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Trip Report Trip Report: Seoul, South Korea w/ Kids, Spring 2009

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We took our young children on a week long trip to Seoul, South Korea in March of 2009. We had a wonderful time and I just wanted to write a few tips and suggestions since there is little on these boards about this delightful country.

We stayed at the M Chereville, which is very close to the Gangnam subway station. This hotel/apartment was perfect for us. It had two bedrooms, one bath, a living room and a full kitchen. There wars also a washer/dryer together in one unit, which did a poor job of actually drying the clothes. There are instructions in Korean but the front desk provided us with an English translation sheet. There were tons of great restaurants around our hotel.

Using the subway was quite easy after the first day or so. Carry a subway map with you. You can buy a subway card at any booth and then use the machine in the subway area to reload it as necessary. It's cheaper to use the machine than to buy from the teller.

We used our Capital One card (no foreign transaction fees) for the big stuff like hotel and exchanged American dollars at a local bank. We avoided ATM machines since our bank warned us ahead of time about the high fees they invoke to use ATMs.

We loved the food. We ate at several fantastic Korean BBQ restaurants. Watch what the other patrons order and do the same. There's always a filtered water container and glasses on each table. Help yourself. We avoided drinking the water from the hotel tap but drank water in restaurants all the time. None of us became ill in the slightest.

Among the sites visited was the Children's Grand Park. It had a zoo that was quite nice and enjoyed by my children. The place was essentially empty and we had the place to ourselves. They had a neat dolphin show my kids liked.

Our favorite attraction was the War Memorial Museum. It was fabulous. Lots of exhibits showing the war history of Korea, including wars predating the Korean war. I learned a lot of historiacl facts not previously known to me. There's also a great outdoor exhibit with war vehicles that the children can climb on. We loved it!

We also visited ancient royal palace with the secret garden. It was mildly interesting but can't say it was at the top of my favorites list. We also took the train about an hour south of the city to the famous fortress wall. When we got there all the tickets for the tram that takes you around the walls were sold out for the day. We did look around the grounds with a private guide. It too was mildly interesting.

Our favorite stops really involved seeing how the locals really lived. We enjoyed going into the local markets and restaurants. We also went to a Korean spa (the Silloam Fermentation Spa) near the main train Seoul Station area. My kids loved it so much that we visited this spa twice during our stay. I must say that it took me a while to get used to public nudity. But, after realizing that it was no big deal to the locals, I calmed down and enjoyed the experience.

We never once felt unsafe on our trip. We were also quite surprised that there were very few Americans. I know there are American military bases there yet we only encountered about 3 or 4 other caucasions the entire week we were there. We did go during our spring break, which may not be a popular time for tourists to visit???

The Korean people were generally pretty friendly and anxious to help us navigate the city. Every where we went people would stop and point at my children, touch them on the head or shoulders and say "hi" to them. It took a while for my kids to get used to being the center of attention. I was also surprised that not many people we encountered spoke English well enough to communicate in a useful manner. Many spoke a few broken phrases. Communication was a bit more difficult than I had expected but we still did just fine. The Subway stops have signs in Korean characters as well as English words so navigating wasn't difficult.

Overall, we loved our experience in South Korea and highly recommend a visit to this delightful country.

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