Author Archives: marquardtbr@gmail.com

27 Things To Know About South Korea

So you’ve made the arrangements, you’ve got yourself pumped up to travel abroad, and you’ve got your tickets.  You’re coming to visit (or live) in South Korea. But what can you come to expect while in South Korea?  Well here is a list of 27 things to know before arriving in South Korea.

1. You Should Learn Some Hangul, But Can Technically Get By Without 

Korean Phrase Book

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is going to be a lot more difficult for you to manage without knowing any of the local language, but you can manage. If you’re in Seoul, or any major cities, most roads, signs, and other forms of directional or important messages will be in Hangul (written Korean), and English, as well as Japanese and Chinese (usually).

I’m not advocating just forgoing learning the language, but if you aren’t going to be country long, you’re just coming for a visit, or you just struggle with learning languages, it is reassuring to know that you can manage your way through the language barrier (though you will have some difficulty with buses). Many Korean stores have employees who can speak English, and there are frequently people you will run into who will have at least a rudimentary if not fluent grasp of English.

There are also several apps I cover in our navigating Korea article to assist you. If you can though, you should learn to speak at the very least a few words.  TalkToMeInKorean is a wonderful resource to learn the language and Duolingo has just recently launched it’s Korean course.

A few important words you should learn regardless though, are:

  • Anyeonghasaeyo (On-yong-ah-say-you) = Hello / How are you?
  • Gamsamhapnida (Kam-sam-ni-da) = Thank you
  • Ne = Yes
  • Aniyo (a-ni-yo) = No

A few other things to keep in mind are:

  • Bow when saying thank you
  • Give and accept cards/money/gifts with both hands

2. Travel In South Korea Is Easy 

PC110904 copy

South Korea is very easy to travel within. Having come from places in the US with virtually no public transportation, I had nearly no experience with public transportation. With that in mind, we had few issues navigating here.

The Metro system can be daunting at first, but everything is printed in English as well and there are English announcements for each station. If you get a T-Money card, you can easily access the Metro and buses with a simple swipe of your card.  These cards can also be easily recharged at Storyways or 7-11s which are plentiful in South Korea.

The Korail system also has some speedy trains that can take you just about anywhere in the country in a matter of hours. Even without a car, you can get just about anywhere you want via public transportation.  On top of that, most everywhere is pedestrian friendly.

Keep in mind though, that while public transportation is pretty easy, it’s not always the fastest method. Our trip from Songtan into Seoul averaged around an hour and half or more depending on the number of transfers needed.

As well, travel to Jeju Island in the south will probably take you a day or two to get to from Seoul along with a mandatory plane ride. Buses also run throughout the country, taking you between neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions.

3. Korean Toilets Are Not Western Toilets 

Untitled

South Korean toilets are where some westerners may run into a few surprises. If you’re in newer buildings you can expect to find a western style toilet or even nice bidets, however in some older locations, you’re going to find squat toilets. These can be difficult and uncomfortable for someone not used to squatting down, or for those who may be a bit heavier.

You have to keep your balance, and if you have long hair you need to keep your hair out of the toilet. Toilet paper is found near the entry way, and not in each stall so grab it before you enter.  And once that toilet paper is used, never flush it! South Korean plumbing isn’t designed to handle paper waste, so a trash bin is provided in each stall for you to dispose of the paper. A solid bar of soap is attached to a stick for everyone to use at the sinks as well.

4. South Korean Home Bathrooms Are Different 

The South Korean bathroom is a true work of efficiency, though a little different from your regular western bathroom.  Generally, the bathrooms are completely tiled and the shower head rests on the wall. You have to hold the shower head generally as it is not anchored anywhere.  There is no shower, curtain, or tub, just a drain on the floor. 

So when you shower, everything gets wets, but this also means that cleaning is super easy, you can just rinse everything down with the shower and let it drain and dry. In the winters though, especially in older buildings, the bathroom floors can become very cold. In our bathroom, we also had the washing machine, so dirty water also would simply drain out onto the floor.

5. Ondol Heated Floors Are Wonderful 

The Korean heating system is pretty unique, but awesome once you experience it.  The Ondol was developed in ancient times and is still used today. Essentially it its a heated floor. In the past, hot air froma fire passed through cavities under the floor, heating the ground and warming the room through convection. 

Today, hot water runs through pipes under the floor. It is nice to have toasty toes in the winter, and you don’t get that weird smell a heater can sometimes create. All I know is, I want one of these in my house. If it breaks though, as happened to us, you will need to use a space heater while it gets fixed.

