Elwood 5566

Somewhat Greener Grass

Posted in Comparative, Entertainment, services and facilities by 노강호 on July 18, 2012

The speed of construction in Korea; a year between clearing the lot to the opening of Starbuck’s on the ground floor

Koreans will tell you their economy is in recession but there are recessions and recessions. Prices don’t seem to have increased much over the years and my utilities bills are in some cases cheaper than they were five years ago. Meanwhile, my electricity bill in the UK has increased by almost 300% in the last five years and it’s the same with gas and water utilities. Indeed, the price of one bill in the UK, my Community Charge, currently almost £150pm (w300.000), would not just cover my all monthly Korean utility bills but, my health contribution, internet and cable TV, and my monthly subscription to the most exclusive gym and jimjjilbang in my area.

My monthly Korean gas and electric bills always contain a graph showing the price you have paid for each month over 13 months so at a glance you can not just see if you’re paying more this month than you were in the corresponding month last year, but can access seasonal variations. The same system in the UK would mortify me as we have been subject to massive hikes every year for the last five years – indeed in one year there were two large increases. Meanwhile, the restaurant in which I’ve eaten for the last four years has increased the price of pork kimchi stew by 500Won (25 pence).

Coffee houses – an indicator of disposable income

When business folds, another quickly opens, more often than not, a mobile phone store or a coffee house. Coffee houses in Korea are often used as an indicator of disposable incomes. One of the most pertinent signs that the Korean economy isn’t in the same depressing mess it is back home, is that rate at which buildings are erected. It isn’t just the case that buildings are being built but that they are speedily completed. In Korea, you can expect a 12 story building to be completed within a year and in a five mile journey across the city a few weeks ago, I must have past at least 20 buildings being erected. In one area alone there were at least six that that weren’t there a year ago.

a busy building program in Dasa, Daegu. Construction can be seen from early morning until it begins to get dark – six days a week!

But there are other markers of a relatively healthy economy despite the world recession; many of my students have the latest mobile technology and in some cases expensive technology and on the streets at the weekends it’s easy to spot new jeans and trousers, especially on teenagers. New trainers are common and the current trend New Balance, not just in trainers but as logos on T-shirts and bags. Korean students have a ‘preppy,’  respectable appeal and there is a distinct lack of the ‘East European fashions’ which tend to dominate British streets such as leggings, cheap trackies and hoodies.

new trainers on my students

And then there are middle school students with cameras costing anything up to 1.000.000KRW(£500). Take a trip to any popular Korean destination and you’ll see an inordinate number of Koreans not just with expensive cameras, but with enormous telescopic lenses.

The quality of life in Korea is high and living on the peninsula reminds me of the years I spent in Germany, during the late 70’s and 80’s, in an economy equally as vibrant. More important is the atmosphere generated when there is a good quality of life. Economic depression casts a gloom over the societies it infects and no amount of social manipulation in the form of festivals, flag waving jamborees or ‘big events’ can shake off the feeling that society is sick. Yes, currently, Korea is probably one of the best places to be to ride out not just the current global recession, but the general greed that seems an endemic part of my own culture and in which most transactions leave you feeling ‘ripped-off.’

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Home Spa World – Apsan, Daegu

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu, services and facilities, Sport by 노강호 on February 12, 2012

Home Spa World

Rating – Luxury

First visited on February 10th 2012. This is a large complex situated right on the edge of Apsan mountain between Dae Myeong Middle School (대명중학교) and Samdong Bridge (삼동교). It lies almost directly on the perimeter of Camp Walker. This is probably the largest bathhouse I’ve so far visited in Daegu and the length of the changing facilities and the bathhouse itself, took me 80 paces. The reception is on the ground floor along with some shops, a bank,  restaurants and a Paris Baguette.  The male changing facility and bathhouse is on the 3rd floor with the corresponding female facility on floor 2,

The changing facilities are very spacious and divided into numerous partitioned areas. Once you have your ticket, you use your ticket number to find your shoe locker and the key from this then opens your clothes locker. My key number was 637 and there were several more partitioned areas after mine so the changing area must accommodate a thousand people. The changing facility runs the entire length of the bathhouse and is enormous.  In the center of the changing area are the entrance to, and exit from, the bathhouse.

You enter the bathhouse onto a raised plinth which at the front has steps to the floor level and to the side slopes down to the floor. Standing on the plinth, the entire complex can be viewed. Inside the bathhouse, on the right hand side are 80 sit down shower areas with 25 standing showers lining the wall. On the opposite side to the entrance, which is raised, are the saunas and on to the left, the bathing areas.

