Travelogue: Seoul and Jeju (South Korea), Oct 2018
I was having my nails painted one week before the Korea trip. “Jeju 好像会有海啸,” the manicurist told me that Jeju might have Tsunami. She had checked the weather forecast and was planning to change her travel plans. That was one of the many things that started our trip on an ominous cloud.
From Singapore to Seogwipo
On the day we fly, Baby EX had fever. She needed good sleep to recover but with a red eye flight without a bassinet, she couldn’t sleep well on me. The torturous 6-hour Korean Air flight from Singapore to Korea was with a feverish baby who couldn’t sleep well. And that made three of us sleepless.
When we landed, our severe lack of sleep made us unwell. We were both nausea and had diarrhea at the airport. To make things worse, my menses came a week earlier at the airport and I had cramps. By the time we changed her diaper, settled our toilet runs and snack a bit, because we didn’t eat much on the plane, we realised we had not much time for our connecting flight.
From Incheon Airport, we had to train to Gimpo airport and run a long way to the counter. I mean a real long way. I was running with all my might while baby EX was strapped on me, and hubby was catching up with many pieces of luggage. Though many hiccups, God showed us favour with people. I didn’t think we could check in anymore at 11:05AM, but the staff let us through for our 11:15AM flight. Last on board, but at least we did not miss our Jeju connecting flight. Otherwise, that would have been troublesome with our rental car and tiring on the three sickly us.
Journey had yet to ended when we reached Jeju Airport. We still had to take the shuttle bus to Lotte Rent-A-Car to get our rental car. Superman hubby drove us an hour from Jeju City to Seogwipo, while I entertained baby EX.
So by the time we reached our Seogwipo Airbnb, we were bashed. It was about time for dinner, but we had no appetite nor strength to get food. Using last ounce of our strength, we washed up and concussed on our bed till the next morning.
Days in Jeju
Miraculously, Baby EX fever was gone the next morning and she was back to her active self. Moreover, hubby and I were feeling much better with our appetites and strength back! Yays! I was so worried that our Jeju trip would end up having all of us recuperating in our accommodation.
We proceeded with our itinerary and had a great time. I wrote a lot about our Jeju trip, including what do and eat: travel.joogostyle.com/tag/jeju. So read up and have fun planning.
Oh one notable drama in Jeju. I was taking things out of the car, while Baby EX and hubby went ahead to get a queue number from the abalone porridge restaurant. When I met up with them, my hubby asked me in a flustered tone, “Do you have wet tissue?”. I quickly dug up a piece and passed him.
He recounted a dog had suddenly pounced on Baby EX and licked her whole face. She was stunned by the whole incident, but probably too young to feel any fear. Although she had recovered from fever, she still had after fever rash. So I was hoping this lick wouldn’t make things worse. We didn’t know if this dog was wild or kept, had rabies or what weird disease. I was hunting for its owner, asking nearby store owners. Nobody knew where the dog came from. It kept following and hovering around us. Before it attacked Baby EX, hubby said the dog had pounced on another child and the boy fell to the floor. Good thing, it was our turn and we sought refuge in the restaurant. After we were done and came out, the dog was nowhere in sight.
We had two full days in Jeju and it should be sufficient. However, with a baby or toddler, I would recommend three full days to enjoy more places in Jeju at a slow pace.
For reviews of the food and attractions in Jeju, head over to travel.joogostyle.com/tag/jeju.
Days in Seoul
We had a week in Seoul, but we didn’t plan much for it. And because of baby EX’s early bedtime, we did not enjoy the nightlife of Seoul. That’s a shame, because it’s a city that is more happening at night. In the morning, only certain bakeries and coffee shops are open for our early wake up time.
Even though we didn’t plan much, we still managed to squeeze in quite a few places into our Seoul itinerary. To get a taster of all the places listed below, refer to “Places to visit in Seoul (Autumn)“. For a few of these attractions, I have dedicated detailed write ups for them:
(links open in new tabs)
- Outside of the City
- Children’s Day
- Children’s Grand Park
- Seoul Children’s Museum
- Cultural Day
- Gyeongbokgung Palace (mention of Changdeokgung)
- Tongin Market
- Bukchon Hanok Village (mention of Seocheon Village)
- City Life
- Seoul Experiences: Hair Salon and Perfume Making
- Myeongdong (Shop and Eat)
- Ewha Woman’s University
- Box Square
- Seoullo 7017
Day One in Seoul
Thankfully, our flight from Jeju to Gimpo airport was uneventful, unlike our flight from Singapore to Jeju. It was almost evening by the time we settled in our accommodation at Ever8 Residence (serviced apartments). So we had Nene Chicken for dinner and slept early for our early morning trip to Nami Island the next day.
Being such a beautiful place, I wrote quite a few articles about Nami Island: travel.joogostyle.com/tag/nami-island
Yet, behind our trip to Nami Island, lies an eventful story. We planned to reach the island early so we had more time to enjoy it. Yet, a dramatic start delayed our trip by more than an hour.
