Our favorite things to do in Seoul with kids

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I got a lot of feedback on our top 10 places to visit in South Korea with kids post so I thought I would add to the series with a top 10 places to visit in Seoul. During our four years of living in Korea, we have probably spent a total of two months in Seoul and I feel like we haven’t seen everything yet!

Just a reminder that Clarissa has been five and under the entire time that we’ve lived in South Korea. So our list may be different than a family with older kids, teens, or no kids.

Neighborhoods

There are two neighborhoods in Seoul that we really like and for different reasons. Hongdae (Hongik University Station exit 6) is very artsy and modern. You can buy lots of cute jewelry, art supplies, and gundam here in modern stores. On a visit there last fall, I got my ears pierced and we visited a bunny cafe.

My other favorite neighborhood is Insadong (Anguk Station or Junggak Station). It is another artsy area but very different. Here you can buy traditional pottery, silk scarves, wall paintings, and plenty of other Korean knick knacks. Some are in carts that only accept won and others are in stores that will take your credit card. While visiting this area, you can also let fish nibble the dead skin on your feet or visit a temple.

Palace

There are several different palaces in Seoul. Our favorite (and close to Insadong) is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Gyeongbokgung Station or Anguk Station). The palace grounds are huge and lovely. They even have a changing of the guard ceremony several times per day. The entrance fee is 3,000 won (less than $3 USD). If you want a different experience and to get in free, there are several shops nearby that will let you rent a traditional hanbok and walk around a few hours looking like a Korean princess.

Outdoors

Another cool place is visit is Olympic Park (Olympic Park Station or Mongchontoseong Station). You get to see all four seasons at this park so you may want to go more than once. There are several miles of walking trails, cool trees, monuments and sculptures, flags form all over the world, buildings from the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and even some playgrounds for the kids.

Mall and Aquarium

If you get hungry or want to walk around in some air conditioning Lotte World Mall is near Olympic Park and is our favorite mall in Seoul. This is our favorite mall because all of our favorite stores are there. Tim really likes the Hi Mart. Clarissa gets excited about the Toy Box, Lego, and Studio Ghibli. I really like Butter, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and Miniso. But there are several floors of shops and restaurants in the mall itself. Also attached to the mall is Avenue L which is a higher end mall. Avenue L also has an art museum. Inside Lotte World Mall, you can take an elevator to Lotte World Tower and look out over Seoul on floors 118-122. There is also a kid cafe inside called Teddy Bear Zoo, which is pricey but Clarissa really enjoyed her time there.

Also located on B1 of Lotte World Mall is Lotte Aquarium. This is our favorite aquarium in South Korea. There are several large tanks with whales, sting rays, and even penguins. There is a spot where you can pay 1,000 won to feed a small tank of fish. Then you can feed carp with a bottle for 2,000 won. There is also a free touch tank. There are food stands within the aquarium as well as face painting and a craft area that you can pay for as well. Aquarium admission can be pricey, but if you show your military ID or American passport, you can get a discount. It should cost us over 90,000 won to get in, but we usually only pay 61,000 won.

Temple

Korea has a large Buddhist population so there are temples all over the place. Many of them look similar and have architecture much like the palaces you may also visit. But, if you are going to visit a temple while visiting Seoul, we recommend Bongeunsa Temple (Bongeunsa Temple Station or Samseong Station). It is one of the largest temples that we have seen as it is a complex instead of just one building. It is pretty much across the street from Coex Mall (did not make our top 10, but if you aren’t going to get to Lotte World Mall or if you need some lunch, it is an acceptable mall) which also has some shopping, good food, and a decent aquarium.

Zoo

Sometimes the zoos in South Korea make me sad. The animals don’t seem very happy in their small cages. But there are some exceptions to this. Our favorite zoo in Seoul itself (Everland Zoo is probably better but way more expensive) is Seoul Grand Park Zoo.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. There is also a petting zoo and insectarium. There are plenty of restaurants that sell Korean food as well.

Museums

There are a few museums worth taking your small children to. The Figure Museum was very close to the Apgujeong subway station and easy to find with the statue in front. There were six floors of exhibits with each floor having its own theme. All three of us really enjoyed the museum.

Another favorite was  Seoul Children’s Museum located in Children’s Grand Park (Please note there is a zoo here as well, but I do not recommend it…). 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.

 

Girls Trip to Seoul

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I have never been to a Broadway show. And I never pass up an adventure with the ladies at my church. So when we started talking about going to see Lion King Live, I knew I wanted to go.

We met up at church at 3pm and the eight of us piled into Jen’s van for our hour and a half drive to Seoul Arts Center Opera House. I was glad to be a passenger instead of the driver. I hate driving in Seoul traffic and there were many u-turns to find a parking lot that actually had spaces available.

We did make great time and decided that we would try the restaurant at the opera house because it was easy to find. The food was actually really good and reasonably priced for a venue like that. I was able to get a classic burger and french fries for 11,000 won (like $10) and the pizzas and pastas were between 20,000-30,000 won ($20-$30). Everyone enjoyed their food.

