Seoul Travel Flash Cards

For countries where I don’t speak their language and have minimal understanding, I create words cards like this.

When I was younger, I travelled without much planning. But with kids now, it’s a totally complete different story. These simple word cards I created have been proven to be useful in Seoul. Locals understand me. I got to my destination and my requests fulfilled!

In South Korea, my family and I take the taxi everywhere because of our young children and the bitter winter air. It is affordable and saves the hassle of going up and down the escalators, figuring out the exits. We tried taking the train once overseas but the transfers and dealing with 2 cranky kids wore us out.

Tip!

  • Check the address on different websites. A location can have different addresses.
  • Copy that address (the one you most commonly find) on Google Map to check. It’s good to have an idea of the distance from your accommodation, or what’s around the place.
  • When you are heading to a country like South Korea where they are amazingly tech savvy, you have to download NAVER. It’s available in English, which is great for tourists! Naver is much more accurate than Google Maps for Seoul because the addresses, images are more frequently updated.
  • Make use of your T-money cards. Top it up frequently so you can just tap and go when you alight. No more fumbling with loose notes or coins.

(Right click to save!)

For food

These are grill restaurants in Seoul with fantastic reviews online.

Maple Tree House

I’ll just do a quick review of the place since I didn’t plan on writing a full food review. I only managed to head to Maple Tree House and the meat was excellent. Location’s a little hard to find because the road is narrow. Actually I wouldn’t even call it a road, it’s more like a lane. What I found out is that the entrance to the restaurant is on this narrow lane. It’s located on the second or third floor of a building. When you get to the first floor, you actually find yourself in the lobby of Hamilton Hotel, facing the main road! So maybe you can just cab to the hotel and walk up?

Si Wha Dam

Saw this place featured on a vlogger’s channel and thought of trying it out. But couldn’t fit into our itinerary.

Daedo Sikdang

This is one place I’m definitely going to try when I visit Seoul again. I made the terrible mistake of not making a reservation. It had long snaking queues. This outlet on the card is their main store and looks the most authentic, rustic. Other outlets had more modern interiors. There are other outlets around Seoul so I should have opted for them instead of this main branch.

For shopping

Mangwon Market

Mangwon market is very local. There are few English signs there so you’re pretty much on your own! One thing great about this is that it’s not very crowded and the street food is delicious. I has my first Isaac toast there. The owner was sweet to offer us seats inside his tiny cafe because it was getting so tough to feed two young kids sandwiches in the wintery cold.

Namdaemun Market exit 5

(Say Namdaemun chul go 5 – chul go refers to 出口)

I didn’t go to Namdaemun in the end because it was too cold to be outdoors for a long time. If you plan to head to the complexes within Namdaemun, it’s probably still fine. But because we merely wanted to get new spectacles and have local street food, we headed to Mangwon market instead. Mangwon is a better market to explore because it is partially covered and has lesser tourists. However do take note its scale is much smaller than Namdaemun market.

Mario Outlet
Shinsegae
Garosugil
Gwangjang Market
Hongdae

(Say Hongdae chul go 9. Pronounced choooo goool. Chul go refers to 出口)

Again this refers to Hongdae exit 9 which is the start of the more exciting shopping belt. To be super precise, you should be saying Hongik station instead of Hongdae, but the drivers all understand Hongdae.

Simple Requests

These word cards would help getting meals easier.

This is very important. Because hubby loves to get supper after the boys go to bed. If budget allows, we will always get a room with a separate seating area where we can enjoy some snacks after the kids knock out.

To my boys, a meal is not complete without a bowl of rice, or noodles.

Bokkeum Bap - Fry rice after bbq
Pronounced Bork-key-yum Barp

You know how some restaurants will help to fry rice after dak galbi or grill? Here’s what you should tell them if they aren’t responding to you

Hope these word cards would be useful for you in navigating around Seoul and make travelling with your family a little easier.

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Staycation Review – Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel

We picked Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel for our family staycation since Keane’s birthday falls on a Saturday this year. Keane loves to stay at hotels. Big beds for him to bounce on, bath tubs to soak in bubble baths and nice cool swimming pools to splash around.

Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel was pretty much an easy choice in terms of price and location. We wanted to go to the beach and pool. So we narrowed down to a few choices which Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel stood out at the end of the day. They also offer shuttle service to the airport so you can go to Jewel (the IT mall of the moment) for shopping.

A Great Pick For Family Staycation

Location

Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel is located opposite Parkway Parade, which has a wide variety of food and shopping options. However, because of the train line construction works in the area, it can get noisy. Construction continues from as early as 8am to 10.30pm. Also, getting a taxi can be a challenge. Trying to flag a taxi by the roadside is almost impossible since there are few taxis on the roads. If there are, they are usually already occupied.

Also the hotel is situated in walking distance to East Coast Park. Unlike the pricey beachfront hotels at Sentosa, this is a good affordable alternative.

