As I talked about in my last post, we recently got back from Korea where I traveled while in my 2nd trimester. Here is my personal perspective as a pregnant person of some of the things to do in Korea and hopefully some helpful tips on making your trip as comfortable as possible!
Most people will know that Lotte World is a theme park in Seoul. So I knew that I wouldn’t be going on much that day. Despite this, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Lotte World! I love amusement parks so off we went. There are two types of tickets: General Admission, which gets you in but you can’t ride on anything, and Day Pass, which includes all the rides. My husband and I got General Admission (he doesn’t like amusement park rides).
There’s *some* stuff to do…we spent the time, slowly walking around – there are indoor and outdoor sections, an ice rink, eating snacks, and watching parades (which I love!) and performances. Lotte World also has a Folk Museum inside so you can walk through the museum, it has some pretty interesting exhibits and you can spend maybe an good hour there, but it costs you extra to get in (a few dollars). We saw a couple of rides we could have gone on, the carousel and the monorail. But again, since we had a general admission ticket, we couldn’t go on, unless we paid extra. There wasn’t any obvious signage on how we pay these extra fees to get on. Finally, we were directed to this obscure window with no signage to buy tickets there. The carousel was 4000 won, the monorail was 5000. If you do the numbers, museum + carousel + monorail pretty much equals the Day Pass…I wasn’t THAT desperate so we decided against it.
For pregnant people, there’s not a lot to do, but if you walk slowly, it takes up half a day I’d say.
- Toilets = 5 (clean and plentiful!)
- Seating Areas = 4 (there are seats around, but not very comfortable i.e. no backs or very shallow seat)
- Crowds = 3 (it gets really crowded with school kids, there were a bunch of crazy boys fighting in the middle of the path and I just had to stand there and wait till they finished…basically be aware and protect your bump!)
All in all, maybe half a days worth of stuff to do, walking gets tiring but food isn’t too exorbitant and worth going if you REALLY want to visit Lotte World.
So instead of DMZ (see previous post), we went to Nami Island. Nami Island is a beautiful and picturesque place, and the best time to go is Autumn or Winter. To get there, we took the ITX for an hour (?) and then you join the queues of people taking taxis to the ferry terminal. From the terminal, the more adventurous can take the zip-line, or you join the hoards of people on the “asylum seeker” boat (as one HK tourist so aptly described it) to get to the island.
Nami Island is a pretty place, but when we went, it was so overrun with tourists, it’s hard to enjoy the scenery. Also, we went too early in Autumn so the leaves we all still green…ah well.
ITX – there are toilets on board so don’t worry. You might have to walk a carriage or two, but they are clean and new! The toilets even flush with liquid (not like the plane ones).
From ITX to Nami – there are heaps of queues and tourists. Thankfully, there’s seating at the taxi stand, seating at the ferry line, and some seating available on the ferry on the deck (most people too busy standing taking photos). Sit as much as you can now!
Nami Island – I can’t deny there’s quite a bit of walking. From the pier to the centralized place where all the restaurants and shops are, its just over 1 km walk. You can take a little train thing but not after walking a while first (and we waited a while but no train came). Getting around the island, you can hire tandem bikes or 4 person bike things (but only 2 adults, 2 kids), so we were left to walk. It’s so pretty but all the walking gets tiring! We were planning to take the train back, but we noticed it stayed put for a while and we discovered that it had maintenance issues.
- Toilets = 3 (enough around, acceptable cleanliness)
- Seating Areas = 2 (not really enough I found)
- Crowds = 3 (a lot of people but also a lot of space so won’t get easily bumped)
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (Busan)
Temples seem pretty boring and being Christians, we aren’t really into them. But I heard that the location of this temple was what made it special. It’s right by the seaside, on the cliffs so the view was amazing! It’s the #1 spot in Busan based on Tripadvisor. There are a few other temples in Busan but I think if you’ve only got time for one, this is it.
