Asan Insect Museum

Standard

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

Standard

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.

 

An Afternoon in Cheonan with Friends

Standard

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.

Mr Toilet House Field Trip

Standard

A few months ago, someone posted pictures from what they called “the poop museum.” Clarissa saw the facebook pictures from their adventure and immediately wanted to go. Tim wasn’t super interested, so when our homeschool group planned a field trip there Clarissa and I planned to attend.

Mr Toilet is in Waze. The Waze directions can be confusing because the exit numbers are incorrect sometimes so our 45 minute trip turned into closer to 90 minutes. Thankfully we were riding with friends so the ride wasn’t miserable.

Mr Toilet House has two parts. On one side of the road is a giant building that looks like a toilet. The person who brought western toilets to Korea used to live there. It is a museum to the history of toilets now. It was actually closed for renovation when we visited.

Thankfully the outdoor sculptures were still available. It was interesting to see some of the old versions of toilets. Each sculpture had a wooden sign that was written in both Korean and English so that everyone could learn.

Across the street was a Culture Center. Behind the building were a few pretty toilets and urinals.

If you go upstairs to the fourth floor, you can look out and see the big toilet and giant poop sculpture.

On the second floor of the Culture Center is a playground of sorts for the kids. Clarissa and her friends had a great time going down the toilet slide. There were also a few games like putting a ball through the digestive system and watching it come out the other end. There were many displays about poop as well. Again, most of the displays were in Korean as well as English.

We were in and out in less than two hours. The kids had a great time! I think they would enjoy going back again. Admission is free. Like many museums in Korea, Mr Toilet House is closed on Mondays. They don’t sell food there but there is a drink machine outside the giant toilet so plan accordingly.

My first Korean wedding

Standard

We have lived in Korea for three years. A few times I have heard things about Korean weddings, but I was never invited to one until recently.

We attend church off post. There is an American pastor for the English congregation and his brother in law is the pastor for the Korean congregation. The daughter of the Korean pastor got married (my pastor’s niece) and the entire church was invited.

Most Korean weddings take place in a wedding hall. It is a very efficient process. The bride typically rents her dress. The package includes hair, makeup, and pictures as well. The groom’s family usually pays for most of the wedding.

We arrived to the wedding hall about 40 minutes before the wedding was to begin. They put out the full parking lot sign a few cars behind us so everyone else had to park far away and create their own parking space (totally normal thing to do in Korea).

We parked on b4. Every floor we went up, the elevator became more crowded. Korean elevators can hold a lot of people. There is no such thing as personal space.

We arrived on the 5th floor where our wedding was to be. The first stop is the money envelope. There is a line for the bride and a line for the groom. The person in charge of your line will give you a white envelope. You can write a note and then put your money inside. If you are not super close to the bride or groom, you can give 30,000 won (about $30 USD). The closer you are to the person getting married, the more you give. If you get married at a later date, they are supposed to give the same amount to you.

After you turn in your envelope, the person in charge will give you a ticket for the buffet. You can choose to go to the buffet before or after the ceremony. This is your wedding gift. There are no registries for what the bride and groom want in their kitchen.

Next, the guests visit the bride and take a picture with her.

The parents of both the bride and groom will be in the lobby. You are supposed to greet them. The mothers will be wearing traditional hanbok.

During the wedding ceremony, the mothers walk in together, light a candle, bow, and go to their seats.

Next, the groom walks in followed by the father of the bride and the bride (in a Christian wedding otherwise the bride and groom may walk in together).

There are no bridesmaids, groomsmen, or flower girls. The people who work in the wedding hall make sure that the ceremony runs smoothly. They hold the bouquet when needed or fix the bride’s dress.

The bride and groom recited vows by reading them.

 

Next, the father of the bride spoke to the couple. He encouraged them to love and take care of each other. The father of the groom welcomed everyone to the wedding. Then was special music. The bride and groom stood together for two songs sung by different people.

At this point in the ceremony, sometime the groom has to do something special to prove his love. I heard stories today about push ups and running down the aisle. Our groom today only had to say “horray!” three times.

To end the ceremony, the bride and groom bowed, first to her parents, then to his parents, and finally to their wedding guests.

They then walked down the aisle to the end where they kissed and flower petals fell on them.

Pictures were at the end of the ceremony. First were pictures of the immediate family, followed by pictures of extended family, and finally friends. The bouquet toss is usually staged so that you know who is catching the bouquet.

With the official ceremony over, we headed upstairs to the buffet. We had to give our ticket as admission. There were guests from several weddings in the same buffet. There was so much food! Most of it was labeled in Korean and English.

Sometimes you don’t see the bride and groom after the ceremony. We were at the buffet long enough that they came out in their traditional hanbok.

I had a wonderful afternoon with my friends. The wedding ceremony didn’t seem that different from an American wedding. The venue was interesting because there were so many weddings happening at the same time.

15236832905211720400495.jpg

Airport limousine bus to Incheon

Standard

One nice thing about living in Pyeongtaek is that we live closer to Seoul. It makes for a nice day trip. But the airport is actually in Incheon, not Seoul, which is at least a 2 hour drive.

On our vacation to Okinawa, we decided to try the airport limousine bus instead of messing with traffic, tolls, and airport parking. It was very easy.

We called a taxi to pick us up at about 730 and then waited at the bus stop. It is the same bus stop as the 20 bus by the main gate (in front of the Volvo dealer /Christine Realty).