Then we had about an hour before the show so we stood in line to take pictures. It was very cold outside and they didn’t have the heat on in the hallways so we were in our jackets for all of our pictures. There were programs for sale, binoculars (which they called opera glasses) available to rent, as well as a coffee shop and a vending machine for drinks.

Photography was forbidden in the auditorium itself which was actually a very comfortable temperature. We bought the cheapest seats (60,000 won so like $50) so we were on the fourth floor in the last two rows of the theater. But we could still see and hear everything that was happening on stage. The theater wasn’t sold out either which surprised me.

I had never been to a Broadway caliber production before and I was actually very impressed from the beginning. The giraffes came out first which were dancers on stilts. They must have needed very strong abdominal muscles for that. They were all in sync with each other’s movements. There was a live orchestra and drums. The costumes were great and the sets were simple but I really liked them. I was actually very impressed with the caliber of actors, dancers, and singing in the show. The show was mostly in English with what was probably an African song or two in the mix but there were Korean subtitles on a large screen off to the side.

The story was very true to what I remember of the movie, except that Rafiki the crazy monkey was a girl in the live show. But all of the usual songs were there. There were a few Korea specific jokes in the show. For example, they talked about going to Dongdaemun Market and Zazu said “don’t send me back to Everland Zoo!” Also, Zazu sings “Let it Go” to Scar instead of “It’s a Small World.”

One of the ladies said she was going to come back with her kids. I think kids would enjoy the show and there were actually several in the theater. Lion King is in Seoul until the end of March and then it moves to Busan, so there is still time to go see the show.

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After the show, we headed back to the car so that we could go to our next location, Dongdaemun Market. I guess we didn’t really do our research on this one because the night market is closed on Sundays (which actually means Saturday night). So we went to Doota (a big department store type mall) which had cute stuff but department store prices. The better deal would have been the outdoor market, but it wasn’t there that day. There was one small section of outdoor shops in yellow tents so we went there. I had some street food (chicken kebab) and a few of the ladies found hats and things to buy. It was only about 20 degrees outside and the usual Korea wind so we didn’t last super long anyway.

We left Dongdaemun a little after midnight and went to a 24 hour McDonalds on the way home since ladies were hungry again. It was a wonderful adventure. Maybe will try Dongdaemun again in the spring when it is warmer.

Korean Folk Village take 2

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We did a family trip to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin when Clarissa was two. There was a homeschool field trip there last week and Clarissa and I decided to go since she didn’t remember the first trip. There were actually several things that we did this trip that we didn’t get to do the first time so I was happy about that.

We decided to pay for the full admission which includes the Folk Village and the Amusement Park as well. Full admission is 27,000 won (about $25) for adults and 20,000 won ($18) for children. If you plan to skip the rides, adults pay 18,000 won for admission to the folk village itself. Children pay only 13,000. There is parking available for 2,000 won per car or you can take public transportation available. I saw several buses that said they came from Suwon station or Incheon Airport.

We started our beautiful fall day at the amusement park. Clarissa really liked the boat ride and the train ride. She was too afraid to go on anything else but the teenagers we were with loved all of the rides available.

If you look at the boat ride, to your right is a World Folk Village Museum. Clarissa and I kind of stumbled upon it while we were looking for a bathroom. It was honestly one of the highlights of our trip. There were nine different buildings with 2-3 different countries inside. Each country showed clothes, weapons, jewelry, or housing for an indigenous people of that particular country. The signs were in Korean and English. There were longer descriptions in Korean as well but we learned plenty without being able to read the longer writings.

Clarissa and I had some great discussions about all of these countries. She recognized some of the names like United States, Japan, China, Peru, and Australia. Some were new to her: Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Iran. There were maps on the wall so we could see where each country was on the map. I think we have a lot of books to read now so we can continue learning about these places and cultures.

We met back up with our friends for some gelato and then headed to the Equestrian Feats show. It was great! The performers basically did gymnastics on horses. It was only about twenty minutes and our attention was focused the entire time.

After the show, Clarissa and I wondered a bit and saw some different types of houses you would find in Korea at different points in history. There were government buildings, mansions, and farm houses. There were several additional experiences that you could pay for like making a clay pot or woodworking, but they close earlier in the day so you need to do those first. Clarissa really enjoyed walking through the jail and seeing the governor’s house, sitting in the governor’s chair, and pretending to be a prisoner on trial.

I was surprised that five year old Clarissa was interested in all of the buildings and houses. She actually walked the whole day without complaining. She kept saying, “What’s that? Let’s go over there…”

The Folk Village is open 8 hours each day. You can easily spend the entire day there and not see everything. I recommend it for children and adults.

When can we go back to Awesome Farmland?

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In September, Clarissa was invited to ride horses at a birthday party at Anseong Farmland. I had been planning to take Clarissa there anyway, so we were really excited to go.

General admission to Anseong Farmland costs 10,000 won (about $10 USD). If you want to ride horses, it is an additional 8,000 won ($8 USD). That price pays for one 3-5 minute ride around the ring. They have riding helmets available and a staff person leads the horse around the ring.

