Exploring Seoul for New Year’s Eve


We took the SRT from Jije to Suseo again on Sunday for New Year’s Eve.

We took the metro to Gyeongbokgong so that Tim could try a Korean Subway restaurant for lunch. He enjoyed the original sandwiches in Japan and thought that the Korean selection was better than on post. I enjoyed my salad and Clarissa enjoyed her Korean potato chips.

After lunch, we decided to walk to our next destination instead of taking the metro. The sidewalk was a little icy in the shade but not as cold as we thought it would be.

We passed Gyeongbokgung Palace and Clarissa said, “I have been there!” Then we arrived at Sejong Art Center to see the visiting Studio Ghibli exhibit.

We paid admission of 15,000 won each for Tim and I. Clarissa cost 10,000 won admission.

The exhibit was two floors. The first floor was movie posters, a life-size Totoro, a replica of Hayao Miyazaki‘s desk, and a room of random movie memorabilia. We were not allowed to take pictures on the first floor.

The second floor had some cool models and concept art. We were also able to enter the cat bus. There was a long line to take a picture with a shadow of Totoro but Clarissa was not interested in that. The gift shop at the end was nice. We were each able to find something we liked and most of it was different than the Studio Ghibli store we saw last week at the Lotte World Mall.

Across the street from the Sejong Art center were statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi. There was also a small monument, but I couldn’t find a sign to see what it was for.

We decided to walk Cheonggycheon (River Walk). Next year, we need to come back at night. The display looked good in the day but would be more exciting to see at night. I expected to see Santa but was surprised that baby Jesus had a spot as well.

There were interesting murals along the wall to show the history of the different dynasties.

We also thought it was neat the way they were remodeling a Hanwha building. The bottom was the new style and they were working their way to the top.

Next we headed to the IFC Mall (still decorated for Christmas) to check out the bookstore and have dinner at On the Border. The food was great. During dinner, Tim noticed that there were firemen walking around. We were on the first floor. As we headed to the second floor, the fire alarm went off and they said “Attention. Emergency!” and a bunch of stuff in Korean. At which point, everyone ran to the escalators and stairs to get outside on the third floor. We could smell smoke but didn’t see any. There were several firetrucks and ambulances lined up outside. Thankfully, we were planning to leave anyway.

Our last event of the day was Strasbourg Christmas Market a few blocks away. I expected bigger and more European. They had some traditional meat and desserts to buy in the cabins outside. There was a big tent with vendors inside that had things ranging from scarves to air fresheners to jewelry. Most of the vendors inside were Korean. But I found some cute things. Next year, I think we will try the German Christmas Market that is earlier in the month.

We enjoyed our day riding the subway and walking the city streets.

Christmas Adventures in Seoul


Christmas is very different in Korea than it is in America. We wanted to do something fun for Christmas but still stay warm. We thought that if we went to some of the bigger malls in Seoul there would be Christmas decorations like we are used to back home.

On our anniversary, Tim and I went to the train station to buy our train tickets. Round trip tickets were about 15,000 won for adults and 7,000 won for children.

On Christmas Eve, we attended our Sunday morning service at New Creation Church. After service was a Christmas feast potluck so we had fun eating lunch with our friends and eating yummy food.


On Christmas morning we drove to Jije Station to take the SRT to Suseo. While we waited in the lobby for our 9:55 train, Clarissa was greeted and given gifts. The employees gave Clarissa two lolipops and a cardboard train model to put together. One of them also took off their reindeer antlers, placed them on Clarissa and then took our picture on an instant camera. On the platform, she received another lolipop and a small bag of goldfish.

The train was very similar to the KTX trains that we are used to. Assigned seats with plenty of leg room and an above your head compartment for bags and strollers. The seats were very comfortable. The ride to Suseo was only about 20 minutes.

Our first stop was Coex Mall. We ended up at McDonald’s for lunch since it was right outside the mall. We figured we should eat before the rush. We had a great time visiting some of our favorite stores: Gundam Storefront, Asem Hobby, Butter, and Jaju. But we were very disappointed that there were hardly any Christmas decorations at all.