There’s quite a few steps getting down to the temple (and consequently, stairs back up), but I think the walk is worth it for the view. The steps and paths are relatively flat so I found it pretty safe.
- Toilets = 4 (sufficient and surprisingly clean!)
- Seating Areas = 3 (there’s seating before the steps down, but really you can sit on the steps if you need)
- Crowds = 4 (its a tourist area, but not too overcrowded when we went)
Taejongdae is a beautiful seaside/cliffs area with some walking tracks and lookout. It’s a large park area, but the main attraction is the area around the lighthouse. To get to the lighthouse, I think its over 4 km walk. They provide a little train thing that cycles around and I think it came every 20 minutes and cost 3000 won (well worth it). Basically you want to save all your leg energy for when you get to the lighthouse area, as there’s quite a bit of walking once you get there!
Getting to the lighthouse takes heaps and heaps of steps. Then from the lighthouse, you can go even further down to the rocky cliff area but the paths are uneven and the railings don’t go all the way so I wouldn’t recommend it for the infirmed. There’s a nice library right near the base of the lighthouse where I sat and waited for the rest of my group. I sat there with a nice Korean old man who tried to speak English to me. But he got majorly busted later on by the cranky ahjumma cleaning lady that came by and so he moved outside to eat his lunch.
- Toilets = 4
- Seating Areas = 3
- Crowds = 4
N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower)
N Seoul Tower is a touristy/romantic spot in Seoul that’s also been featured in many dramas. It’s also a popular spot to put love locks…I was going to pre-buy some but the ones I saw in Australia were mainly the plain, ugly brass ones. The opportunity never came to get nicer ones so we didn’t do the love locks thing. They do sell them there but 12000 won for one lock? NO WAY man.
Getting to the base of the mountain / cable car area: You can walk from Myeongdong I believe, but I think its 30-45 mins UPHILL. No way. Don’t listen to all the websites that tell you to go from Myeongdong. The secret Korean way to get up is to get off at Hoehyeong subway station, Exit 6. You walk like less than 50m and you get to the free Oreumi Elevator which takes you up to the base of the mountain in like 1 minute. It’s so secret…there’s like NO signage in English. We took a taxi up to the cable car area (but it gets jammed) but took the Oreumi elevator down and had dinner at the nearby Namdaemun Market.
Getting up the mountain: again I believe you can walk. But the majority of tourists take the cable car. The cable car building has 3 floors – 1st floor is ticketing, 2nd floor is waiting, 3rd floor is boarding the cable car. There is a lift to get to the 3rd floor but its pretty useless cause the queue to get on from the 3rd floor winds back down to the 2nd floor via the stairwell. There is seating on the 2nd floor while you wait but someone in your group would have to stay in the queue.
At the top: There’s not a stack of walking, basically you take some steps to the base of the tower (the locks are located in this area) and then there’s a fast elevator that takes you up to the observatory and teddy bear museum.
- Toilets = 4
- Seating Area = 3 (just be careful of losing your spot in the queue)
- Crowds = 2 (super touristy area)
N Seoul Tower is so corny. They had all these promo videos of this creepy bear getting people to fall in love at the tower. Couples were buying popcorn to bring up to the observatory deck (I don’t know why??). But, the view from up to is quite beautiful at night, its a pretty famous location so as a first time tourist, you wouldn’t want to miss it.
Ancient Korea Area (Gwanghwamun / Gyeongbokgong / Insadong / Samcheong-dong)
Gwanghwamun Square – We took the subway to Gwanghwamun since we wanted to check out Cheonggyecheon stream from that end and then Gwanghwamun Square nearby (which was featured in parts of Iris and Queen Inhyun’s Man). The stream is pretty nice, it’s pretty long, so we only went down a little of the way. It’s all paved so pretty safe. Walking across the square is like 800m, but they had some sort of organic recycling market that day, so there was lots to see and be distracted with as well as taking photos with the statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin.
