Our favorite Korean Water park

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One of our favorite malls in Korea is Starfield Hanam. It has a little bit of something for each of us. Tim likes that there is an Electromart. I really like Flying Tiger Copenhagen. Toy Kingdom is Clarissa’s favorite toy store. The pet store is amazing and there are several fun places to shop. Tim’s favorite restaurant is Pei Wei and I appreciate that they have an On the Border.

For Clarissa’s birthday last year, we went to Starfield Hanam. She got to pick out a new toy at the toy store. But this year, Tim wanted to take her to the water park in the mall, Aqua Field. It was pretty expensive (112,000 won for the three of us) but we all really enjoyed it. Our Korean friend was able to buy us tickets online at a discount.

I had a receipt on my phone to show the workers at the front desk. They gave us each a ticket with a number. The number corresponded to our shoe locker number. We took off our shoes and then went on to the main locker rooms, where we used the same locker number again. The locker rooms are gender separated. Over age 5, children must go to the correct locker room. There was an option to use the spa as well, but we just chose to use the water park this day.

Your ticket is good for six hours. That lets you use the water park. Your locker key is like your room number in a hotel. You can use your locker key to rent life jackets (5,000 won), lounge chairs (30,000 won), or to buy food. When you leave the water park, you give the worker your locker key and you pay your bill.

The three of us really enjoyed the water park. Many families brought their own life jackets and floaties. We didn’t so we had to rent one for Clarissa (it is required for children under 120 cm). It only cost 5,000 won anyway. There were small kickboards around that anyone could use.

Our favorite activity of the day was the indoor lazy river. We probably spent an hour and a half in there during our trip.

Aqua Field had several smaller pools inside as well as on the roof. None of us love sunscreen so we spent most of our time inside. But there was plenty to do. There were two large water slides for adults. The one I went on was pretty fast. There was also a kid section with small slides, small pools, a miniature lazy river, and a splash pad.

They had snack food for sale like ice cream and churros. But they also had a Johnny Rockets on the roof so you could get hamburgers and french fries if you wanted something more substantial.

The mall is about a 75 minute drive from Camp Humphreys but we still go there every month or two. I think we will try the water park again later in the fall since we enjoyed it so much. We went on a Friday so it wasn’t super crowded. It would probably be packed on the weekend. I would recommend going on a holiday where Americans are off but Koreans are not.

Another day in Tokyo

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As we were getting ready to leave for the day on Monday, Clarissa and I decided to hang out on the balcony only to discover that it was raining. We put on our rain jackets, grabbed Clarissa’s new umbrella, and headed down the hill to McDonald’s. Thankfully the rain stopped by the time we finished breakfast.

Our first stop of the day was Tokyo Station for Tokyo Character Street. Clarissa was very excited to find some Yokai medals. We also found some fun things in the Studio Ghibli Store and the Lego Store.

Next we headed to Yurakucho for the Muji Flagship Store. It was three stories and wonderful. It reminded me a little of Bed Bath and Beyond. It would have been more exciting if we lived in Japan because a lot of the cool things were too big for my suitcase. But if you live in Japan, I would definitely visit.

Tim wanted to check BIC Camera since it was across the street. Then we headed to The Little Bird Cafe. Tim was reading about this cute little gluten-free cafe in the suburbs. We found it, went up to the third floor, and discovered that it was closed for the week! Oops. Thankfully across the street from the station was a fun little cafe called Freshness Burger since it was 2pm and we were getting hangry. The food was great. They had several different kinds of burgers, fries, and smoothies reasonably priced. Bring yen because they don’t take credit cards.

We headed back to Shinjuku to visit our favorite bookstore. Kinokuniya has an entire floor of English books. We found several that we liked and bought a few. A lot of books were about double the price that Amazon charges so if we could find it in Amazon cheaper, we put it back. It was helpful to be able to flip through the books since we don’t have many English bookstores with new books at home.

Hungry, we headed to Shibuya for dinner for some yakiniku. We found Han No Daidokoro Kadochika without a problem (right past the Shibuya 109). We read online that if you don’t have a reservation you should come right when they open or it will be too busy. We were there right at 5 and they weren’t quite ready for us. The place was still pretty empty when we left about 615 so that isn’t accurate on a Monday night. There were several different options to choose from. We chose a more expensive option with drinks and plenty of meat. It was delicious! It even came with seaweed and rice for Clarissa.

Satisfied, we headed to the wolf shrine (Miyamasu Mitake) we were looking for the previous day and found it in the middle of a city block, up several steps. Before one of our previous trips, Tim had a dream about the Shibuya wolf and I think this is it.

On our way back, we stumbled upon a Hedgehog Cafe. It was on the second floor, very clean, and the staff was very friendly. We paid for 30 minutes and they assigned us two hedgehogs to pet and feed. We had to wear gloves and were given specific instructions on how to hold the hedgehog. Clarissa loved it! It was about 7 pm so the hedgehogs were sleepy. We were going to leave before our 30 minutes was up, so the staff spent some time teaching us about hedgehogs and letting us hold another. The hedgehogs rotate every other day so they get a break from playing with customers. I think this was one of the highlights of Clarissa’s trip.