Next, we took the subway to Lotte World Mall. Here we were not disappointed. There were lights and Christmas trees everywhere. There was even a space in the middle of the mall for performances so there was a live bells performance, a choir, instruments, and a magician throughout the day.

We had plenty of shopping adventures in Lotte World Mall. We enjoyed the Studio Ghibli Store, Copenhagen Flying Tiger, Butter, Miniso, and Hi Mart. We also went to Ex Monster. When we went over the summer, you could go through and see all of the Marvel movie statues and models. But this time, you had to buy something first so we were disappointed.

We had dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, which Clarissa and I had never been to. The food was a little pricey, but wonderful! Clarissa kept saying, “I don’t like it, I love it!” about the music videos playing and the lights on the walls. The manager thought she was so cute that he gave her a set of four Hard Rock Cafe pins as a gift.

We caught the 640 train from Suseo back to Jije Station to go to home. There was a parking lot specifically for SRT passengers. When you leave the station, there is a kiosk to pay. You type in the last four digits of your license plate number and the computer pulls up a picture of your car and you pay with your credit card. It was reasonably priced. We were parked for about 9 hours and paid 8,400 won.

When we got home Tim and Clarissa built one of our purchases together, a mama bear and baby bear in pink.

Seoul Grand Park Zoo


Today, Clarissa and I took the monthy CYS trip to Seoul Grand Park Zoo with some friends. I had never been to this zoo before and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Seoul Grand Park is a subway stop on line 4. The zoo is exit 2. But you can also get to the Science Museum at exit 5.

The parking lot brings you to the bathrooms and a place to buy tickets for the elephant train that will take you to the zoo. You can walk if you prefer. The guy said it was a 15 minutes walk. But the train was super cheap. Adults pay 1,000 won (about $1.00) and little kids like Clarissa pay 700 won.

After our train ride, we bought tickets to the zoo. Adults pay 5,000 won (less than $5.00) and preschoolers are free. We thought we would also try the theme garden which also has farm animals which costs 2,000 won. A combination ticket for both was 5,600 won.

The zoo was great. We saw monkeys, giraffes, zebras, elephants, rhinoceros, lions, tigers, and bears.


A lot of Korean zoos near Daegu were sad. But this zoo was actually very good. The animals had similar enclosures to what I see in the US. They had maps in English and Chinese in addition to Hangeul. There were also signs throughout the zoo in English. The names of animals were in English and several directional signs were in both English and Hangeul.

There are several restaurants for lunch. Plenty of Korean food but they also had a Lotteria and a Nazar Kebab. The Lotteria does not sell French fries but most of the normal menu was available. The vegetable bibimbap was good. The price for food was what you would see in town instead of inflated prices.

There was an insectarium that was pretty good. It was two floors and I really liked the layout because you could only flow in one direction. There was stroller parking outside. Clarissa really enjoyed the insects, spiders, and frogs.

There was a section on the map for a dolphin encounter and marine life so we walked all the way to the end to see them and apparently they had been released. I guess I should be happy for them. But the girls were pretty disappointed.

Thankfully, we found crocodiles, snakes, and lizards on the way back.

There were plenty of random animal statues for the girls to look at and take pictures with.

my Ca

We had to get back to the bus so we didn’t have time to do the theme garden or the farm animals. But we really enjoyed our time at the zoo. I am sure we’ll go again.

For my Camp Humphreys friends : CYS does a family field trip to Seoul every month. For $10, your family of four ($15 for families of 5 or more) rides the bus from post to the location of the field trip. The bus leaves the old CDC parking lot (across from the helicopter statue) at 9 AM and returns at 5pm. You can go anywhere you want from the location in Seoul, just be back in time for the bus. For example, last month the trip was to Lotte World. We rode the bus and then walked down the street and did Lotte World Mall and the aquarium instead. You are responsible for admission, but taking the bus is worth it to avoid traffic and parking.

Seoul: Korea War Memorial 


Every time we visit Yongsan, we pass the Korea War Memorial. This trip, we decided to check it out. I assumed that it was about the Korean War. That is a big part of the memorial, but the museum really covers all of the wars in Korean history. 

Outside are several statues from the Korean War in the 1950s. Most of them have plaques that explain each statue in both Hangul and English. 