Clarissa was a little nervous at first since she is generally afraid of heights and things that go fast. But with each lap, she seemed to relax a bit more. She was disappointed when she only got one turn. I think if we go back, I will have to pay for more than one turn…

General admission gives you access to the petting zoo. You can pay additional money at each station if you want to feed animals so bring won. One thousand won (about $1 USD) will pay for two carrots to feed rabbits, horses, or donkeys. You can also buy hay for goats, sheep, cows, and alpacas. They had food for pigs as well but they were performing when we were feeding animals so I don’t know what they eat.

There were plenty of animals to see, even if you were not feeding them.

There are several different buildings at Anseong Farmland. Some are restaurants and others are experiences. You can make pizza in the dairy experience. I should note that is Korean pizza, so some of the topics may be different than what some Americans are used to. But you can just add what you like.

There is also a building to do art. One of the restaurant buildings also has a mini trick eye museum.

The kids all enjoyed climbing and taking pictures with some statues. There was a playground on the grounds as well. Clarissa also enjoyed the carnival area. Most rides cost 3,000 won ($3 USD). Sometimes there was a discount if you paid for multiple rides at once. Clarissa’s favorite ride was the bumper boats that we did together. She also enjoyed “diving the train.”

Certain times of year they also have tractor rides but it was still considered summer when we went so we didn’t get to try that. Clarissa keeps asking when we will go back to “Awesome Farmland.” She can’t say it correctly and doesn’t hear the difference between Anseong and Awesome. I think we will try again now that the weather is cooler.

I think Hongdae is my favorite

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We have planned to go to Hongdae a few times on a Saturday, but rain has canceled our plans. I was excited to go today, even though it was a Tuesday so I would miss the art market.

I think Hongdae is my new favorite place in Seoul. It feels different than most other sections of the city. Actually it doesn’t feel like you are in a big city at all. It feels more suburban with a bunch of cafes and artsy things.

Very close to the Hongik University Station exit 6 is a store called Object. It was really cute. Four floors (three for shopping) with coffee, books, stationary, and jewelry. I found several things that I liked there.

The next stop was Gundam Base. We all had fun looking at the different models and figures. Tim and Clarissa found one to work on together.

We found a very small, but still fun Xiaomi store. It wasn’t on our list for the day but we randomly passed it. We loved it in Hong Kong so we definitely had to check it out.

Then we saw a very large ArtBox. This is the best one we have visited so far. Clarissa and I found several art kits to work on together.

The next planned stop was Crow Piercing. I had my ears pierced twice growing up. One of my ears always got infected so I let them close up. I have been talking about getting my ears pierced again for at least a year so I did my research to see the best place to go. Crow Piercing was highly recommended so I chose to go there. I was not disappointed. I got to choose my earrings and he pierced my ears very quickly since part of the holes were still there anyway. It only cost 8,000 won (like $8 USD). I found a few other earrings for after my ears heal as well. It was very clean. My guy spoke great English. They are open from 1240 – 11 PM everyday.

Our last stop in Hongdae was Clarissa’s favorite. We went to Bunny Cafe. We all enjoyed feeding and petting the bunnies. It was a very clean place and the owner and bunnies were friendly for the most part. One bunny did bite Tim though.

We headed to I Park Mall for lunch. They have finally finished all of the renovations there. It looks great, but some of our favorite stores are gone. We could have skipped it.

The highlight was definitely the Studio Ghibli Store. We went to one yesterday at Lotte World Mall but this one was way cooler because it had the house from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Totoro‘s tree.

The Gundam Base was fine too but we had already been to the one in Hongdae. They were comparable so you only really need to go to one.

Because we still have not seen everything in Seoul…

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We spent Columbus Day weekend in Seoul. Though we have spent a lot of time in Seoul since we moved to Korea, we wanted to try a few things we had not tried before.

Our first stop was disappointing. We wanted to check out the Seoul Animation Museum. Apparently it is closed. I took a picture of the outside so that other people could find it before we realized that it wasn’t a museum anymore. Oops.

Our next stop redeemed the day. I had never heard of the Figure Museum before a friend mentioned it this week. It was very close to the Apgujeong subway station and easy to find with the statue in front. There were six floors of exhibits with each floor having its own theme. All three of us really enjoyed the museum.

Next we headed to Lotte World Mall for some dinner and shopping. Clarissa chose a kangaroo to paint. The staff member used a hair dryer to dry it so that we could take it home.

Since Clarissa was in an artsy mood, we decided to check out the Lotte Museum of Art  in Avenue L which is connected to the mall. It was an exhibit of Kenny Scharf. He was an animator for Hanna Barbara so we recognized some of his work. Some of it was pretty weird. But it was all very colorful.

Before leaving we decided to try Lotte World Tower. The views from the 118 – 122 floors were amazing. It was a very clear day so we could see very far.

