Seoul has always been one of my favourite cities in Asia, ever since I first got acquainted with her due to my job.
It is the city where I saw snow for the first time, where I had the craziest time with my co-workers working during the day and shopping till we dropped (literally) when we were off work, and where doota resides. 😅
I love the mix of traditional and modern architecture, the directness of its people and the cafes, coffee and food in general.
The hubs joined me during one of my business trips, me working during the day and him exploring the city on his own, and us spending our first wedding anniversary there before we flew to Taipei.
He fell in love with Seoul too, and since then, I have lost count of the number of times we have visited Seoul, extending our stay to Jeju Island and Busan on some occasions.
I've almost always had business trips to Seoul, save for a two year assignment where I worked on ASEAN.
We made it a point to visit once a year, almost every year.
Even for our babymoon, we chose to go to Seoul because we wanted the familiarity.
When the hubs' friend announced that he was going to hold his wedding in Korea, there was almost no hesitation on the hubs' part to agree to attend the wedding.
Of course, he wanted to be there for his long-time friend but it was also because, yay any reason to visit Korea is a good reason.
Hence marks our first trip to Seoul with our plus one.
We've pretty much visited all the touristy and not-so touristy places in Seoul, and none of them seemed particularly kids-friendly, so I was a little skeptical about filling up the itinerary.
Yet, a simple Google search informed me otherwise and without much hassle I was able to plan our itinerary, mostly centred around the little boss.
As much as I enjoy traveling, I do not always have the discipline or energy to write about all the experiences.. but I shall attempt for this.
As with my usual obsession with numbers, I have selected 50 pictures from over 300 we have taken over the 6 days in Seoul.
I foresee this post to be godawfully long, so please bear with me (and perhaps just scroll through the pictures, if you will) as I put our little adventures in Seoul, into words and pictures.
Our adventure started with the fish tank in the hotel lobby.
We'd taken the red eye flight to Seoul, and finally arrived at the hotel around 10am. The little one was napping in the airport limousine bus but immediately woke up when I tried to transfer her to the couch.
She was so intrigued by the fishes, and even started mimicking them. 😂
She (and the hubs) managed to charm the reception into giving us a room much earlier than the 2pm check-in time so all was good.
We thought we could take a nap but the little one spent an hour speaking Korean to us and then walking around our room instead of lying in bed.
So we headed out for lunch and our first destination – Coex Aquarium.
There was some drama at lunch, which I have written about on Day 134 so I shall not repeat myself.
I baby-wore the little one on our way there and she managed to nap for an hour, though she was a little grumpy when she woke up.
But she warmed up very quickly when she saw the little Nemos and Dorys and Kois.
She was most intrigued by the penguins, and I think it might be because of the penguin story books she has at home.
She must be wondering how they got from the books to this tank over here.
Day 2 in Seoul, we visited Pororo park with our friends and their 3 year old.
This is an indoor park with different rooms/sections for kids to explore and play in – playground, ball pit, carousel.. but she liked this infant play gym the most.
She kept wanting to come back here!
While other kids were happily falling and bouncing around this bouncy castle, she was busy trying not to fall. 😅
This was a rare shot because she was in fact clinging onto me the entire time while I sat at the edge (because the weight limit was 30kg lol).
My proudest moment was when she took a train ride with our friend's daughter, holding hands the entire time.
She looked really blank though, but I was glad because it was actually a pretty brave thing for her to do.
I guess she was also getting hungry and sleepy, so we took a lunch break where she finished her puree quickly and immediately started eyeing her little jiejie's fried rice.
She pointed at the fried rice and then put her finger on her lips, and said, "Aahhrm?"
To our friends' kind insistence and our embarrassment, we shared the rice, scooping the untouched side for the little boss.
She was her cheeky self again after lunch, taking famfies with us and giving us her look of disapproval when we said "Again, again!" for the third famfie attempt.
Day 3, at the wedding.
This was the moment of reveal as we stepped out of the bathroom with a little Dae Jang-guem.
After the ceremony where she had to sit still to watch, she pretty much ran amok outside the ballroom, trying to dance and fly in her hanbok.
She got acquainted and hooked to the water dispenser at our lunch area, hence regrettably most of her cute pictures in hanbok also featured this water dispenser.
