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.

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.

An Afternoon in Cheonan with Friends

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Last Friday, Clarissa went with our friends to Cheonan in the afternoon.

We started at Ebony and Ivory, a used English bookstore to buy books for our next Ladies Bible Study at church. It is a few doors down from the Shinsagae Mall in Cheonan that I blogged about last year, across the street from the Subway restaurant. Brooklyn English Used Books near Camp Humphreys gets their books from this store.

The bookstore was full of books, all of them in English. Clarissa and I started at the Disney table at the front of the store. Books were 10 for 1,000 won (a little less than a dollar).

More than half of the store was Children’s books. There was so much of everything. We found several Magic School Bus that we didn’t already have, Fancy Nancy, Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, Clifford, and Curious George. There was so much more! Clarissa found some books from my generation of My Little Pony. We found so many books to use for kindergarten this year.

There were adult books too. They had a science fiction section, complete with an entire table devoted to Star Wars. There were fiction and nonfiction books as well a comic and religious books as well. I’m sure anyone who walks in will find a pile of books to read.

The prices were great! I would have stayed for hours. But Clarissa and her friend got restless after about an hour so we left with what we had picked out already.

On the way home, we went to the wholesale market in Cheonan. They had one building for fruit, another for vegetables, and a third for seafood. We only went to the fruit building. They had several stalls of yummy fruit at good prices. It was an air conditioned building with a bathroom. Vendors took both won and credit card.

Another day in Busan

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One of Tim’s friends from his Air Force days has been in town for work. Tim decided to take a day off of work so that we could all spend a day in Busan together.

We woke up really early so that we could make the 730 train from Cheonan Asan to Busan. We arrived at Busan station about 930, bought Tim’s friend a metro card from a convenience store, and headed to Haeundae.

We started with lunch at Subway. Tim prefers the sauces at Korean and Japanese Subway restaurants to the ones on post so we tend to go there if we see one on our travels.

Next, we headed to Haeundae Beach. The water was so clear and pretty. This time of year the water is cold so no one was swimming. Clarissa had a great time chasing pigeons.

There was a sand sculpture competition earlier in the week. It was fun to see the sculptures. They were huge and very detailed. It was interesting because of the descriptions of the sand castles. It would give a generic description with details of a movie but would never say “This is iron man.”

Next, we headed down the boardwalk to Dongbaekseom Island. You can walk up a bunch of steps to see the water and get to a lighthouse. We didn’t want to mess with that and carry the stroller. So we went the other way behind the hotels. It was actually a really pretty route. There was a very steep but paved path to a statue and monument of Go-un Choi Chi-won.

Further along the path was the Nurimaru APEC House where the APEC conference was held in 2005 and 2014. After viewing the meeting place, we went outside to the bottom floor and had great views of the lighthouse and Gwangandaegyo (the largest bi-level bridge over the ocean in Korea).

We needed a snack after all of our walking so we headed back to the restaurant area and saw¬†Softree ice cream shop. I had read about their shop in Seoul but didn’t know they had one in Busan so we decided to check them out. They had excellent ice cream with interesting flavors. Clarissa enjoyed the plain but I had magic lamp. It had caramel drizzled over it and some crushed cookie (not gluten free but definitely delicious).

We decided to check out Haeundae Market while we were there. But it was mostly just food so we didn’t stay long. The plan was to take the 181 bus to Haedong Yonggungsa but the next bus was at least a 20 minute wait so we hopped in a taxi instead. It was less than 10,000 won which isn’t bad.

I don’t think I have ever been to a temple this large. It was definitely a complex instead of just one building. It was different than other temples that we have been to because it was on the side of the mountain instead of just in the city and it was right on the water. It was beautiful. There were also more statues than we have seen in one temple before.

Along the way, Clarissa and I had some great conversations about Buddha, Buddhism, worship, and sacrifices. There were lanterns set up everywhere in celebration of Buddha’s birthday that was two days before our visit. We talked about how it would be like our Christmas since that is when we celebrate Jesus’s birthday. She is definitely a thinker and not afraid to tell me her opinion. It will be interesting to see how God uses that gift as she gets older.

We were afraid that if we took the subway back (45 minutes from the beach) that we would miss our train home, so we took the taxi back to the KTX station instead of just back to the subway. We had some yummy Korean food for dinner and Clarissa enjoyed her french fries.