It was 5pm by then so we headed to Itaweon for dinner. I had read about a gluten-free Cafe so we headed to Sunny Bread. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday so this was our only opportunity to go. There were a few things left in the pastry case so we bought one of each to go so we could try it all. Very tasty.

Finally we arrived at Manimal for dinner. It was very close to the pedestrian bridge from Noksapyeong, across from Buddha’s Belly. I have never been to an American style smokehouse. I expected it to smell smokier than it did. Tim and I ordered a platter to share. We chose three meats and three sides. All of it was delicious but way too much food. We could not finish it so next time we will get the platter with two meats instead.

Last beach day of the summer

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We were invited to a beach day with some friends at the end of the summer. Korea’s official beach season is pretty short. It actually starts on Tim’s birthday (July 13) and ends on Clarissa’s birthday (August 20). Some beaches are open a little later, until the end of August, so we decided to go to Eurwangni Beach in Incheon.

Eurwangni Beach is about an hour and a half drive from Camp Humphreys. Tolls cost about 11,000 won each way ($11 USD). The beach itself is pretty small. The waves are very calm and it is shallow for a good part of the beach so it is a great beach to bring small children. The sand area is clean. There is a public bathroom, shower area, and free parking right next to the beach. There is also a small playground and a path to explore the rocks along one side of the beach. There are plenty of convenience stores and restaurants for when you get hungry.

We had a wonderful day playing in the water and exploring. The water was fairly warm. Clarissa started her own shell collection.

After dinner, we looked out to see the sunset over the water and noticed that the tide had gone WAY out. I have never seen the tide go out that dramatically before. It was really cool to be able to see all the little crabs and critters out in the wet sand. The sunset was beautiful to see.

Clarissa and I really enjoyed our day with friends. We both decided that we would like to live near the beach next. This is definitely our favorite beach in Korea!

 

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.

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.

Mother’s Day Weekend

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Our original Mother’s Day plan was to take the train into Seoul and explore Hongdae, but it rained all day so we had to change our plan.

Tim drove us to the new Starfield Mall in Goyang. We started with lunch at Shake Shack. The food was pretty good. They let me order my burger without a bun. Clarissa would not share her French fries with me. The ice cream was good too. The prices weren’t bad either. Clarissa was most excited about the foosball table but there wasn’t a ball for that.

There was a fun train set up near the restaurants. Clarissa was very excited about this as well.

The mall had four floors plus a basement level. There were a few kid cafes and a water park that we did not check out. The Toy Kingdom in this mall was the best I have seen so far. It had its own Lego store and each aisle was labeled in Korean and English. Clarissa really enjoyed pretending to drive the train as well.

Tim liked that the Electromart was broken into different parts so that the clothes were on a different floor and he could focus on the things he wanted to see. There were lots of fun stores like Daiso, Art Box, and Flying Tiger Copenhagen plus several that I had never heard of before. On the basement floor, they did have a really nice supermarket called PK Market that had gourmet foods and No Brand which is Shinsagae’s generic brand that has some snacks that we really enjoy. We bought some fun things.

Another fun thing happening at this mall (until June 30) is a Frozen display in the middle of the first floor. You could take a picture with an Elsa or Anna statue. They even had dresses you could buy to dress up like either Elsa or Anna. At one point in the afternoon, there was a performance where a man and a woman sing Frozen songs in Korean. Clarissa thought it was too loud, so she wasn’t really smiling in her pictures.

 

I think this Starfield Mall had the best variety of stores. They had great parking as well. Our only complaint was the temperature. It was pretty muggy from the rain and the air conditioner was not on inside the mall. It would probably be more comfortable in mid summer with the air conditioning on full blast or in the winter time.

When we arrived at the mall, Tim saw a sign that said IKEA was 5 km away so we decided that we should go there afterwards. As usual, we were not disappointed with IKEA. I think this parking lot is better than the other location. There were plenty of fun furniture items to look at and we ended up buying some new comfy towels to replace our nine year old newlywed towels. Also, they had delicious food for dinner.

On Sunday, we went to church. At the end of the service, Pastor Al called up all the mothers and mothers to be. He read us an inspirational poem, anointed us with oil, and prayed over us. It was really cool. Plus, he even thought to have someone go to the Sunday school class and relieve the teachers so that we could participate as well. I felt so blessed and appreciated.

After church Clarissa and I did our usual church lunch followed by a trip to the library on post. We went to the PX for some baby shower shopping. Then, we came home to eat pizza and watch Nim’s Island with Tim.

I had a great weekend with my family.

Mr Toilet House Field Trip

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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.

Exploring Seoul for New Year’s Eve

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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 

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We started our Wednesday morning at the largest Kyobo 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, because 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 

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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 

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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?

First road trip in Korea

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We lasted almost eleven months in South Korea without a car.  During that time,  we did plenty of exploring by train and by bus. We decided that after we bought a car last week,  we needed to break it in with a road trip. A friend in Seoul wanted us to meet her sister who was visiting, so we thought that was the perfect choice.