6. Korean Beds Are Not Comfortable

Because of the Ondol system, most Korean beds, and furniture for that matter, are right there on the floor. The beds usually are plain mats that sit on the floor, these are fine enough. But when you encounter traditional beds that are raised such as when you are in a hotel, they are very stiff. For reasons unknown to me, they prefer their beds very hard. If you want, you can get a western style, soft bed, or foam top, but don’t come to expect it.

We were staying in a westerner’s home during our time in Korea, so we had a soft western style bed from Ikea (they’re even in Korea). However, whenever we were in hotels, we found hard beds.

7. Kimchi Is King 

Homemade Kimchi

Kimchi, as I covered in another post, is pretty ubiquitous here in South Korea. It was created about 300 years ago as a way to preserve cabbage and provide nutritious food for the bitter winters here. Today, the spicy dish is served at every meal with just about every dish and in a wide variety of forms. It’s pretty good, and you’ll have a hard time avoiding it here.

8. Soju Is Wonderful 

Soju

Beer and wine can be pretty expensive here, but have no fear for Soju is here. South Koreans love to drink, more than any other people in the world actually (Soju is actually the best selling alcohol in the world due almost solely to Koreans) and you can expect to drink in most social situations.

There are no laws against public drinking or intoxication so you can drink to your hearts content and not be judged. Soju is a fermented drink from rice, with a similar taste to vodka and a ABV of around 20%.  Soju is great for sipping, and wonderful for mixing. But your first drink is always supposed to be taken as a shot.

Recently, they’ve introduced flavored Soju that is a little lower ABV but great tasting. We prefer to mix regular and flavored for a little extra kick with our flavor (this is not traditional though). But be warned, because of the sugar content it can pack a killer hangover.

9. They Don’t Do Dairy (Much) 

South Korean cuisine does not have much, if any dairy in it. So most dairy products are pretty new here for the most part. In the past few years, cheese has begun to make a huge impact here, however it’s just not quite right. It’s highly processed and there is just something different about it.

It doesn’t melt right, it tastes weird, and it is sometimes mixed with meat product, collagen, and other things. We don’t like the cheese you can get here. But if you really need to get your cheese fix, you can find the real stuff in some of the larger markets like E-Mart or Home Plus. You’ll be paying a far steeper price for it than you would elsewhere though. South Korea is the world’s fastest growing market for cheese though. So it can be expected that higher quality cheese should become more available in the coming years.

10. It’s Hard To Be Vegetarian In South Korea 

Bacon Meat

South Korea is not super vegetarian or vegan-friendly (since they aren’t big on dairy it vegans and vegetarians will be in a similar situation). Meat is viewed as a part of being healthy as well as a measure of wealth, so most people want to eat meat and view not eating meat as unhealthy. Most dishes center around meat, and have some form of meat in it. Fish, beef, chicken, pork, and all manner of seafood find their way into most dishes.

It can also be difficult because if you say you are vegetarian, many here won’t understand what you mean unless they have traveled abroad as well. If you say you don’t eat meat, they will assume you mean you don’t eat beef. So you have to say you don’t eat beef, or pork, or chicken, or fish, etc. And even then, you may find something has been slipped in.

With some luck, you can tell them you CAN’T eat any animal because it will make you sick, and they might get the point. But be warned, it will be difficult to eat out at local restaurants. You will mostly be relegated to Banchan (side-dishes) such as kimchi.

Aside from some restaurants which specialize in western food, there are only a select few places such as the Loving Hut in Seoul which can cater to you. Otherwise your best bet is an Indian restaurant or a Buddhist restaurant if you want to be safe as a vegetarian.

However, you can easily cook your own food with traditional Korean ingredients at home by visiting a local grocery which is what we typically did and you can find the occasional place to eat out.

11. South Korean Food Is Seasonal 

In the US, you take for granted the fact that we can import anything from anywhere at any time (though it might be more expensive for part of the year). But in South Korea, the foods are more seasonal. When you go to the store, expect to see fresh produce from this season. So if you’re really craving a certain food, but it’s just not ready, you’ll have to wait for it to come into season before you get to eat, either that or you will be shelling out money for imported goods.

12. Shopping In A Grocery Store Is Familiar But Different 

Tofu Section

How different can a grocery store really be right? Well, it is pretty familiar, but as I said above, food is seasonal, so things change every time you go. You have to bag, weigh, and tag produce such as potatoes yourself before getting in line. So unless you can operate the machine which is not in English, you’ll have to settle for pre-bagged items (though you may be able to get someone to help). 

