Pyeongtaek Strawberry Farm

With Nick being gone for a month for an exercise Hillary has had to come up with some activities to keep the children busy, besides their weekly activities of gymnastics and language class.

Going to the Strawberry farm was kind of a big mile stone for her. She’s never needed to travel on any of the highways or major roads. She has only driven on post and just outside the main gate.

The farm has two tours, 11:ooam and 2:00pm, on Saturdays only.  We didn’t realize that you are supposed to call and make a reservation but they still allowed us to join the 2:00pm tour. It was 10,000 KRW per person to enter the greenhouse and eat all the strawberries your heart desires! After you’ve had your fill of strawberries you can go back up the hill to the big white building and enjoy homemade jam sandwiches and treat yourself at the chocolate fondue station.

We went with a group of spouses and children from Nick’s battalion. Everyone sure had a fun time. One of the children even made the comment that it was the best day he’s ever had!

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Our Children thought it was so neat to be able to eat the strawberries right off the vines. Ian of course being our picky one would only help us girls pick strawberries.

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If you ever come to Korea you must try the Korean strawberries, they are so sweet and delicious. No need for any sweetener on them.

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They also have some farm animals that you can pet and feed. They had goats, donkeys, puppies, hens/ roosters. and bunnies.

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After the excitement of seeing the animals and filling out bellies with fresh strawberries we munched on some yummy jam sandwiches!

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If you are looking for a little fresh air and some mouthwatering delicious fruit definitely check this place out! It’s very easy to navigate to using Waze and the owners speak English.

 

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Jongro Meat Restaurant and Kids Play

We’ve been on a bit of a hiatus due to Nick’s crazy work schedule this past month. The children and Hillary have been cooped up in the house during the week days. When the weekend rolls around Nick has been so drained from his 15+ hour work days that we just relax at home and let him breathe a sigh of relief for a bit.

So it was a much needed family day out at a really neat restaurant in Pyeongtaek. It was a Korean BBQ meat restaurant called Jongro which had a kids play area inside!

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Going on a Friday afternoon we pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves. They do have some Western seating but the majority of the place is Korean seating. We chose to sit in Korean seating as it is closer to the kids play. I really like the fact the the Korean seating had backs to their chairs instead of just sitting on a pillow.

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The menu was limited in variety of meat choices. All of their meat choices are pork, which is kind of a bummer – we’d prefer some chicken or beef options as well. You will have your many Korean side dishes like Kimchee offered with your meat.

Pictures of the menu:

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It also had a salad like bar. We never ventured over to try any of it but it all looked fresh and delicious!

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Here is what a typical Korean BBQ meal looks like.

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Korean BBQ has quickly become a family favorite! And we love trying out different Korean BBQ restaurants. This place rates pretty high, the food is excellent and it has the play gym for the children! It’s nice being able to relax and enjoy our meal and the children can run and play while the food is being cooked. They would come back and nibble a little here and there between breaks from playing.

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If anyone is interested in going to this restaurant it is in the next building over from La Cartata. Here is the picture of the outside of the building. It is on the second floor. There is a nice big parking garage behind the building as well. Our Suburban can easily be parked in there without fear of getting stuck – which is rare in Korean parking lots and garages.

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Starlight Festival at E-World

Another weekend, more traveling! Expecting that Nick would be taking a command in the near future, we’ve tried to knock out as much as we can before life gets busier. We have done a lot of traveling to Seoul and near Pyeongtaek but haven’t traveled south past Cheonan. We decided to plan a trip to Daegu to go to the amusement park E-World for the Lighting Festival.The drive wasn’t too bad, not nearly the amount of traffic as going to Seoul, so right there in itself was much less stressful! Another plus was it was a beautiful fall weekend driving through the mountains, which really made us wish to have brought our big camera gear and drone to get some neat footage/ pictures.

After getting checked into the Camp Walker Lodging and settled in a bit we headed to E-World which was all of a ten minute drive down the road. Once we arrived we stood in a fairly short line to buy our tickets into the park. This was a bit tricky as the gal spoke little English and trying to communicate height of children to figure out what type of pass to purchase for each. If you have children that are 120cm or shorter than this is NOT the park to go. We’ll talk more about why shortly.