Clarissa and I were sick on Thursday so I wasn’t able to pack ahead of time. We didn’t leave until 12:30 on Friday afternoon. We quickly realized that we needed hi-pass (similar to ezpass in the USA). We stopped at a rest stop to buy one. That was an exciting ordeal. The ladies at the counter said that we were the first foreigners to get hi-pass from them. It took a while to set up the account. Part of the problem was that we don’t have a Korean bank account so we can’t do automatic billing. We had won, so we just charged 50,000 (like $45) and went on our way.

Tim and I agree that the topography of the drive was similar to what we see driving from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Some of the architecture is different. But it didn’t feel that different from one of our normal road trips.

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Speed traps are a major difference. It is rare to see a police car in South Korea. Traffic violations are pretty automated. Speed limits are posted. There are specific police enforcement areas, which have signs posted. If you speed, a traffic camera takes a picture of your licence plate and a ticket is mailed to your house.

We don’t have a Korean GPS yet, so Tim just used the waze app that he used stateside. It worked wonderfully. Clarissa did well in the back seat the first two hours. I think that she liked being able to see everything. I had to move to the back seat for the last hour or so.

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Our original plan was lunch at Osan, shopping at the BX, and dinner when we arrived at Dragon Hill Lodge. With our late start we didn’t get to Osan until almost four so it was more like an early dinner.

We went off post to Sawatdee, Tim’s favorite Thai restaurant. He got curry and I had drunken noodles. Clarissa ate spring rolls.

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We then headed to the commissary for our weekend breakfast items. Finally, we went to the BX. Osan’s exchange is by far the best in Korea. There are several kiosks and small shops in addition to the main exchange. We actually found pink gloves that fit Clarissa’s hands at one of the kiosks. Also, the exchange has good items and is laid out in a way that actually makes sense (which cannot be said for the other ones).
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Needless to say, it was worth the three hour drive. I bought two pairs of jeans that fit and looked cute. Tim got some new work clothes. Clarissa even found a Finding Nemo sippy cup.

We let Clarissa play in the playplace for a bit to burn off some energy and then decided we should eat again because everything would probably be closed by the time we arrived at Yongsan. Tim had a sub from Charley’s and Clarissa and I split a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.

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Tim did very well driving in Seoul. It was almost 9:00 by the time we arrived so the traffic had died down some. But it was still pretty busy.

Our room at Dragon Hill Lodge was very warm. I put our food in the refrigerator (but didn’t realize until morning that it wasn’t cold). It is PCS season (lots of families moving) so we ended up with two double beds. Now I know what it is like to share a bed with my two year old…

We were up early on Saturday so that we would have plenty of time for exploring. Our sausage wasn’t cold so we decided to toss it. We opted for a fast food breakfast on the way to Changdeokgung Palace. We took line 3 to Anguk (exit 3). It was a very short walk from there.

As we arrived at the Palace, it began to snow. So we decided to just pay the 3,000 won admission and walk around on our own.

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The palace was pretty. But honestly wasn’t as large as the other one and seemed to have similar style. It was way less crowded, probably because of the snow. To be fair, we also didn’t see the whole complex. It started to snow harder and Clarissa was very cold. We decided to go inside for some hot chocolate before heading back to the subway.

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We needed an indoor thing to do so we headed to Coex mall. I believe it is the largest underground mall in the world. It was one of Tim’s normal hangouts during his Air Force days. Clarissa picked out some Tayo stickers and an Octonauts puzzle at Daiso (like a Dollar Store) so she was happy. We also brought her to the entrance of the aquarium so she could see some fish. We all felt better after some food.

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The snow stopped and it warmed up to about 37, so we decided to head to Bongeunsa Temple which is very close to the mall. It is the same subway stop, just a different exit (Samseong on line 2).

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It was a very large temple complex. There were other people walking around but it was not busy at all. They have a templestay program where you can spend the night there. They also had a large hall for weddings. There were some monks playing drums and chanting, but not many.

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After the temple, we decided to head towards base. Most of the places we wanted to see closed at 4:30 or 5. Clarissa fell asleep on the train and even slept some on the walk to base which surprised me because it was so cold outside.

We didn’t find anything interesting at the Yongsan px so we headed back to the Lodge for dinner. We went to Green Street. I ordered a steak and Tim had a spicy Asian dish.

We had originally planned to have brunch with Tim’s friend on Sunday but she was sick.

We decided to head out early and go to Hahoe village in Andong on the way home. It really was in the middle of nowhere and took three hours to get to. It would have been so worth it though. The place was huge and had several sections of traditional houses, shrines, and stores.

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We didn’t get very far before it started sleeting. We decided that since it is only about an hour from Daegu, we will just go again and make a day of it. There were several small museums (mask museum, world doll museum) to see as well.

Apparently January in Korea is not a good time for exploring. We need to wait until it warms up a bit to see more. But it was a great first road trip.

Seoul Week

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This was our longest trip to Seoul so far, and I think also our best. We took a taxi to the train station, which we’ve never done. We had too much stuff to take the bus and the subway this time, plus it was raining. I think this made it a better trip for everyone. Plus it started Clarissa saying, “taxi” all week.

