Korean Wifehacks | Affordable International Shipping

Living abroad can be tough in and of itself. And it can be more difficult to get the things from home or abroad that make living in another country just a little easier. For me, those are things like clothing that actually fit properly or tech (electronics are ridiculously expensive in Korea). Most online resellers will happily ship to you for over 50 dollars in addition to your order. How nice of them, right?

Even if you are willing to pay that shipping fee, you still have to take into consideration the customs value limitation which is at 200USD. Don’t plan on spending that much? Keep in mind that this includes the shipping fee in the value.

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So a way that I avoid putting the hurt on my wallet is to use reputable third-party couriers. No, not DHL or Fed-Ex. While they are available in Korea, they charge just as much as national mail services. I am talking specifically about two: Ship2Korea (English service available) and MallTail (Korean service only).

Both of these websites allow you to ship to an address in the US (you can pick between several locations depending on which is closer to the warehouse it is shipping out of as well as taxes charged to that state). Just enter the address provided by the company as your shipping address at checkout.

How this works is that you fill out the form with the courier, telling them the details of what to expect in the mail for you. Once it all arrives, you pay their shipping and handling fee, and just wait for it to come to you. They combine the items into one box for easier and quicker shipping, and it’s just generally awesome. There is tracking for the packages so you know when it will come.

You can also get the most out of this by taking advantage of free shipping from online retailers like Amazon, Modcloth, etc. So wait until you can get their free shipping and make orders at one time to get a bigger bang for your buck.

Korean Lifehacks | Kakao

Before I go on introducing all of the AMAZING ways to use Kakao, my pictures will be in Korean. I do not apologize for this for two reasons which are: 1. if you live in Korea you should at least be able to read 한글 /hangeul/ (the written language) out of the most minute level of respect for your host country, and 2. it is a great way to immerse yourself more into the language.

What is Kakao?

Kakao is a messenger that most Koreans use as well as most foreigners who come here. I have even had my family back home install and we use it to talk to each other. It’s a great way to get awesome technological perks without selling your soul to Apple (go, Team Android!). Just what all can it do, though? Well, that’s what we are here to learn.

Getting StartedMy Profile

When you get started with Kakao, it’s helpful to set up an account. All you need to do is input your email and a password then set up an I.D. That I.D. will be used so others can search you. If you do not want others to be able to search you, you can disable others finding you.

 

Also, in Korea at least, when you enter someone’s contact details like their phone number into your phone, Kakao will put them in your contacts.

Communication Tool

Regular Chat

 

Instant Messenger

In a world where people no longer send SMS (text messages) and their phones have more data than minutes, Kakao allows you optimal ways to communicate. You can message individuals or create groups. Apart from simple messaging, though, there’s a lot more you can do.

 

Sharing

What can you share, you ask? The better question is what can you not share. Check out the photos below to see what you can share with people inside your message windows.Chat Extras

Photos, (short) videos, voice messages, contact details, your current location, or money are all the things you can send.

Voice and Video Talk
You can also use “VoiceTalk” to call people within the application or “FaceTalk” to video chat. This uses data of course and I recommend being on a good WiFi connection to do it.

 

Map

 

The feature I learned most recently about and want to scream from the rooftops if the button labeled “지도” (maps). You can drop a pin of your location to a friend and wait for them to find you. Brilliant stuff, we have here.

 

 

Hashtag

 

 

Hashtags
Use hashtags to check information quickly or inputting information quickly to friends.

 

 

 

Group Chat Options

 

Group Messages 
I manage a book club in my area and with that, comes a few features in addition to the ones listed above. Groups messages give the benefit of gathering opinions, dispersing information, setting up meetings, or getting votes VERY easily.

Customize Your Group Chat to Help Keep Visually Separated:

 

Or manage your group:Group Chat

Vote 

Group Poll

Even have it put directly into your Google Calender.

Group Schedule 2

Scheduling Events

Group Schedule

 

Entertainment ToolOther Menu

As you can see from the picture, Kakao has a lot of ways to entertain yourself, ranging from games to videos. There are also shortcuts to webtoons.

