Learning curve on our travel day 


When we were looking at flights from Busan to Osaka,  the price was great but there weren’t a ton of time options.  We basically had to choose between 8 AM or 5 PM.  The airport is a 90 minute drive,  so we chose the 5 PM flight. 

A friend drove us to the bus station about noon.  We went to buy tickets for the next bus to Gimhae airport.  It was leaving in 2 minutes.  But we made it. 

The bus wasn’t even halfway full,  so Clarissa and I moved to a different row so that she didn’t have to sit in my lap the entire bus ride. 

She did very well on the bus. She played with her tablet and looked out the window.  I was actually able to read a book on my Kindle that I started on our trip to Suwon in May.  

We arrived to the airport about 2 PM.  We checked in for our flight and then went upstairs to have some bibimbap for lunch.  After lunch,  we headed to security. 

Before you get to immigration,  there is a really cute character statue.  Clarissa loved it so we decided to take her picture with it.  About 10 feet after the statue,  there are signs that say no photography.  But we didn’t notice those until security yelled at us,  confiscated Tim’s phone,  and deleted said picture.  Oops. (He did get his phone back) 

We had Dunkin Donuts while we waited for our flight.  Clarissa started to get antsy so we walked the length of the terminal,  stopping to look at every plane or bus out the window. 

The actual flight was uneventful.  They fed us a sandwich for dinner which was unexpected since the flight is only about an hour. 

Clarissa dropped her new Nemo cup on the way to customs and it broke.  I tried to ask the immigration guy about a trash can and showed him the cup that was leaking orange juice.  But I don’t think he understood me because he handed me a roll of toilet paper. 

We eventually found a trash can after we retrieved our bags,  went through customs,  and exchanged our money.  At this point it was about 7 PM so we grabbed subway (and French fries for Clarissa)  for the train ride to the hotel.  Clarissa finished her French fries long before Tim came back with our train tickets.  We decided on the 2 day Kansai thru pass since we will heads back to Osaka tomorrow. 

We then boarded an express train Kyoto.  It takes a little over an hour.  The Shinkansen office was still open so we bought our tickets to Tokyo for Wednesday. 

Then we headed outside.  Our hotel has a shuttle that goes to Kyoto station.  But the website wasn’t specific about where exactly it was.  So in our search, we got to see the Kyoto Tower.  

The fountain also had a light show with music playing.  Clarissa loved it! 

We couldn’t figure out where the shuttle bus would be so we looked at a big map on the wall of a building.  A kind Japanese girl called the hotel and found out that the last shuttle bus was already back at the hotel. 

So about 10 PM,  we took a taxi to the hotel.  The driver was nice.  The suitcases fit in the trunk but the stroller had to sit up front near the driver.  

The hotel is really nice.  When we got to our room,  I realized that I lost my 2 day train ticket.  It was in my pocket,  which wasn’t a problem until I took a picture of Kyoto tower and put my phone in my pocket.  It probably fell out when I took my phone back out of my pocket.  Hopefully someone finds it so they can ride the train for free tomorrow! 

Clarissa didn’t get to bed until 11:30, so it will be interesting to see if she still wakes up early tomorrow.  I don’t want to sleep too late though,  or we won’t have enough time for everything on our list for Osaka. 

Father’s Day in Busan


Tim decided that he wanted sushi and the beach for Father’s Day, so that was the plan.

It was Tim’s first time driving to Busan. He had been several times before by train. We headed to Sushi Berry. Clarissa fell asleep on the way and slept over an hour. We were thankful for that because we knew she would last the whole day that way.

Like many places in Korea, parking at Sushi Berry was awful. We drove around for a bit before deciding to park on a back road, uphill behind a few other cars. We got to the very small restaurant (I think there were four tables and a bar) and were told it would be a 30 minute wait.

