Recent Blog Posts
What originally brought you to Korea and what do you do here?
I arrived in Korea 10 years ago, after taking up an academic position at Korea University Business School. I did not know much about Korea, but I did know the schools here have a great academic reputation, and KUBS is one of the leading ones. I have lived in other parts of Asia before, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, so when I saw an opportunity to take up a contract position at KUBS – I thought why not! After two years I applied for a tenure track position – and that has led me to my current position as Associate Professor of Marketing.
KUBS is a fantastic school within KU. They are truly global, with a number of international faculty, a large number of international students, exchange and regular. Around 65-70% of the program is taught in English. I am regarded as regular tenure track faculty – which is means that I am, for all intents and purposes, integrated!
What’s your favorite thing about living in Korea?
This is not an easy question to answer. There are many things. Generally, I love the people. The people make a place and I have made a great group of friends, both Korean and foreign. I am also lucky to work with a great group of colleagues.
The thing that I love about Koreans particularly is they want to be the best! I think, like many other foreigners I know, sometimes that the way they go about it is not the way we would do it, however I cannot but admire overall tenacity of some of the people I know. This is especially the case among the people I am around every day – my students. They have worked so hard when compared to many of their counterparts in other parts of the world. They are energetic and enthusiastic. This leads to a very dynamic community.
Of course I also love the food, the culture, and history!
What’s your favorite thing about Seoul?
My favorite thing about Seoul, is living in a large cosmopolitan city with many things to do – but with the convenience of a village. I love the fact that I can easily go to a world class show, a music performance, a gallery etc., and have all the amenities of a world class city. I also love that within meters of my apartment building there are small eateries supplying a whole range of delicious local and international foods. I can just pop out to eat or get something without getting into a car. If I don’t want to do that – ask for delivery!
Do you have a favorite memory of your time here?
My favorite memory shows the full measure of Korean people’s hospitality. I remember not long after having arrived in Korea, I was eating alone near my University. I decided to go to a local restaurant and order. A group of locals were sitting nearby and got to chatting with me. They asked me who I was with, and if I would like to join them. Our communication was limited. My Korean was non-existent and their English was marginal, but we managed to communicate. The evening went from eating, to a bar, and then to a norae-bang. It was the first of many great nights to follow – they remain my friends. Although one could say that this not all that special, it was to me, as these people friends did not need to go out of their way for a lonely middle-aged waygookin (foreigner). They did, with no expectations for anything in return. This is a great memory.
Tell us about The Kiwi Chamber and your role as chairman.
The Kiwi Chamber, aka New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Korea was founded 2008 with the central mission to facilitate business opportunities for New Zealand and Korean companies and individuals by creating support networks that enable them to promote, protect and advance their respective commercial interests in each other’s countries. Post the ratification of the FTA between NZ and Korea, our role has changed to really promoting the opportunities that NZ and Korea provide each country.
My role of Chair is work closely with the Board, Advisors and our Executive Director to facilitate the activities of the Chamber. I can honestly say that I am very lucky to have a very capable and active Board. This makes my life much easier. My key responsibility is to make sure NZ and NZ business in Korea is kept top of mind in all avenues.
What does the chamber offer its members and how does it stand out in Korea?
The Chamber runs a range of events and activities each year. Events such as the annual wine festivals, breakfast forums (Inspire with Innovation Series), workshops and other networking opportunities (Huis) are organized to meet our objectives. The Chamber also works with other organizations on community outreach activities such as Songjukwon Orphanage, a female orphanage (with the ANZ and with the kind assistance of the NZ Embassy and the Grand Hyatt).
Many of the objectives of our chamber match those of others. We work closely with the Australian and other Commonwealth Chambers on a number of events and activities. I like to think that the Kiwi Chamber channels the personality of New Zealand in its activities. We are relaxed and not too hierarchical – we take things seriously, but try not to take ourselves too seriously.
Tell us about The Kiwi Chamber New Zealand Wine Festival. Why is it special and what makes it different this year?
We are holding the New Zealand Wine Festival events on Saturday, May 20 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the beautiful Waterfall Garden of the Grand Hyatt Seoul and on Saturday, June 3 from 6:30pm to 10:30pm in the Grand Ballroom at the Park Hyatt Busan. This year’s festivals, the ninth in Seoul and the fifth in Busan will offer wine-lovers an array of premium red and white wines from around 25 vineyards. More and more wines are being featured at this event, as the wine industry is one which has taken advantage of the benefits of the FTA. NZ is now the 10 largest exporter of wine to Korea and we have seen 31% growth. This means that the wine connoisseur can now more easily find NZ wine. What great events to discover our wine!