 

 

 

Screenshot_2015-08-03-14-40-31

 

Businesses or other entities also use Kakao to keep customers and/or followers updated with current information or sales! This is done with Kakao’s “PlusFriend” (프러스친구). Love to keep myself updated from my favorite stores:

 

 

Channel

 

 

 

You can also use the “channel” page to look up current news.

 

 

Living Tool

kakao taxi

I would be lying if I said I had used any of these features, but I know others who have and it is very convenient. The only one I will mention here that is gaining popularity is “KakaoTaxi (separate downloadable app).

Using Kakao Taxi you can actually call a taxi to where you are and they will kakao taxi 2head your way. Does it get any better than this?

 

 

Living in Korea Lifehacks

Most people end up on this blog looking for tips on how to study Korean or obtaining/renewing a visa. I can only review my visa once a year with little changing and I have lost a lot of steam on my Korean studies.

But what I have been successful at lately is just living in Korea. Unfortunately, I don’t explore much, but from living with my Korean husband or simply just living in the country, I have come to learn some lifehacks for making it all easier. I hope this will become a regular series on this blog because the main purpose I have for keeping it is helping others with information I find useful.

My next post will be to introduce how to use Kakao, the preferred- and with good reason- messenger in Korea.

 

Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kyoto

This is the final installment in our Kansai trip adventure! We visited Kyoto in the middle of the week for a half day before spending the last day and a half there. Unfortunately, we saw that a typhoon was headed straight to Kansai so the last day we couldn’t do anything but visit the underground shops by the station or the connected department store.

Things to Do

On our half day, however, we did go to Kiyumizudera. Be warned the temple closes at 6:00 so get there before, rent a kimono along the street close to the hill you walk up, and really enjoy the stroll through the streets. Here are some photos of the temple:
C360_2015-07-14-17-19-08-703 C360_2015-07-14-17-36-05-831 C360_2015-07-14-17-32-09-338 C360_2015-07-14-17-22-33-354C360_2015-07-14-17-34-57-828

Gion District
We also took a stroll through the Gion district. This is where the heart of the tradition in the area lies. Great souvenir shops and if you are lucky you will be able to catch a geisha or maiko walking around.
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Food

Since we were stuck inside for the most part, we did get a chance to eat some real Kyoto style food.

  1. Torisanwa (Oya ko donburi)
    Roughly translated as “Parent and child” donburi, this is chicken cooked in a light sauce and half cooked eggs. It is definitely worth the try and so delicious if you get a chance to try it.C360_2015-07-17-18-24-13-234This place was located in the basement level of the main station. You have to walk through the department store grocery stands.
  2. Katzukura (Kyoto Skygarden Donkatsu)
    Located near the top of the Sky Garden in Kyoto Station is another famous fried pork cutlet chain. This one is special because they give you sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle. You grind them up and then add one of the two sauces. Be warned, the one on the far less is a honey citron dressing…for the cabbage, not the pork cutlet.C360_2015-07-18-11-53-26-953It was good but we can find things cheaper and just as good at home in Korea. But if you’re on vacation and wanting to try it, here it is! Also, cabbage is bottomless. You can ask for more.
  3. Beef-katsu
    This one was…interesting. After the Kobe beef experience, DH’s brother saw this place online and wanted us to try it, so we did. This is beef tonkatsu except instead of pork it’s beef and instead of regular beef it was aged beef. At this place the rice and salad is endless, so you can fill up on it.

    C360_2015-07-17-12-47-50-233However, this was not my favorite thing to eat on this trip. The beef was so chewy, but like all things on vacation it is worth doing once just to say that you did.


Well! Thanks for visiting my blog and reading about our trip to Japan. We were very excited since it was our first trip abroad as a married couple. It was so nice and refreshing. A final reflection on this trip. Before you go, make a rough itinerary before you go and be flexible. It will really make the trip less stressful.