The last item on our list was the Haiyo Miazakyi clock in Shimbashi. The GPS was a little off with wifi so we had a hard time finding it. We eventually took a taxi. It looked great. I bet it looks better during the day or during the special times each day that it moves (we missed it by 10 minutes). We discussed taking a Ghibli vacation one day.

30,000 Steps without the Stroller

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When we decided to leave the stroller at home for this vacation, I had my reservations. Clarissa is not quite 5 and we walk a ton on vacation. But she did really well. We only had to carry her for a few minutes here and there.

She woke up an hour before my alarm on Sunday, so we had plenty of time for a McDonald’s breakfast before heading to the Ueno Zoo before they opened at 930.

The baby panda turned one last month and apparently is still quite popular. By the time we got to the zoo entrance, the line to see the baby panda was over two hours long! Thankfully, Clarissa understood that we had other things to do today and would not be waiting in that line. We did see everything else in the zoo, however and spent 3.5 hours there.

We all really enjoyed the zoo. There are several different species of animals with large monkey and bird sections. Clarissa was especially excited about the polar bears, penguins, elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, and zebras. There was a window viewing area for the polar bear that she was especially excited about because she said she called him and he came right up to her.

We headed to Odaiba for Diver City mall next. We started outside with the new Gundam Statue. Tim needed pictures and Clarissa thought it was very cool but wondered why it was such a large statue.

The original plan was to eat lunch but the lines for all of the food were rediculously long so we found a corner to eat the protein bars we brought and headed to the Gundam Base on the 7th floor. It was very different from our last visit. Last time it was set up like a museum with things you could buy. This time it was definitely more of a shopping experience but they did have several limited edition items.

We headed downstairs for the Hello Kitty Cafe for some ice cream to hold us over. We went to a few stores including a virtual reality store were we bought some astronaut food and a rainbow umbrella. At one point we went to the bathroom and had to wait in line and Clarissa said, “Why do we have to wait in line for everything in this town?” We quickly decided that we needed real food and headed to Shibuya.

Our wifi Hotspot wasn’t working so we couldn’t find our planned restaurant, but we found a Coco Ichybanya instead (Tim’s favorite Japanese curry restaurant). Then we found the Mitake Shrine.

We actually took a taxi (our first ever in Tokyo) to Kippy’s for some ice cream. They are vegan so most of their ice cream and juice choices are made from coconut water and some kind of fruit. They also use either dates or raw honey and organic ingredients. The prices weren’t bad either. If you are looking for a sweet treat, I recommend finding it in Harajuku. It is in a quieter part of town and we enjoyed the walk back to the station.

Asan Insect Museum

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A few months ago, we drove to Asan with friends to check out the Insect Museum. We were very disappointed when we got there and found out it was closed for renovation. In June, we headed back for another try.

The girls were very excited to take pictures with the animal statues outside.

We headed into the actual museum. It only cost 5,000 won (about $5) for Clarissa and I to get in. There were cups of food you could take to feeds the animals. We started with a room of models and diagrams.

Then there were a few different rooms with aquariums of fish, insects, and frogs.

Then there was a a room with small mammals and lizards. Clarissa enjoyed feeding the meerkat and watching the chipmunks run around.

Outside there were peacocks and geese. We also had the chance to feed rabbits and Guinea pigs.

There was one more room of bugs before we arrived at the butterfly room.

We packed lunch so we had a picnic at the playground after the museum. The girls had a great day. The Asan Insect Museum is definitely worth the trip (closed on Mondays).

The Great Wall… of Korea

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One thing on my bucket list when we found out we were moving to Korea was The Great Wall of China. It’s not a super easy trip to take with an active toddler so we haven’t made it there yet. There is a big fortress nearby so I wanted to see if Clarissa could do that before we took the time and money to go to China.

Camp Humphreys CYS took a field trip to Suwon Fortress on Saturday, June 9. For $10, we could take the bus and not have to worry about trains, buses, or parking.

The bus dropped us off near the palace. It wasn’t a large palace and the architecture looks a lot like Gyeongbokgung in Seoul. Clarissa really enjoyed it. She thought it was interesting to see how the castle looked for the king and queen. She also liked looking at their different rooms. The entrance fee was 1,500 won for adults and Clarissa was free.

Next, we headed to the entrance of the wall. We stopped for lunch at Burger King on the way. Clarissa had plenty of energy after lunch so she was ready to climb. She did really well on all of the steps. She enjoyed looking at the different monuments and seeing the city from the wall. She was especially excited to see a big bell because Tim has a small version of this in our apartment. You can get to the wall at several different spots and it costs 1,000 won for adults. Military and students receive a discount so they can pay 700 won.

There are toilets marked along the wall so you can stop if you need to. Several places also show where you can get off to buy snacks at convenience stores. Clarissa was excited that they had an archery class. But you have to be 7 years old to participate. It costs 2,000 won for 10 arrows. The class happens multiple times per day. It seemed like most of the day it was on the hour and at the half hour.