Because of the seasonality of foods, as well as South Korea’s more northern location, most fruits including tomatoes are imported and carry a pretty high price, as high as triple or quadruple what you might find in the states. Meat is pretty expensive as well. Other items though run much cheaper. You can find ice cream bars for as low as $0.25 each, so have fun with those.

Of course, you’ll also run across all the unique foods that only South Korea has to offer. An interesting aspect is the fact that they have a live announcer at the store, who I can only assume is giving information regarding food deals – but they sound like they are running an auction the way they talk.

13. You Can Get Your Creature Comforts

American Food Isle

Regular South Korean grocery stores don’t carry much for the western palate, such as bread, cheese, dairy, chips, chocolate, and a few other items. So when you need to get your fix, you can head to an E-Mart or Home Plus, both of which carry just most things you could want. While I won’t go into too much detail because you can simply read our post about them specifically here, be assured that they have a wide variety of items (though some things from back home may cost a little more). They are very similar to a Super Walmart back in the U.S., only much nicer.

14. South Koreans Love To Hike

Untitled

South Korea is a pretty mountainous country, and with mountains comes a love of hiking. There are beautiful national parks all over. You can even find several mountains within Seoul or give a shot at hiking the Seoul City Wall. You can go hike a mountain and not even leave the city. Just spend a little time here, and you’ll see why people love to spend time outdoors. It’s even South Korea’s national past time.

15. South Korea Is Filled With History

Korean War Memorial

South Korea, like many places around the world, is filled with both recent and ancient history. The peninsula has had pottery found dating over 8000 years old, and you can still visit many ancient sites all around the country. Even within the city of Seoul you can visit several UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the East Palace, a Buddhist temple over 1000 years old, and many other cultural sites.

South Korea has been subject to invasions from China and Japan over the centuries and has a very colorful past. But not everything here is ancient, it still bears scars and memories from the Korean War, which can be remembered and honored at the Korean War Museum. If you want to know even more about the people, you can check out the National Museum of Korea or the History of Korean Culture at Gyeongbukgung Palace.

16. South Korea Is Space Efficient

Spicy Pepper

South Korea is a mountainous country, which means that much of its land isn’t habitable, nor arable. The country also has a population of 50 million, pushing them to have some of the highest densities in the world. Seoul alone has 25 million people in it’s greater metropolitan area.

Because of this, Koreans have learned to squeeze the most out of every available piece of land. Buildings here are stacked high, with parking garages under or above buildings rather than a lot out front. Streets are narrow, yet efficient. Everything has a cozy feel to it. When you get out into the country side such as in the areas surround Pyeongtaek and Songtan, you will find that farms dominate the landscape.

Every available strip of land will have cabbages, peppers, and a whole variety of vegetables being grown. This includes along sidewalks and roadsides. Most homes have some form of a garden, which is really wonderful to see although it would make any HOA in the US scream in terror. The efficiency is impressive, seen not only in their use of space, but in the application of most products.

17. South Korea Has Defined Seasons

Untitled

During the summer, things can get pretty warm and cozy here. And by that I mean it gets really hot and humid. While it may not outdo the tropics, it will certainly make you sweat, wish you had a better AC and sleep with no sheets. (We haven’t experienced a Korean summer ourselves, but have heard about it.) 

South Korea also gets very cold. The first snow can come to Seoul has early as late November. When the Siberian winds kick up temperatures can drop to well below freezing with windchill dropping to 0 F. While it’s not as cold as some extreme places, it isn’t just any winter here. If you’re going to be here during the winter, be sure to pack your layers and some warm clothes for snow.

Spring is a lovely time of year, and similar to Japan experiences the cherry blossom bloom. While autumn exhibits brilliant colors and a nice crispness to the air.

18. South Korea And Japan Don’t Get Along 

Juhamnu Pavilion

So without getting too into it, South Korea and Japan have a rather rough history. Japan has had a habit of getting a little aggressive and invading the peninsula over the centuries. Every time they do they tend to inflict a lot of damage on the countryside and people.

Understandably, Koreans can hold a bit of a grudge against the Japanese. Although in today’s modern times the two cultures do get along and go about peaceably, the tension is still obviously there. While you’re here, it’s best to keep in mind that Korea is always better than Japan. There is no such thing as the Sea of Japan, it is the East Sea. If you feel differently, I’d suggest you hold your tongue, as differing opinions on the subject will most likely ostracize you here, not to mention just be very insulting to the country that is hosting you.

19. South Korea Has A Mosquito Season

I’ve lived in Texas and Florida, so I’ve had my fair share of mosquitos and biting bugs. I’ve heard things about mosquitos in the tropics and big fat monsters up in Canada. But I never heard a thing about Korean mosquitos. These things are monsters and they’re everywhere in the fall until the temperatures drop.