This one was pretty cool. The statue is two brothers. One is an officer for the South Korean army, the other a soldier for the North. It’s so easy to forget that families are still separated because of this war. Inside, it showed each of the 21 countries that fought with the South. 

There was a great gift shop. We found some cool things for the veterans in our lives. The reflection pool had a place where you could buy food to feed the fish. We paid our 1,000 won, but the fish weren’t interested. 

In front of the museum were flags for the United Nations and the individual countries who helped during the Korean War. 

The inside of the museum had several different sections and memorials. Most things were in Hangul and English. I think it would take a few hours to see everything. This would have been better if Clarissa was a bit older and we had studied Korean history. But she did enjoy seeing the different boats and weapons. 

When Clarissa saw this model of Hwaseong Fortress, she asked if it was The Great Wall. I explained to her that mommy and daddy walked this Hwaseong Fortress before she was born in 2012 but one of our next trips will be China so we can walk on the Great Wall. 

Back outside, there are several planes, boats, tanks, and missles. Some South Korean, some American, and some captured from the North. 

Behind the machines was a children’s museum. The children’s museum was…interesting. Admission was free but you needed a ticket. Tickets were for a specific time: 9-950, 10-1050, etc. We arrived at 1130 and they were hesitant to give us a ticket for 11-1150.

The museum was very small. There were a few activities, mostly in Hangul. Each station had an ajumma attendant. Some were nicer than others. One lady was trying to push us through because of time but we still had ten minutes left. That was frustrating. The coolest part was this exhibit. 

The top picture is Korea today. The bottom picture is during the war. Same exhibit, just from a different angle. 

It might be worth it to go at the beginning of a time slot, but Clarissa was content to look at the big things outside. There was a place to park your stroller as you entered the children’s museum. 

Seoul: Insadong and Museums 


We started our Wednesday morning at the largest Kyoto bookstore in Seoul. They had a very large English section and a reading area for kids complete with a world map. It was mostly college textbooks and children’s books with a large section of books perfect for homeschooling. 

Next we headed to Insadong.

 We walked through Tapgol Park to see some architecture.  

Insadong is my favorite place to shop in Seoul. There are street vendors and shops all over the place selling traditional Korean items and crafts. I found something for everyone on my Christmas list. 

We had lunch at Cafe Hollywood on one of the side streets. It is an Asian fusion restaurant so they have traditional Korean food but they also have things like pizza and French fries. They have a Cafe on the first floor and a restaurant on the second. The fresh squeezed juices are amazing. 

Clarissa’s favorite part of Insadong was Dr Fish. For 9,000 won, you put your feet in the water and little fish come and eat the dead skin off your feet. At first, she was afraid because it tickled. But by the end, she let them nibble her hand. Apparently my feet are the most gross, becoming the fish seemed to like me best… 

After Insadong, we took the subway to Children’s Grand Park to see the Seoul Children’s Museum. Admission costs 4,000 won per person but children under 3 are free. It was well worth the cost. There were 4 floors of exhibits that all of us enjoyed. You could pretend to be blind and get on the subway, learn about animals or space, play dress up, build a house, or play with water. Most exhibits were explained in both Hangul and English. If we lived here, we would buy a membership. I think the museum is geared towards kids second grade and under. 

On Thursday we headed to the Gwacheon National Science Museum. It costs 4,000 won for adults and 3,000 won for kids age 7-13 (Korean age). Honestly, we were not impressed with the museum itself. Most exhibits were in Hangul only. Several were broken or closed, including the dinosaurs. The space section was pretty good. 

There were also a few dinosaurs outside. 

There was a planetarium and a space world you could pay extra for, but Clarissa wasn’t old enough. She did really enjoy the insectarium though. 

They had an exhibit at the end that showed how people could eat insects that we thought was funny. 

Seoul: Walking and Shopping 


Tim wanted a birthday trip to Seoul. With his work schedule, we decided to go early instead of later in the summer. Pyeongtaek is much closer to Seoul than Daegu so our drive was about an hour and 15 minutes. We arrived well before check in so we just left everything in the car and headed out with the stroller. 