Gyeongbokgong Palace – I knew the palaces would be full of walking, so we just decided to focus on the biggest one. The palace area is pretty cool, I can imagine being in a drama or something 🙂 It’s all walking though. You can hire wheelchairs but the paths are pretty uneven at places, so I saw others with wheelchairs struggling to get around. It’s really quite pretty if you can put aside all the tourists. Once you get to the North end of the palace, that’s where the National Folk Museum is. Since we had already been to the folk museum at Lotte World, we decided to give this one a miss. At this point, you’re actually quite close to Samcheong-dong! We would’ve just hopped over but we actually left a bunch of stuff at the lockers at the Southern entrance…so we walked all the way back to get it.
- Toilets = 4 (go at the station?)
- Seating Area = 3
- Crowds = 4 (lots of tourists but also lots of space)
Insadong – So you take one stop from Gyeongbokgong station to Anguk station. North is Samcheong-dong (cafes and boutiques), and South is Insadong (traditional stores). Insadong was really crowded that day as there was a Falun Gong marching band crowding the street. The path is a bit uneven in the middle so watch out for that. Ssamzie-gil, a mall-type place was also super-crowded. The only way up is by walking but its nice to have a look at all the little shop fronts and things.
We also got a chance to take photos with Hanbok on which was a highlight! 🙂 Make sure you head to the Insadong Tourist Information Centre for this – its only 3000 won p/p to hire the costumes for 20 min. Don’t worry about all the other stores that charge 25000 won for ‘professional photos’. Hanbok’s are pretty easy for the pregnant woman as the skirt goes just under the arm and over the bump.
I think its nice walking to the end of the Insadong street, but the problem is you need to walk back to Anguk station (to Samcheong-dong where we wanted to go next).
Samcheong-dong – Maybe I missed something but I didn’t really enjoy the Samcheong-dong street. The actual street was not that special with expensive looking boutiques and more franchised coffee shops. The alleyways around it are a different matter! Really cute cafes, trendy boutiques, snack stands…I really enjoyed the atmosphere of these!
- Toilets = 3 (find them inside cafes)
- Seating Area = 2 (sit in a cafe?)
- Crowds = 2 (lots of people and some cars! why do they bother driving down such crowded alleyways??)
If I could do it again, I’d go from the palace to Samcheong-dong, then South to Insadong and taxi it back after all that walking!
Just as an overview, I’ve just rated what I personally think is the worst for pregnant people to the best:
- Dongdaemun: hello apm has like NO seating inside, its just crammed full of clothes stalls…so tiring. Maybe the others are slightly better but many of them weren’t open (when we went on Monday). Plenty of clean toilets inside the malls. The ‘maternity’ clothes section wasn’t big and wasn’t cheap.
- Cheongdam-dong: These areas are so overrated. Can’t afford anything in them, and only worth going cause JYP, Cube and SM have offices there (though the walk from the subway is kinda far). Kinda safe to walk but also boring for me personally.
- Hongdae: even though I LOVE Hongdae, the crowds and the random cars driving up busy streets with people walking on them isn’t that great. Toilets – I had to ask nicely at franchised cafes…couldn’t find public ones. Still worth going though, love it.
- Myeongdong: SUPER CROWDED. The atmosphere is pretty good though! Loved all the shopping. Toilets – find them in cafes I guess. Don’t have to worry about cars.
- Ewha + Sinchon: Not that crowded when we went, the shopping is good since it is a student area. Stick to the footpaths, no random cars – Sinchon has a ‘pedestrian friendly area’.
But I still LOVED Hongdae the most for eating, shopping and nightlife! Our Airbnb place was SUPER close to all these trendy cafes and local restaurants – I wish we could’ve stayed longer!
In terms of maternity clothes shopping, I couldn’t really find much. Dongdaemun was pretty disappointing, and I ended up buying maternity clothes at foreign places like H&M. I’d say go home and buy online at ASOS 😛
Despite all these ‘restrictions’ (you get used to it) I really enjoyed the trip! You can enjoy Korea while you are pregnant! 🙂 happy travels