There was a nice table with an umbrella outside for us to sit while we waited. I don’t think it took 30 minutes before they asked if they could seat us at the bar. They handed us an English menu. There were so many things to choose from. I almost always get a California roll, but the Philadelphia roll looked interesting. Tim wanted the spicy tuna roll and the dragon roll. The man making the sushi said, “No, that’s too much. The rolls are very big. I recommend three.” So I decided to try the Philadelphia roll another time.

There was one guy making sushi, so it took a while. Before it was ready, they moved us from the bar to a table. They did bring us a cabbage salad while we waited. We asked for rice for Clarissa and they brought her some. When they brought the sushi, I had to take a picture. First of all, it was huge. And second, it was beautiful!

In all, we paid 25,000 won (like $20). We left happy and full.

The plan was to head to Songjeong Beach. It was a little further out than Haeundae Beach. But we have all been to Haeundae before and Tim had been to all of the Busan beaches but this one. Driving past, it looked like a nice beach. There were many surfers. It had a similar feel to Ilsan. However, there was no parking! Well, there were plenty of parking spots, but they were all full.

So we found a place to park a few miles away and looked on Trip Advisor. The sushi was good, but we didn’t want to drive almost two hours each way just for that. We decided on Busan Citizen Park. It was about 40 minutes from where we were, but on the way back to Daegu.

We found the coordinates on Waze and they brought you to the backside of the park, not where the parking was. Tim had to drive around in a big loop to find the parking. But it was worth it!

The park was great. It had a big metal fountain/water fall. There were several themed gardens and a pagoda. There was even a pinwheel garden.

There was live music and a walkway filled with vendors selling crafts and some food as well. There was even a garden maze. Clarissa had a great time. I told her she was in charge and we had to follow her. She did very well!

Next, we found the Pororo library. It was actually a large version of the cartoon’s house. Inside, they had a real library and you could pay to go inside and play. She was excited that we found “her friends” and wanted me to take her picture with them. The funny thing is that she hasn’t seen much of the show. But she recognizes the characters because they are very popular in Korea.

The map said that there are five different playgrounds. We played at three. She went to the tree house playground, the geometric looking one, and the panda one.

Koreans take their exercise very seriously. There is exercise equipment at most parks and even rest stops. I thought it was interesting that this park had kid sized exercise equipment. Another fascinating sight was the men walking on stilts. Several of them passed by while we were playing at the geometric playground.

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We left the park about 6:30 since we knew we had another hour and a half to get home. We ate rest stop food for dinner. Most rest stops have several sit down restaurant like food courts. No fast food other then the CU convenience store. We ended up getting home about 8:30. We were ready to be done with the car, but really enjoyed our day in Busan.

Last year, we took KTX on our Father’s Day excursion to Busan. I think it was 40,000 won for the three of us to go by KTX. Honestly, it cost about 30,000 won in tolls this trip. We did different things. But if you want to go to the beach, it would definitely be less hassle to do KTX and subway.

This travel day was all about the food


We had a very long travel day for our two hour flight.

We were ready to leave the house by 9. I wanted to be sure that we had time to take the bus if there wasn’t a taxi available. I don’t know why the AAFES taxis have such small trunks.  One suitcase fit in the trunk.  The other suitcase squished in the backseat with the three of us.  The stroller sat up front.

Because of the taxi,  we had about an hour to kill at Dondaegu express bus terminal.  Clarissa had a great time going up and down the stairs and trying to open all of the lockers.

I forgot that the bus terminals usually only have squatties.  I didn’t really want to attempt that with my two year old audience.  so we waited for the handicapped bathroom.  I was glad that I packed toilet paper for our trip because there wasn’t any available.

The bus was really nice.  We had more legroom than on KTX.  It was about 10,000 won ($9 USD) to take a bus directly to Gimhae Airport in Busan. It only took about 70 minutes.  Clarissa enjoyed looking out the window.


The airport wasn’t as big as I expected.  The check in line was long.  But,  in classic Korean fashion,  they opened a new line just for families of small children so we didn’t wait long.