(The steps to the plinthed exit are on the right). This photo, taken from the entrance to the no-cheon and between the hinoki and 'event' pools, gives a good sense of the size of this facility. The row of lights at the far end are the stand up showers with the seated showers beyond the furthest pool.

The bathing area is pleasantly lit by diffuse  lighting under dark blue paneling which  mirror image the pools. Two rounds pool, one hot and one cool sit on either end of a large semi-circular pool from which one can watch television.  On the far side of the entrance  is a large cold pool (냉탕) which is slightly recessed and on the wall of which is a large alpine mountain panorama, illuminated from behind. On the left of the cold pool are three individual, sunken bubble baths (거품탕) which you climb down into. On the same wall, but in the opposite direction adjacent to the showers, are three saunas, one of yellow mud (황토방), a steam sauna and a yellow stone sauna (황석). Next to these, in the corner is a partially enclosed scrub down area and a urinal.

This photo is taken from the center of the room, back to the showers and facing the no-cheon where the previous photo was taken. The entrance is on the left and the cold pool on the right.

Standing on the raised entrance and looking in the opposite direction, to the left far end, are two more baths one being a large square, wooden, Japanese cypress bath (히노끼) which is situated under the television, and in the left-hand corner a round ‘event pool’ (이벤트탕). The ‘event’ pool has a large menu on the wall detailing the daily essences added to the bath, herb, schisandra (오미자), jasmine etc, and their medicinal qualities.  In the far right-hand corner are three cold ‘waterfall’ showers and in the opposite corner, next to the ‘event’ pool is a pine wood, herb sauna. Directly to the left of the entrance for this is a raised sleeping area with a heated floor. Dotted here and there on the edge of pools are stone mermaids, dolphins and other such features, pouring water into the pools.

The far left of the entrance contains the entrance to an area exposed to the outside temperature and known as a no-cheon (노천). Of the indoor no-cheons I have visited, this was the most successful. The area comprises most of the width of the bathhouse area and contains a cold pool (냉탕)  and a steaming, large ‘forage bath’ (목초탕). The area is pleasantly decorated, although the plants are plastic, with spouting water features and in one corner are even a pair of small male and female totem poles. In this area is also a Finnish style sauna.  A couple of seats allow for relaxation and provide a view, upwards. to the edge of the mountain. Usually, for the sake of privacy, indoor no-cheon areas have slated type windows which are frosted and though they allow the breeze to enter, hence providing outside temperatures, they usually have no view. The mountain at this point is steep enough to be void of footpaths and public and though there is a large frosted panel blocking any horizontal view, one can look up and glimpse the mountain slope.  The no-cheon area is pleasantly decorated, though the plants are plastic, with stone features, water spouts and there is even a pair of small, male and female totem poles (장승) guarding the area. The no-cheon area also has a Finnish-style sauna.

The location of Home Spa's no-cheons (노천). The male no-cheon, on the third floor, seems to have greater visibility and the window of the Finnish sauna is just visible.

a view of the bathing area with the entrance to the no-cheon in the far left-hand corner

The ‘powder room’ is comfortable with the usual array of  fans, hair dryers, lotions and skin bracers. The changing area is massive and spacious and in particular, the TV area had an enormous table with four large leather sofas.

Getting there – (Wiki Map link )

Location of Home Spa World

Bus Lines: 410, 730, 349, and others stop in the immediate area.

By Subway – the closest subway to Home Spa is Daemyeong (대명) from here it’s possible to walk but a taxi might be easier.

Times – opens at 0600 and closes at 2300.

Cost – 7000W

Facilities –

Facilities

Bathhouse (men) – barbers, 4 saunas, 8 pools, 95 showers, TV relaxations area, TV access in pool area and in saunas, shoe shine, snack area

Others – swimming pool, golf, yoga, fitness, jjimjilbang,

Waygukin – none

Address

Tel: 053-470-1100-3

Websitehttp://www.h-spa.com/

Layout (coming)

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Wonderful Spaland – A Little Less Wonderful. Update (1)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu, services and facilities by 노강호 on October 26, 2011

For most of this year, Wonderful Spaland has remained my favourite bathhouse in the west side of Daegu. The allure lay in the heady scents emitted in the Roman Mosaic Steam Room, and the smoky smell of the oak charcoal bath the essences extracted by a process of condensation. Other attractions included a large massage pool, the semi-exposed no-ch’eon (노천) as well as the fact the facilities were impeccably clean and comfortable.