This year’s theme is “Wine from the Other Side.” The theme encourages wine cognoscente to take a journey across the equator from the hustle and bustle of Korean big city life to the other side of the world where the air is clean, the water is pure and the wine is exceptional.
We want keep the traditional New Zealand style at both events. The two hotels will offer a first-class New Zealand-themed culinary experience coupled with the finest service, including a superb outdoor BBQ-style buffet in Seoul and exquisite tapas buffet in Busan.
We will also feature lucky draws with many outstanding prizes, including one economy return ticket to New Zealand for each event from sponsor Singapore Airlines.
You can get more information about the events from kiwichamber.com!
April 27 - May 4, 2017
I’ve been told that Sipadan (off the east coast of Malaysian Borneo in Sabah) has some of the best scuba diving in the world, so I wanted to make a trip out there. Also, I had an Open Water certification, but wanted to move towards Advanced. You can’t stay on Sipadan Island but resorts will take you there and a friend recommended the diving resort, Scuba Junkie, so we went there. They have reasonable rates for diving.
It’s quite a trip to get out there. I flew from Lombok to Kuala Lumpur ($41.34 on AirAsia), spent the night in KL ($24.23 at Hotel Soleil), and then flew to Tawau ($36 on AirAsia). Then, there’s a long van + boat ride, but Scuba Junkie will take care of you from Tawau Airport to Mabul Beach Resort (15km way from Sipadan). I really don’t recommend staying in Semporna – but you will need to get cash there or before arriving as there are no banks or ATMs on Mabul Island.
Right when you arrive to Mabul Island, you can walk the long jetty that runs to the shore + resort. The local Bajau people live on one side of the jetty which can be a stark contrast the luxury you’ll have of the resort of catered meals and beautiful dives - but I highly recommend walking around the island and buying snacks in town! It’s great to see children playing.
All rooms include three daily meals plus afternoon snack, tea, coffee, and water. Rooms are simply decorated but clean and spacious, located just a few meters from the beach where you can swim, snorkel, dive, or simply sun bathe. Sometimes I felt a bit lost about where I was going and what was happening, but I learned that it was best to go with the flow and smile through the confusion.
The staff were all friendly and the dives were incredible. If you book accommodation so late that Scuba Junkie doesn’t have tickets for Sipadan (because they only allow so many on the island a day), walk around to the other dive resorts and pay cash for one of their tickets. We found a few resorts (e.g. Billabong, Uncle Chang, Borneo Divers) that had extra tickets for a premium price (848 Malaysian Ringgit a person for three dives with equipment). It’s the best diving I’ve ever experienced and you gotta do it if you’ve gone all that way!
If you’re in the process of learning the Korean language, you’ve probably already considered all of the obvious ways that knowing Korean will enrich your life, like the fact that you’ll be able to watch Korean dramas without subtitles, or listen to your favorite k-pop songs and know the meaning! Plus if you choose to visit South Korea you won’t need a dictionary or phrase book to get around.
Learning Korean will ultimately open a door into another culture for you to experience — suddenly you’ll have access to a whole new world of movies, books, and conversations that you didn’t have access to before!
Although these reasons make learning Korean worth it, the learning process can sometimes feel frustrating if you run into an issue with understanding a word or phrase. Luckily, these days learning a language doesn’t have to be difficult — nowadays, with online courses at your fingertips language learning resources are extremely accessible to learners at all levels. And many aspects of Korean are very easy to learn from your home, like the Korean alphabet. With the click of a mouse and a couple of keystrokes, you have access to hundreds of websites and blogs whose express purpose is to make your learning journey a piece of cake!
There’s no need to visit Seoul right off the bat to learn the language — help is everywhere. With the hundreds of resources on the internet, it can be difficult to determine which resources will be a good fit for you, especially because everyone’s learning style is different.
*Ready to learn Korean yet? Click here to learn about our 90 Day Korean learning program!
Read on for a list of our favorite Korean learning courses available, and be sure to let us know if we are forgetting any in the comments below!
** Please note: these courses are in no particular order! We love them all equally. **
Online Course #1: FluentU
Some of the most successful language learning resources focus on real life material rather than material recorded expressly for the purpose of teaching a language — by exposing learners to movies, songs, and TV show clips right off of the bat, learning stays interesting to the viewer (and gives them a chance to use their new language skills right away). FluentU uses this method, and it’s no wonder that they’re so popular!
FluentU is comprised of multiple mini language lessons that highlight present day media to teach the Korean language. This can help keep their audience from getting burnt out — as soon as you feel like tuning out and taking a break, an interesting Korean drama clip or movie trailer will pop up and make the lesson exciting.