They’re really fast, small, and difficult to kill. In our first month or so here, we would run across upwards of 20 mosquitos a day in the apartment alone. I don’t even know how many swarms we went though just outside. Mosquito nets are your friends here, as are other bug killing devices. It’s no fun walking around with a dozen or so bites or waking up every five minutes to buzzing in your ears.

20. South Korea And Dogs

Many foreigners associate Koreans with eating dogs. While this practice still exists, dog meat is not widely consumed and is a dying trend. Outside and internal condemnation has been turning the practice to mostly only among the older and more rural communities.

South Koreans are now becoming pet owners much more frequently than in the past. You can even visit cat and dog cafes in the big cities. South Korea also has a specific breed called the Jindo. It is a strong, proud, white dog that you will see out and about. Many Koreans keep their Jindos chained in their yards or by the homes, and while you may be tempted to go up and pet one because they look so friendly, do not do so.

They are quite loyal to their owners and can be very aggressive towards strangers. Because of the size limitations of South Korea, small dogs such as shih tzus, poodles, and chihuahuas have become increasingly popular over the years. You’re likely to see them walking down the street in stylish clothes.

21. South Koreans Are Very Friendly

Seoul Lantern Festival

South Koreans can wear a stern face and be very serious and work oriented. But they are also very kind and helpful. We have found that South Koreans tend to be quite gracious and giving, and always want to help out. We have been offered various treats and gifts on our outings for reasons that we don’t really understand. As well, if a South Korean knows some English, they’re always ready to try and talk with you to practice their English skills. The South Korean culture is a kind culture.

22. South Korea Gives Gifts

In South Korea, it is good manners to give gifts. They don’t need to be large, or extravagant, it’s more about the thought. When going in for interviews or visiting someone’s home, it is good practice to give gifts as it shows respect to your host or new friends. A few tokens most appreciated are small bottles of alcohol (think single shot bottles) or fruit.

But don’t give anything too expensive, otherwise it comes off as you showing off and can accomplish the exact opposite of what the gift giving is supposed to do. Also, you should never open the gift in front of the giver. The gift can even be as simple as a piece of gum or candy when meeting for the first time. It is certainly a nice gesture to be remembered by.

23. Shoes Off

Korean House Slippers

This is a trend that I’ve seen spreading around the US for a few years, but it is especially important here in Korea. Because of the Ondol floors, it is usual to walk around in just socks. Floors used to be covered in paper, so wearing shoes could ruin the floor.

Today, when you enter traditional restaurants, some stores, and even some offices, you will be asked to take off your shoes and leave them at the front. You then walk around in your socks, or will be given soft shoes for indoor wear. Just don’t forget to take them off though, as it’s seen as very rude to wear your shoes inside.

24. South Korea Is An Age Status Culture

The market

South Korea has become a largely secular country, though it also has a growing Christian community. But it also has a deeply engrained Confucian history. In South Korea, age is a major determinate in your status. If you are older than someone, you are owed respect, and you can do what you want.

The oldest here are revered by the younger and respect must be given to them. The metro and buses have specific seats for the elderly. Even if the train is mostly empty and there is not a single older person riding, you do not sit in those seats. Because of the Confucian mentality, you also never touch someone on their head or shoulders. It is seen as rude due to the head being the most pure part of the body.

It is also viewed that the foot is unclean, because it is at the bottom of the body touching the ground. So you should never point the bottom of your foot towards someone as it is seen as an insult. And when you’re drinking with someone older than yourself, you should always turn away from them as you drink.

25. You’re A Year Older In South Korea

In the west, you start counting your age from 0 when you are born. In South Korea, you are considered being 1 year old upon birth. So when you are telling someone your age here, remember you’re a year older than you were back home.

26. South Korean Healthcare Is Great

In Korea, you can walk into a clinic without an appointment, be promptly seen, receive medical treatment, and be out the door in under 30 minutes and $30. Now obviously circumstances may dictate things a little different. But South Korea wants to take care of its people, and in a country so densely populated it is important to make sure the populace is healthy.

Drugs are also readily available at pharmacies. You don’t need to go to a specific one to fill your specific prescription or deal with some weird bureaucratic reason as to why you can’t have your medicine. It’s affordable, and you can get it. Women can also get birth control and other  necessary medications over the counter quite easily, say the name of the brand you want, and they’ll give it to you or match it as close they can no questions asked (you may get disapproving looks however if you are not accompanied by your husband). Of course, there are the pros and cons, as there are to any nation.