Wonderful Spaland

Last weekend was a bad time to visit. With a major baseball quarter-final in play the baths were packed and at one point I estimated about two hundred people in the pool and shower area. However, most bathers weren’t watching the game but enjoying the massage pool. To compound matters, Saturday had been a ‘play Saturday’ (놀토) and as the majority of students had finished their mid-term exams, there were plenty of kids splashing about and making a noise.

Unfortunately, several changes have occurred in the arrangement of pools which has slightly downgraded my rating of Wonderful Spaland. I know from comments by other readers that the women’s section had the same structure as the men’s area but currently, don’t know if the changes have been applied to one area or both. In my opinion, the changes have removed facilities that gave the establishment  a clear lead over other luxury bathhouses.

The ‘Roman Sauna,’ which formerly had a large structure in the center of the circular room which hissed out the most intoxicating aromas,  has been removed and the floor underneath replaced with mosaic. This was the central feature of the sauna and it felt quite natural to be seated around this, on solid mosaic seats. With the structure removed, and no central focus, it now feels a little odd sitting in a circle. A TV screen now occupies the wall but the circular seating isn’t practical and effectively retires the seating under the TV. I can’t remember if the screen was there before; if it was, its presence was insignificant as one’s interest was dominated by the hissing of the ‘cauldron’ in the center of the room. This sauna has gone from balanced and enjoyable to clumsy and pointless but the mosaic decoration, if any consolation is attractive.

Wonderful Spaland’s luxurious ‘milky bubble tang’

The oak charcoal bath (짬나무/목초탕), the scent of which permeated the entire bathhouse, was formerly in the no’ch’eon area, next to the salt sauna but this has now been replaced by a mud bath. The current charcoal bath is now located in the center of the complex alongside  the ‘event-bath‘ (이벤트탕) and the unique ‘milky bubble bath.’  The charcoal pool is no longer as intense as it was and though its scent is still noticeable as you approach the changing rooms, it no longer lingers on your skin for several days.

The mud bath is nothing to get too excited about and whatever mud is present merely dirties the water.  Perhaps mud baths don’t need to be sloppy and dirty and in all fairness, the only suitable place to locate this facility is by the salt sauna as these also have a shower outside them to hose off excess salt.

In my opinion, while Wonderful Spaland still remains one of the best Saunas in the area though the restructuring knocks it down a notch making it directly comparable to other ‘quality’ bathhouses.

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Honestly! I’m not a trainspotter!

Posted in Photo diary, services and facilities, Technology by 노강호 on September 26, 2011

In December 2010, I took some photos for a post I intended writing on the KTX (KTX – Gold Standard. Jan 2011). After downloading them on to my UK computer, a glitch erased them. Then this week, I discover that I hadn’t erased the file but transfered it to my palm-reader which as a white elephant, rarely gets used.

The older type KTX, the sleek design inspired by the snout of a shark

The KTX San Ch'eon class engine

The San Ch'eon class was launched in March 2010

carriage entrances where there are usually free bottles of water, computer re-charging booths

one of the most impressive features: the on-board cinema

usually there are around 12 carriages not including two engines and a cinema.

I’m not in the least interested in trains in general and didn’t make a special trip to take these photos. I took them on my way to London back in December 2010. In the UK, train spotting is a hobby, uniquely British and which has a long tradition. Trainspotters have their own fashion’ frequently derided and spend weekends standing on the ends of platforms equipped with cameras and notebooks. I imagine, though it might be a falsehood, that they get extremely excited exchanging chassis numbers or discussing changes in livery.  They are the butt of  numerous jokes and to be called a ‘trainspotter’  is not complimentary.