Have fun and happy travels!!

Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kobe and Nara (Part 2 – Food)

Our trip to Kobe was seriously all about the food. Nara was more about the culture, but they did have some of the softest, most delicious mochi (rice cakes) that I have EVER had.

Kobe

  1. Kobe Beef
    Kobe beef is famous all over the world. I remember signs growing up at fancy restaurants boosting to serve this coveted cow, but have also read it was all a farce. Either way, I never tried it before to know if hundreds were really duped or not. As for myself, I ate it here and I… just words fail me.We went to this place and it was phe-no-me-nal!
    C360_2015-07-15-15-06-14-912Just like everywhere else in the world that has tourists, there will be some who just say something that people who don’t know better will believe. Here’s my bit of advice. Look for this award in the restaurant:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-21-29-092This means that it is legit Kobe beef. DH and I went to eat lunch because it was a lot less expensive than dinner in the same restaurants. Here is the lunch menu:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-53-01-974 C360_2015-07-15-13-53-10-318Does that say 10,000 Yen (approx. 100 USD) for Kobe beef!? Like I said… we opted for lunch because it was less expensive. We also ordered an S Lunch as well for typical wakyu (Japanese style beef) to compare:C360_2015-07-15-13-49-15-186“S Lunch Menu” versus “Kobe Beef Lunch”
    The only real difference is any meat that is set in front of you, but DH and I split everything, I even nicely let him eat half of my Kobe beef.

    Wakyu:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-59-16-136Kobe beef:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-59-07-684The long, thin one is the Kobe:

    C360_2015-07-15-14-17-42-741Aside from the beef, the menus for both meals are essentially the same. Also, real hibachi cooking!
    C360_2015-07-15-14-08-22-722 C360_2015-07-15-14-13-04-801 C360_2015-07-15-14-12-46-234 C360_2015-07-15-14-07-59-366 C360_2015-07-15-14-22-30-003 C360_2015-07-15-14-24-08-991 C360_2015-07-15-14-47-11-051 C360_2015-07-15-14-52-16-675Butter in beef form is the best way to describe the wonder that is Kobe beef. It was worth the 100 buck price tag for the experience in my opinion.

     

     

  2. Akashiyaki (a.k.a. the original Takoyaki, or egg takoyaki)
    After walking a bit about Chinatown, we were not hungry at all and so unfortunately we didn’t eat any of the interesting Chinese street food that was sprinkles every dozen feet or so away from each other, we went to a small place that serves a special kind of takoyaki.

    C360_2015-07-15-17-18-13-337DH did not do his research enough because as soon as I ate it I asked if this was just egg with a piece of octopus in it. He checked online and said, “Yep.” Despite this, it was good. I just can’t stomach a lot of egg at one time so he had to eat it alone.

Nara

  1. Dango
    I saw a review of a dango restaurant in Seoul a few months ago and had always wanted to try. Basically, dango are skewered, grilled mochi (rice cakes) in a glaze.
    C360_2015-07-14-12-47-02-411From my guess the glaze was soy sauce and a bit of mirin, maybe a smidgen of sugar so it thickens up. I would have preferred some honey instead, but it was great none-the-less. Definitely something I plan to recreate at home.
  2. Cold Udon
    This was a restaurant with high reviews on the Japanese “Yelp” app that my husband was using. I do not really like udon, never have and probably never will, but we went here anyways. (Spouses make sacrifices because they love each other, right?)
    C360_2015-07-14-14-23-11-347There were hot and cold options of just about everything. This was eaten like soba, where you dip your noodles in the broth. Mine was a rich soy bean and pork broth. Not bad. Made me wish I liked udon more.
  3. Mochi 
    These guys are famous. If you are walking to (or from) Todaijidera and you hear men grunting like they are in a display of martial arts intermitten with smacking sounds, you are in for a treat. Look for the crowd and head there. This is where they are making up some nom-tastic green tea mochi.
    C360_2015-07-14-14-02-40-387Get them while they are fresh and it will be the softest piece of mochi you have ever experienced.
    C360_2015-07-14-14-03-40-887 C360_2015-07-14-14-04-22-966

 

Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kobe and Nara (Part 1 – Things to Do)

The second leg of our journey was spent on a couple of half day trips. From our home base of Osaka we went to Kobe and Nara. I am putting them together into one post because they aren’t quite as extensive trips as Osaka.