27. Seoul Is Huge

View of Seoul

Seoul is by far the largest city I’ve ever been in. Its immensity is truly staggering. Traveling via Korail can take two hours to cross the span of the city. Skyscrapers and high-rise buildings populate the landscape for miles on end. The greater metropolitan area of Seoul contains over 25 million people and is the 2nd largest in the world.

The capital was founded in 18 BCE and it has not stopped growing ever since. You can find many sights and experiences among its 25 districts, the most famous of which to internationals may be Gangnam. Seoul proper is noted for having a density twice that of New York City.

~K~

What We Ate: Food in Bali

We were mostly working (at a slow pace due to the turtle internet speed) during the week we were there so we didn’t get out and try a ton of food in Bali but we still tried some! Much of what we ate we cooked at our place but we also tried a few different places. If you’re interested in other food we ate in Indonesia, I also wrote posts on restaurants and desserts we tried in Yogyakarta proper. We haven’t written much yet about the food we ate in the countryside of Java but we may get to that as well (that will include a couple more authentic/local dishes which there aren’t a ton of in this post 🙈)

I do believe all the food in Bali we ate was vegetarian though (except two of Kyle’s meals) and a decent amount of it was vegan as well. While I don’t find it too difficult to be vegetarian most places, Bali is somewhat known for being pretty veg-friendly. Overall nothing we ate here was bad, but nothing we ate out was truly exceptional either (except maybe some of what Kyle made).

Note: exchange rate conversions are based on the time we made these purchases (May 2016).

Desserts

Paleta’s Way

Paleta’s Way Bali

The first bit of food in Bali we ate was actually Mexican ice cream (ice pops called paletas). We got into our Airbnb in the evening and, as per usual, were hungry and ready to get out exploring. We wandered down the road to towards the grocery store and ran into this place on the way. The ice cream sounded appealing to us at the time and it was! The place has some fun decor and they use natural ingredients without artificial flavoring or tons of sugar making it a healthier snack/dessert. We passed it often in the week we were there and the people there were quite friendly to us.

Location:

There are allegedly few different locations on Bali. We were staying in Kuta so we went to the location there though none of these actually appear to be the one we went to! It was right across from the Sunset Point Shopping Centre. Here is their website.

What they offer/what we ate:

There are many different flavors including both creamy and icy options. I chose watermelon and Kyle got dragonfruit. I liked Kyle’s a little better but they were both quite good. In addition to what we ordered, you can get flavors like durian (not us!), avocado, kiwi, and banana Nutella (next time)! Here is their menu.

Cost:

In general, an ice cream bar (palette) ranges from 20,000 – 35,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($1.50-$2.75). It cost us 45,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($3.31) for two ice creams. Here is a photo we took of the menu as well.

Decor at Paleta's WayWatermelon paletteDragonfruit Palette

BreadTalk Bakery

Briana-14

Just across from Paleta’s Way is the Sunset Point Shopping Centre which contains (or contained depending on how quickly things change here) a grocery store, a few other stores, and this bakery. As has seemingly been the case in many bakeries we’ve visited, they didn’t want us to take pictures inside the bakery so can’t provide anything there. It was a nice place with lots of options (and air-conditioning – lol) and we picked up snacks there a few times.

Location:

There are locations throughout Bali. We went to the Kuta Sunset Point location. And here is their website.

What they offer/what we ate:

Bread, muffins, cakes, donuts, chocolate croissant, etc. I  couldn’t find a pic of our chocolate covered croissant, so here’s a link to a pic for you. Those are pretty yummy (we found everything to be good).

Cost

We made three visits here and spent a total of 69,500 Indonesian Rupiah ($5.08). I can’t remember how much the individual items cost but I do have recorded that on one visit we chose three items which totaled to $2.05 (I did not record the number of items we bought on the other two visits).

Sprinkle donutFilled donut

 Gelato Factory

Gelato Factory Kuta Bali

We stopped here after dinner one night and shared a cone. We enjoyed it.

Location:  

There are several locations. We went to one in Kuta not far from the beach (since we walked from the beach). 

What they offer/what we ate:

I believe we got Biscottino (though it might have been stracciatella)! There are some flavors listed on the website (there is ice cream and sorbet) but if you don’t feel like looking here are some of their more interesting options: cinnamon, raspberry, lemon basil, durian, passionfruit, and meringue (but they also have normal stuff too like oreo and mint chocolate). Learn more on their website.

Cost:

30,000 IR ($2.20)

Our gelato

Extra: Gas Station Boba Tea

Boba tea

Just gonna throw this one in here too because we did get this while out and I’m a big boba fan. I mean it wasn’t a special boba place – but now you know some gas stations carry it!