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The Changing Face of Song-so, Daegu

Posted in Comparative, services and facilities by 노강호 on August 27, 2011

I returned to the UK for a summer break to the usual welcome. This time, the train company that carries me on the last leg of my journey, to Wivenhoe, Essex (UK), had changed from First Connect to National Express and for the third consecutive time, the train’s only toilet was out of order. In the winters of 2009 and 2010 it was locked. This summer, I took my wash-bag to the toilet, put shaving cream on my face in preparation of having a shave, only to discover there was no water. Indeed, there was more water swilling on the floor and the lip of the toilet was decorated with shit. A big thank-you to National Express and British standards! Then, a few days later the riots began. Britain is indeed a dirty, second-rate nation and I no longer intend bemoaning the state of the country.

great to see standards maintained over a number of years

Three weeks later and I return to Korea and to Song-so, Daegu. Mr Big has opened as a mobile telephone shop, Mutory, where you can sit and drink coffee while pondering which hand-phone to buy. The high-rise block which began in February 2011 is almost complete and the butcher’s in my local Dream Mart has closed. Meanwhile, Migwang Spolex, the sport center and bathhouse I use, has been given a face lift (Migwang Face-lift, August 2011).

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As a note, it is now autumn 2012. In summer 2012 I travelled back to the UK and on both trips to and from the airport, British rail toilets were again either in a filthy state or could not be used.

Haircut and Hand Job

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, services and facilities by 노강호 on April 2, 2011

haircut 'n shave

I’ve only once had a haircut in one of the jjimjilbang I use and it was a guy who cut my hair. For several years I’ve seen him hanging about his shop or chatting to the adjacent shoe-shine man. Recently however, I’ve seen a little line of women sat on the sofa in the barber’s shop while the barber seems to have disappeared.  A neon sign over the door announces a shave, hair cut and massage for the price of  30.000 Won (£15). There was something about those women that struck me as odd but being naive in such matters, I ignored it.

 

haircut'n wank?

Then, last week two different Korean friends tell me that the jjimjilbang, in effect the mogyoktang, now provides an extra service, namely a wank which apparently comes after your haircut and massage. I was shocked; it was such a respectable establishment and I teach the owner’s son. I’m wondering if the father knows but if I do, a mere waygukin, he must certainly know. And does his wife know? Well, I won’t be getting my haircut in there again. I’m not opposed to a wanking service but in the basement or another room, not in the barbers.

 

one pole seems ambiguous, two are definitely more suspect

I’ve never really understood the validity of the barber’s pole as a sign for a brothel though it is apparently the case that such establishments are identified by two poles spinning in opposite directions. However, even my Korean friends are uncertain about  the exact meaning of such poles.

I’ve occasionally heard rumours about the availability of wanks in bathhouses, only ever in a heterosexual context and have never personally witnessed anything remotely sexual. I wonder how much they charge to watch?

Further updates on the brothelization of my favourite bathhouse

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KTX – Gold Standard

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, services and facilities, Technology by 노강호 on January 29, 2011

the impressive KTX, launched on April 1 2004 with speed of 186 mph (later increased to 190 mph)

KTX 1 launched April 1 2002 with top working speed of 300 kph (186 mph)

(This was later increased to 305 kph (190 mph))

KTX 2 (Sancheon) introduced March 2 2010 with top working speed of 350 kph (217 mph) It is named ‘Sancheon’ after the Cherry Salmon

KTX 3 with a top working speed now  likely to be 370 kph (230 mph) is due to appear in 2015

HEMU 400X will take speeds to 400 kph (249 mph). Line test begin in 2012. This is the second of 2 experimental trains the other being the HSR-350x

Cherry Salmon

If I hadn’t been so tired after almost 32 hours of traveling, I’d have taken some photos. I am totally in love with the Korean KTX train service and traveling first class is well worth the extra money. Though the British 125, high-speed train towing 7-8 carriages at a maximum speed of 125 mile per hour, has been the backbone of British intercity travel for thirty years, it is far from the golden standard of travel even if you sit in first class. And it might not be upgraded within the next 10 years! The KTX service is certainly a limited service, operating to only a few destinations but despite being less than 10 years old,  services are being extended and new engines and rolling stock introduced.  Towing 18 carriages, at a top speed of just over 200 mph, the compartments are fairly quiet  and you might be fooled into thinking the train isn’t traveling so fast. However, having kept an eye on the carriage plasma screens, where the speed is constantly visible, we traveled at about 290 kph for most of the journey (that’s c. 180 mph). The KTX, modeled on the French TGV system, is a technological masterpiece but  it isn’t just technology and speed that make a service ‘gold standard.’

