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South Korea with Kids: A day in Seoul

At the Palace

At the Palace

We flew from Thailand to Seattle on Asiana Airlines.

I find that one’s choice of airline can make a great difference to flying with kids, and Asiana is one of the highest ranked airlines by Skytrax. It was indeed superb and the family was very happy with the choice.

Our trip included a 12 hour layover in Seoul, so we decided to take the day and explore the city, since we’d not been to Korea before.

Seoul is connected to the airport by subway train, and within about 50 minutes we emerged right in the center of downtown. We managed to negotiate the local metro without problem, and we found our way to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, rated the #1 site by Lonely Planet. The palace (and grounds) is huge. This is not like any European palace – rather, it is a collection of pavilions and courtyards, not so different from Topkapi in Istanbul. The kids loved watching the changing of the guard ceremony – guards dressed in traditional dress accompanied by cymbals clashing and trumpets blaring, march around the palace at 11 a.m. every day. We also briefly popped into the National Folk Museum and admired some really kid friendly statues.

Our next stop was Insadong-Il, a narrow street crowded with souvenir stores and expensive handicraft shops – it is a big tourist attraction, and we found some of the stalls fascinating – especially since we had no idea what they were selling. We tried to find somewhere Korean to eat, but English signs on the Korean restaurants were few and far between, so we found ourselves at Burger KIng – not somewhere I would normally take the family, but after 5 weeks in Asia it didn’t seem like such a bad idea and everyone was really very happy to be eaten “Western” again.

Last stop was the Cheonggyecheon Stream – this is an amazing place – a stream with a beautiful path alongside running right through the middle of the city. It seemed to be very popular with kids, and ours joined the Korean kids splashing around on what was a very humid day.  It was a welcome oasis from the big bustling city going on all around us and really is a great example of urban park architecture.

Seoul - lots of fun for kids

Seoul – lots of fun for kids

Our Seoul experience was way too short. Four or five hours in an ancient capital city just isn’t going to do it any justice! Gal felt that it was just like being back home in Vancouver, and in many ways it did feel very familiar – downtown Seoul feels like many North American cities – yes, the writing is different, but we have never seen so many American fast food joints as in Seoul – Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, KFC, McDonalds everywhere, and of course Vancouver has a large Asian population. We also saw soldiers – American and Korean, and the presence of the US military since the Korean War is clearly a big reason as to why the city feels so familiar in many ways. We’d be happy to go back.

We got back on the train to the airport, and thus ended another incredible family trip.

(PS: I plan great family trips for families all over the world – click here for more details).