahaha. It was all delicious, but we wanted some MEAT!

So we ordered a rather interesting dish…..that still had seafood! Sea snails are common here (whelk if you will). They’re very meaty, not so much fishy. Also tossed in were some pig’s feet which have AMAZING seasoning.

We got a little drunk, then You Know Who raided a bubble tea cafe and bakery for the train ride home.

9 PM and we were at the train station and took the Midnight train back to Seoul!

This is where I’d usually write something cute and witty, but whew, so busy that this post took TOO LONG! Stayed tuned for the last installments…sooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnn……….

That Gangnam Life

Since the blog is fresh, I wanted to take the time to share a little bit more about myself, my social life, etc.  As I mentioned, I live and work in Gangnam near Seonjeongneung Station. I work as an after school English teacher at a nearby school in the afternoons. It’s a nice 20 minute walk to work.

Gangnam literally means “South of the River,” the River being the Han River that divides Seoul. The northern part of the river is older Seoul, where everything began. Gangnam development only really began in the 1970s (ish) as it was allllllllllllllllllll farm land then. It was developed specifically to be the new business area.  Gangnam is technically Gangnam-gu (gu = District), Seocho-gu, and even Songpa-gu, so what Seoulites consider Gangnam is quite large.

Gangnam itself is about 1-1.5 hrs from Incheon Airport depending on traffic/where you’re coming from. To Myeongdong it’s about 40 minutes by bus. To Hongdae, 45 minutes by subway. Gangnam is in the Southeastern area of Seoul.

The best part? You can literally get ANYWHERE in Korea from Gangnam. Well, except Jeju. Express Bus Terminal is in Gangnam, offering buses to other cities like Busan, Gyeongju, and Daegu.  The SRT high speed train also opened recently at Suseo Station, allowing us to get to the same cities by high speed train. It’s closer than KTX for us and even slightly cheaper.  Gimpo Airport is only 30 minutes by Line 9 Express, but bring your patience, because Line 9 is craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy crowded.

Allllllllll the major businesses are here, so it’s teeming with office workers during the day. It’s also known as the place for THE best education in Korea, so there are many families packed into high-rise apartment complexes and small apartments surrounding the schools.

Gangnam is viewed as the “fancy, super expensive” neighborhood, which it can be, but that is not my Gangnam! I happen to think of my neighborhood as VERY normal, but better in some ways. It’s extremely clean with Nazi-like trash men, street sweepers, trash trucks, all that stuff.  Not only do the trash men sort the household trash for collection, they even go as far to sweep the streets of leaves and general debris every morning!

Here are a few shots of my hood. The main streets around it are covered in offices, businesses, traffic. What you’d expect as it’s the newer part of Seoul.

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Sunny Afternoon in the ‘hood!

When you move off the main street, you find tons of residences all around you.  The giant apartment towers/family complexes are self serving with everything in one central location. Most single people live in small buildings with several one room apartments. The streets are narrow and dense with buildings and car traffic.

Somehow, despite all of this, my neighborhood is PIN DROP quiet. Like I still don’t know how it manages to be this quiet. People are all around, but you wouldn’t know it!

 

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Typical Gangnam Neighborhood Street (Not Sure Who Put Up the Soju Cut Out, But I Love Them)

There are several meat restaurants, izakayas and Korean style bars in my neighborhood. I stay around my house when I want a quiet night out. Fried chicken, meat, seafood, it can all be had within a short walk.

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My Neighborhood Pork Place

 

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Moksal, Pork Neck, which has a nice, crispy fatty edge. Perfect with just a dash of salt! Real meat needs nothing else!

And below are just two of my favorite Japanese places nearby. Yes, I know, it’s Korea, but Japanese bars and food are verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry popular. The first place is a nearby izakaya that nails the decor!

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100 for Authentic Vibe!
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Nagasaki Jjampong – The broth is similar to Japanese Pork Ramen, but it’s full of seafood, noodles and DELICIOUSNESS.

Below is a Japanese “fish cake” bar. This place is always so busy I couldn’t get a seat for almost two years….only ten seats in total! By cake, I mean they form fish and flour together. In Japan, they call it kamaboko. In Korea, we call it Odeng or Uh-Mook.

 

 

BUT for true nightlife, I head just one (express) subway stop away to Sinnonhyeon Station. THIS is real Gangnam nightlife. And not douchey club Gangnam. Normal Koreans, meeting friends, eating, drinking, singing the night away.

My next post will be devoted to my home away from home (and where I do most meetups and tours), Sinnonhyeon Station!

The Beginning (Or, Who The F Is This Guy?)

Well, finally, the website has actually started! It’s been a long, lazy, stressful, challenging year….but I did it, folks. In really slow baby steps.

While the purpose of The Real Seoul is to meet visitors and show them an amazing time, I do have to tease you with blogs, blogs, blogs: amazing food write ups, activities, and other things that are The Real Seoul.

But first, before all that, I want you to know me. Where I come from, how I got here, all that. So let’s do this!

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My name is Michael Hollifield. I’m 33 (34 in just two weeks to the day). My last home in America was Atlanta, GA, but I grew up in Spartanburg, SC. I moved here in August 2011 on a whim. I was previously working in marketing in and loved it. But, I worked for a small business and was laid off. It was a perfect time as my apartment lease also ended. I searched around the world for teaching jobs.

Did I care about teaching? Absolutely not. I just wanted to live in a new country. In all my search, it turned out that my friend’s co-worker previously worked at the same academy in Korea that wanted to interview me.

I moved to the suburbs of Seoul and worked at a kindergarten and elementary school English academy for three years. It was hard, I busted my ass, but every day I loved life here more and more.

In 2014, I moved to Seoul for a change of pace. I lived in Itaewon, studied Korean, and prepared to apply for business school by taking the GMAT.  I got another teaching job. Unfortunately, after two years of trying, the business school plan was not meant to be.

As I stayed here year after year, I realized that I needed more than teaching. That I really wanted to make Korea my forever home.  So, I started the process to become a true resident of Korea and get a residency visa that allows complete freedom and independence.  More on that later.

So here I am, residency visa in hand. It’s fresh, too, from August! I’m still teaching by day, but I’m focusing more and more on this website and business every day.  Once I realllllllly get going, say in one year, I hope to make this my permanent full time job and say goodbye to teaching!

I currently live and work in Gangnam. Yes, that Gangnam. I LOVE my neighborhood. Not for Gangnam Style, not for fanciness. But it’s the best damn neighborhood in Seoul. I can live cheaply, eat cheaply…. and have the best transportation options, cleanest streets and quality infrastructure at the same time! I can’t wait to show off my neighborhood to you.

Oh and since you might have come here for Gay Nightlife info….yes, I’m totally gay. Living with, obviously, a Korean boyfriend! We definitely still go out to the gay bars and I absolutely can show you a great time there.

It is my goal that you love Seoul as much as I do in the short time you are here. That I can share with you what I love and what Koreans are so damn proud of. That you can love soju as much as I love soju.