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 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.