Tim wanted to check out Video Game Alley, which is part of an electronics market behind ipark mall. Many of the vendors had cool things, but the prices were way above retail. 

Ipark Mall is undergoing renovation so it was confusing to find certain sections. But we found some really cool things in the Gundam store, Lego Store, and the Studio Ghibli Collection on the third floor. 

We had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen before heading to Times Square Mall. The mall was nice, but expensive and did not have the electronics that Tim was looking for. But it did have some stores that Clarissa and I enjoyed for toys and stationary. 

We tried a different electronics market with no luck. It was funny because Tim had a list of places that he wanted to shop but wasn’t finding what he was looking for but everywhere we went Clarissa and I found something. 

On Tuesday, we headed to Olympic Park. It was a pretty park with random statues and monuments from the 1988 Olympics. I always enjoy seeing the flags from the different countries. It was cool because there was also a list of each event and who won each medal. 

Clarissa made a friend who was feeding fish. She enjoyed feeding the fish until the food was gone. Then she tried chasing pigeons. 

There is a nice playground in Olympic Park. Actually there are several, but Clarissa really enjoyed this one near the flags. 

You could see Lotte World Mall from the park, so we walked instead of taking the subway. 

Our first stop was the Aquarium. If we lived in Seoul, we would have annual passes. It was supposed to cost 29,000 won for an adult and 23,000 won for a child, but we showed our passports and received a discount so we only paid 63,000 won total. 

It was the best aquarium we have seen in Korea so far (we have seen 4). The tanks were all very clean. Ambient music played in the background. You could pay 1,000 won to feed fish or 2,000 won to give a bottle to some koi fish. 

The Aquarium is on b1 of the Lotte World Mall. The mall itself was great. There were several floors. Each of us could find things we were excited about. 

We read about a Teddy Bear Zoo. Once we got there, I realized it wasn’t really a museum, but a kid’s cafe. It cost 19,000 won for kids and 7,000 won for adults for two hours. Clarissa had a great time on the trampolines, in the ball pit, playing with Legos, climbing on the slide, and even riding a mechanical zebra. 

After the Teddy Bear Zoo, we headed to Coex Mall for dinner. We ate the best Mexican I have had in Korea so far at a place called On the Border. It was a little pricey, but so delicious. 

They have been remodeling the mall the past few years and it is finally finished. There were stores for each of us as well as a library. The YP Bookstore has a decent English section. Tim was able to find something on his list at the Gundam store. 

Our first two days in Seoul were really long. Clarissa did well with a late bedtime and Tim’s phone said we walked over 54,000 steps over the two days. 

Clarissa’s first girls weekend 


Recently a friend of mine was telling me about an appointment that she had in Seoul.  She would have to stay in a hotel overnight and her husband would not be able to go with her.  I thought it might be fun to have a girls trip.  So I invited myself and Clarissa to go with her.

We had to reschedule because William got sick.  But it worked out better because we added a day to the trip and ended up being there for the Thanksgiving price instead of normal price. Score.

We left a little later than expected Thursday.  But traffic wasn’t bad until we got to Seoul. The kids had so many snacks on the way that I was surprised that they were hungry when we got to Dragon Hill Lodge. We unpacked a little and then headed to Itaewon for dinner.

We ate at Vatos Tacos. The server asked if we wanted high chairs and I initially said no. But the chairs were bar stools, so we ended up needing them anyway. They brought out five massive hard tortillas and some salsa. Clarissa said she wanted chips, so I thought she would be happy with that. But she was hungry so we ordered french fries. William had a quesadilla, but they browned the top and Clarissa thought it was pizza, so she helped herself to that as well. I had the chimmichurro chicken tacos. It wasn’t listed as spicy, but I thought it was. I prefer hard tacos, so it wasn’t my favorite meal.

Then, we jumped on the subway to Insadong. Insadong is fun because once you round the corner and turn right, you get to a long line of carts selling artsy and Korean things. So it was a great place to find Christmas presents. Clarissa also found an apron she “needed” for making cookies.