FluentU is accessible to all levels of Korean learners — they have beginner lessons that will teach you the absolute basics and get you introduced to the language, and then as you progress they have a wide selection of intermediate and advanced lessons that will follow. FluentU also keeps track of your interests as you go along and will show you clips that match those interests, so it’s a truly personalized learning approach.
There’s a FluentU iPhone app, so your learning doesn’t have to stop when it’s time to put your computer away. Check out FluentU for a fun, accessible Korean learning method that everyone is talking about!
Online Course #2: Udemy
If you’re just getting started with learning Korean and you need a solid overview of the basics of the Korean language, Udemy has a course called “Learn Korean! Start speaking now!” that is a great foundation to the ins and outs of Korean.
The intro course spans five hours, but it’s approachable because it’s segmented into over sixty mini lectures that teach you a couple of words or grammatical rules at a time. This is perfect if you’re the type of learner that needs to take breaks throughout a study session — because the lectures are so short, you won’t need to pause anything and worry about picking up where you left off later. You can just take a break in between lectures and get started on a new topic when you’re feeling ready!
Check out Udemy if you’re not a big fan of learning Korean from books and prefer a video interface. The site itself is very easy to navigate, and the content of the mini lectures will build the foundation that you’ll use throughout your learning journey.
Online Course #3: Seoul National Education Center
If you’re learning Korean, today is your lucky day — Seoul National University, one of the best universities in South Korea, has its very own Korean learning course that you can begin today!
This online course is a great supplement to any language classes you happen to be taking. The courses are well structured and cover topics ranging from vocabulary to syntax to conversation, so there really is a little bit of everything and all of the basics will be thoroughly covered.
The course itself consists 20 free courses that will help you cultivate your basic understanding of the Korean language. One of the best parts of the course is the follow-up questions that pop up after each part of the course is completed — when you’re able to check your knowledge and understanding at the end of each segment, it’s less likely that you’ll forget material or progress to the next course until you are confident in what you’ve learned.
Check out Seoul National Education Center’s course if you’re interested in learning Korean from a prestigious university. You can even download the audio clips to review whenever you’re on the go, so there are truly no excuses for not keeping up with your studies!
Online Course #4: Loecsen
If you’re more interested in learning phrases and basic conversation than you are learning about Korean language structure, Loecsen is the online course for you! Loecsen is perfect for anyone who needs some familiarity with the Korean language for a quick trip but isn’t looking to commit the hours required to become fluent in the language.
Unlike some of the courses on this list, Loecsen only has 15 lessons (which may come as a relief!) that cover the basics required for Korean conversation. While you’re going through the 15 lessons, you’ll cover everything from ordering at a bar, what to do if you injure yourself and need to talk about medical information, and how to tell a taxi driver where to take you. All of the lessons are extremely pertinent to day to day conversations. To help you remember vocabulary words, Loecsen will ask you to match audio clips of words to their written form and a picture that represents the meaning. Pretty cool, huh?
If you’re planning a trip to Korea sometime in the near future and you need a crash course to help you navigate the country and enjoy your trip, consider checking out Loecsen to help make you comfortable with speaking basic conversational Korean. The site even has quizzes you can print out to make sure you don’t forget anything!
Online Course #5: Sogang Online
If you’re searching for an intensive course that will help you dive into the nitty gritty aspects of the Korean language, Sogang is the course for you! Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been studying Korean for a while, Sogang will have lessons available for you in their vast database.
Sogang courses are challenging but extremely rewarding — the courses use media ranging from audio to fun animations to keep learning exciting for you. Keep in mind, because these courses are more intensive than many Korean learning courses out there, you should be prepared to give them your full attention. These definitely aren’t courses that work well playing in the background as you’re multi-tasking — because they pack so much information into such a brief time, it’s best to take notes!
Check out Sogang if you’re interested in eventually becoming fluent in Korean. These courses will help you achieve that goal quickly!
Online Course #6: 90DayKorean
90DayKorean is a course specifically designed to get you speaking, reading, and writing Korean as soon as possible with no previous experience required. We make sure that we figure out what your personal goals are as you get started with our program, and you have a personal coach that checks in with you and sees where you’re at in relation to those goals as you progress through the program.
At 90DayKorean, we’re big fans of the “learn at your own pace” philosophy — if a course is moving too slowly, you’ll get bored, and if it’s moving too quickly, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Both of these outcomes mean you’ll be less likely to stay committed to your learning method. We’ll send you weekly lessons, but you can move through them at a pace that’s right for you. If life gets too busy to commit hours a week to learning, it’s not a problem! You can wait until you’re less busy and then pick right up where you left off and keep moving through the material.