Location:

Gas station somewhere on the island between Ubud and Kuta (we were lost and looking for a place to charge our dead phones).

What they offer/what we ate:

They had some different flavor options. We can’t remember what we got but something pretty standard.

Cost:

5,700 IR ($0.41)

Restaurants

Zula Vegetarian Paradise

Lemon Drink and Coconut

Since we read that food in Bali is more vegetarian-friendly we opted to check out a couple of their specifically vegetarian restaurants. Overall we would not say rate the food as amazing but we did think it was quite good and it had some unique options.

Location:

There is a list of locations on their website. Based on the pics, neither looks like the location we visited, but this one (Jl. Dhyana Pura No.5, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia) seems like where we would have gone location-wise.

What they offer/what we ate:

I had buckwheat pancakes (which came with raisin applesauce) and a lemonada and Kyle had a falafel sandwich (which came with fries) and a coconut (to drink). The menuf includes many vegetarian options like tofu cheese sandwich, nasi goreng (local), or even avocado toast! Drink options include coffee, various teas, milkshakes, a ginger float, etc. The menu is available online if you’d like to see more.

Cost:

The total cost for both of our meals and drinks was 176,000 IR ($12.93).

Other info:

They had some motorbike parking out front (good, since that’s how we got there).

Briana-23
Pancakes and raisin stuff

Earth Cafe

Earth Cafe

We thought this would be another good vegetarian place to go but it turns out it was basically the exact same place with a different name! Well, pretty much the same menu at least (though it is an extensive menu). We sat upstairs outside on the little balcony area and that was nice, it had a Bali kind of vibe.

Location:

There is a location in Seminyak and one in Ubud (you can find this information on their website.)

What they offer/what we ate:

I got a portobello burger and Kyle got a falafel sandwich again. Both came with fries, sauce, and coleslaw. I think we shared a lemonada for a drink here. It came with a lemongrass straw this time which we thought was neat.

Cost:

165,000 IR ($12.07)

Portobello burger
Kyle at Earth CafeLemonada

Cafe Bali 

Cafe Bali

We stopped here on our way back to our place after an afternoon at the beach. A lot of the food in the area was slightly more expensive than we preferred so it took looking around a little to find something that looked appetizing and affordable. This was actually kind of a fancy-looking place with nice decor so I felt a tad bit like we didn’t quite belong there but it was all good. At the end, they gave us the check in this box with candy which was neat/different.

Location:

Here is the Google Maps location.

What they offer/what we ate:

I debated a couple things and ultimately got a quesadilla because it’s what I wanted and it was cheaper. It was good but not very filling. Albeit it was an appetizer so I knew I was taking a risk that it could be small or large or anywhere in between but I may have chosen something else had I known. Cue us going to Gelato Factory afterward! We don’t remember what Kyle got but it was some kind of meat kebab, rice puffs, and rice. We did not get any drinks.

Cost:

Our food cost 110,000 ($8.08)

Quesdilla
Rice and kebab
Briana-50

Sun Shoot Food’N Drinks

We called this ‘Shooters’ (as our hosts did I think) and went here one of our first nights in Bali because it was just down the road. We passed by it other times and It appeared to be frequented by our Airbnb hosts who would go and sit out there and drink. Seating was mostly outdoors and was nice. The food was decent. We were also offered a free shot (probably to entice us to order more – we were on quite a budget so it did not work!) The seating is mostly outdoors and it’s in a more quiet area which may appeal to some (but the restaurant itself sometimes has live music).

Unfortunately, we do not have any pics of the area and it does not seem to have much of an internet presence.

Location:

Here is the Google Maps link

What they offer/what we ate:

I had pesto pasta (I love pesto) and we can’t remember what Kyle ate but I believe it was a local Indonesian dish.

Cost:

Together our meals cost 143,000 IR ($10.52)

Cooking/Eating at our Place

Grocery Store 

Grocery store

We tend to enjoy checking out the grocery stores wherever we go. It’s fun to see what unique items any given place will stock. Here we found some of the typical fruits you’ll see in various parts of southeast Asia that we enjoy like passionfruit and dragonfruit. They even had red dragonfruit which we did not realize was a little more expensive until we were at the check out (because we thought the labeled price was for both), but it was all fine because we got to try something new and it was very good!

In our 7 days there, we visited the grocery store 7 times! Though according to my records, one visit was just for laundry detergent, another was solely for tater tots, and another time we just got beer and chocolate. It was also not a far walk and on the way to/from most other things. We spent a total of $70.12 on groceries during that week, including the little bit of dog food we got for a sad stray dog that stayed outside of the store.