I asked her to do her usual cheeky face but she chose to dig her nose instead.
But she followed my instructions for this one, when I asked her to squeeze her cheeks.
The other thing that occupied her time was the cups.
Here she was doing a cheers (pronounced "Kar!" in Clarissa's Korean) with me, to bliss and happiness for the new couple.
And then she fed herself a good portion of Korean rice, and tried to sneak 2 bits of it home.
But Daddy said, "Aiyo so messy!" and cleaned her up.. while I snapped a picture of them, which is now one of my favorite pictures for this trip.
One indulgent, one adoring.
Attempts at a proper famfie failed as she did a full 90-degree bow instead.
This was taken after our friend distracted her by shaking a snack container in front of her.
She was looking at the snacks, not the camera.
Totally busted after the wedding.
She spent most of this trip resisting sleep. I suspect she has FOMO – fear of missing out. 😂
She wouldn't let us hum the good night tune, wouldn't let us pat her bum.. because she didn't want to be hypnotised to sleep.
We figured it'd be best to let her be, as she'd eventually doze off. But sometimes the hubs would deliberately start humming just to hear her protest.
Day 4, Seoul Dream Forest.
We had a very late start, and made the little one continue sleeping after her morning milk.
This place looked very nice on the websites but it took 2 transfers, 15 train stops and a cab ride to get here.
To be honest I felt slightly miffed that the hubs left the itinerary where I'd listed the directions to get there in the hotel room. He said he forgot, which was probably the truth, but I thought it was because he thought my itinerary was crap as compared to his.
The difficult part about traveling with a toddler is that you cannot leave things to chance or think you'll have it figured out, because chances are she'd be tired, hungry, cranky or all of the above.
I didn't say anything because I knew we were both tired and really it wasn't anyone's fault that the forest was indeed not easy to find.
But we got there, relieved.
Unfortunately it started drizzling less than an hour into the park so we took a break at the cafe with a very nice view.
Little boss wasn't at her best behaviour, rejecting her puree and wanted only her biscuits. She made a mess flicking puree everywhere.
The rain showed no sign of stopping so we decided to leave as we had to return the stroller.
The hubs got hold of 2 plastic bags, the kind we usually see in front of mall entrances whenever it rains, to hold wet umbrellas.
He used them as water-proof leggings for Clarissa to protect her legs from the rain.
It was hilarious yet really smart, but we weren't in the mood for pictures then.
We cleaned up while the hubs checked the direction back to the train station. The plan was to flag a cab and get to a neaeby train station so we could take the train back to the hotel.
We braved the rain and managed to get into a cab very quickly.. but the driver spoke only Korean and kept gesturing that he could not take us to the station the hubs pointed out.
There was no way I was going to pack myself, the 2 big bags I was lugging along, and our baby out of the cab and into the rain again, so I suggested a place I thought EVERYONE in Seoul would know: Myeongdong.
"Ah, Myeongdong? Myeongdong! Ok!" The cab driver finally spoke some English.
I knew the hubs didn't want to do that, because he thought it was going to be expensive due to the distance, and to make matters worse the cab driver kept fiddling with the GPS while trying to confirm our hotel address many, many times.
So I said I'd pay for it with my credit card, but he grumpily said no.
By now we were in the cab for some 10 minutes and the fare was some 7,000₩, which in my opinion wasn't too expensive and I also suspected that myeongdong wasn't that far away.
I liken this to the distance between punggol and tampines. Very far by MRT but not so far by cab.
"It's going to cost $100 lor," the hubs was frustrated and said he was going to look for the nearest station and drop off there. 😯
Fortunately the bubs was fast asleep in the hubs' chest. She was fussing but immediately laid on the hubs' chest and fell asleep, after we told her, "Uncle scold!".. referring to the poor cab uncle who obviously had no intention of chiding her.
Her funny reaction also served as a good comic relief for us, especially her Daddy who looked like he was about to hit someone.
I didn't know if he was angry with me, the driver, or the rain.
Indeed Day 4 seemed to be the make or break point for us, where nothing seemed to be going well for two tired patents and one over stimulated toddler.
