After a great day in Seoul Grand Park, we woke up Saturday morning to a view of the Seoul LDS temple through our window. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we try to include temple worship in our travel as much as possible. Seoul temple has temple housing available, so we stayed there one night and attended separate sessions- the last session at night and first one in the morning. It worked out great! We love to take Landon to the temple, and despite what it looks like in the picture, he loves it too. In this particular shot, he had found a little American boy to play with, and was not thrilled about having to leave playtime to take pictures and head out for the day. Sightseeing with two kids is tricky. Austin says I am very task and goal-oriented. I like to make the most of our time and see as much as possible. Everything with kids takes longer. With two kids, one being a breastfeeding baby, everything takes an inordinate amount of time. So, I planned two activities for the whole day: The National Museum of Korea, and then an evening baseball game. Looking back, doing the baseball game was just a little too much.
The National Museum of Korea is locating in the Yongsan area close to the American military base and Itaewon. It is a massive building with a large Children’s museum, special exhibit and classroom wing, as well as the main collection wing.
Landon loved going to the Children’s museum! In order to go to the Children’s museum, a reservation is required. There is an online reservation system for those willing to brave the Korean website, but we had no problem making a reservation for about an hour in the future when we arrived. There is no cost for either museum, but there are restrictions on how many kids can be in the Children’s museum at a time. He loved exploring the exhibits and building Lego creations. He liked grinding grain with rocks and dressing up as an emperor. I loved how the children’s exhibits complemented the museum collection so well. In the main collection, one of the highlights was a golden crown that looked a lot like the golden crown Landon is wearing below. He thought it was so cool that HE got to try on the crown!
Along with the dress-up and hands-on activities, there were several really cool technology integrated exhibits and art projects. This green hill above is a play gym for the kids and a model of a traditional burial mound. Once I told Landon what it was supposed to be, he crawled underneath and lay down and said, “Mom, I’m dead!” Then he resurrected so he could keep playing. Each Children’s museum session is about 1.5 hours long, and then it closes for half an hour while the staff cleans and resets all of the exhibits. During the last 20 minutes of the session, there was a really cool historical/musical drama show, with cartoony characters and some historical characters as well. Landon was not interested because it was in Korean, but I almost wanted to go watch it just for the entertainment value! At the end of the play, they ask everyone from that session to leave in order to put everything in order for the next session. There was a really nice baby/toddler room inside the museum with soft floors and steps for crawling, a slide and some baby toys. Owen had a wonderful time in there with Austin while I followed Landon around the museum.
In between the wings of the museum is a gift shop, restrooms, and a well-equipped baby care/nursing room. I LOVE that Korea is so family-conscious, and provides spaces where I can comfortably feed my baby, change his diaper, warm up food, or do anything else baby related. It is really awesome.
For the main, adult part of the museum, we opted to take an hour-long guided tour in English, in order to get the gist of the museum without having to spend all day there. Our tour guide spoke English very well, and gave detailed explanations of many highlights of the museum. In fact, she did not get through all of the pieces she wanted to in the hour, so she offered to continue with the group past the hour mark. We had a Children’s museum appointment to get to, so we left, but she continued on with the others. We met a guy in our tour group from Europe that was attending the University of Chicago business school and knew one of our former teammates from BYU- Jorge Azevedo! It is insane how small the world can be sometimes!
The piece above is a reproduction of a painting from a tomb. They painted different guardian animals on each wall, facing the cardinal directions- N,S, E and W. Each one symbolized something different and had different colors associated with it. Each guardian animal seemed to be a mash-up of several animals. I liked this one because it had a turtle! While we’re on the subject of death, these burial pots were interesting. Koreans seemed to have unique ways of burying their dead, including putting them vertically in the ground in pots or under the big burial mounds.
This ornate crown and belt were jewelry pieces from the Silla Kingdom (57 BC-676 AD). They were found in a wooden burial tombs. The crowns in the Children’s museum were based off of this crown. I was super surprised by the workmanship and small details! About this time, Landon decided he wanted to take some pictures. He had previously demonstrated that he could use the camera without breaking it, so I let him take some pictures while I listened to the tour. He got some good pictures of the items on exhibit, and some other gems that really opened my eyes to the mind of a three-year-old.
The Gyeongcheonsa pagoda (pictured above and below) is a Korean national treasure. It was built in 1348 AD and is different/interesting because it is made out of marble and is 10 stories, which is symbolic of women (which is rare)! It used to sit at a temple site, but was moved to the museum when the area around the temple was developed. It was certainly an imposing sight in the middle of the museum, and to fully appreciate it we looked at it from the first and second floors!
Next up, we were in medieval times and there was a replica home inside the museum for us to check out! I thought it was really interesting that in the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897), each person had their own table for eating. Koreans still eat on the floor with low tables, but typically all around a family dining room table. Not so in this era! Everything designed in this dynasty was more simple, because they studied Confucianism that honored simplicity.
The Buddha hanging scroll was huge! I made Austin get into this picture for scale comparison. This scroll was painted in the 1500s, but only unfurled once or twice a year on holidays, so it is very well preserved. I can’t imagine the building or tower from which this was hung since it is so tall! There were a ton of Buddha statues and relics, including an exhibit that detailed the differences in the appearance of Buddha across Asia. Basically, Buddha resembles the people of that country. Although I hadn’t really noticed it before, looking back at all our trips to Buddhist temples throughout Asia, I see it now! The Korean Buddhas are very stately and beautiful.
As a whole, I would definitely recommend the National Museum of Korea to anyone visiting Seoul for a longer period of time, especially with kids. The Children’s museum makes this museum a fun, educational place for adults and kids alike. If we did it again, I would take more time before the hour tour just to browse through the museum, because the tour is relatively fast-paced and I feel like I didn’t get everything I wanted to out of the main exhibition. The museum is well-organized, and most of the sign placards are in English and Korean. I loved learning more about the dynasties in Korea, and I think the most impressive part for me is that they have artifacts and written history from the current day back to before 60 AD.
After picking up some tacos from Vatos tacos in Itaewon, we checked into our hotel and got ready for the baseball game. Korean baseball games are really fun because everyone gets into them and dances, cheers and chants along with the cheerleaders that station themselves on stages next to the dugouts. We went with Austin’s coworkers, and for the Indian advisors and British advisor, it was their first baseball game ever! When we last went to a Nexen Heroes game, it was in a smaller stadium so we were in the midst of tons of screaming Koreans. In the new Gocheok Sky Dome, I was impressed by the amount of noise, but we were in the outfield so the cheers weren’t as loud there as before. Landon watched for an inning or two before losing interest and running around. It was Children’s day so he got a fun Nexen Heroes robot mask- they had a robot mascot as well as a normal guy mascot- and I got him some thunder sticks as a souvenir. We couldn’t find Nexen Heroes thunder sticks, so we bought ones for the opposing team- the Kia Tigers. Oops! The Gocheok Sky Dome was easily accessible from the subway line 1- Guil station, exit 2. On a game night, it’s a safe bet to just follow the people in baseball jerseys- they will lead you to the stadium!