Our trip is pretty well summarized by two words: food and coffee.
Oh my goodness, I cannot say enough good things about Korea. It was one of the best vacations ever. I mean, we were totally depleted before we got there, so I'm not sure we would've been very picky. But aside from that, it really was amazing. First of all, we had no problems with not knowing Korean. We did spend some time on Duolingo learning the alphabet, and that was very helpful. But pretty much everywhere we went, there was either an English speaker or a menu with pictures. Second of all, everything was so kid friendly! There were kid plates and utensils at all of the restaurants and play areas all over the place and special lines for people with kids and even (relatively) convenient elevators to use the subway with a stroller. Korean Air even provides free kid-size headphones for them to use while on the flight! I'm not sure I've ever travelled anywhere that made it so easy to be there with kids, and I have been quite a few places with young kids. Also, the best coffee I've ever had in my life was in Korea. By a long shot. We did spend a few days in Seattle about four years ago, and the coffee there was pretty good. But Korea had it beat for convenience, so I would say hands down Korea wins. Seriously even the gas station iced latte was better than any iced latte I've had anywhere else in the world. So that makes anywhere awesome in my book.
Also, it was super fun! Seoul has five medieval palaces that you can visit for really cheap and the food is AMAZING. We thought a lot of it would be spicy, and we did have kimchi at every meal, but there were a lot of non-spicy options too. We had really good Japanese food and super fresh seafood and an amazing burger, none of which were Korean but all of which were awesome. But I think my favorite was some cold noodles. The sauce was made from a super dense soy milk and it's supposed to be eaten so cold that they even put ice cubes in the bowl with it! It was really delicious. But the best thing was that my body just felt way better eating Korean food. We had been eating out a lot while we were in the States too, and we kept eating out a lot in Korea, but the difference in the way I felt was huge. Let's just say I'm going to be learning to make more Korean food soon!
An unexpected favorite activity of the trip is that on our first day, we went to a computer game tournament! H's favorite computer game (Starcraft II) is super popular in Korea, and there is a whole league there of people who play it professionally. It just so happened that there was a big competition between Koreans and non-Koreans for a world title, so we brought the kids to the TV studio where they play and we watched the final match. It was a blast!
A Finnish guy won. We were really jet-lagged, so everyone melted down the entire way home that night, but it was definitely worth it. It's been kind of a dream of H's to see a match in person and since we used to watch this game online with friends before we had kids, I actually kind of enjoy it too. (There are commentators who explain what's happening during the game, by the way, so it's not as hard to follow as you might expect.) So although we didn't do a lot of activities while we were there because we were so tired, I think most of us thought the tournament was one of the most fun and unique things we did!
Also, incidentally, E had a birthday in Korea. So now she's 5 and has had all five birthdays in different countries. I'll save that for the next post!