It was still raining when we got back, and the fare totalled to 14,200₩ – perhaps cheaper than going from tampines to punggol during peak hours. 😜
We decided to settle our dinner at a small traditional Korean family restaurant that was on the first floor of the hotel building.
That didn't go too well either, because there was no baby chair and we took turns trying to hold an active toddler while feeding her with one hand.
The omu rice we ordered for me to share with her turned out to be spicy and we had to get her a bowl of plain Korean rice, with omelette that was dipped in hot water to wash off any potential spiciness.
I fed her so the hubs could eat first and boy, was it tough to feed a toddler as she stood on the chair, reaching out to touch the window, the table and everything else.
The hubs realised as much when he finished his dinner and took over the feeding.
At one point during the dinner, he asked me, "Would we ever get a divorce because of her?"
I paused to consider the question, and said, "But I have been very patient."
"I know, but there were times you looked like you have given up."
"Well, I think it was more of exhaustion, rather than that of giving up."
There were several times during the trip where he'd thrown tantrums, like when the clinic called him on his mobile multiple times to inform him about some complications with the helper's medical check-up and he didn't want to pick up an overseas call. Or when he found only one pair of those invisible socks he wanted to wear with his loafers, and threw the ankle socks angrily back into the suitcase.
(Which by the way wasn't the case; there was one more pair which he overlooked but discovered the following day.)
Those were the times where I struggled, to determine if it was the real him or the tired him acting up like this. I could have picked a fight, but I held back. Perhaps that was why I looked like I'd given up.
But nope, I was giving in and staying calm. It took effort, and it'd always take effort to hold myself together, to hold us together.
We put the conversation past us and Day 5 started positively.
I'd originally planned to visit the Children's Museum on Day 2 but we swapped it with Pororo and it turned out that the Children's Museum was closed on Mondays.
Fortunately the surrounding Children's Grand Park was open and we stuck to the plan.
It was indeed a grand park.
Excited baby? Check.
I'm not sure why she felt compelled to do a half squat whenever she was around these flowers. 😂
We walked along the meandering lanes surrounded with greenery and children leisurely sitting around, drawing up a storm.
The little boss had fun exploring this huge playground and suddenly wanted to go down the slide, which was too wide for her so I quickly joined her instead.
There was a zoo in the park too, and we went up close and personal with the deers as they popped their heads out for feeds.
I was quite terrified and stood a small distance away. 😂
And then we came across this pair of ridiculously cute looking poodle/deer (?), I just had to snap a picture.
I fed the little boss lunch at one of the resting areas, which she finished very quickly. She then tried to search her diaper bag for biscuits and said to me, "Aahhrm?", with 2 index fingers on her lips.
So she happily ate her biscuits while watching other babies around her.
"Bebe!" She exclaimed.
We rode on her happy mood and took some pictures together. 😁
My heart couldn't handle this combination of cheekiness and sweetness.
Post lunch, she chased after pigeons and ran excitedly along the pavement.
Intrigued by the ducks, which again turned from a soft toy she hugs to sleep at night, to a moving, swimming thing.
They can be a swan, a goose, a duck.. yet in the eyes of a little someone, they are all "duct duct"s.
It was our turn to have lunch and the restless one eventually dozed off while having milk.
We made a makeshift cover with cloth and my hair clip, to shield her from light and the symphony of un-calm kids crying around her.
She's pretty good sitting in the stroller but she likes fiddling around with the cover and buckle and what-nots.
We tried to practise what I read somewhere, about not telling your kids "don't do xxx" and instead tell them what you want them to do.
So we'd tell her, "Put your hands on your tummy!" and she'd immediately stop touching whatever she was touching and place her hands on her tummy.. smile at us cheekily and then go back to fiddling whatever she was fiddling with. 😂
We strolled along the park as the water fountain show started, and we snuck in a picture before running away with the stroller, to avoid getting wet.
"Where am I, and who are you?"
The little one woke up from her hour long nap, just when we were about to return to the visitor's centre.
We left the Children's Grand Park, which our muddled heads sometimes referred to as "Grand Children's Park and wondered why it sounded odd, filled with very fond memories.
We took the train every day in Seoul, baby-wearing her while she asserts her autonomy by always reaching out to hold on to the pole.