Obviously we love our course and have great things to say about it, but we are firm believers that you should do some research and decide what course best fits your needs before diving into the learning process. If you find a course that’s a good fit, you’re way more likely to see it through to the end and get the most out of it!
Have you started learning Korean online? What are some courses you really enjoyed? Share with us in the comments below!
Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn
I was recently invited to Whoo Spa in ritzy Sinsa right across the street from Garosugil by a company called Eastasy. They partner with brands and experiences across Asia and offer massive discounts. After a whirlwind weekend in Taipei, I was definitely due for a massage. The experience I had at Whoo Spa was very thorough, as is my breakdown! Leave any questions in the comments and I’ll get back to you shortly…
Whoo Spa Atmosphere
Whoo Spa (formerly O Hui Spa) in Sinsa dominates the VVIP spa service space in Korea. They are very popular because they use the most up to date technology to stay current for their clients. They have a variety of K-Pop Stars and famous American and Korean actors (Kim Tae-Hee and Shin Min-A use O Hui) who visit due to the great service and tucked away location. They also sell a vast array of high-quality, exceptional skincare products made from South Korean natural medicinal herbs, from luxurious brands such as OHUI, Whoo, and SU:M 37. Clients get 25% off products the same day as their service. Make sure to check out Eastasy for a wicked deal on packages!
The Whoo Spa Treatments
I opted for the Aroma Resfresh Care package (100 minutes). This package includes a basic facial accompanied by an aromatherapy body massage. The facial was anything but basic! It started with a soft, peeling cleansing. Then, was followed by an exfoliating, deep cleansing, bubbling facial. I got a face slimming massage, too, which included a decolletage massage.
I was upgraded to the ICE care, which is good for brightening and moisturizing. This is very similar to a Vitamin C procedure I’ve had previously. They also offer hot care (for anti-aging), pore tightening, and aqua peeling (generally for patients with acne). Once my ICE treatment was over, a facial ampoule and an essence was applied, then secured with a molding facial mask pack. After that, there was revitalizing care before I went on my way. My back and shoulders were massaged using products from the Gongjinhyang line. It containes ingredients such as ginseng and cordyceps (a popular fungus used in ancient Chinese medicine). Throughout the majority of the facial, they places electronic leg and foot boots on and I was treated to a full body experience for the entire two hours.
Usually I’m pretty tense when I go for a massage. I work out quite a bit and lift heavy weights (and all kinds of children daily!). When I was in Thailand I found that when I asked for medium pressure it just wasn’t enough to get the knots out. On my questionnaire I still put medium, but the pressure was a lot stronger than I expected. My masseuse was not shy at all, and whenever she neared my lower back or decolletage I could tell there was certainly no modesty in this treatment. I would have preferred not to be on a plastic sheet, but I totally understand their hygenic needs.
Whoo Spa Seoul Massage
There were several areas of my body that could have used very strong pressure: my calves, ankles, and lower back. I felt like she kind of skimmed those areas focusing primarily on the upper back, middle back, shoulders, and traps. They needed a lot of attention, but I was much more sensitive in those areas. I also got a hand massage. I didn’t realise that I needed one, but it was heaven!
Whoo Spa Seoul Aromatherapy
The aromatherapy aspect of the treatment is not what I expected, and I was glad. Usually the scents are fairly strong and irritate my allergies. The earthy, yet still sweet smells were pretty mild. I got whiffs of honey, lemon, and oaky notes. If you’ve read my Vineworks Korea article you’ll notice my nose isn’t always spot on, but these pleasant frangrances were neither sickly sweet, nor heavy on the Chinese medicine. I would likely use them at home, too.
My masseuse used plenty of warm towels (bordering on hot) at the beginning and end of the treatment. I always want to roll around in warm laundry fresh out of the dryer (I miss dryers living in Korea!) so they felt amazing. They were also the perfect way to get any additional oils off before changing and heading home.
Whoo Spa Seoul Facial
My facial was longer than I expected because of the facial massage and surprise upgrade (thank you!). In terms of the steps, they were pretty similar to what I’ve experienced in the past. My bubbling, cleansing facial was very effective, however it wasn’t as itchy as I normally find they can be. I normally have to stay very still or risk 15 minutes of agony wanting to scratch my face. This was fine. The ICE facial was a lot colder than I expected. They placed a cream on my face. They then pressed a flat, cold, metal plate in circular motions across my whole face. At some points I questioned the necessity of the low temperature. They told me this particular one was good for moisture. They recommended it to me as apparently my skin is quite dry and sensitive.