Staff

Jenny at Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel Front Desk is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve met in my recent travels. She took the initiative to provide me with a poolside room when I told her I’d booked this room to celebrate my son’s birthday and we are looking forward to a swim. She was careful to check if I was alright with having a door that led to the pool and if a rollaway bed would suffice for the kids – Rooms by the pool only had a king sized bed. I had booked a twin room initially.

Child-friendly Pool

Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel’s pool was quiet during most times we were there. There was a really small baby pool of about 50cm depth, and another deeper pool of 80cm to 1.2m depth. The pool didn’t reek of nauseating chlorine. Kids’ skin weren’t extremely dry after swimming thrice in two days. Keane has eczema so chlorinated water isn’t too kind to his sensitive skin.

Room

It looked great at first glance. Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel was decent for its star rating of 4 stars, although there were definitely some room for improvement. I felt that the duvet was on the thin side and the bed was hard – not firm. Aircon worked as it should. No weird whirring sounds nor did it stop in the middle of the night.

Maybe I didn’t snoop around for the power points. I saw only two power points in my room. The one on the table worked but the one on the wall didn’t. It also looked very worn and unsafe. There were no plugs near the bedside table.

But I like how the room had expansive shelves which is perfect for families since we have so much to unpack. Wet wipes, tissue, diapers, milk, snacks blah blah. Everything needs to be easy to reach even if it’s just a night stay.

Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel’s pool rooms are located on the fourth floor. The good bit is that you are literally steps away from the pool. Quite like the Crowne Plaza pool rooms which open up to the pool, but it’s also twice the price of Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel.

And on the downside, Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel has its pool and function rooms located on the fourth floor. This means it’s common access by the public and no need to tap key card to access our room. So husband was very wary each time we get back to the room.

Bathroom

Every room has a bathtub which is the main reason I booked Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel. My boys love to soak and in Keane’s words “flop around the tub”. But goodness, each time anyone took a shower, the water pools all around the ledge. Also, the ledge seems to be covered in laminated wood instead of tiles. I’m puzzled with their choice of material.

The spacious bathroom had a reasonably sized vanity table which makes up for the lack of mirror in the bedroom.

Breakfast

Their international spread at Feast@East Buffet Restaurant had a decent variety of international and local food. Fruits were fresh and service was quick.

We celebrated Keane’s birthday with a slice of cake at Wave Cafe. Staff were considerate to include a complimentary Happy Birthday Chocolate decoration. Greatly appreciate such gesture!

There were two other restaurants – Breez Bistro Bar located by the pool and Jia Wei Restaurants which serves Cantonese Cuisine.

Fax: (+65)63448010

Would we stay there again?

Yes! There were some problems with Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel’s hardware like the beds and the furnishings, but it may be because we didn’t stay in their superior rooms perhaps? Check in and check out was a breeze. Their staff were friendly and service was definitely on par with 5 star hotels. Besides, it was only a 2d1n staycation. The poolside rooms were great for the price.

Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy

50 East Coast Road 
Roxy Square 
Marine Parade Rd 
428769 
SINGAPORE 

Website

Tel: +6563448000

Tips To Survive 10 Days in Seoul With 2 Kids Below 5 yo

Seoul has a special place in my heart. It was the last place I went to before I got pregnant with Keane. I hoped for a son at Jeju Island (I’m not sure if it’s effective but oh well, I did get pregnant three months later). Also, I had to cancel a Seoul trip because I was pregnant with Travis and I couldn’t take a plane on doc’s orders.

By some strange coincidence, my Krisflyer miles were expiring. We figured it’s a sign that it’s time to bring the kids out to experience winter. Besides, Keane kept bugging us that it’s not Christmas without snow.

This is the first time that we are going away as a family of four. Planning took about six months because we wanted to make it as easy and fuss free as possible. Itinerary, scheduling, car transfers etc. Thankfully, we had a friend who’s living in South Korea to help us out with the language. She was our translator on WhatsApp! Read my post about the Seoul travel flash cards that I made with her help.

By our standards, we had an amazingly great time in South Korea. We didn’t cover a lot of places but it was perfect in its slow, chill manner. My cousin, who opted for a tour package, was so surprised that I could do a 10 day Free and easy trip in Seoul. She has two kids in primary and secondary school.

Now if I can do it with two kids under 5 years old, anyone can do it. To make sure you could enjoy such happiness too, these are my notes I’ll like to share with you.

Air tickets

Hubby only has time for a long holiday over Christmas which means incredibly expensive air tickets. Therefore, we usually claim miles or book at least half a year in advance. Note that if you claim miles, there are limited seats reserved for redemption. This is the case for SingaporeAir. I usually fly with SingaporeAir not because I’m a diehard fan but because so far they offer better service when I travel with kids. They don’t charge me for choosing seats as a family. Cathay Airways charged me for seat selection even though I’m with kids.

T-Money For Transportation

If you’re thinking of bringing your family to Seoul on a free and easy tour, make sure there’s plenty of money in your T-Money. It’s so useful to tap for payment when you take the taxi. We took the taxi a lot because it was more convenient. I give up on taking trains because it can get very crowded in the station. Remember our aim is to enjoy the trip and I am willing to make these small investments for a great experience. Our hotels are steps away from train stations, but we decided to just take the taxi for convenience. They are inexpensive as compared to Singapore.