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If you are going to the park to enjoy JUST the lights than yes by all means bring kids of all ages with you. BUT if you plan to go to enjoy the rides beware that their are very few rides available for the younger ages. We really didn’t feel like the money we spent on purchasing tickets for everyone to go into the park and ride the rides was worth it. There ended up being about four rides that our three older ones could ride on.

We got their late afternoon so it was still light out when we arrived. The park was beautifully decorated for the holidays. A big plus was that it’s very stroller friendly, but you’ll get a workout in because its quite hilly.

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We decided to grab dinner right when we got their before doing any of the rides and before the lines got crazy long. There was a pizza joint and a burger/chicken restaurant right next to each other. I ran into Globurger to get some chicken for Ian, while Nick found a spot to sit and order pizza for the rest of the family.

Glouburger – Staff was very friendly and helpful when it came to deciding what to get. One gentlemen (I assume was the manager) spoke fairly well English and made the ordering process very easy.

Pizza Mall – We got a large cheese pizza with a side of spaghetti and a drink all for 19,00w. The spaghetti was okay, noodles weren’t cooked quite long enough. We had a little miscommunication when it came to the pizza and had to have it redone. Nick was trying to explain only cheese no other toppings. Pizza was very cheesey! Kids LOVED the stringyness of the pizza and trying to eat it!

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Now onto the beautiful lights that lit up the park. They were pretty, but I was expecting a bit more than what they had. We made one big loop around the park and there were some areas I thought that could have used some more lights especially when there wasn’t anything near by (rides, food vendors, toy stands).

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They had a small parade/ train that made its way through the park with a few of the popular Korean characters and a couple prince and princesses walking behind the train.

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There is a zoo attached to the amusement park but by the time we got to the entrance of the zoo it was dark and the animals were hard to see or in their little nests for the night. The kids did find a robot that looked like Optimus prime and thought it was neat to ride in it.

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Of course when we saw the construction equipment that the kids could run we had to let them, or I’m sure Papa would have been disappointed in us. Olivia and Ian got to run a machine that would allow you to pick up logs and Tali, with the help of mommy, got to run a digger.

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The first ride we found that any of the kids could ride on Was the Music Express.  When we got on the ride to pick our cart and the 3 of us sat down, only to find out it’s two per cart. Hillary ended up having to sit four carts behind Olivia and Ian. Which made for a worried mom watching her children intently the whole ride making sure they weren’t scared or crying. Tough to do when you can only see the tips of the heads and little hands in the air. But  when we the ride stopped and met back up with the kids the smiles on their faces were obvious of the fun they had.

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Nataliya was not quite big enough to ride this ride so she sat with daddy and Cara, pouting. Two teenage Korean guys came by to try and cheer her up and squatted down on her level but she was still upset she was missing out on the fun.

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While mommy and the older two waited in line for their turn on the ride Nick and the younger two girls and walked around to check out some more of the pretty lights, and the LED rose garden.

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The second ride all 3 kids got to go on was the rocket/ spaceship ride. Olivia and Ian rode in one shuttle and Tali and mommy in another. This one you could control going up and down with a joystick while going round and round.

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One of the last frustrations was the play area that only Olivia was tall enough to go in – and it was basically just a little playground. So once again, disappointed kids.

And like any amusement park you have to stop in the Souvenir shops and always end up taking home some silly toy they will play with for a few days and forget.

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All in all, we were disappointed for the amount of money spent. The kids had fun, but the park could use some serious work in being appropriate for younger children.

 

Review and Tour – Dragon Hill Lodge (Yongsan/Seoul)

Dragon Hill Lodge (DHL) is the on-post lodging at Yongsan, and it’s pretty nice! It’s very conveniently located as 19th Human Resources Company (the reception company) is just across the parking lot. It’s very close to Gate 1 which provides easy access to Samgakji station, which can get you started to just about anywhere in Seoul.

