Friday, December 2, 2016

Seoul in Winter (Day 5: Seoul Zoo & Pho Duck Korean BBQ)

The girls are enthusiastic when it comes to watching and playing with pets and animals. The zoo sounded like a logical place to visit. We visited the park last time hoping to see the zoo, but it was closed due to the bird-flu epidemic and instead, we visited the Avion, a newly opened children's museum. For details of that trip, click HERE.

We left the apartment around 10 am and took the subway to Seoul Grand Park station Exit 3. There are two options to get to the zoo. Either we took the Elephant Train or the Sky-lift. It was so cold we didn't see ourselves up there in the Sky-lift, so we opted for the Elephant Train in the end.

The entrance to the park is a ten minute walk from the Seoul Grand Park station. The main square is surrounded by trees, mountains and wonderful scenery.

Stopping along the way for some breakfast.

The shop uses a 'eat first pay later' approach. You pay only for the number of sticks you eat.

We also shared a hot-dog on a skewer.

The park is a huge recreation area for hikers and picnic goers, but it also houses the zoo, a children's museum and an amusement park.

Ticket booth for the Elephant Train (KRW 1000 per adult / KRW 700 per child)

The train, which is actually a tramp pulled by an elephant-themed trailer, has arrived.

View of the Sky-lift from our ride on the Elephant train. Little did we know, we would find ourselves up there just a few days later when we return to visit Seoulland.

The entry fees are very cheap compared to the zoo in Singapore, but then the zoo in Singapore is very different from zoos around the world in general. Similarly, we had to adjust our expectations as to what we will see and do here. The Seoul Zoo is more than a zoo to the regular visitors. They come here to have picnics, walks and just to meet up with friends. We saw many elderly folk occupying the gazebos with their spreads of sandwiches, chatting about the happenings of the week.

Since it was winter, it appeared that many of the outdoor enclosures were empty. Actually, there are indoor areas for many of these enclosures in which the animals hide when it gets too cold. This is typical for animals more accustomed to hot weathers, such as those in the African Grassland section of the zoo.

Nevertheless, we had a chance to see quite a variety of animals and exhibits, and some of them are shared here.

Viewing the Orangutans in their outdoor setting. The ones here seem to be mature males, and were much bigger than the ones back in Singapore.

The chimps were outside until they saw us, then they made a dash to hide in their indoor enclosure.

The indoor enclosures allow us to get up close with some of the animals more used to hot and humid climates.

Onyx (antelope-like animals).

Some of the indoor enclosures also and informative exhibits, such a this one.

One of the exhibits warning visitors about the dangers of the wildlife trade.


The indoor enclosures were large enough to house three full-grown giraffes.

In another enclosure, we found the hippos!

Fun facts about giraffes.

Largest hippos I have ever seen.

Can you spot the foxes?

Checking out the Meerkats.

Elephants in the outdoors.

Can you spot the baby elephant?

We did not spend very long at the zoo as it was getting really cold. Animals were minimal and not active so it seemed like it was best to escape the cold. Aside from the occasional elementary school excursion groups the place was rather quiet. Many of the food courts, cafes and restaurants were closed. Perhaps the zoo was expecting few visitors on weekday winter morning. There were sufficient snack kiosks functioning to get you some warm food and drinks, but we had also packed our own snacks to last us the short visit.

We decided to depart the zoo much earlier than planned. Perhaps it was a good thing for us to have a late lunch near the apartment, rest and refresh before meeting our friends for dinner.

Back at Myeongdong, we were hungry enough to let a promoter lead us to an eatery in the back alley for our lunch.

We shared two soups and rice among us.

Lunch was a no-frills affair and we made it back to the apartment soon after. After some rest, it was time to hit the streets again so get a little more shopping in before dinner. We did not manage to get our shoes yesterday but chanced upon some cheap and comfortable bargains from a vendor that would serve us well for the rest of the trip.

There was also a little more time to get some necklaces for the kids.

It was crowded in Myeongdong considering it was a Friday night. Many of the popular restaurants were packed and we had to change our plans as the restaurant we chose did not have tables large enough for our group of eight. Nevertheless, it might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise as our alternative spot was a really comfortable place with good food.

The place is famous for its barbecued duck aside from the usual meat choices. We had some beer to go along with servings of pork belly and duck. Our older girl, who had mixed reactions to barbecued meat, ordered some steamed egg to go along with her rice. The younger one, loves barbecued meat and had a great time filling her stomach.

We had a great time catching up with old friends from our earlier visits to Korea, and there were many stories to go around the table about happenings since the last time we met. Once it got late, the kids got tired but the thing with barbecues is that you'd usually want to shower after to get the smoky smell out of your hair. Same goes with the clothes, and we spent some time washing and hanging the laundry when we got back to the apartment. At the end of it all, the day was well spent, and very quickly we were approaching the halfway mark of our trip.

Time passes when you're having fun!

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