I made a new friend at Dragon Hill who was headed to Daegu on Sunday. We had dinner with one of Tim’s work friends at Green Street (one of the restaraunts at Dragon Hill Lodge).

Because Tim had class all week and didn’t really want me exploring outside of the base, I thought that Clarissa and I would have a lot of down time. But that wasn’t the case.

On Monday, Clarissa and I went to the library just to see when story time was and we happened to walk in on a baby story time where we made friends. We had lunch with them and made plans for the next day. Monday was Tim’s birthday so we went to our favorite Thai restaraunt, Buddah’s Belly, for dinner with a couple of friends from his class. We then had the best gelato ever before coming home.

Tuesday, Clarissa slept through the baby play group that we were invited to. But we met up with our new friends afterward and headed to iPark for lunch. iPark is like a huge mall attached to emart. They had a Tayo that sang the show’s theme song and moved for 1,000 won (about $1). So while everyone else went to Daiso, Clarissa and I did that.

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She was super cute and loved it! Then, I tried to put her on a different vehicle, but she flipped out when another child got on Tayo. The mother didn’t seem to care and took her child off Tayo (not that I wanted her to). Because I was planning to let her ride the other vehicle, I just let her ride Tayo again. She definitely threw a fit when our friends were ready to leave. But she stopped because one of those friends happened to buy her Tayo stickers while in Daiso!

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We then went to Burger King for lunch where Clarissa ate an entire serving of french fries by herself. Finally, we went to PlayTime which is a huge play area. They had two. One for babies and one for older kids. The baby one was quite full, so we went to the older child area. It cost 10,000 won (about $10) for two hours, which I thought was kind of expensive. But Clarissa had a great time!

First, we had to take off our shoes. Then, we went to the bathroom to change her diaper. They had shower shoes there and Clarissa loved wearing them. She walked on a huge floor piano that lit up and made music. Then, we went to the ball pit, where she stayedfor at least a half hour.

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They had a teddy bear that you could jump on that took up an entire room. She was kind of afraid of that, but the babies we were with loved it! We went to the sand room for a bit. She didn’t really know what to do at first. They had rainboots to wear and she loved those. She enjoyed putting sand in a dump truck. She put sand in a cup and then tried to drink it. She didn’t like that her mouth was messy at that point. But once I cleaned her off she was happy again. She definitely didn’t want to leave when our time was up.

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We went out to dinner with one of my new friends, her husband, and six month old son. It was a Korean barbecue place. They called it beef and leaf, which makes sense since you put the cooked meat on lettuce to eat it. We had waffle and ice cream for dessert before heading back to Dragon Hill Lodge.

On Wednesday, Clarissa woke up a little earlier than I expected so we went to one of the playgrounds at the Lodge. She was bored with the baby playground but wasn’t really tall enough to climb most things on the big kid playground. So she mostly had fun running around.

Then we headed to our friend’s apartment. Clarissa had a great time at their playground. They must have a preschool there, because I think it was recess! There were like 20 three year olds at the same time. But Clarissa did a great job of standing in line and waiting her turn for the slide. We had pizza for lunch, which Clarissa loved. But I think her favorite part was the cat. She said, “Itty tat” the rest of the week.

Wednesday night we headed back to iPark for dinner. We ended up at a Japaneese place called Teriyaki that had incredible (and cheap) sushi. I was smart and went to Burger King before and bought Clarissa some fries to eat so she wouldn’t go hungry. Then the plan was to go to the electronics market there. Apparently it closes at 8 (which is odd because it seems like malls and things are open late here), and since it was 8:30 we were out of luck.

On Thursday, I let Clarissa sleep in. Then, we Skyped my parents and headed to the playground at the elementary school on post. It was the best school playground I have ever seen! Clarissa had a great time climbing and going down the slide. She definitely has no fear! She even went on the swings. For lunch, I gave her a choice and she definitely wanted pizza.

Thursday night we went back to iPark for the electronics market. Our friend didn’t find what he was looking for so the next step was to go to a different market, but Clarissa was getting fussy since it was late, so she went to Baskin Robins for dinner and got an Apple Fruit Blast while the men kept shopping. That seemed to give her some energy so we went to a city park along the way home.

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Friday morning, Clarissa and I went swimming in the Lodge pool. The rule is that you have to shower first and she is generally afraid of showers so far. But when I explained that she had to take a shower to go in the pool, she eventually complied. She had a great time in the pool and didn’t want to leave. She had a blast in the locker room too! She was not happy when  we were finally headed to lunch, but the pizza made it better!

Friday evening we went to 63 City. We had dinner at a place called Shabu Shabu. (It means swish, swish). There is a burner in front of each person. They give you a small pot with water and then some raw vegetables and meat. Once the water starts boiling, you add the vegetables. You can start eating them before you add the meat, or you can wait. Clarissa wasn’t interested and so we just ordered her some rice.

