This weekend was my first trip to Korea's capital of 11 million, Seoul. My friends and I went on a trip to Everland Amusement Park. The largest in the country and tenth most visited in the world. Waking up early we took the 90 minute bullet train to Seoul and then a bus to Everland. I didn't know exactly what to expect, not Disneyland of course but I know that Japan as some incredible theme parks. Everland surprised me with its nice created environments. Following the Disney standard, Everland has Magic Land, European Adventure, American Adventure and Zootopia.
One Eastern Orthodox Church, check. One mosque, check. Everland's Europe has its bases covered.
I am a huge theme park nerd and quickly drove our group of nine to the star attraction of the park, T Express. Touted as the "steepest wooden roller coaster" in the world, the T Express is the only feather in Everland' cap (more on that later). The line was short, only 20 minutes and the coaster was a epic ride. Later we all wished that we would have just gotten back in line and ridden that all day. My friends and I then traveled around the hilly park to track down the other two coasters. After a long trek we discovered that both coasters were "out for maintenance". Two out of three? In the peak of school vacations? Thanks Everland...
We continued our quest for our real rides and we found ourselves in the Zoo section of Everland. Everland's zoo is more impressive than its Amusement park section.
Zoo's not credentialed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are always a little depressing for me. While Everland is head over heels better than Tunisia, it still lacks the professionalism of a Western zoo. Most heartbreaking was the Cheetah exhibit which must have been 20 by 20. The lion cubs were tragic as well.
Exhibits were also not quite political correct...
The zoo had a large section called "Friendly Happy Monkey Valley" which had first rate enclosures, better than the primate center at the Oregon Zoo. Including a Orangutan walkway all around the "Valley".
Everland boasted of plenty of strange things including the only place where Lions and Tigers were in the same exhibit (with a moat in-between). The two things that bothered me most about the zoo was one, its constant supply of baby animals. No real Zoo with a breeding program would have over six lion cubs. The other disturbing part of the zoo was the random pairings of animals in cages for example.
The worlds worst smelling Meerkat.
Lions,Tigers and Fennec Foxes. There was also a black bear and a baby monkey. The monkey of course cowering in the corner.
After exiting the zoo part we attempt to go on another ride but, it ending up being a bus Safari. A hour wait for a awful Safari. This almost made up for it however...
The rest of the trip went downhill from there. Long lines and disappointing rides. I ended up only going on three rides all day...A brief beam of light was the "American B-Boy Funny Battle" in America land. Which was basically break dancing and bad rap. However it did star REAL AMERICANS. We look like this by the way.
Hours later we left Everland took the train back to Seoul and went to Itaewon the vibrant international district. We ate Kebab! Why can't Daegu have any place like that? The hostel we wanted to stay at fell through and we were scared that we couldn't find a place to stay. We found one place. A Love Motel. Remember when I said that all love Motels were clean and surprisingly classy? Not this one. It was on Hooker hill and we had obvious brothels across the street. Obvious like girls in bras standing in the doorways... It was incredibly gross but we managed to survive with out any rashes. (Key is sleeping in your clothes).
The next day was a vast improvement. First we at a American style breakfast, pancakes with syrup! And then the group went to GyeongBokGung Palace. Founded in 1395 the Palace has been destroyed twice by the Japanese and was rebuilt in 1990. The name means "Place greatly blessed by Heaven" and was the seat of the Capital after it moved to Seoul in the 1300's. The castle grounds are just 15% of what they once were but still enormous. We where there for over two hours and didn't have time to see all of the buildings. We arrived just in time for the changing of the guard, a ceremony I have seen in five different countries.
This is the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion or King's party pad. Rebuilt in 1867, the closer you sit to the top center, the higher your rank. Many buildings of the place were built in accordance to the I Ching (the Chinese book of changes, the base of Chinese philosophy and therefore Korean as well).
After the place we went shopping Insadong and then went out for dinner. MEXICAN FOOD! You can find international food in Seoul that is non-existent in Daegu. I can't wait to take the KTX back to Seoul. This trip barely scratched surface of this blended old and new city.