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Hotel Overview

The grounds and the common spaces are quite beautiful. The pictures speak for themselves.

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 Amenities

Pool – Disappointing. It’s just a 4 lane lap pool, so not very kid-friendly.

Playground – This is one of the contributing factors to us and the kids retaining our sanity over our nearly two week stay. It’s got a section meant for younger children and a section for older children.

Basketball Court- Small court with one hoop located next to the playground.

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Restaurants 

This is one of the strongest features of DHL. There are four sit-down restaurants and four fast food.

Greenstreet

Your typical American-style restaurant, it has a breakfast buffet in the morning that’s pretty solid, and kids 4 and under eat off it for free when an adult orders.

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Oasis

A Mexican/American sit-down restaurant which features a taco buffet with some BBQ options.

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Bentley’s Pub

A pub that serves appetizer foods while you sit back and have a few drinks.

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Deli/ Bakery

If we weren’t eating breakfast at Greenstreet we would be munching on these delicious donuts and slurping down strawberry/ banana smoothies.

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Subway/ Pizza Hut

This was our lifesaver for our picky children! Another plus your can order over the phone and have it delivered to your room.

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Ice Cream Parlor

This is towards the back of the restaurant. Don’t expect a Baskin Robins variety of flavors, but it calms the ice cream craving you have.

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Shoppette

Friendly staff and a great place to grab a few items you need or forgot to pack. Also nice to be able to have a place to grab a few grocery items to have in your room for those lazy afternoon or late night snacks.

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Rooms

Being a family of 6 ( 2 Adults, 4 children ages 6y to 9m) they gave us two adjoining king rooms. The rooms were nice, had lots of closet space to put all your luggage. Each room had a microwave, some dishes, a mini fridge and coffee pot.

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Business Center

They have an electronics store as well to help accommodate you in getting a new Korean phone and number.  Our original plan was to keep my State side phone number with Google’s ProjectFi service, but we quickly realized that it will be much more beneficial to have a Korean phone number. There are many great apps to be able to keep in touch with family. We use the Facebook messenger app to make phone calls and video calls to family and friends that are state side.

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Information Desk

They have staff on duty that can help you plan out a day of sight seeing. They can help with car rentals to tickets to many different attractions and entertainment. Also help with you figuring out the best subway route to get to your destinations. One of my favorite things was this big map of Seoul that has endless options of attractions to pick!

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All in all, DHL is a really solid option for both short and extended stays. We’ve stayed there a few times since inprocessing and had a great experience each time.

Seoul Lantern Festival

Day 1 of our Veteran’s Day weekend was a whirlwind! Once we left the Children’s Grand Park we headed over to DHL to get checked in and have a nice hot meal at one of the many restaurants before heading to the subway to check out the Lantern Festival.

The train was a quick ride with one connection stop to get to Cheonggyecheon Stream. No matter if it’s one connection or several it can easily get confusing. Especially when you have some of your group needing to use the elevator (strollers) and others take the stairs. You will easily get split up and may take awhile before meeting back up.

When we first got to the Lantern Festival we heard chanting from a distance and noticed a group of a few hundred people protesting on the other side of the stream. Than all of a sudden we see hundreds of cops walking along the side walk on our side of the stream across the streets from us with their riot gear and shields. No excitement by us though, they all just passed us by.

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The Seoul Lantern Festival’s theme was “Seoul’s Roots:  The Lifestyle of our Ancestors”, this year’s festival will highlight Seoul’s long history and many traditions. They had wish lantern-making and New Year lantern-making.

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There was a hot air balloon that you could go in and get a small taste of what it’s like to ride in one. It would take you about 20 feet into the air and come back down.

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The lanterns were beautiful. You could tell many long hours were putting into creating each one to tell a small part of Seoul’s history. It was neat to be able to walk along and learn a  little bit of Korean history.

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I was so surprised to see how long the kids had lasted – first a full day at the Children’s Park, then a few hours at the lantern festival. They sure were troopers keeping up with the adults, staying up WAY past their bedtimes and doing all that walking, especially Olivia!