British first-class train travel when it was more than just ‘oik’ free

When trains stop at stations prior to departing for another destination, a small army of cleaners purge the train and ‘spruce it up.’  In the UK, a class divided society, first-class bestows kudos and is a great way to feel superior over fellow travelers by reminding them you have more money. Apart from the absence of  ‘oiks,’ there is very little else to attract potential customers and first class on British trains can hardly be compared to business-class on airlines. KTX first-class however, is quite different and very comparable to airline business class standards.  A carpet with at least a little pile cushions your feet and it’s clean, a fact you can tell because the light fawn colour highlights any dirt – which there isn’t. I don’t remember if British Rail has carpets on the first-class floor but if they do, they are certainly not a light colour but most definitely dark blue or brown or some other dirt-masking colour.   The seats are broad and spacious and their backs can be adjusted with an electrically assisted motor, to provide ultimate comfort. A small buffet car provides refreshments and is the headquarters for the refreshment trolleys that service both first and second class. There are male and female toilets, baby changing and feeding stations, small recesses to power mobile devices and wi-fi internet access and sockets for powering computers are provide throughout the train. In all carriages plasma screens  provide a range of information and are coordinated with the journey’s progress so that as a program ends the approaching station is announced and often there may then follow some useful information on that town or city. On first class, snacks such as peanuts or biscuits and bottled water are complimentary provisions.

The KTX cinema carriage

Staff are highly visible on trains and their bearing and dress is impeccable and perhaps it is this more than anything else that puts the KTX service on a par with the business class of an airline. In addition, if you’re making a longer journey, the train’s cinema carriage provides a unique experience. The next wave of KTX rolling stock will have first class seats that can swivel 360 degrees and though I’m not sure how it will materialise, but several reports claim the new rolling stock will have basic cooking resources for passengers. I can’t imagine this meaning trains will have gas ranges and barbecue facilities so imagine it might mean publicly available microwaves.

THE KTX EXPRESS 2 (SANCHEON) WITH A SPEED OF 330KPH (205 MPH)

THE KTX IN SEOUL STATION

Meanwhile, back in ‘Broken Britain,’ from early 2011, London-Scotland routes will be terminating the refreshment trolley to second class carriages while  first class provisions will be upgraded with passengers being served, at their seats, as many sandwiches and drinks as they can consume before  reaching their destination.  Management seem to think this will attract more customers but with British rail prices one of the most expensive in Europe, you have to be a retard to spend the equivalent of between the price of a two course all for the sake of  some complimentary sandwiches.  British rail sandwiches were never very palatable even when you paid inflated prices for them. I am reminded of the doomed Titanic and the manning of lifeboats in order of class.

This model, currently being developed, is able to tilt

The experimental HSR 350X which reaches speeds of 350 kph (217 mph)

I am very tempted to make a first-class journey on one of East Coast’s trains simply to see how many sandwiches I could gorge myself on before the train reaches the first stop, where I would alight.

At this point I did a little research. A ticket  from London King’s Cross, to Nottingham, on an East Coast train, which can be used at anytime of day making it comparable to the KTX ticket, on which there are no time restrictions,  costs £64 second-class and £90 first class. That’s a difference of £26. At 2 hours 11 minutes, the traveling time is about 20 minutes longer than Seoul to Daegu. If I travel 2nd class the difference will easily buy a two course meal in a decent restaurant or,  short of £9, book a room in Nottingham’s Days Hotel.  If I go first-class I am sure I could  eat at least ten sandwiches and a couple of cups of tea and with a sandwich or two in my pocket, I could certainly eat my way into a substantial part of the profit the company would otherwise take.

the sleek shark-like design was apparently deliberate

The blue shark. An urban myth, perhaps?

Out of interest, Seoul to Daegu cost approx £38 (first class) with the distance being 322 kilometers. King’s Cross to Nottingham is 174 kilometers.  Based on departure and arrival times, I calculated the KTX travels at approx 175 kph or 108 mph while the Nottingham destined train, an intercity train, travels at 108 kph or 49 mph.  Using my rather basic skills of arithmetic, this means the KTX costs 19 pence per mile (12 pence per kilometer) while the East Coast company train costs 83 pence per mile (51 pence per kilometer). Travel on a comparative service in terms of ticket usage and  train service means the UK service is 4.37 times more expensive and yet  2.2o times slower than a journey on KTX. The London to Aberdeen journey is a long haul of  8 hours thirty minutes which means a second class passenger is going to be very thirsty and hungry at the end of their journey. However, simply pay the extra £50 and all the sandwiches and tea you want will be waiting for you.