63 City is a huge building that has an aquarium, wax museum, art museum, and an observatory on the 63rd floor where you can see most of Seoul. We went to the aquarium first. Clarissa loved it! I think her favorite were the sea lions.

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It was about 7:30 when we went so the seals and were sleeping. The penguins were fun though. At the end, she chose a shark stuffed animal that was almost as big as her.

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We all enjoyed the views from the top floor. They had viewers that you could put a coin in to see close up. Clarissa kept pointing at it and so this young guy (maybe 20) who was on a date kept going through his pockets. His date was like, “what are you doing?” and he kept saying, “eggi” (baby). He definitely put change in the view finder so that Clarissa could see out! She was definitely popular and got her picture taken several times. Someone even gave her a lolipop.

It was getting late so we decided to take a taxi back to post. Clarissa was thrilled. “Taxi” is her new favorite word apparently.

On Saturday we were going to head to some palaces, but Clarissa was fussy from a long week of going to bed late so we were going to try her nap first. We had Mexican for lunch (because Tim loves me) and then thought for sure she would sleep early. Wrong. We were about to give up on the nap when she fell asleep. The palaces close at 5 so that didn’t end up happening this trip.

We headed istead to Insadong. Of course it started raining once we got there. But we still had a great time. I bought a new purse for 8,000 won (almost $8). They have a lot of cultural and crafty things in Insadong so I think that it would be a great place to go when it is time to go Christmas shopping.

We headed to a Buddhist Temple. We actually went there three years ago, but they were having a service of some kind so we didn’t get close. They were having a prayer service of some kind this time as well. So we just explored the outside, which was pretty neat. Tim felt some weird spiritual things there. But Clarissa and I mostly just walked around.

We ended up at a place called Hollywood for dinner. It was basically a traditional Asian restaraunt. Clarissa enjoyed the rice cake appetizers and we enjoyed our food as well. We had Dunkin Donuts for dessert and then saw a Daiso that was five stories. My friends had planned to go this week but it didn’t work out, so we went to check it out. I really don’t think it was that big. We have a two story one near us that I think is actually bigger.

Sunday we headed home. Clarissa was determined to hold her shark for the entire trip, which made holding her interesting since the shark is so large. But she was pretty happy for most of the trip.

Everything is bigger in Seoul

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The army must like to send Tim to training because this is the second time in five months that they sent him to Seoul. This time we are actually staying on base. Everything in Seoul is way bigger than Daegu.

Dragon Hill Lodge is massive. It has ten restaurants, an indoor pool, a playground, and several stores. Once we checked in to our room and put Clarissa down for her nap, I headed to the commissary. I am not exaggerating that the commissary is at least twice as big as the commissary on Camp Walker. I spent a lot more than I was planning to spend because they had things I can’t find in Daegu. Mostly junk food. Ahem. As I was carrying the bags to the elevator, a random lady pressed the button for me and then offered to help me with my bags. It turns out that her family is just arriving in Korea and they are moving to Daegu this week, so we exchanged contact information and are planning to meet up next week when I get home.

This morning, Clarissa and I slept in and then decided to walk in the rain to the library. We had rain jackets on, but along the way someone definitely stopped and asked where we were headed and gave us a ride to the library. They have to be safe on base right? That hasn’t happened on Walker in the rain yet. However, we did hitch a ride on a 90 degree day once.

The library was also several times larger than our library at Camp Walker. I thought ours was a decent size and has a designated children’s room. The children’s room is probably twice as big at Yongsan. I figured we would read a few books and find out what day they do story time here (Tuesday). But we happened to walk in during baby story time! So we played with a parachute, read a couple of books, and sang a few songs.

I think I have decided that library story time is just the place to be. It has been the easiest way to make friends in Daegu and we made friends again today. I think that every time I move, Clarissa and I will have to check out the story time at the local library.

Our new friends invited us to lunch. The Food Court at Yongsan is huge. At Walker, we have a Smoothie King, Taco Bell, Anthony’s Pizza, and Subway. There is also a Starbucks and a Burger King on post. The food court at Yongsan has Burger King, Taco Bell, Anthony’s Pizza, Subway, Starbucks, Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts, and Manchu Wok. I might have missed a few and there are other restraints on base besides the food court and the restaurants at Dragon Hill Lodge.

I had mentioned at the end of story time that I wanted to take Clarissa to the PX to get a new toy. Apparently there are multiple parts to the PX here. So our new friends took me to the specific building that you go to buy toys. I think the toy section is about as big as our entire PX in Daegu. So we bought a beach ball (what I really wanted since we could blow it up to play now but it would be easy to bring home), a Minnie Mouse floating toy, and a small Elmo in a car.

As we were leaving one of the moms gave me her contact information. She said they would probably go to the mall play place if it was raining tomorrow and we were invited. She also told me about another play group that meets on base tomorrow for Clarissa’s age group.

Another Seoul Adventure

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Is it really the last week of May?

The house is mostly set up the way we want it.  Never found the screws for furniture.  We have since ordered some online though they have yet to arrive.