You can use T-Money at the convenience stores too.

Itinerary

I’ll list out the places we would like to visit. If the place is kids friendly, then great. If it’s not like an outlet mall, we would try to make that visit short or make a trip to somewhere exciting before or after the location. And if all else fails, we bribe the kid with a small token toy, or a yummy treat.

When we travel, I’ll usually skip indoor playgrounds or kids cafe. I don’t want them to feel that the trip is planned around their whims and fancy. A trip means everyone has to accommodate to each other’s interests.

I insist on a nap time everyday. Even if they nap only for an hour, it’s fine. I think this hour of rest is essential to recharge.

Make many lists

Be prepared for changes in the itinerary. So keep a list of places that open late, kid friendly meals, etc

Make phrase cards

This is especially useful in countries where they don’t speak your language. It should list places you want to visit and the addresses. Especially if you’re going to be taking lots of taxis, prepare the address in the local language. Double check with the hotel reception before heading out.

Accommodation

We don’t do AirBnB. We prefer hotels because we would like someone to clean daily. I’m a SAHM, I clean daily! (Give me a break please)

Read plenty of reviews and check out the location. Look for supermarkets, convenience stores. Book decent hotels that has a king bed and a rollaway bed for the kids. In dire situations, make do with two twins. Need bathtub so the boys can play bubbles. This can be a highlight especially if the hubby has to go off to work. A separate living area is preferred. Hubby and I want to chill and eat supper after the kids go to bed. Breakfast is ideal but not a necessity. Although having breakfast in hotel is good if you’ve planned a long day tour somewhere, and food options aren’t open this early.

Opt for hotels with a proper driveway (and with staff) if you need help with directions in a country where you don’t speak the language. It’s insane to be negotiating with cabbies, with two kids in the freezing cold. Or, you could get the reception  to write the address in Hangeul for you.

Clothing

We didn’t have enough clothes when we went to Hong Kong. The kids fell ill on the day we arrived and were puking for the rest of the trip. For Seoul, I went on fanatic mommy mode and packed more than I needed. On hindsight, maybe I should have used the laundry service. My fear that the clothes would not dry in time were unfounded. I washed some tees in the bathroom and it was dry the next day! Another tip is to put it on the heated floor if your room has this facility.

While I brought along plenty of clothes, I didn’t set a brand new outfit each day. I survived on 4 sweat shirts and 5 pants for each kid during the 10 day trip. I kept some clean clothes on standby. I made a wardrobe list indicating what the kids would wear each day. Printed it and brought along tape to paste it on the wall. This way, hubby would know what to dress the kids in if I’m busy.

After the first day, I set aside a big paper bag and got the kids to put in all their gloves, scarfs and hats. Told them that when we are going out, they are to pick out their accessories from the bag.

Personally, I like to travel with as little luggage as possible when I board the plane. Usually, we have a trunki filled with toys and books that the kids picked out, his sling bag and my handbag. But for winter countries, I set aside a duffel bag to check in winter jackets. To make sure the kids are comfortable on the flight, they will be in sandals and shorts/ tights as they board the plane. When we are reaching, I would change them to long sleeve tees, pants and shoes. Similarly, when we are coming home, I would change the boys out of their winter clothes at the airport. Yes I’ve had stares when the boys were in shorts and sandals at Incheon airport. Who cares! The kids were the happiest since they were no longer bogged down by their heavy garb. Most importantly, I didn’t have to lug around heavy winter jackets on the plane. I checked them in using the same duffel bag.

Meals

We packed disposable spoons and collapsible bowls in our luggage. Each time we leave the hotel, we’ll also pack spoons and scissors in our bag just in case the kids need them.

We trained the kids to eat a wide variety of food in Singapore. So the trip to South Korea was pretty fuss free since they could just have rice and soup as a meal. We had Andong Chicken once. Although we ordered the non-spicy one, they used a little pepper which Travis hated. So in the end, both boys had cheese with rice.

Medicine

I had a big bag of medicine for the boys. For fever, flu, allergies, stomach pain, wheezing coughs, phlegm.

Water

“Boil bottled water if you need warm water to make milk” as told by my friend. She just had a baby so I’ll take her words. Korean tap water has small quantities of sediments which is fine for adult consumption. For children, let’s just take bottled water to be on the safe side of things.

Milk

Now for milk. On top of 8 feeds of powdered milk, I carted 36 small packets of UHT milk to Seoul. I thought long and hard about this. It sounds incredibly neurotic but I want to reduce the chances of tummy upset. I’ve read some online forums that milk in Seoul tastes a little different from Australian milk. Don’t take my words. I just want to ensure that they don’t suffer from tummy upsets because of the diet.

I’ll be updating this list as we continue with our travels. Even if it’s not to Seoul specifically, I think our trip planning is going to include many tips here!