There were only two food court options.  We decided on bulgogi bibimbap and some spring rolls.  The spring rolls were ready first.  Clarissa confiscated them.  She immediately said “mine”  and dragged them in front of her.  I was thrilled because she rarely gets excited about adult food.  She actually ate several of them and was reluctant to share.


The bibimbap was delicious.  There were a few appetizers that I didn’t recognize.  The hollow sand dollar looking thing was actually pretty tasty.  The yellow rectangles ended up being eggs.


Our flight from Busan to Tokyo was from 2-4 in the afternoon so I wasn’t really expecting a meal on the plane.  They served a traditional Japanese lunch with shrimp,  egg,  mushrooms,  and rice.  Our favorite part was probably the rice cakes.  They were two different flavors,  each with a fruity filling in the middle.  I bet you can guess which part of the meal Clarissa actually ate.


Japan has the most efficient immigration process I have ever seen.  We only waited in line about five minutes.  They asked a couple of questions,  fingerprinted us (of course mine don’t scan correctly in any country),  took our picture and sent us on our way.  At first,  we could not find the baggage claim for our flight. I eventually saw our flight number third on a list and assumed it was because our bags were not out yet.

I knew we would still have another bus ride before the hotel so Clarissa and I ran laps around the baggage claim.  Yes.  I am THAT mom.  After about fifteen minutes or so,  our flight came off the list and Tim went to ask the baggage information people about it.  Our suitcases and stroller were ready for us on a cart.  Oops. Like I said,  marvelously efficient.

We exchanged our money and then went to find the limousine bus to our hotel.  Apparently it comes once per hour and we had missed the last one by 5 minutes.  The taxi from the airport to our hotel would be about an hour and cost 25,000 yen which is like $250. The bus for the three of us was 6,000 yen which is closer to $50. So we waited.  Grabbed some snacks at the convenience store because there wasn’t another option.

The bus ride was very pleasant. The seats were comfortable. I think we would have enjoyed it more during the day. It was dark and we were tired. But we did get to see some neat lights around Tokyo during our 90 minute bus ride.

When we checked in to the hotel, they gave Clarissa a present. Really it was a bag of toiletries for kids. She got a kid sized toothbrush, slippers, and a washcloth. All have bears. She was thrilled!

She decided to wear her new slippers to dinner. They will probably still fit her when we move back to the US in 2018. They fell off about every three steps that she ran. It took a while to get to dinner.

There are four restaurants at our hotel. We had been warned about prices in Tokyo, but there was definitely some sticker shock while looking at the menus.

We decided on the Bamboo Lounge near the lobby. It was the cheapest. They seated us near the Christmas tree fountain.


I ordered an “American sandwich” with french fries for Clarissa. I was gluten-free the ten years before we moved to Korea, so I have never really been big into sandwiches. But this was the best sandwich I have ever eaten. No offense to anyone who has ever made me a sandwich… It had chunks of chicken breast, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. There was also a sauce of some kind. It looked like ketchup and mayonnaise but tasted way better. Clarissa ate most of the fries, but they were good too.



Tim got a raw tuna rice bowl. It came with miso soup.


He also got green tea. They make it way different in Japan than Korean. The green tea started as a mound of green ice cubes. Then the server added cold milk. Finally there was a liquid green tea sugar.


By the time we returned to the room it was about 9:30. We were definitely ready for some sleep after our long day.


Busan and Beyond


Is it really the end of June?

Clarissa and I have had a great month of exploring and making friends.

Our going to base routines have also changed. My friend Lingsze and her baby Hanna have started going to story time. They have a car and live in our building, so we have been riding with them. It makes my life so much easier because we go to the commissary after and I don’t have to worry about splitting my commissary run in half or bringing everything on the bus. Plus, Clarissa loves baby Hanna and I look forward to my Thursday morning with Lingsze.

Clarissa and I were invited to our first birthday party last week. Clarissa was a little clingy at first, but before we left she actually did the bouncy thing on her own for about twenty minutes! I was impressed.