Clarissa had her first flu.  At least I think that is what it was.  She had a fever and was generally miserable for a couple of days.  But we got plenty of snuggles in.

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Tim was sick too, just not as long. Thankfully I stayed healthy. It seems like any time I try to wean her, she gets sick. I guess we will be nursing for a while!

We went to the last PWC of the semester. Clarissa didn’t cry when I dropped her off at the nursery for the first time since we moved to Korea! At the end, her teacher gave her the Elmo that I thought we lost at our first PWC two months ago (have we really been in Daegu that long?)!

This weekend we went back to Seoul. This time we stayed with friends instead of at a hotel. Clarissa loved playing with their dog!

On Saturday, we went to a folk village. It was neat to see the traditional houses but we didn’t stay long because they looked a lot like the palace we saw last month.

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Clarissa’s favorite part was the fish!

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We had lunch in Myeongdong, which has a lot of shopping. Then we headed back to the apartment for Clarissa’s nap. Tim and I were able to go on our first date since moving to South Korea. It was a pretty big deal since Clarissa’s only babysitters so far have been grandparents. But Tim has known these friends for ten years so this is the closest we get to family in Korea.

Clarissa had fun and we really enjoyed our time together. We went back to Coex mall to really explore since Clarissa was getting tired last time. Tim bought a Gundam model that he really wanted. We tried Vietnamese for dinner and it was delicious.

On Sunday, we headed to Seoul Forest. It wasn’t what we expected but there were some beautiful flowers.

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There was also an awesome playground for Clarissa.

We headed to ipark in Yongsan for lunch and explored an awesome toy store there. It was almost dinner by the time we got home so we ended up staying home for the rest of the evening. We did play in the playground at the apartment. Clarissa is really confident in climbing steps and going down the slide now.

On Monday we headed to Suwon to meet up with Minnie. She brought us to a Korean fusion restaurant. She said it had some western things but it seemed pretty Korean to me!

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They brought out two different courses of food. It was a communal meal where we all used chopsticks. There were several things we had never seen before and we would ask Minnie and she usually didn’t know the translation because it is not something you would find in America. We tried it all and really enjoyed it. We sampled a few flowers, roots, mushrooms, and even octopus. There was also pumpkin soup and pureed leek. Clarissa had some noodles but mostly stuck to rice.

We then headed to Hwaseong Fortress. We were going to take a train to see around it (Tim and I did the full three hour hike in 2012) but it was sold out. It was a national holiday, Buddah’s birthday.

We did get to see the city from a different angle on our walk.
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Driving around we saw a man walking backwards. Apparently it used to be very popular in Korea as they believed it was good for your feet.

Minnie then took us to a small petting zoo. Clarissa was excited about the rabbits and birds. Then she got to feed the goats.

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We went to a park at one gate (there are four) of the Fortress. Clarissa had a great time running around. Her favorite part was looking at bugs and playing with grass. Tim got some pictures of the Fortress from different angles.

Before we left, we walked down a street that reminded Tim of Insadong. There were food stands and craft shops. Tim and Clarissa bought some candy they were making on the street. They had samples to try. I didn’t care for it but they liked it so they bought some bear shaped candy. I tried some chocolate covered banana. It was different than I expected. At home, my mom would freeze or refrigerate the chocolate so it would harden. But it was 85 degrees outside so it was really fondue because I was able to dip it myself. Still tasted great.

I think we will go back to that area when Clarissa is older. They had several craft stands. The kids were making things out of beads and leather.
I thought it was hot in Seoul this weekend, but then we came home and it was 90. A few times this weekend we would tell a Korean that we lived in Daegu and they would tell us that it was very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter because of the bowl effect of the mountains. Before we moved here, I looked up the average temperature year round and it didn’t look much different from Virginia Beach. It will be interesting to see what the weather really is like.

A Mostly Seoul Adventure

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I finally finished unpacking our first shipment at the house. Then, the furniture that we ordered while living in South Korea arrived ahead of our Household Goods. So now I have two couches and two dining room tables. It’s kind of funny really to go from living out of suitcases in a fairly empty apartment to having too much furniture. But our apartment is large enough that it’s fine. First world problems right?

Clarissa and I have developed a routine that works. We stay home and play at the playground on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Wednesday we go to base for PWC (Bible study) and grocery shopping. Thursday we go to story hour to see our friends, have lunch with Tim, and pick up a few more items at the commissary. The weekend is for exploring as a family.

Last weekend we tried a fish barbecue place. Even if most signs and menus aren’t in English, you can figure out what a restaurant serves pretty easily because there is usually a sign with an animal outside. The fish place across the street from our apartment always looks pretty busy, so we decided to check it out.

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We were not disappointed. The ladies were very nice. One took Clarissa over to see what they were doing in the kitchen when she was bored. We chose barbecue shellfish, which was excellent. Not too spicy for me. They bring everything out on a tray. It cooks in front of you on the burner at your table.

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My two favorite side dishes were the boiled peanuts and the seaweed. Clarissa ate both side dishes