We woke up rather late even with the early summer sun, because the view from our room was the blank wall of the adjacent building. We went downstairs for breakfast at the pantry, which was toast and jam. It was at this time when we began to realise we liked the Korean strawberry jam (why can’t we have jam like that in Singapore?). The receptionist, trying to make us feel at home, came over to greet us and then struck up a conversation with some guests from Malaysia, who were going on a one-day trip to Jeju island. We’ve both been there before, and it’s a nice place indeed. We, on the other hand, are heading to the outskirts of Seoul, to Seoul Grand Park in the city of Gwacheon! Frankly speaking, it can be reached in under an hour by subway, so it doesn’t feel like it’s outside of Seoul at all.
Breakfast settled, we began our quick journey to Seoul Grand Park (which makes the journey to Everland seem like forever). No worries on how to get there and which direction to walk; there’s even a subway station dedicated to it – Seoul Grand Park station! It’s as simple as walking out from the underground, then straight ahead. Along the way are ajummas selling gimbap – great idea for breakfast if your hotel or guesthouse does not provide one.
Seoul Grand Park is not a single entity, but a large plot of land containing a few attractions – all worthy of visit even on their own. There is a National Museum of Contemporary Art – perfect for art buffs (not us unfortunately). There is the Seoul Zoo – the largest in South Korea and 10th largest in the world! There is the Seoul Theme Garden, which combines a rose garden and a Children’s Zoo into one attraction. And lastly, there is a theme park in the form of Seoul Land, which we felt could really give Everland a run for its money. There is really nobody that Seoul Grand Park doesn’t cater to, so do set aside a day to check it out!
However, all of these attractions, separated by a lake in the middle, are located quite a distance apart, so we would recommend taking the Elephant Train – a tram styled like an elephant that takes you between the aforementioned attractions. Get the tickets from the building straight ahead from the subway station (it’s the only significant building in the vicinity), and head up the stairs to the boarding area. An adult ticket costs a mere 1,000 won, so you really have no reason to not get on board!
Our plan was to visit the latter two attractions, first the Theme Garden in the morning, then Seoul Land in the afternoon. We skipped the Seoul Zoo in favour of the Children’s Zoo in the Theme Garden (they were, in fact, located on opposite sides of a road), since they would be similar, and also we read that you can feed the animals in the Children’s Zoo. And being young-at-heart, we were naturally inclined to anything for kids, so…
A ticket to the Theme Garden costs 2,000 won, which was extremely affordable in our opinion. We made the Children’s Zoo our first stop, and as we entered we were greeted by… many cute rabbits! It goes without saying that Clara truly felt at home!
Since it was the summer, most of the animals were resting in the shade to avoid the sweltering heat. The sheep were even absent altogether (probably due to their wooly coats). Well, at least the goats were there, so we went over to feed them! Hay can be purchased from a vending machine for 1,000 won, and one paper bag has enough to be shared amongst a few people. As soon as we pulled the hay out of the bag, the goats flocked to us, all eager to be fed!
We noticed a goat that was enthusiastically trying to get its hands (or rather, mouth) on every piece of hay we held out. It was quite a memorable experience feeding the goats, but in order to keep to our itinerary, we had to keep going. Crossing under an arch bridge, we found gabons on the other side! Of course, for safety reasons, we couldn’t feed them.
Up next was a mixed animal compound, with (more) rabbits, guinea pigs and tortoise coexisting peacefully. There were also exotic animals like ring-tailed lemurs (King Julien!) and birds. It was quite relaxing watching the animals going about their day, and a respite from the frenzy of the day before.
Moving on, we reached the stables where ponies and donkeys roamed. At the very end were dogs in enclosures, barking away. It seemed like the zookeepers were not around yet. We made a U-turn and headed back, under the bridge, to the goats to finish feeding them our bag of hay! As we reached, we saw a number of kids already crowded around the fence, holding out their hands. It was heartening to see the children feed the goats; for most of them, this would probably be a novel experience. We joined them hastily!
Once done, we bade our goodbyes, rinsed our hands clean and made our way out of the Children’s Zoo.
But not before witnessing two kids (young goats, not humans), horns locked in a power struggle, as the adults watched on. The sound of horn and horn clashing was shattering, and we could only imagine how painful it would be for the two of them.
Lastly, we passed by three cute little pigs lazing about, doing exactly what pigs do best. Props to that charming little mushroom house!
Being under the same attraction, the rose garden was literally at the doorstep of the Children’s Zoo. Some of the roses were wilting already, and we were thinking, if we came at another time it would have been prettier. Nevertheless, it was still a wonderful sight (though in our heads we were already making plans for a South Korea trip in springtime haha). There was a windmill that looked like it came straight out of Holland, a buggy decorated with bright, albeit fake, flowers, as well as some other interesting installations peppered around.
By then, our stomachs were rumbling, but there were no food stalls in sight! Thankfully, we brought along some Honey Butter Chips that we picked up from a 7-Eleven beside our guesthouse last night. The first time we saw these Honey Butter Chips was in fact in Singapore, at a Korean mart. We then saw it on a list of snacks to buy from South Korea and made a mental note to try it when we came over.
The chips were slightly sweet thanks to the honey, but also salty, gritty and oily, just like butter. That gave them an interesting flavour, one that we’ve never tried elsewhere before!
We strolled around the garden for a while more after that, taking photos along the way, then made our way to the next destination – Seoul Land!