Sometimes friendly strangers say "Ippu yo!" (Meaning pretty) and attempt to play with her, but she mostly waves hello and then hides her face shyly.
Sometimes she gives her mother or father kangeroo hugs on demand, wrapping her hands around our back and squeezing us tight.
The best part about baby-wearing her is feeling her sweaty head lying against my chest.
Sometimes she gets bored and does stunts like this. 😅
I baby-wore her for the first two days of our trip, but my back and hips gave way on the third day. I couldn't walk without feeling like someone was punching me at each stride I took.
So the hubs took over for the next three days while I carried the diaper bag and our bag.
On Day 5, he also carried the diaper bag saying it made him feel more balanced. He also said this was good training for his upcoming reservist. 😅
We take a picture like this every trip since the rise of #leeminho.
It's a long running joke about my two, ahem, lookalike ex-boyfriends.
But of course, the world has recently been overtaken by Captain Yoo. #DOTS
He's here introducing the latest facial masks to you, sharing a smoothie with you, eating an ice cream with you, accompanying you on your bus rides, and on your tshirts, towels, socks.. he's everywhere you need him to be. 😂
One of my favorite moments in this trip is us sitting by the window in the corner of our room, having dinner together.
For two nights out of the five, we packed dinner back, a much more relaxed way to eat because the little one somehow sits properly on her own, eating and staring out of the window.. whereas in restaurants without a high chair it seemed more interesting to stand and jump and dance.
She tried the fresh lemon juice on the first night and made a really funny, soured out face.
We took a video of her doing that and kept re-watching it.
After the first sip, she reached for it and took a sip again, making the same face, and I guess this confirmed her suspicion: This drink is very sour. 😂
When we offered the drink to her the next day, she very politely said no and walked away.
She was happy to sit in her corner and feed herself biscuits or rice cereals, or to share a bit of our gimbap.
We didn't have the chance to go for Korean bbq or the army stew, because of the risk of a toddler getting a bbq-ed palm.
So I asked the hubs if he'd like to order some Korean fried chicken in instead.
Glad we did! Because that made the man happy.
The combo for two was too much for us to finish, so the hubs offered some to the hotel staff, who gladly took them.
Day 6, we headed out for breakfast at Dunkin donuts in Myeongdong.
We were due to return to Singapore and there was nothing much on our agenda except to have a more leisurely breakfast, walk along the streets of Myeongdong and pop by Lotte for some food/souvenir shopping.
I gave her some of the waffle i was having. It took her a bit of effort to bite into it and chew it off, and of course she had to show me her cheeky face while at it.
"No more pictures, Mommy!"
She deliberately covered her face after my previous snap.
Daddy then took her out for a walk while I finished up my breakfast and coffee.
I found them dancing to Kpop music along the street. 😁
Myeongdong was much quieter on a random Tuesday morning so we let her walk on her own.
She'd walk and then pause in front of a store blasting some Kpop dance hit, and start dancing along, usually bending her knees and going up and down, with both her hands raised.
It's like a slightly faster and more groovy version of.. taichi.
Or she'd spot some pigeons and go "BARD BARD!" (bird), and chase after them like this.
The father and daughter shared the must-have ice cream.
He'd let her have a little bite and she'd go "Sssuuuu" and shiver slightly before breaking into a bright smile.
Daddy would then walk ahead and she'd follow closely behind, pointing at the ice cream cone.
Full concentration while she had about 0.8% of the ice cream.
And then a little someone tried to buy up a storm at the supermarket, taking things off the shelves and passing them to us.
The sales assistants watched on, laughing, while the hubs tried to warn her, "Jiejie scold!"
He went as far as to ask them to really scold her, which they said "No no no" and tried to play with the little imp instead.
She ran away from the sudden attention, hugging her Daddy's legs and hiding her face, laughing shyly.
We had to scoop her up and out of the mart quickly.
One more picture before we checked out of the hotel and left for the "aah-poop".
When we returned from our couple trip in London, the hubs said he was not going on a vacation without the bubs again. Somewhere in the middle of our trip in Seoul, he said we should take her on a holiday with us only after she turns four. 😂
Well, I think we'd only remember the bright, cheery face of a little girl zooming around excitedly, always ready to start the day, and forget about the exhaustion.. Soon. 😁