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One of the vendor booths was a place that creates 3D figures of people and/or pets. You stand in the center of an area with 70 cameras surrounding you to get all angels to create the 3D figures. They let Olivia stand in and show us how it works. Of course we were both very intrigued being photographers ourselves.

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Some of our favorite lanterns were the Dragon, I SEOUL YOU, and the colorful lantern with flowers. Olivia’s favorite was the “chocolate chip fish” in other words the spotted fish.

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They even had a lantern of Mount Rushmore!

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By this point we had lost a few soldiers from exhaustion. Ian was unconscious with daddy’s hat as a face mask. Olivia was hanging on by a thread. And Nataliya was her usual fierce self.

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It was a busy day with over 17,00 steps, and walked more than 7 miles! We had a great time spent with old friends and new ones. Next year we will definitely plan on going to the Lantern Festival right at dusk so the kids aren’t so tuckered out.

 

 

Seoul Grand Children’s Park

With Nick having a four day weekend thanks to Veteran’s Day we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and make a trip up to Seoul. Dragon Hill Lodge (DHL) has kind of been like a second home for us, with how long we stayed there when we first got to Korea and the few times we’ve gone back to stay. The kids get so excited about going to “The Dragon” and playing at the playground!

We started the long weekend with the Seoul Grand Children’s Park. It was a little chilly but we bundled up and enjoyed seeing all the animals and spending time with great friends! The park is free to enter but if you use one of the park’s parking lots you will pay about 16,000 won.

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Map of the park.

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The cool weather wasn’t going to stop us from having a fun time!

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Before walking around the park we stopped at one of the little restaurants that was close to the entrance. We got two baskets of Chicken that were thickly battered and deliciously fried! One had a bit of a kick to it and the other was like a sweet garlic with a hint of honey flavor. Surprisingly Ian was the only only to really give it a try and liked it. There was a nice outdoor patio area that would be  nice to sit out on during the warmer months.

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First up were the seals! We got to watch them swim and play with one another. And I never realized how big a Sea Lion can get! This guy was monstrous!

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In the viewing area underneath the stage of the seals they had a display of a seal and polar bear bones. Kids thought it was neat to see “how they are built”.

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Ian was a little disappointed that their weren’t any real polar bears in the exhibit. But he did get a picture with a few statutes!

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While waiting to meet up with some friends we went to check out Herbivores exhibit where we got to feed the deer and see some Zebras and rams.

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This deer apparently was very hungry and impatient and grabbed the whole box of food from Olivia’s hands.

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We must have gotten there around feeding time because everyone was either munching on their dinners or impatiently waiting for their food.

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Finally we met up with our friends and headed to the small animals village where we got to see some Meerkats, chubby prairie dogs, and a Wallaroo.

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Our crazy group of children loved running from place to place together. It was like follow the leader or monkey see monkey do with this bunch!

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Next we went to the Aquatic Bird exhibit where a pelican was very interested in the kids. He would follow the kids up and down the the viewing room and kept opening his massive mouth.

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The park trees were still covered in the fall foliage and it was beautiful being surrounded by all the autumn colors.

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The last exhibit that we checked out at the World of Ferocious Animals. Sadly the elephants weren’t out, I’m guessing it was to chilly to have them out. We did get to see lots of big cats, like Bengal Tigers, Lions, Jaguar, Servals, foxes, and Hyenas. A male Leopard  was pacing back and forth right by the viewing area and the kids thought it was pretty neat to see him up close!

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Some day we want to get a cat that is a cross between a Serval and a domestic. I just wanted to take these two home with us.

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Last stop before we left was the Wizard of Oz playground. Kids got to play for about 5 minutes before it started to rain on us. By the time we got to the truck we were pretty wet.

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The kids sure enjoyed the afternoon with great friends running around and playing while seeing many different animals.  The adults had fun catching up and chatting while walking from exhibit to exhibit. There is a decent amount of stores and shops, with a good variety of activities for all age groups. We definitely recommend the park – particularly since admission is free!