Whoo Spa Aftercare
After my 2 hour treatment whizzed by (I totally fell asleep throughout the molding facial), I was taken to a reception area where tea and a small pastry was waiting for me. The Whoo Spa manager explained that it was very important to rehydrate the skin within a couple of days. She presented me with 2 samples of Su:m37 ampoule, and a sheet mask from their “white awards” brightening series.
Directions to Whoo Spa (formerly O Hui Spa)
The Spa itself is tucked away across from Hak-dong Park. It took me a little while to find, so allow yourself plenty of time if you’re not taking a taxi. They’re open 10:00am-10:00pm, Monday to Sunday.
From Sinsa Station (Seoul Subway Line 3)
Take Exit 1. Walk straight and turn right before you reach Yeongdong Tourist Hotel.
Continue walking and look for the spa on your left.
From Hak-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 7)
Take Exit 6 Walk straight and turn right on the second street.
Continue swalking straight and you’ll find the spa on your right-hand side.
Big thanks to Eastasy for inviting me to relax my body and revive my skin at Whoo Spa in Sinsa, Seoul, Korea. This article is in partnership with Eastasy, but all opinions shared with regards to Whoo Spa are my own. Explore Asia through Eastasy: click here for all kinds of deals on experiences and accomodations in Korea and beyond!
Where there is a sale, you will find me always! Ha ha! So, two days ago, I was roaming around the mart, and saw a sale going on in Nature Republic. I never bought anything from them. So, just out of curiosity, I thought of give it a try.
So, here goes the review:
Air Skin Fit Blur Pact: I broke my compact two days ago, so I had to buy one. There are two shades, I took shade number 2, the darker one, because of my brown skin. The package is good. Though they say it’s the darker one, still it’s pretty bright for me. It’s a nice compact powder but the sad thing is they didn’t provide any nice cushion puff. It’s too hard and you will surely feel a discomfort while using it to apply the compact on your face. The price was less than 13000KW. Can’t remember the exact one, sorry.
Stick Highlighter: I like this one so much! It’s just has the perfect texture of a stick highlighter, really get set on your face and easy to apply too! Price was 5600KW. A bad thing about this ones packaging is it has a plastic lid which often cause disturbance llike falling down when you open the cap of the stick. They could’ve stick the lid with the cap, so it doesn’t come out every time somebody opens it.
Pure Shine Melting Tint: I can’t remember the exact price price of this one either. Should be less than 4000 won. This one got a nice flavor, a melting texture and stays on the lips for a very long time. I love the color so much. But there’s another thing about this tint. It doesn’t have a system, where you rotate the lipstick in a direction and the part on the bottom comes up and vice versa. But a pen like system where you push the button and it keeps coming out. And here comes the problem, once you press the button it just comes out from bottom but doesn’t have a system to get it back to lower it down again. So, if you don’t know it before buying, you’re screwed like me. I kinda ruined it pushing the button so much and can’t lower it down now.
All the prices mentioned here are sale price. Here’s a pic, where I used all three, so you could see how they work!
–Munira Chowdhury, 14.05.17
Hello Again Everyone!!
I’m extremely to announce, once more, the publication of an all new book. This time, it’s my first attempt at fiction with The Lonely Saint.
In The Lonely Saint, and unbeknownst to Sean, his life has mirrored an ancient set of Zen Buddhist murals. Since graduating from university with an English degree and a suffocating amount of debt, Sean Masters decides that he wants to teach and travel abroad; however, his life seems to be anything but ordinary as he negotiates the culture and seamier sides of living and teaching in South Korea. It’s only through his loss of everything, including his wife to a horrible accident, that Sean is able to find peace in the most unlikely of places. In the end, it’s with the Zen Ox-Herding murals as a guide that Sean Masters is finally able to go from a life of ignorance to that of enlightenment.
You can order The Lonely Saint through Amazon.com either in hard copy or as an e-book.
If you’d like a signed copy for $20 dollars (plus shipping and handling) of my book, please contact me at: email@example.com We can discuss the details.
Please support this free website by ordering your copy today!
Are you preparing for the TOPIK test, a government Korean test, or a Korean test at school? Then let me help you prepare with my video series focused on Korean test questions and explanations.
This episode will cover an example of a listening question. More episodes to come soon!
The post Korean Test Practice with Billy [Ep. 4] – Intermediate Korean (Listening Practice) appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.
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Scooting to Mawun Beach
Selong Belanak Beach
April 19 - 26, 2017
Our dive guide on Gili Air organized a speed boat and private car to Kuta, Lombok. Ady said it would be RP800K for two people, but they charged us RP850K. We didn’t argue. It was fast and easy, but obviously not the cheapest option. The speed boat got us to Bhangsal, Lombok very quickly, but the drive to Kuta took at least 2 hours and we were grateful the driver was there for us when we arrived. He dropped us off at the hotel - easy peasy!
