Lost in Seoul

Written by admin on October 22, 2008 – 4:03 pm -

Ever wish you had the guts to drive and explore a new city or go for a roadtrip without fearing getting lost? Especially if you couldn’t ask for directions due to the fact that the local populace don’t speak english.

What you need is a GPS navigation unit. For starters GPS service is free of charge. GPS or Ground Positioning System is a a system that works by triangulating a user with a GPS receiver with the use of satellites. These satellites are owned by the U.S. military and were primarily developed over a decade ago to determine the position of their ships, aircraft and personnel. This technology has now spilled over to the civilian market and we now enjoy turn by turn directions to our chosen destination. 

In S. Korea, GPS navigation has been available for quite some time now but the major problem for foreigners like me was that the verbal and displayed directions, maps and language were only available in Korean. These days english turn by turn instructions as well as map displays are available by a simple update from the internet. 

The unit I purchased was an XROAD Season 2 GPS. You may opt for other brands but make sure you get one with the Mappy system as they have english updates. One thing I really like about the GPS units here in Seoul is that they provide real-time traffic information. This helps me navigate through the grid locked streets of Seoul especially during the rush hours. I’ve included a video of this in action. Traffic info is displayed for both directions in either flashing red for heavy bumper to bumper traffic, yellow for moderate flow and green for the all clear. Other bells and whistles include the DMB, and PMP.

So if you’re itching to go on the roadtrip without the anxiety of getting lost head over to your favorite electronics retailer and grab yourself one. It’s relatively cheap nowadays with prices ranging from W200,000-350,000 depending on the features that you want.


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Posted in Seoul, Tech, Travel | 8 Comments »

Information Superhighway at 35,000 ft

Written by admin on July 2, 2008 – 1:34 pm -

In most computer related diagrams the internet is often referred to as the cloud and this couldn’t be more true with the launch of Gogo.  Gone are the days when a 14 hour transpacific flight was as fun as a trip to the dentist to have a root canal. These days even cattle class passengers have all the tools to entertain themselves, from video games for the kids to keep them from asking ‘are we there yet?’ to the latest feature blockbusters at their fingertips. Now internet junkies no longer have to put off their need to be online as Gogo launches an internet service for passengers on American Airlines and Virgin America. This isn’t a new thing as a company called Connexion launched a similar service between 2005-2006 albeit was not successful. My guess is that it was too expensive to maintain as Connexion used satellites for connectivity whereas Gogo employs ground based stations in the continental United States. For the rest of us living elsewhere I guess we can forget about shopping online at 35,000 ft for now as most of transpacific and regional flights have to cross vast bodies of water.

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Posted in Tech, Travel | No Comments »

Odusan 오두산 Unification Observatory

Written by admin on May 26, 2008 – 1:47 am -

I’ve been getting information about places to visit in South Korea from the numerous bloggers .  This time I’m going to give something back to the community and write about our visit to the Odusan Unification Observatory. 

Built in 1999 this facility was to commemorate the efforts in unifying North and South Korea. To this date the Korean War has not yet ended and is the only divided country in the world even after the end of the Cold War.

Getting there from Seoul is fairly easy, just get on the westbound Gangbyeon expressway and you won’t miss the signs as you get closer After parking the car at the Paju City public parking lot the kids and I  took a free shuttle bus to get to the observatory. There is an admission fee of W 2,500 for adults and W 1,700 for kids. Upon entering there are various exhibit halls and an A/V presentation in english describes the propaganda village to the north and it’s surrounding geography. Binoculars are available in two outdoor viewing decks that afford an excellent view of the area. Restaurants, souvenir shops and snack kiosks are available. 

I’ve always been fascinated about North Korea and have watched almost every documentary that’s been shown on the Discovery and NatGeo, and can’t believe that just across that river bank are people who are hungry, oppressed, and have been brainwashed into thinking that their ‘Dear Leader’ is looking after their best interests. 

