Seoul Good - 3 days in Seoul with kids

Our year-end trip is the highlight of our lives. Really. As such, you can expect planning to start as early as 8 months before the trip. This year, the elder critter chirped, "I want to see snow!". That helped to narrow our choices for an Asian winter wonderland, based on budget and travel-time considerations.

We had done Hakuba in Japan two years back and whilst we always love the land of the rising sun, we thought we should try somewhere new. What with PSY's Gangnam Style blaring at us from TV to department stores to school even, our course for South Korea was quite set.

We also really wanted to pick up where we left off in our attempts to learn to ski two years ago in Hakuba. Lots of research online and checks with friends later, we decided on the Alpensia Ski Resort, which I shall talk about in another post (yes, it warrants a whole update on its own).

So research for Seoul comprised umpteen visits to the official South Korean National Tourist Organisation webbie. It does a pretty comprehensive job of listing down all the attractions, eating and shopping places (and even a Hallyu section!), so kudos to KNTO ;) Cross-checking these listings with Tripadvisor reviews, blogs, mapping on Google maps and downloading another bunch of mobile apps, you kinda get the picture that I spent a fair amount of time doing the pre-trip planning research.

We also managed to book a Deluxe Room at the highly recommended Metro Hotel, in the heart of Myeong Dong and the critters gave it a big stamp of approval based on size, decor, free Wifi and the bathtub ;) My Trip Advisor Review of Metro Hotel is found here.

Seoul in 3 Days
To cut the long story short and to pretty much summarise our Seoul sojourn which consisted of 4 nights and 3 days, this was our itinerary:-



My itinerary and other trip planning info can be downloaded here (sheet 2 & 3 for Seoul).

I always had the impression that Korea was expensive. However, I was pleasantly surprised and simultaneously saddened that Korea is cheaper than Singapore in many aspects, such as public transportation, food and shopping in some areas. Singapore is just so so expensive today :(.

So from our experience, if you are taking the family for a deep freeze experience in Korea (it was the coldest winter in a hundred years when we were there in mid December 2012, with temperatures dipping to a low of -10 Degrees Celsius in the day), winter wear is extremely affordable there. Boots and jackets are of decent quality and can be purchased in many stores in Myeong Dong. You do, however, need some basics lah, for when you first get there. Without the essential base layers, fleece and gloves, you will be an icicle before you even get to your hotel!

Seoul Eats
Awesome BBQ!
I am not a fan of Korean food but this trip proved to be way above satisfactory for my palette and most importantly, for the critters. There was plenty of choice in the 2 food courts we went to (Lotte Mart's being the better one, IMHO), Myeong Dong where our hotel Metro Hotel was located, was lined with eateries of every kind. If you like Korean BBQ like we do, then Wangbijip is a must-go. Their sets were very yummy and substantial and our family of four had our tummies filled happily with one Bulgolgi Beef set, one portion of Hanwoo Beef (home-reared cows) and one portion of pork. We also had a rather large serving of Pajeon or Seafood pancake. Overall this meal cost us SGD80 which was the most expensive meal we had in Seoul and which would easily have hit more than SGD120 if we ate the same in SG. Sad :(


Spicy chicken for SGD21 per plate! 
Oh, also worth a mention is Two Two Chicken! I had read about this in someone's blog before the trip so was already on the look-out for it. Happily, there was a Two Two next to Metro Hotel. Strangely, we did not patronise the one just outside but chose to hop into the Two Two at the bottom of the hill leading to Namsan Seoul Tower. It was not the usual spanking outlet with modern steel decor and teenage servers but quite the opposite! With only two ahjummas manning the tables, one harried dude who looked like the son or nephew who appeared with chicken occasionally, the ambience was reminiscent of an old smoky bar, with the timber decor, sale of cigarettes and beer bottles in cartons lining the cash register.

Our two families ordered two chicken sets each which really proved to be too much (all puns intended ..). The boneless chicken was good for the critters who wolfed down a whole platter amongst four of them. This left three platters for the rest of us three adults ... it was a pretty monumental feat of downing all that very deep fried chicken in one go and one I would not be repeating soon but while we were at it, it was GOOD! Oh and what is fried chicken without beer, so all that chicken was washed down with Hite draught, burp!

School Food is another restaurant we enjoyed. There are a couple of branches of this but the one we dropped into was at the start of Insadong, just in front of the Information office. Bright and cute decor with young English-speaking staff (and not ahjummas as per Two Two Chicken), or orders ranged from Mari which are sushi rolls with spam, pork cutlet to curry ramen and bibimbap with spam. We gathered that spam is a really big thing in Korea, probably an evil influence left behind by the Americans .__.

The curry ramen was very tasty but had to be consumed fast before it congealed into a starchy mass. The spam rolls were yummy, as spam would be and the bibimbap was also pretty good. The cutlet was crisp fried without dripping in oil and the critters were fed without complaints. Overall, the prices were pretty decent too. The meal cost each family around SGD45 ;)

Seoul Dos
Our original itinerary was much more extensive. Train changing, the cold and dragging complaining critters like millstones around us, pretty much moderated the number of places we could visit in a day :(. So out of all the places we went to, those that were given the great thumbs-up were:-

Nanta Theatre - high energy and highly entertaining, the cast regaled the audience with their antics, chopping and gymnastic skills for a good 90 minutes. We were blown away by the awesome finale of Korean drumming feats and were tickled when the critters' dad was dragged on-stage to help out with the cooking! We booked the matinee tickets as they were 10,000 Won cheaper. When we got there, we were told that the section was closed and we were upgraded to the better section in the front which were worth 50,000 Won so yay! Book your tickets online.

Insadong - lovely area to wander around to simply admire handcrafted works, paintings or to buy quality souvenirs. We bought some Korean bookmarks, aluminium rice bowls and chopsticks (as requested by the critters!), sampled green tea in OSulloc, meandered to Ssamziegil where we had snack samples and had citrus tea in the cold. Ssamziegil had a great festive ambiance, all decked out for Christmas. Check out the top floor outdoors, where people can hang their decorated tags and dedications. There was even a small area where the critters tried their hand at throwing arrows, like spears, into standing containers.


Namsan Seoul Tower - we spent around two and a half hours here, the first half an hour walking up the long way to the cable car station. It was, however, a leisurely walk and we ooh-ed and ah-ed over the quaint cafes dotting the way up. At Namsan, we skipped the Teddy Bear Museum and went straight up the tower, which gave an overview of Seoul from a 360 degree angle. We also rented the audio-guide so that we, hopefully, would not leave Seoul as ignorant about the place, as before we arrived. An interesting sight were the piles of locks around the place that are meant to symbolise a couple's love. Guess there's no unlocking once it gets secured there! Oh and the best waffles we had were at the cafe at the base of the tower - thick and crispy with fresh cream and blueberries, they were simply awesome!

Locked up!! 
Best waffles ever!! 

As always, at the end of a trip, we would survey the critters to ask if they would like to return to the destination. It was a unanimous "YES" and they have even asked to revisit next year. Seoul good!!

Must-buys:-

  • Skincare products! Less than half of what it costs here in Singapore! 
  • Starbucks Discoveries! Okay, if you are a coffee fan like me, you will be outraged that a Starbucks Discoveries coffee in Cold Storage costs SGD6 versus the 2,000 Won in Korea. That's like SGD2.30 man!!! How to not buy??
  • Market O Brownies - these are heavenly! Bought the big box at the airport for 24,000 Won in which there were 4 small boxes. Did I say they were heavenly? Well, yeah, heavenly! 


All that I could bring back!! 

Heavenly I say! 


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