On Friday, we spent the day in Busan. Tim spent a lot of time there in his Air Force days, so we decided to check it out. We decided that we need to go back for a weekend or something because the things we wanted to see were pretty spread out so we didn’t get to everything in our day trip. Clarissa did really well considering she missed her nap that day!

We took the KTX train to Busan which took about 45 minutes. That seemed really short because when we go to Seoul it takes two hours. We went to Shinsegae Department Store in Centum City, the largest department store in the world. Department stores in Korea are really like malls in the USA. They have several different shops with different brands and a food court as well. This one actually had an ice rink near the food court.

The Smoothie King had tables that look like Tayo. Tayo is a little bus that has his own tv show with his friends. Clarissa loves that show so we had to take a picture. She actually posed for me!



After lunch we took the subway to Haeundae Beach. Clarissa didn’t want to sit, so we ended up walking the length of our car and started talking to two guys. One is Canadian and the other is from Daegu but actually lives in Montreal. We walked to the beach with them.

Along the way someone was doing a photo shoot with balloons in front of a store. Clarissa of course wanted a balloon and I explained that she couldn’t have one. So a minute later as I am holding her walking down the street, she gets really happy and I realize that someone ran after us to give her a balloon. She of course wanted to hold this balloon herself, which I knew would be a problem. At one point on our walk, the balloon flew out of her hands and went into the street. She was upset but got over it. And as she is moving on, this lady runs up behind us to hand her said balloon.

We also saw this gem on the way to the beach.



I have eaten at a Sharkey’s in Blacksburg, but I can’t remember if it is spelled like our last name or this way.

The beach was beautiful! We decided that we will go back for Clarissa’s birthday since tourist season runs from Tim’s birthday to hers.



We probably spent half of our time at the boardwalk chasing after that balloon. It lasted the hour or so we were down there. I wasn’t paying attention when we grabbed a drink at GS25 and it touched the cold door. Pop!




Since we were celebrating Tim’s birthday early, we went to an electronics market. He found what he was looking for and Clarissa enjoyed running from stall to stall and trying to touch all the buttons.

On Saturday morning we went to the Camp Walker Library to sign up for the summer reading program. Clarissa and I received matching shirts. She also got a book to go with the shirt. We decided to go out to Father’s Day dinner on Saturday night. Tim wanted Thai and so we tried an Asian Fusion restaraunt. It didn’t have a huge Thai menu, but it had a few things to try. Clarissa looked so grown up eating with us. She of course tried a pepper and that didn’t go very well. Rice is always a hit though.


Last week Clarissa made Tim a Father’s Day card. On Sunday morning, I handed it to her to give to him. She took it and ran. She proceeded to take all of the stickers off of it. Later she handed him a wad of stickers, but no card. But we had a great morning playing at the playground with another dad and his son. Clarissa had a great time playing with the boy (four years old) and chasing after bubbles.

This week, Clarissa received a package in the mail. This truck is now her favorite toy. I took it out of the box on base because the box wouldn’t fit in my bookbag. She had to carry “man” on the train and the bus. Yesterday, he had to go down the slide. Today he went to story time.


Clarissa had her first official play date on Tuesday. We met a little girl from story time at Burger King. The girls played well together at the playground and shared their French fries. I enjoyed chatting with her mom. The dads even got to meet at the end and get along well too. We set up another play date for next week.

We spent most of the morning at our playground yesterday. Clarissa and I played about an hour before a little girl and her puppy came outside. Clarissa enjoyed petting the puppy. Then, her friends from upstairs came out to play. We haven’t played with them since it was cold outside, but they had been in the States for two months. Clarissa had a great time playing with her friends. The girl is about two months older than Clarissa and the boy is three and a half. They played really well together for about an hour and a half. They would have played longer but it was nap time for all three of them. Silly mamas enforcing naptime…

Story time was crowded today, I guess because school is out. Clarissa has already earned two of the three prizes from the summer reading program. I guess we read a lot of books!