Kobe

Kobe is world renown for its beef, but it is also a cute city to visit for a casual day. It was a great reprieve from the busy schedule of the first two days we had in Japan. I will talk about the glory that is Kobe beef in a separate post, but here are the things we did in Kobe.

  1. Chinatown
    C360_2015-07-15-16-33-29-137Located in the center of the city, we visited Chinatown after eating lunch, which wasn’t necessary. There are so many places to eat here that it would make for a better snack-and-go place with dinner being dedicated to the beef. Since it is smaller than expected, we traversed the whole place within an hour and quickly moved on. Here is a map:
    C360_2015-07-15-16-34-23-533
    And some photos I snapped along the way:C360_2015-07-15-16-45-51-049
    C360_2015-07-15-16-33-48-782
    C360_2015-07-15-16-38-46-902
  2. Starbucks House
    Moving on from Chinatown, we walked over to the Starbucks that is in an old Western-styled house. It was nice and a refreshing place to go with all the hot humidity.
    C360_2015-07-15-17-57-52-376

Nara

Nara was more my style which its rich history and cultural attractions. We spent the entire day here and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  1. Deer Park
    When you get off the station at Nara and surface from the subway it is no exaggeration to say one of the first things you will see are deer. They are EVERYWHERE. Inside the park, outside the park, in the temple, simply everywhere. The town itself looks so small, it made me wonder if there weren’t more deer than people in this town.
    C360_2015-07-14-11-27-01-517 C360_2015-07-14-11-01-32-627 C360_2015-07-14-11-01-40-868
    You can buy little biscuits to feed them, but these little guys do come with a word of warning or two. Apparently deer are vicious and should not be trusted despite their cute exterior.C360_2015-07-14-11-06-47-769
  2. Todaijidera (Todaiji Temple)
    Now we come to what I really enjoy: temples. As I mentioned in a previous post, Japan was a Shinto religious culture before Buddhism was introduced and instead of simply replacing them, the country merged elements together. So while”dera” refers to a Buddhist temple in Japanese, and “jinja” refers to a Shinto one, you will see elements of both on your way up to see Todaijidera.
    C360_2015-07-14-11-42-21-115 C360_2015-07-14-11-51-35-905 C360_2015-07-14-11-54-54-591 C360_2015-07-14-11-57-31-980 C360_2015-07-14-12-05-50-736Once inside the temple, you will see a pillar with a small hole in it. It is said that if you go through this hole then your wish will come true.
    C360_2015-07-14-12-07-32-458Depending on how you track to and fro the temple, you will come to quite a few other shrines and pagoda along the way:
    C360_2015-07-14-13-55-52-603 C360_2015-07-14-13-15-27-908 C360_2015-07-14-13-20-08-596 C360_2015-07-14-13-28-14-644

Trip to Kansai, Japan: Osaka (Part 2 – Food)

Food

Here’s the fun part of any trip: eating! Here are the places that we ate while in Osaka.