Sometimes it felt like time was dragging during the week in Kuta, Lombok - but now, looking back, it was one of the best parts of my trip around Asia this spring. Seven nights at Dream Hotel Kute Lombok was $224.49 total, but it’s worth the price as it’s the best area to stay in Lombok. It’s right next to Kuta Beach, and while the beach is mediocre and full of hawkers, there’s lots to eat nearby and it’s easy to book tours to go places or rent a scooter to go to some really nice beaches.
Unlike Bali, Lombok is Muslim, so no pork, you’ll see women wearing headscarfs, and hear the Muezzin call from a Minaret several times a day. You don’t have to worry about dressing too conservatively; shorts and a t-shirt or even a dress are fine.
At first, I had a distaste for Kuta, Lombok as it was dirty (garbage everywhere), the stray dogs are not friendly late at night, people on the street are always hassling you, and prices are highly negotiable. The locals are definitely much more crass and rough around the edges than those in Bali or on the Gili Islands. I’ve heard and read that not all areas of Lombok take to tourists kindly and maybe it’s because Lombok isn’t as major a tourist destination as others. It was difficult for me to keep a smile on my face after I realized that someone only saw me as a quick way to make money. Then, I realized that the locals were just trying to make a living and I was in a very beautiful place with more than enough money to live well, so I chilled out and was less defensive.
Kuta is was the most developed area I saw in Lombok and still it was just a few convenience stores, many open-air bamboo construction businesses, a couple of ATMs, and a handful of restaurants. Kuta is what Bali must have looked like 20 years ago.
Local food at warungs will be the most affordable but the foreign food was too tempting for me (albeit pricey in comarison). A surprisingly high number of wood oven pizza, but I didn’t really enjoy it. My favorite places to be were KRNK (burgers), The Mexican in Town (Mexican, duh), El Bazar (Moroccan), Nuggets (Indonesian), MILK (coffee), and Bus Beach Bar (drinks). No matter where you are, you will be pestered by kids selling bracelets, some as young as 5-years-old. They’re children, but they know all the sales’ tricks and several languages. They really know how to test your patience, but please be kind to them. It broke my heart when I saw adults be mean to them.
Booty the tour guide
We befriended a local named Booty. He owned a tourist hut and his wife owned a clothing shop. He was quick to smile but never laughed at our jokes. We gave him a lot of money for tours and to rent scooters, but he always seemed unhappy about negotiating and asked us to pay more so “we could both be happy.” He was an interesting character, as it was obvious that his business was in tourism but he didn’t seem to like tourists much.
Waterfall + villages trip
We paid Booty RP550K to drive us to waterfalls and two villages. This was a private tour and we could ask to stop anywhere + stay in any place for as long as we’d like.
First, he drove us to a park that had a group of five waterfalls (including Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu Waterfalls). Admission is RP10K for locals but Booty told us we were required to have a guide since we were foreigners – we later did some research and found this was not true. The guide wanted to charge us per waterfall seen, so we chose to see three, which was RP90K a person. The guide was immensely kind + helpful, though, and probably the nicest person we met in Lombok.
Rob jumped off the first waterfall, which was 11 meters/~35 feet. You couldn’t jump off any others but there were spots to swim in cool water from Lake Segara Anak of Mount Rinjani.
Benang Stokel features two waterfalls falling more than 30 meters down a steep cliff face covered with ferns and jungle vegetation. Benang means “thread”, and describes the thin streams of water that gush down the cliff, like silver threads. The waterfall to the left is the higher of the two and is more powerful. The fall on the right side splashes into a small rocky pool at the bottom.
Although parts of the trek can be a bit slippery and arduous, the track is safe and is not really challenging if you go slow. The view of Benang Kelambu at the end looks straight out of a hair-product commercial. Kelambu means “netting” and refers to the waterfalls, which spread out across the greenery like finely draped nets.
After the waterfalls, Booty took us to two traditional Sasak Villages. The Sasak are the indigenous people of this island, which today make about 85% of the total population of Lombok. First, Pusat Kerajinan Tenun PATUH, where I learned to weave (women in that village have to learn to weave before they can get married) and then purchased a large weaving for RP750K (negotiated down from RP1500K). Negotiating was hard and price was based on nationality; it hurt to hear the people there refer to us openly as “US dollars.”
The second village we went to was called Sade. This village is set up for 10-15 minute tours and you can only walk around led by a tour guide. It’s set up for tourists but still has a very much a lived-in village feel. He gave us some interesting insights into life there and we walked around, looked inside some houses, saw their temple, how they store food, etc. We learned about some of their traditional customs, like what they do when they want to marry someone, which is that the man kidnaps the woman! He takes a risk though because if she says no, he has to pay a fine. The guide will ask for a donation at the end; our guide book suggested a minimum tip of RP40K.