The top half of the photo is the North Korean propaganda village, Kim Il-sung Historiacal Monument Hall, Primary School, People’s Cultural Assembly Hall and the Anti-South Media Propaganda Base while the bottom part shows the riverbank on the South Korean side. Take note of the heavily barbed fence which is guarded 24/7.

The expressway which runs alongside the riverbank is heavily fenced with barbed wire with watch towers every 1000 meters. 

For more info click here

More photos here.


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Posted in Seoul, South Korea, Travel | 4 Comments »

O.E.C. woes

Written by admin on May 22, 2008 – 7:03 pm -

For some reason I really hate the term OFW, maybe it’s because of all the hassles associated with it. When my family was living with me, we seldom went back to visit the Philippines. More often that not, we’d go someplace else to spend our vacation such as Singapore, Japan or the United States. Why? Because I always found it so troublesome for me to get the paperwork or clearance to leave Manila as an OFW.

I’m sure pretty sure not one single OFW looks forward to spending almost half a day at the POEA office in Ortigas just to get a piece of paper called an Overseas Employment Certificate (O.E.C) that will allow he or she to leave the country. Personally I don’t know why you need to get an O.E.C, isn’t a valid work visa enough? I get it, it’s a revenue source for the government. So why not have an OFW Card, that has the same validity as your current work visa? That way you only renew once a year. Oh wait! We do have that card, the one with the useless magnetic stripe and all. While in line at the POEA office last year, someone told me that for a brief moment that magnetic stripe did work and the holder did not have to fill out endless forms since once swipe of the card yielded all the personal information of the card holder. Well that was for a brief moment, now it’s back to all the paperwork that has to filled up.

I really envy the OFW’s from Singapore, they can just go to Lucky Plaza (a place where most Filipino’s hang out) and buy their OEC’s from most shops there. A few years back the Philippine Embassy in Seoul issued OEC’s but for some reason they don’t do it anymore. I just don’t get it. OEC from a store at Lucky Plaza but not from the Philippine Embassy, go figure??? After calling the Filipino Workers Resource Center at the Embassy here in Seoul I was told that I can go straight to the POEA office at the airport an apply for the OEC there. A bit scary if you ask me, especially if you’re leaving that day and they tell you that you can’t get your OEC at the airport, that leaves you where?

I know that there are improvements such as fast track delivery, presenting the OEC at airline counter instead of getting a stamp at the airport etc…, but for me spending the better part of a short vacation at the POEA just to get a piece of paper that says I’m allow to leave the country is not cool.

There is a silverlining in the clouds, the POEA in conjuction with Globe and SMART (I have no idea why Globe or SMART but I’ll leave that for a seperate post) are developing a card that will replace the current OEC system. This one is what I call B.W.I.S.I.T, Believe It When I See It.

Anybody out there who’s got a better way please chime in…

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Posted in Philippines, Travel | 2 Comments »

New PAL brand

Written by admin on April 28, 2008 – 11:05 am -

Last month national flag carrier Philippine Airlines announced it would be launching a new low cost carrier (LCC) brand called PAL Express.

PAL Express will be operating initially with nine turbo-prop aircraft comprised of the 50 seater Bombadier Q300 and 70 seater Q400. These will be a mix of brand new and second hand aircraft from SAS. As of this date PAL Express is operating out of its hub in Cebu to service destinations in Visayas and Mindanao. This May, it will fly out of Manila to service Caticlan.

The common misconception that propeller planes are old and jets are new is totally false. Tubro-props are also powered by jet turbines driving a propeller. These current model turbo props are also as electronically advanced as their jetliner cousins. So why propeller driven planes? For starters, propeller driven planes require a shorter runway for takeoff and landings, and we all know that airports in the Philippines, especially those in far flung areas are as developed. 

Its good to see Philippine Airlines getting back on their feet. The PAL Express website is here.


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Posted in Philippines, Travel | No Comments »