The purple bus was right on time, 7:55 AM. The driver got off the bus to help us store our luggage. He asked if we were going all the way to Incheon because the bus makes several stops.

The cost is very reasonable. Adults pay 13,300 won (a little less than $13) and children pay 6,700 won so our family of 3 paid a little less than $30 to get from base to the airport which I think is great for a 2.5 hour trip. You can either pay with won (exact change) or your tmoney (subway) card.

The bus was a comfortable temperature. The seats recline. Each seat has a vent and a light. There is even space overhead to put your coat and bookbag.

On the way back, you actually buy a ticket. Once you clear customs in Incheon go straight and there is a sign that says airport limousine bus. There is even a desk for foreigners.

There are two options for your trip home. You can either take Anjeong-ri outside the main gate, or you can go to Pyeongtaek Station. The bus for Pyeongtaek Station comes more often and is the same price, 13,300 won for adults and 6,700 for children.

We chose to go to Pyeongtaek Station because the next bus was in about 50 minutes instead of the 2.5 hours we would need to wait for the bus to Anjeong-ri.

The bus from Incheon to Pyeongtaek took about 2 hours (1.5 if you are going to Songtan). The bus station was closed for the night when we arrived. After leaving the bus station, turn left (towards Daiso). In a couple of blocks you will arrive at AK Plaza /Pyeongtaek train station where there is always a line of taxis waiting.

The taxi from AK Plaza to somewhere near the Anjeong-ri gate of Camp Humphreys should cost about 10,000 won ($10).

Both busses were easy to use and comfortable. I think next time, we will see which bus fits our schedule better to decide if we will leave from Anjeong-ri or Pyeongtaek bus terminal.

Shopping near Pyeongtaek 

Standard

One of Tim’s favorite places in Daegu was Shinsagae Mall. When we first moved to Pyeongtaek, he realized that there was a Shinsagae Mall in the nearby town of Cheonan so we decided to check it out. 

The parking was awful. People walked in front of the garage entrance and it was necessary to make a uturn at the light to get anywhere near it. There were nine floors in the garage but it was very full on a Saturday at noon. We ended up with one of the last spots on the roof. The mall was attached to the bus station and had an emart in the basement. The layout was confusing, not much was in English, and the elevators were hard to find. There also weren’t many stores that we were interested in. 

I did buy this bag from H&M. Couldn’t resist for 9,000 won (about $8). 

There was a Korean Subway restaurant across the street. Tim has wanted to go to a Korean Subway since the ones in Japan had interesting sandwiches. But the line was so long we couldn’t get in the door so we just left. 

Another weekend we decided to try First Village in Asan. First Village is an outlet mall about 15 minutes from Camp Humphreys. The parking was great. They had plenty of shoe stores and camping/outdoor type stores. The prices didn’t seem very discounted for what we were interested in. However, I did enjoy the store Ross by Asia. It did remind me of the Ross in the US in that there were lots of cheap, name brand clothes. They were just Asian and European brands. But I did manage to find a shirt, leggings, bathing suit cover up, and two pairs of shorts for 35,000 won (like $30).

There was a dressing room. It was a typical Korean style fitting room. Very small with the mirror on the outside of the fitting room. 

There was also a really cute area with French looking shops and restaurants. Clarissa was over it so we didn’t get a chance to explore and take pictures. 

We have been to the Lotte Mall in Suwon twice. The first time we drove and the second time we took the train. Either way is fine. The parking wasn’t bad there. 

There is a Lotte Mart, Lotte Mall, and Lotte Department store all in the same complex. The Lotte Mart is 3 stories and contains a Toys R Us with two different play places, a Daiso, and a Hi Mart. For our first visit, we dropped Clarissa off at the smaller play place (6,000 won per hour) and let her play while we bought her birthday presents at Toys R Us and explored the rest of Lotte Mart. 

After we picked her up, we played some of arcade games before heading to the mall part of the complex. 

The mall has 7 floors with stores, restaurants, and a movie theater. They do have a TGI Fridays if you are in the mood for American food. The Bandi and Lunis does have a small English section of books and movies. On the roof is a very nice playground. 

Next is Lotte Department store, which is like your typical Korean department store with a food court on B1, expensive stores with any kind of shopping you can imagine, and restaurants on the seventh floor, including Tim’s favorite curry place, Coco Ichibanya. There is a kid cafe on the seventh floor as well. The eighth floor roof was probably our favorite. It had some beautiful picnic areas, a city view, coin machines for children to ride, as well as a free train ride for the kids.  

There is a covered bridge walkway from the Lotte complex to AK Plaza Suwon (train station), or rather there will be when they remove the construction equipment. It was still quite easy to get from one to the other. There seems to be two different sides of the Plaza with the train station on one side and a mall on the other. There were several name brand clothing and shoe stores as well as cute stationary stores, restaurants, and a movie theater. I bought some cute things for homeschooling and our kitchen at a store called Butter. It reminded me of a small but upscale Daiso. Tim was excited that a Gundam store will open July 1. 

AK Plaza in Pyeongtaek is also attached to the train station and considered “downtown” near several stores and restaurants. The Plaza itself is similar to the one in Suwon with restaurants, a movie theater, clothes, and shoes. If you are in the mood for American food, there is an Outback. Tim’s favorite is a Japanese place called Teriyaki. 

Downtown, my favorite stores were Daiso and Artbox, which you can pretty much see from the bus stop in front of the train station.