I was adjusting the baby wear straps and baby EX in it. After I was done, I turned around for hubby. *Blink blink.* Only our folded stroller stood at the platform. Where’s hubby? Did I miss him among the many people? My heart beat faster as the crowd thinned. I looked left and right, and behind me. It’s now an almost empty platform and hubby was nowhere in sight. Was he kidnapped? He had all our valuables with him, including my handbag.
I picked up the stroller and went down to the control station, scouring the platform at the same time. My phone and belongings were with him, so there was no way for me to contact him nor take a train back to our accommodation. I didn’t memorise his Korean phone number too.
I waved hard for someone, in the end a tourist, to get help from nearby patrol officer, when actually I could have just walked out of the gantries. Anyway, station personnel helped me to contact staff from other stations to keep a lookout for hubby. In my mind, I was thinking hubby was abducted and insisted on CCTV, but they could only view it with a police officer. Meaning I needed to make a police report first and they didn’t want to do that. So I could do was to wait in the cold. Good thing it was baby EX nap time and she slept a bit while I waited. After some time, the station master told me my husband was spotted and most likely to be in this or that train timing.
True enough, about that time, he waved me out of the warm office and said your husband? There he was, running frantically around the station to look for me until the station master shouted for his attention and pointed to us. He ran towards us and gave us a big hug. We thanked the station staff and thank God we found each other again.
“I went back inside the train to retrieve the ticket stubs I put in the seat pockets. Didn’t know we actually don’t need them to exit. I thought there was time, but when I came out, the train door closed! Baby EX saw me leaving with the train.”
“Ah! I did ask her if she saw you and where you went. Too bad she doesn’t know how to speak yet.”
We’re just glad nothing bad happened to either of us and we still found each other. So our journey to Nami island was delayed and then further delayed by the rain when we stepped foot on the island. But that didn’t dampen our spirits to explore the children friendly island. More of our Nami Island experience: travel.joogostyle.com/tag/nami-island
For reviews of the food, attractions and activities in Seoul, head over to travel.joogostyle.com/tag/seoul.
Closing Thoughts on Seoul
Would I recommend family with young children to visit Korea? No.
Firstly, it’s hard to find nursing rooms even in the big city of Seoul. Hardly any shops, cafes or restaurants have a place to change diaper, not even a wall-mounted changing station. Even though the nursing rooms in their departmental stores were incredible, there’s not often a Lotte mall around. As for most attractions, we had to walk distances to find a baby room. Well, at least there is always a baby room in the subway station, although it is always locked up and we had to get the staff who was usually not nearby to unlock. Also, the rooms always seemed to be converted from office or other rooms, and were not usually clean.
Furthermore, the food we wanted to eat in Korea was either spicy, fried or with ginseng. So that meant our young toddler could not share our food and we had to either prepare our own food or pack other food. But that’s also because we were quite strict with her diet when she was below 2.
Moreover, it’s hard to get around in the bus and subway with a stroller or wheelchair. Lift access at subway stations has improved drastically since ten years ago. However, like nursing rooms in the stations, the lifts often seemed built in like an afterthought, haphazardly added in wherever possible.
The process of taking a lift doesn’t flow seamlessly. Often, we were charged for an extra journey just because we changed lifts to get to another train line. Those taking escalators wouldn’t face this double fare “penalty” because of how the extra gantries were positioned only for those taking lifts.
Since the subway network is so complicated, I had to tag along for the lift. That meant hubby and I kept paying double fare. :( We saw a local exploiting a loophole, paying 1 person fare for 2, but we didn’t do that for some strange integrity reason. Yet, we were paying so much more simply because of the lift design.
In addition, you know those big gantries that allow strollers and wheelchairs to pass through? We passed through one of them and realised there’s no lift on the other side. Face palm. Why have that big gantry there in the first place to mislead us in!? You can’t really fault us, because it’s only when we past through the big gantry before we could see there’s only the escalator.
Either we had to tap out to use another gantry for the lift or just use carry the baby and stroller down the super long escalator. And guess what, another group had it worse. This SG/HK group of older folks made the same “mistake” as us. In the end, they had to carry the disabled man while another hold on to the wheelchair as they made their way down the very long escalator. Talk about danger.
In addition, lifts are often spoiled or in repair. You wouldn’t know about this before the gantries. And at some stations, we were not able to find lifts for transfer to another line or to exit. You get stuck or risk having your stroller on the escalator. Not at all a pleasant commuting experience for us.
Also, unlike the fun loving vibe from Korean variety shows like running man, people we met were generally unfriendly and rude. People on the streets bump into you to get you out of the way, and of course don’t expect a sorry. And not sure if they find children a bother, but service staff generally give us a disgruntled and unfriendly service, giving us a we owe them money face. And public in general doesn’t seem to friendly to kids too.
Oh one last thing, we lost our Tula baby carrier in a taxi and no one could help us trace back to the taxi to get it back. I still could remember the unhelpful receptionist at our accommodation, Shinchon Ever8. So upsetting that we lost our beloved Tula, although at least it was on the last second day and we didn’t really need it anymore.
Overall, we didn’t really have a pleasant trip. Korea is perhaps more fun for the young adults who are into K-pop.