COEX is Asia’s largest underground shopping mall. I got there early Monday morning, just as the shops were just starting to open. I had no intention of buying anything, I just wanted to see what it was like as I had never been in any underground shopping mall at this scale. Along with hundreds of shops, there is also a Kimchi museum, but unfortunately it is closed Mondays. I wandered around, playing with the newest line of 3D Samsung and LG TV sets, eating at the bakeries and restaurants, and feeling hopelessly underdressed. Gangnam is often described as the beverly hills of South Korea; several establishments advertise plastic surgery.
Somewhere during my visit I wandered through the Lotte Duty Free store and into the attached COEX Convention and Exhibition center, which was hosting some kind of digital media conference with presentations on topics ranging from setting up Hadoop clusters to designing content for mobile devices, in other words, the sort of conference you might find me at if I went to conferences. I thought about crashing some of the presentations, but then retreated back into the mall after my better judgement kicked in.
Next indoor stop for the day was the Lotte World Adventure Theme park, an giant indoor theme park all inside a large building complete with a flume ride, indoor roller-coaster, ice skating rink, year-round haunted house, monorail, fake hot air balloon rides, and a waterpark.
All alone, I felt very awkward going to a theme park, but all of this normally outdoors-stuff being indoors just seemed too weird to me, and I had to see what it was like, so I bought admission and went on most of the aforementioned rides. The roller-coaster was genuinely terrifying because I found myself ducking to avoid obstacles during the ride. I was probably the tallest person to have ever ridden it (and survived.)
Admission to the park also included access to the “folk museum”, which told the story of human history in the Korean Peninsula from the dawn of man to what I’m guessing was some time in the late 1800s. I did not know how big the museum was, but as I progressed through it, the displays kept getting bigger; little dioramas of palaces in one room became full-sized in the next room. Going further, the rooms kept getting bigger until I found myself in a massive space the size of a large aircraft hanger full of what was a palace and a city surrounding it, all in about 1/5th scale.
The girl tending the gift shop in this room was eager to practice her English, so I spent the next two hours chatting with her with heavy help from her translator. She kept asking about some movie called something like “No Sleep in Seattle” starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, and I kept responding with “do you mean ‘Sleepless in Seattle‘?” and she would say ‘no, it’s something else… I just can’t remember the name of the movie!’ This went on for quite a while and I finally told her I would email her a link after I did some research.
The day at Lotte World closed an with indoor fireworks display and a laser light show straight out of the early 90s.
My phone died before I got home, and it contained directions for getting back to my couch-host’s house, so I spent the next four hours retracing my steps and finally made it back at around midnight. I went to sleep quickly because I had to get up early for a tour of the DMZ along the North / South Korean border the next day.
- Asia 2012 – Part 3 – Getting to Seoul
- Asia 2012 – Part 5 – DMZ tour of the North / South Korean Border