Snorkel trip to the small gilis
The three Gili islands are quite well-known, but gili actually means “small island” and there are many of them. Booty organized a private car to the Lembar harbor and boat to let us snorkel three gilis (Naggu, Sudak, and Kedis) for RP800K (total price for two people), which included snorkel gear. Again, we could stop anywhere we’d like and stay in any location for as long as we’d like.
It took around thirty minutes to reach Gilli Nanggu by boat from the harbor. The island had a RM5K per person “cleaning fee” but there was quite a bit of garbage on the beach and in the ocean. It made me sad to see other tourists standing on coral and feeding the fish. Bad ocean behavior, so I tried to swim away from them. Lots of wonderful fish to see.
After we were done, we hopped back on the boat and traveled ten minutes to Gili Sudak (sometimes known as Suda). Sudak is even smaller than Nanggu and although the beach wasn’t as wide or long as the one on Nanggu, it was the perfect shady spot for a coconut drink. You can also have a meal here if you’d like. Some more nice fish to see in the ocean here.
The last island, Kedis, is very tiny. No bigger than the size of a tennis court, except round, with a few trees in the middle.
Renting scooters is a must to explore Lombok as public transit is nonexistent. We paid Booty RP50K a day for a scooter, and these scooters were in really terrible condition (e.g. weak brakes and missing side mirrors).
The first thing we did was drive a mile up the mountain to eat at the Ashtari Restaurant. The restaurant has sweeping views of Kuta and its surrounding hills and bays. Go early and get a good spot, like a comfy bean bag chair at the edge. The atmosphere is great for a drink and snacks.
Then, you can drive out to Mawun Beach (Pantai Mawun). The locals will charge you RP10K per motorbike as an entrance fee. Same fee if you drive a bit further to Selong Belanak Beach. Surrounded by mountains, the beaches are all unbelievably beautiful and shockingly undeveloped. You’ll pay RP5K to use a toilet/changing room –only one per beach. And, there are only 1-2 beach shacks to get a bite to eat or something to drink. A sun lounger is RP50K each. It’s not fancy at all but prices are reasonable. They’re likely the best beaches I’ve ever been to in my life.
The airport shuttle in the morning costs RP100K a person, but we negotiated a private car with Booty for the afternoon at RP220K for two people.
Other things to do
If I had more time in Lombok, I’d probably be interested in some of the following:
- The second largest volcano in Indonesia is nearby. You can hike Mount Rinjani but it’ll take at least 2 days. Even the 3-day hike is bound to be killer. The crater lake looks incredible.
- I ran out of energy to visit Tangsi Beach (aka Pink Beach). I was told not to go by scooter because it’s a 2-hour drive from Kuta and the last 30 minutes are very rough road. The sand on this beach is actually white but the bright red Organ Pipe corals gives it a pink hue. Might be a painful beach to walk barefoot on but sure sounds beautiful.
- The Tanjung Aan Beach is also known to be beautiful for its turquoise sea and white sand. Apparently, you can climb a rock to see the view over the two bays and beaches of Aan.
- You can spend a day at the 4-star hotel, Novotel, for a small fee, lounging under a beachfront cabana, ordering food and using their swimming pool. Love enjoying luxury at the fraction of a hotel stay!
- Also consider a multiple day boat trip to Komodo where you can see Komodo dragons in real life. Amazing diving and snorkeling there too.
Food is a connection to culture.
Whether it’s for comfort or simply sustenance, food is essential. Of course, eating for survival is important, but isn’t it better when it’s more than just a way to stay alive? Food’s fun. To make. To talk about. To write about, for sure. But, mostly to eat.
For people living in a new country, a familiar food can help get them over the initial growing pains that usually come before, during and/or after the Honeymoon Phase phases out. Until there was one in pretty much every neighborhood, news of a new Subway restaurant opening in Busan was met with praise far outsized compared to how people respond when another one opens in a strip mall in New Jersey. Likewise, when people leave Korea, many will give themselves a nostalgia injection with a trip to a Korean restaurant, or a Korean supermarket if they’re lucky to live near one, to have a taste of something that is connected to a very specific place and point in their lives.
When I first arrived in Jinju in 2005, my diet was mostly things served at my hagwon or the few things I could recognize at the nearby Top Mart. Spaghetti, bananas, cereal, the sushi wastefully wrapped in individual plastic sheets. Cigarettes.