I thought there was an ice cream shop on the way back to the subway. But I was wrong. So William got a donut at Dunkin Donuts and Clarissa was still adamant that she wanted ice cream. We headed back to Itaweon for Baskin Robins. On the way back to base, April stopped at Lush. They have some really cool bath things in there. She bought playdoh bath soap for the kids.

Friday morning was her appointment. We had breakfast at the buffet downstairs, which was excellent. It was only $10.95 for adults and the kids were free. I had never eaten at Greenstreet for breakfast, so I as plesantly surprised.

The kids and I headed to the playground while April went to her appointment. They had a great time. There are two playgrounds at the hotel. One is supposed to be for toddlers and the other for big kids. They ended up using both. I didn’t know that the dinosaurs could move. But during the course of our visit, they were hungry, ate grass, and moved to the little house so they could eat lunch at the table.

After a quick snack from the Shopette, we headed to Children’s Grand Park. Clarissa was very excited to see a “real” Tayo bus. We got to climb into and “drive” Gani and Lani. I may or may not have been more excited than she was to drive the bus…

Children’s Grand Park is huge! We passed a playground on the way to the zoo but convinced the kids that it would have to wait. The zoo was pretty good once you get over the size of the cages. I have never seen as many species of cat in one zoo in my life. They seriously had ten different cages for cats. The poor elephant lives by himself. But there are plenty of monkeys. The kids loved it. They even fed the deer. 

We wanted to go to the children’s museum next but it was already 4:00 and they close at 5 on the other side of the park. So we walked by Snow White’s Castle. It was a restaurant. We didn’t eat there because we heard “Let it go” while we were still outside and Clarissa had to dance.

Clarissa and William really wanted pizza and ice cream for dinner so we decided to leave then and go back to Itaewon to beat the dinner rush. We had to walk by that playground on the way out and ended up staying for another hour. The kids loved the playground but I really don’t recommend it for preschoolers. It would be great for elementary aged kids though. And it was an accessible playground so you could go up the play structure in a wheelchair, they had special swings, etc. At one point, Clarissa and William left the playground (we followed them) to wander around the park themselves. Clarissa kept telling me that she wanted to be “alone with William.”

They both fell asleep on the subway back to Itaewon. April and I were pretty excited about this so that we could have a quiet dinner. But then we realized that all of the restaurants were on the second or third floor and required stairs while the kids were asleep in the strollers. Plus it was raining. We just decided to go back to Dragon Hill for dinner.

Clarissa woke up during the walk and remembered the promise of pizza and ice cream.  We ended up at Pizza Hut for dinner. By the time our pizza was ready, she decided that she just wanted ice cream but I told her she had to have at least one slice of pizza first. She remembers everything. So after her first slice of pizza she decided that she was ready for her ice cream, which she only ate half of.

Back in the room, I brought purple nail polish for Clarissa’s first girls weekend. I thought it would be fun to introduce her to something girly. She sat kind of patiently while I painted both of her hands. Then when she realized that she needed to be still even longer for her nails to dry, she demanded that I take the nail polish off. It was pretty for two minutes anyway. William woke up during the nail polish so they got to play a little while before bed.

On Saturday, the kids slept way later than I expected them to. But April and I really enjoyed sitting in bed chatting. We drove to Osan for lunch. I wanted to introduce her to Sawatdee, but there was construction and it had moved. It took a while to find it, but this guy passing out flyers for his Indian restaurant helped us find it. Clarissa and William enjoyed the fish tank. William loved the spring rolls. Clarissa was all about the rice. April and I enjoyed our yummy Thai dishes as well.

We then headed to the PX for some shopping. I found the baby gloves that I like for Clarissa and she insisted on a pink pair of mittens. April and I both found several clothing items we liked. Clarissa and William stayed in the cart together and did various things like hang shirts off the side for “Christmas” and “shoot the lights” with their clothes hangers. When April tried on her boots, Clarissa wanted to get out of the cart. She kept trying on adult boots and saying “I’m a cowboy.”

After our shopping adventure, they had earned a trip to the playplace. And we of course got ice cream before we headed home. Both kids fell asleep rather quickly on the car ride home so April and I enjoyed some girl time on the way back where there was random heavy traffic. Who knew Dajeon was popular at 8pm on a Saturday night?