If you don’t want to hike the wall, you can also take a trolley or bike taxi from the palace. It will take you on a tour of the wall and the different sites along the fortress. I am not sure of price and I don’t know if any of the tour guides speak English. But if you just want to see things and not walk, you can pay for that instead.

After we finished the wall, we headed back to the palace area. There is a Cultural Foundation to the left that has an artsy street which reminds me of Insadong. We found some cute handmade jewelry. You can buy a personalized stamp with your name for $20. There are wood crafts that can be personalized as well.

We had a great day together. Clarissa did very well. She walked the whole wall (3.57 miles) with some breaks. I think she is ready for a China trip now. Though she said she doesn’t want to do it again! She said the Great Wall of Korea is good enough for her.

 

One more trip to Seoul

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Tim’s passport expires this month so we had to make a trip to the US Embassy in Seoul to get it renewed. We were warned that it would take forever so be prepared to wait. However, we were in and out in less than 15 minutes. If you need to go to the Embassy for a passport, I would recommend an early morning appointment. They will let you check in a cell phone but no other electronics are allowed in the building. Bring a book to read though because they keep your cell phone until you leave the embassy. They did have a corner with children’s books and tables to entertain your kids. They told us it would take two weeks for the embassy to receive our passport and so we registered for a courier to deliver it to the apartment instead of making a return trip. (This is 6,000 won if you live in Seoul, 8,000 won if you live in Gyeonggi-do, and 10,000 won for delivery anywhere else in Korea. You pay cash on delivery.) Update : Tim’s new passport was delivered in exactly one week instead of two.

With six hours left before our return train, we decided to head to some of our favorite air conditioned places in Seoul. Our first stop was Lotte World Mall. We thought about doing the tower since we haven’t before, but it was a pretty overcast day so we figured it wasn’t worth it. We started at Hard Rock Cafe for a delicious lunch. We were the only customers in the restaurant for the entire time we were there. Apparently 11 AM on a Thursday is not popular. Since we were near the top of the mall, we decided to walk through each level before we got to the aquarium on B1. We found so many fun things to look at on our journey. Clarissa chose a small Jiji in a cage from the movie Kiki’s Delivery Service. I found a lot of fun stationary.

Clarissa’s favorite was when we finally got to the aquarium on B1. We had two choices of aquariums this day, but this one is our favorite. It wasn’t very crowded since is was a Thursday after lunch and school is still in session for both Koreans and Americans. We had a great time. Clarissa was able to feed fish and sting rays.

Then, we headed to Coex Mall for Tim to check out Gundam Base. He didn’t end up buying anything, but enjoyed looking at all of the models available.

After our train ride, we went to our favorite restaurant, Sawatdee, for dinner near Osan. We had a few things to pick up at the BX as well. We had a very full day and enjoyed each other’s company. It was the second day in a row that Clarissa went on an adventure without the stroller and she did very well. Sniff. Sniff. I think she is actually becoming a big kid.

National Institute of Ecology

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Our friends from church invited us to visit the National Institute of Ecology with them for Memorial Day. They picked us up at 7:30. We added another family near Cheonan on our way to Seocheon and arrived about they time they opened at 9:30.

The admission prices were excellent. It was 5,000 won (about $5 USD) for adults. Children were 3,000 won (about $3 USD), but Clarissa was free since she is still under 5.

We boarded an open shuttle bus to the Ecorium. Inside this building there were 5 different climate zones (Tropical, Desert, Mediterranean, Temperate, and Polar), a restaurant, library (that had both Korean and English books), and an ant section.

The kids had a great time looking at all of the plants and animals in the different zones.

There were even two monkeys outside.

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The restaurant had several Korean food options for decent prices. Most dishes were 7,000 or 8,000 won ($7 or $8). If you aren’t a fan of Korean food, there were french fries available and also a convenience store to buy snacks as well.

The ant section was pretty cool. I didn’t know there was that much to learn about ants! The kids put on lab coats and pretended to be scientists learning about ants. Clarissa even pretended to give a lecture about ants. There were coloring activities and puzzles as well.

Inside the building was also a play area. Clarissa was able to wear a special suit with velcro and stick to the wall on her own. She got a little nervous when I let go, so she would reach for me and fall off. But some kids were more brave and would hang upside down.

After our exploring, we went to the playground. The playground was really nice. Clarissa was excited about the big tree house. But the main attraction was the water. They had a splash pad as well as a small wading pool for the kids to play in.

We decided to walk back to the car after that. The visitor center on the way out had a couple of movies and games, but if you’re tired, it’s not really worth going to. We also passed some deer and a big goat on our way out.

This was one of our first adventures that didn’t involve a stroller. Clarissa’s stroller wasn’t going to fit in the car with 7 people inside so we decided to leave it home. She actually did really well and walked the whole time (6 hours). When did she get so big?!

On our way home, we went to a Shabu buffet restaurant in Pyeongtaek that was pretty good.