The KTX Sancheon began service on March 2 2010 and reaches 230 kph (205 mph)  KTX 3, with a speed of 250 kph (217 mph) will be introduced in 2015

The shape of things to come. The next generation capable of speeds in excess of 400 kph (248 mph) are already being planned

Related Articles

(Several years ago Korail reduced the numbers of staff on the KTX and dismissed a large number of attendants. Many took the matter to court and even went  on hunger strike. Link to Korea Times article.)

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Freebies in the Hotel of Love

Posted in Diary notes, services and facilities by 노강호 on December 25, 2010

I stopped over in Ch’eonan to visit an old friend and stayed in the’ Hilton Hotel.’ Of course, it wasn’t the exclusive ‘Hilton’ and some would dispute it was a ‘hotel’ at all but a ‘love motel’ and certainly as I checked in a couple of teenagers were doing the same and looking very eager to get down to business. The boy, lucky in more ways than one,  looking a little sheepish, was stood holding a bag from which some snacks and a bottle of coke poked while his girlfriend paid the bill. The room was 50.000 Won (£25) and I wasn’t really expecting too much but it was impeccably clean and well sized.

central Ch’eonan

I’m always lauding the Korean system of ‘service’ and all the little freebies customers are given to encourage their patronage. My room had a small refrigerator stocked with bottled water and a few cans of coffee. Unlike the real ‘Hilton Hotel’ where the exact same cans would cost you 4000 Won (£2), these were complimentary. Likewise, large bottles of hair shampoo, conditioner, body gel and a large tube of toothpaste were provided in the bathroom and a hair dryer and various items for women stocked a small dressing table. On the wall was a large plasma screen under which sat a computer which provided access to the internet, games and movies, including pornography, all of which were complimentary.

The only item I didn’t particularly like was the enormous mirror which ran alongside the bed and which, as I was sleeping nude, I couldn’t face until the lights were off. The final touch, an amusing one, were the complimentary condoms and toothbrushes in a small basket on the table. The condoms, described as ‘specially designed skin for her,’ were called ‘Salama’ but somehow it seemed more appropriate to read the brand as ‘Salami.’

Specially designed ‘skin’

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‘Pedal’ (배달)Blunder

Posted in services and facilities by 노강호 on November 28, 2010

take-away Korean style – the ‘hay-box’ has been voted one of the most uniquely Korean innovations (courtesy of Anttinen)

Occasionally, I order a delivery of food over the telephone. I’ve become quite adept at ordering a pizza, chicken or po-ssam (보쌈) and provided there are no hitches, usually whatever it is that I have ordered, will arrive. If you know your address and can repeat it in Korean and are able to read a menu, ordering is not too difficult.

McDonald’s delivery service

Delivery is known as ‘pedal,’ (배달) and many businesses that deliver food, which is most of them, have the technology, when you call, to identify your address and all they need do is check it.  A few places, such as McDonald’s have a centralized call center and staff that often speak some English. However, unless you are familiar with a McDonald’s which has significantly cooled resulting in a dry and bland wadge of assembled parts which no longer blend into a satisfactory taste, I wouldn’t bother. Once you have successfully made an initial order from a business, the second time is easier. If they start gabbling on and you lose the gist of everything, just say sorry and hang-up.

typical delivery (배달) menu

This week, I ordered a burger as I fancied some western style, non-well being food. I didn’t want McCrap and ordered from ‘Mr Big’ whose burgers actually contain meat which is meat in both colour and consistency and not a pallid, compressed meat paste patty. I distinctly ordered a regular size which along with a bottle of coke and chips, Mr Big do real chips as opposed those piddly French fries, should have cost a total of 12000 (£6). I should have listened carefully as my order was read back because when it arrived I was confronted with a bill of 30000 Won (£15). I didn’t have sufficient Korean skills to argue and though not planned the mega meat feast I could see dangling from the delivery man’s hand, called like a Siren. I not so reluctantly handed over the money to be given what looked like a large cake in a box, with a cellophane lid. The burger was enormous, measuring about 18cm in diameter. It was definitely ‘king-size’ and would easily have satisfied three people.  When I told one of my students she said her family of four order this size burger to share but I didn’t feel too bad because she’s built like a chopstick. Besides, once I’d thrown away the enormous bun, the size of a hat, I was left with what was possibly a pound of pure Australian beef and there was no mistaking it was quality meat. Unlike pasty-patties, it smelt of meat, it looked and felt like meat and was deliciously juicy. The only time you ever see any juice in a McCrap burger is in the advertisement photos. I occasionally eat McCrap and when warm and burger-science is working at maximun capacity, they are quite tasty and satisfying but isolate the individual components, or eat them when the loss of heat has killed the flavour, and they are crap. I can eat most things cold, but a cold McCrap burger is disgusting. This monster hamburger you could easily eat cold because unlike a McCrap which are only hamburgers by suggestion, this was real.  Along with the accompanying salad it was a wholesome meal.