In 2010, I expanded slightly, to orange juice and dried squid. Once I came back for a long haul in 2013, I still had to deal with the initial growing pains that seemed to crop up no matter how many times I’d moved back here. My comfort foods became those I had ordered enough that I didn’t feel like a fool when I would try to order them in the nearby restaurants. Kimchi Jjigae. Chamchi Gimbap. Dwaeji Gukbap (a soup so satisfying, they wrote a song about it).
Most of my meals were enjoyed outside of my home. Why? Partially because I lived alone and was too lazy to put any effort into making a meal for one. Maybe I didn’t always know where to go to buy what I wanted to make. But a lot of it was fear of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing. It resulted in lots of convenience store meals and, when I did decide to cook at home, a lot of microwave rice bowls and fried eggs. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Last year, my girlfriend and I moved in together. With it, a world of cooking at home expanded. Sure, I’d cooked some meals at home before. But, with an audience, the stakes got higher. I wanted to impress her with my expertise at not burning the water. I wanted a meal good enough I might eventually want to tell others about it.
We have cooked many meals together. With it, we’re creating our own subculture, separate but inspired by our mutual American roots, our Korean influences, and our mutual love of exploring the world through food. It’s uniquely ours.
In this ongoing series (the second time attempting such a thing, sort of), I am going to be posting some lovely photos of meals we’ve made and how we made them (the recipes we used, the places we procured the stuff needed to make them). “Best,” of course, is subjective. Sometimes “best” is exactly what you expect it to be: the highest quality something or another. But, sometimes “best” simply means the foods that helped get us over our growing pains.
TL;DR Here’s what we eat in Korea. Cooking at home doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be an outlet for great joy, and it does not have to cost a fortune.
Creamy Mushroom Soup
(Adapted from this recipe on Serious Eats)
For this creamy mushroom soup, a blend of various mushrooms such as button, cremini and shitake is called for in the original recipe. However, we used two bags of shitake mushrooms (called “pyo-go-boh-seot,” 표고버섯) on discount (about 2,500 won a bag) from the Emart discount rack.
Discount racks are an excellent source of cheap vegetables that are still good, and definitely still good for a soup that will be blended like this. Shitake mushrooms can be particularly earthy, but it worked out well for this soup. If you want it a little milder, make sure to hold out for some discount button mushrooms, as well.
Other alterations to the original recipe included using about a tablespoon of dried thyme instead of fresh (I have never seen fresh thyme sold in Korea. If you’ve seen it, especially in Busan, please let me know where in the comments. Or, I could just try to grow it). White wine was used (some chardonnay from Chile that was at Kim’s Club for 13,000 won. Tres Palacionaois, or something like that. It’s fine, nothing special, not terrible). We minced five garlic cloves instead of four (because garlic), and our stock was a combination of a mushroom seasoning powder that can be found at any Korean mart or supermarket, as well as some old homemade vegetable stock that had been taking up space in the freezer for a couple months. Everything else was pretty much according to the recipe and can be easily found in most Korean marts and supermarkets.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (50g)
2 pounds mixed mushrooms such as button, cremini, portabello, or shiitake (1kg), sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour (45g)
1 cup dry sherry or white wine (235ml)
1 cup milk (235ml)
5 cups (1.2L) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, or water
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
Minced fresh herbs such as parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives for serving.
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
- Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are well-browned, about 12 minutes total. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir to combine.
- Add sherry or wine and cook until reduced by about half, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add milk, chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and stir to combine. Bring to a bare simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
- Using tongs, remove bay leaves and thyme. Blend soup with an immersion blender or in batches using a countertop blender. Season to taste with more salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice (if desired). Serve immediately, garnished with minced herbs and olive oil.
Definitely buy an immersion blender if you see one at, say, Home plus, Emart, Mega Mart or somewhere else (you can also try GMarket). Or, if you happen to see some expat on their way out selling theirs. It is indispensable in the home kitchen. Here’s a good article from Bon Appetit on why an immersion blender should be in your kitchen.
We enjoyed this for dinner with a hearty salad, with lots of veggies grown locally (Busan Organic Vegetables, check them out!). We were stuffed and satisfied.
Here’s the finished product, one more time:
I hope you give this a try soon. It’s easy to make, with ingredients easily procured in pretty much any part of South Korea. And, it’s sure a lot healthier than McDonald’s delivery. The best part was the tons of leftovers that will be for lunch or dinner for the next several days, and the two bowls that are now frozen and ready for a dinner sometime in the future. And everything cost about 7,000 to 8,000 won.
Enjoy, and let me know how yours turned out! And, be sure to check out Serious Eats for this and other great recipes and kitchen tips.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.