Grocery store spices

Meals

Dishes at home Tempeh stir fry

We made some of our standard for meals at the time like noodles or rice with variations of vegetables, sauces, and usually tofu but Kyle is also always trying slightly new creative takes on what we already eat by incorporating what all we have available and what we feel like eating. We had potatoes and pineapple in a couple of our stir-fry meals (we don’t normally) and also incorporated tempeh into our meals as an alternative to tofu sometimes. Tempeh actually originates in Indonesia so it’s a good local addition.

Vegetables, noodles, tofu, etc.

I also had a couple sort of variations of what some might call “Bali bowls”. We intended to get one out (like at a restaurant there) but the place we wanted to go closed early and we didn’t realize that until it was too late. For me, it was just a mix of fruit and oats/granola (though I also added yogurt to one) but other people add things like

Bali bowl

Snacks and desserts

We primarily snacked on fresh fruit, fried potatoes and plantains, candy, and baked goods from BreadTalk. We recognized the silver queen brand from Java and thought it was a good local brand so over our time in Indonesia we tried many of their different candy bars.

Tater totsFries and plantains
PassionfruitRed dragonfruit

Alcohol (Beer)

Kyle tried a couple regional beers here (Bintang Pilsner and Bali Hai) which you can read a little more about in his South and Southeast Asian beer review post.

Bali beer anker stout

~B~

Mexico City Transportation Guide

Mexico City is a bustling city of 20 million. It is the largest city in North America and attracts a huge number of tourists, expats, and temporary residents. Obviously, a huge city is going to need an approach to getting around easily. So we’ve created this Mexico City Transportation Guide to help you. Regardless of your travel preferences, we cover it all.

Walking

One of the more surprising aspects that I found about Mexico City, is just how walkable it is. With such a large population and urban sprawl, I was expecting much of the city to be difficult to get around. But mistaken we were.

Wide, expansive sidewalks line every street in the city. With a standardized grid layout, it is also easy enough to get from point A to point B with minimal difficulty. There are plenty of streets as well – particularly in Centro Historico – that are completely cut off to vehicular traffic on Sundays.

Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

The massive plazas,  and numerous avenues, parks, and gardens make Mexico City extremely easy to traverse on foot. The majority of our ventures were taken on foot, and we find this to be a major plus when visiting any city because there is no better way to actually experience a city than to walk within it.

Art along Paseo de la Reforma

It is worth noting however, that despite its obvious European design influence that makes pedestrian life easy – the city is still huge. While walking is usually a good idea, sometimes, the sheer distance between places makes this approach unwise. So while, we recommend walking when you can – sometimes you’ll have to get around through another way.

Festive Skeltons on Paseo de la Reforma

Bikes

As we’ve mentioned before, we love using bikes when traveling. Getting out, and exploring a city on a bike is a wonderful way to get the same experiences you might get from walking, but at a tremendously expedited rate. The White Bikes in Cambodia provided us with an amazing experience.

Mexico City has several different options when it comes to bikes. You can rent bikes, or even use one of multiple bike sharing programs. Here, I’m just going to cover EcoBici.

Bike Problems

Unfortunately for us, we ran into a few issues with the bike sharing  program in Mexico City called EcoBici. It’s not fair to completely lay the blame on the system as we chose the wrong day and time to get bikes. To start with: The Mexico City Marathon was actively going on and we were trying to get the bikes on Paseo de la Reforma. None of the bike stations appeared to be working and we ran into issues.

EcoBici Stand

While we got a card, it didn’t want to actually give us a bike. Going to a kiosk didn’t help, as they were overwhelmed and we were short on time. We only tried to get a single one-day pass, which we never got refunded despite trying to contract them multiple times. Note – EcoBici has a reputation for difficult customer service.

EcoBici

Despite our issues, the program itself seems pretty good on the whole. Had we had more than a few days in the city, we would have made a point to get it to work for us – it was just unnecessary for the rest of our trip.

Info Kiosk for Ecobici

Currently, EcoBici has 444 stations with over 6,000 bicycles. The bikes are very recognizable, with a distinctive red and white paint job. You can see numerous residents utilizing them pretty much everywhere you go. The great thing, is that anyone can use them too – they’re not limited to locals only.

EcoBici Bikes

To use EcoBici as a tourist, you must purchase a card and register from one of a few locations:

  • Station Reader (Must be able to accept credit cards)
  • Kiosk
  • EcoBici Center

You must use a credit card to make the purchase and you can only use one card per bike. You can purchase a 7, 3, or single day use card. A single day card costs $90 MX pesos (~$5). The first 45 minutes are free, and extra charges will incur after that. If you really need to make a longer trip, simply swap out at another bike station.