king-size

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Customer Support Paradise

Posted in Comparative, services and facilities by 노강호 on November 27, 2010

Ah, an interesting day! My electronic dictionary was burnt out by a faulty USB on my old computer almost two years ago. So, on Thursday, I took it to the Nurian Service Center, which is actually at Tesco’s Home Plus in Yong-San-Dong, in Daegu. This Home Plus, one of Korea’s first, is enormous and opened during my second trip to the peninsula, around 2003. So, I hand them my white elephant of an electronic dictionary and head back home.

 

My Nurian T3

 

On Friday morning, I  discover my internet connection isn’t working which means not just no internet, but no telephone or television.  And then, to compound matters, my washing machine is leaking, not seriously but enough to wet my feet and cause a nuisance. I telephone my boss  from the school office at 9.30. By 10.15 , forty-five minutes earlier than arranged, I receive another call from my boss telling me the  internet repair man is waiting outside my one-room. Five minutes later, I find not one, but two internet engineers sitting outside my building in their van. One of the engineers is a woman and her uniform is not much dissimilar to that of an airline stewardess.  The first thing they do, without checking anything is to replace the modem. Twenty minutes later, a washing machine repair engineer arrives and a new hose is fitted in the back of the machine. The cost for this job is 40000 Won (£20).

 

my washing machine

 

Now several years ago, I had to get a new washer fitted to a tap but there were complications as there is with anything in that shitty country, the UK.  Firstly, you have to be to be fairly wealthy to afford to pay for any breakdowns you want repairing after 5 pm. The cost of a the new part, a washer and some other device which fits inside the tap, was 8000 Won (£4) but the final bill  380.000 Won (£190). The next day a local plumber told me if I could have waited, he’d have fitted a new tap for around 150.000 Won (£75). The second problem you always face in the UK, and not much dissimilar to our health care, is often having to wait weeks to get it repaired. I pay nothing for service maintenance in Korea but in my UK property I cover plumbing, the heating system, electrics, gas and my items such as refrigerators, washing machine and cooker, with maintenance and break down insurance. Despite the monthly fees, any breakdown can see me waiting up to two weeks for the required attention. Of course, if I want it repairing within a few days, I can pay an extortionate fee which for an item like a refrigerator, will almost make it more cost-effective to buy a new one. ‘Instant service’ in the UK doesn’t exist and unless you call out ’emergency’ (after 5pm) engineers, you generally have to wait and that will involve taking a morning or afternoon off work because they can never give you a specific time other than before or after 1 pm.

 

 

gas safety checks- part of the service

 

The washing machine engineer leaves after my paying him a paltry 40.000 Won (£20). By now the internet engineers have repaired the fault but using my computer to translate from Korean to English, tell me they want to disable my anti-virus and install a different one. The different one, when loaded, is in Korean but they spend a further thirty minutes trying to install the program in English and when it transpires this is not possible, proceed to write out instructions, and show me, how to use the program in Korean. Non of this is their responsibility!

It is now 11.30 – exactly two hours since I first phoned my boss and informed her of my problems. At 11.35 my phone rings; it’s Home Plus, my electronic dictionary has been repaired and is ready to be collected. It’s been in their possession for less than 24 hours. The fee, 10000 Won (£5), is exactly the same price  I used to pay  my local electrical store to investigate a problem and provide a quote and it had to be paid even if you decided not to go ahead with a repair. However, that was five years ago and I can assume it is now significantly more.

12.30, or thereabouts and the doorbell rings. It is the gas company who regularly visit, perhaps at three or six month intervals, to check the system. They carry a small detector and poke it around the room, then around the gas range and piping, and finally, all around the boiler. I pay for a regular check in the UK the last one of which I have just paid at a staggering £52 (110.ooo Won). In Korea it’s part of the service.

Finally, on the way to school, in the afternoon, I stop at the small computer shop near my one-room because I want them to scan some paper work and transfer it to a USB memory stick. The job takes around 5 minutes and when finished I take out my wallet to pay but I needn’t have bothered as the service is free!

 

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