  1. Harukoma (Sushi)
    This place is famous with locals and features on a lot of Korean blog spots so we ended up here. They are known for their large meat portions on the sushi. It was definitely fresh and if you enjoy fish, very delicious!
    C360_2015-07-16-13-21-04-745 C360_2015-07-16-13-24-06-380 C360_2015-07-16-13-24-12-808 C360_2015-07-16-13-24-18-746 C360_2015-07-16-13-24-23-141
  2. Ichiran (Ramen)
    I don’t know if you know this about Japan, but they really love their noodles and you will see in the food posts just how much. The famous places in Osaka to eat ramen are Kenryu and Ichiran. We opted to go to Ichiran and, boy, am I glad we did! Located one street over from the Glico man sign in Dotonbori, you will have to wait but it’s worth it.
    C360_2015-07-16-19-53-01-463You can customize just about EVERYTHING when it comes to this soup from the amount of garlic, spicy sauce, part of the green onions, to the richness of the broth. I ordered standard all the way down and was pleased.A note about how to order. You order and pay before you are even seated. Walking in the door you are confronted with this machine before you even lay eyes on an employee:
    C360_2015-07-16-19-39-16-602First, insert your money then press your options of what you want. Then you will be given a meal ticket. As you wait in line, on the wall (look around) there will be sheets of paper where you will pick the particulars of your personal bowl of soup. Then you will be seated in individual stalls. Place your meal ticket AND the paper with your soup information in front of you and someone will pick it up through the small window.C360_2015-07-16-19-45-50-754They will leave you this sheet if you want to order more noodles, but leave enough broth if you decide you want more noodles!
    C360_2015-07-16-19-47-23-558
  3. ??? (Katzu donburi)
    C360_2015-07-11-18-19-38-485A favorite Korean food of mine is 덮밥 (Deop-bap), and Japan has its own version called donburi.This particular restaurant served theirs with fried protein and vegetables on top. De-li-cious.C360_2015-07-11-17-58-05-936 C360_2015-07-11-17-51-30-943This restaurant is located in Den-Den Town. 
  4. AjinoyaNamba location (Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba)
    This restaurant is located on a side road in Dontonbori and you can see it if you are walking through the covered shopping streets.C360_2015-07-12-20-39-30-613Hopefully, no one will be offended at my description but okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable omelet, with less of the egg and more of the vegetable. This place served great okonomiyaki. We also ordered yakisoba.
    C360_2015-07-12-20-42-02-428Here was the completed okonomiyaki:
    C360_2015-07-12-20-54-16-875
  5. Pablo (Cheese tart)
    This cheese tart was interesting. With your Amazing Pass you can get a discount with the TokuX2 tickets but we just bought it. There are two locations in Dotonbori and these things are huge. We took it back to our place and ate it. Worth a try one time.
    C360_2015-07-16-21-44-03-641
  6. A food stall in Dotonbori (Takoyaki)
    C360_2015-07-12-19-01-14-038This is located one street away from the Glico man sign (what a great point of reference, huh?) but you can find a million plus food stalls selling takoyaki in Osaka. This place was great and tasty.

    C360_2015-07-12-18-45-12-331 C360_2015-07-12-18-45-25-814 C360_2015-07-12-18-46-28-908They serve them up when you order. You can enjoy inside by the bar or as you continue sightseeing.
    C360_2015-07-12-18-46-53-858C360_2015-07-12-18-49-33-778
  7. ??? (Soba)
    This restaurant was located a few streets from the Museum of Oriental Ceramics (also free on the Amazing Pass). We went on a Monday, which is a off-day for most places in Osaka for some reason or other, so he was only serving one style. Still good.C360_2015-07-12-13-25-43-442To enjoy like the locals, you will be given tea and a cup of soy sauce. He will also give you some of the noodle broth which you can use to dilute the soy sauce if it is too strong. Before eating your soba, dip in the soy sauce and enjoy!

    When you finish your meal, place your tray back on the counter to let the workers know you are finished eating.

  8. Daruma (Kushi katsu)
    Kushi katsu is essentially what in Korean is called 튀김, or battered and deep-fried foods, and it is good. As a southern belle at heart, I love fried foods so this was great. We went to this famous chain. There are two in the Dotonbori area and you will know you are there when you caught site of this handsome fellow:
    C360_2015-07-12-18-28-26-621This is different from tempura where the batter is much lighter. You eat the skewered, fried delights by dipping them in a communal pot of soy sauce. The only rule of Kushi katsu club is this: ONLY DIP ONCE. You are sharing the soy sauce with everyone so no double-dipping.
    C360_2015-07-16-20-22-49-805