Metro

Metro - Mexico City

Image courtesy of S●S▲-L●P►Z

The Mexico City Metro system is the second largest in North America behind New York City. Shortened to STC Metro, it is serviced by 195 stations and 12 lines across the city. Stations are both above and below ground.

The STC Metro is efficient, cheap, and accessible – however it can get very crowded during rush hour, and is advisable against using during this time.The first two trains are reserved for women and children, and the rest for the general public.

You need to use a Metro ticket, which you can purchase for MX $5.00 for a single day pass. You can buy multi-day passes depending upon your needs. A single day pass is good for unlimited rides for the day of purchase.

We didn’t use the Metro during our stay, though we considered it. For our purposes, it was ultimately easier to just use Uber.

Bus

There numerous buses throughout the city, and several different types to choose from. Cheap and efficient – they can also get very crowded and uncomfortable at times.

Metrobuses operate via platforms. They run circuitous routes that are pretty easily defined. These are typically red and white in coloring, though pink buses operate too – women only buses. We attempted to utilize them once, but had an issue with getting a ticket and did not spend long trying to fix it due to how busy it was.

Mexico City Bus

Image courtesy of So Cal Metro

Double-decker tourist buses also operate around the city. These are more expensive, but a ticket is purchased, you can hop on and off them all day as you please – moving from site to site. Their overall scope is more limited, but still hits a large portion of the city.

Longer haul buses can easily be taken out of Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte – North Central Autobus Station. The bus station is very large, with an expansive – though disappointing – food court. From here you can get a bus to farther out neighborhoods, cities, sites.

El Norte Station in Mexico City

We took a bus back from Teotihuacan to Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, and the bus was very nice. It was crowded at first – I had to sit on the floor even – but it quickly dispersed and made for a more comfortable ride.

On The Bus to Mexico City

We had one check-point while police officers early-on which is a relatively normal occurrence. They count how many passengers – tourists – are aboard, in the event of robberies or other criminal activity. It is not common, but incidents do occur in Mexico – usually at night though.

Taxi

There are several classes of taxi in Mexico City. The most recognizable are the pink-and-white taxis. These are the cheapest of the classes and also the most dangerous. Passengers should verify that the cab has a license plate, registration, and that the driver matches the photo. It is advised to not take these at night.

Pink and White Taxi

There is also the libre cabs. These are metered taxis and will generally not run you more than MX $30 – MX $40 for most rides. These are safer than the the others, but still warrant caution at off-times.

Radio Taxis are higher end than the other classes. They cost a bit more, but are secure. You call in a cab directly to your location via the phone. A dispatcher sends out a driver to pick you up and take you to your location. Safety is not a concern when using these.

You can order a taxi via:

Some Reliable Radio Taxis are:

  • Radio Maxi Seguridad
  • Sitio Parque Mexico
  • Taxi-Mex
  • Taxs Radio Union

We never used taxis personally as we utilized other methods to get around. If you opt for utilizing apps for taxis, then in my opinion you might as well use our preferred service – Uber.

Uber

As usual, Uber was our preferred and most used method of transportation after walking. The ease of use really can’t stated enough. Language barriers don’t really present an issue, and prices are cheap.

There was an issue when getting to Teotihuacan, but that was my own fault – careless mistake putting in the wrong address. We still got there, just slower and more expensive than it should have been.

We used Uber multiple times to get to a few neighborhoods when we wanted to save our legs from excessive walking. Most of our rides came out to under $5. Its immediacy, cost, and widespread use make it a must-use when visiting.

Sign up on Uber using our link to get a a discount on your next trip!

Air

Mexico City is serviced by air via Benito Juárez International Airport [MEX]. 30 domestic and international airlines operate out of the airport, typically handling 100,000 individuals per day. It serves as the primary hub for Aeroméxico, Mexico’s largest airliner. Over 100 destinations, on 3 continents can be reached directly via Mexico City.

Bri at Mexico City International Airport

The airport is a medium size with multiple lounges, food courts, and shopping areas. The airport does feel dated however, and is cramped while at full capacity. We also found the boarding process to be disorganized and little chaotic – though ultimately fine in the end.

Grand Lounge at Mexico City International Airport
Departures Terminal at Mexico City International Airport

Due to MEX’s inability to operate at a higher capacity, a new airport is currently under construction roughly 10 miles north of the airport, east of Ecatepec.

~K~