Not everyone who goes to Seoul would make a trip to Seoul’s Grand Park. It’s about 45 minutes away from the city centre, and honestly speaking, I would be better off climbing a mountain if my knee permitted it. Seoul’s Grand Park was the next best alternative – there was a direct metro station, although the Seoul Zoo was a 1.5km stroll in. There are complimentary trams provided so don’t you worry, but I’d recommend walking because the scenery along the way is pretty great. There are even pieces of artwork to marvel at.
If you’re on the look out for hunky K-popstars and glamour girls, forget about coming here. The Seoul Grand Park is where you meet the very old, and the very young. Well, it seems to be a very hip place among Seoul’s seniors, people in their sixties who have retired. Then it got me thinking. Much has been said of the brilliance of Seoul’s youth, but what about its seniors?
All I can say is that they are pretty cool too. Many of them came all deck out in hiking gear – a windbreaker, track pants and hiking sticks. Many wore caps and carried backpacks. I even saw two ladies with identical hairstyles, windbreakers and hiking sticks.
I cannot imagine groups of senior citizens in Singapore heading to our very own zoo on a random Monday morning, or going on hiking trips together. I think they would prefer having a kopi (coffee) at the coffee shop.
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I also met a group of kindergarten school kids with their teachers. One particular incident left me with mixed feelings – not sure if I should laugh, or cry.
I had come across a lone elephant gazing into what seem to be a forested “wilderness”, looking away from the spectator’s stand. He was deep in thought, enjoying his solitude. Then a group of kindergarten kids, about four years in age crowded around the stand. Without a warning, they started shouting in unison, “kokkili! 코끼리” and some other Korean words which seem to be something along the line of “Elephant, elephant! Turn around.”
The elephant was unmoved. For that moment, I think I can feel it’s pain. I hope its big ears did not amplify the sound, but anyone, elephant or human who is looking to enjoy a quiet moment alone is bound to be annoyed by screaming kids? Alas, I’m not a child lover so I may be biased.
I would say in all honesty, a trip to Seoul Zoo, which is in Seoul Grand Park is not a must have. For kids, the Singapore Zoo is far more exciting, and has a lot of activities and animal shows.
For animal lovers like yours truly, the signboards are in Korean words except some basic information of the species which is in English. So essentially it is difficult to learn more about the animals. The park is also pretty huge, probably twice the size of the Singapore Zoo. Exhibits are located pretty far away from each other, which is not easy for those who are unable to walk long distances. Regular tram services were not present when I was there on a Monday morning.
That being said, it’s a different sort of place to relax in Seoul. I spotted some trees all decked out in the autumn colours of gold and brown, and more importantly, I came in touch with Seoul’s other side – the aunties and uncles who form part of South Korean culture in their very own sense – who have played supporting roles in K-dramas and of course, having a part in what South Korea is today.
Unlike the poor elephant, I managed to gain some solitude as I sailed pass sleeping lions, unopened cafes and a little boy and girl holding hands that Monday morning. It’s not a must have, but it’s nice.
Seoul Grand Park
- Address: Gwangmyeong-gil 42, Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
- Website (Available in English): http://grandpark.seoul.go.kr/Eng/html/main/main.jsp
- Opening hours:
- Summer (Mar to Oct): 9am to 7pm
- Winter (Nov to Feb): 9am to 6pm
- Entrance fee: 3,000 won for adults, 1,000 won for children
- How to get there?
- Take the metro to the “Seoul Grand Park” Line 4 and walk in.