Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lotte World - a visit to the world's largest indoor park

This Saturday we took our first solo family trip to Seoul. We decided to go to Lotte World which skirts a river lined with Seoul's blooming cherry blossoms. 

Lotte World is made up of the largest indoor park in the world, an outdoor park, a man-made island on a lake as well as a hotel, sports complex, a Korean folk museum, a shopping mall and a theatre. It is extremely large - here's the guide for just the park itself. 

Any adventure in a foreign country starts with actually getting to your destination. It took us about an hour and a half to get to Seoul and park which is pretty typical. But then it took another hour and a half to find the entrance to Lotte World which included walking in a maze across the entire complex. But we kept a positive spin on things by doing a bit of exploring along the way - we snapped this cool shot of a Korean brewery right below the Lotte Hotel. 

It's worth a note to say that we found what was the entrance right away but the security guard wouldn't let us go down the escalator but we couldn't communicate with each other to find out why. The language barrier sometimes is just too hard to overcome! 

We finally made it to the entrance, purchased tickets and we were finally ready to have some fun! 


On account of the rain it was packed! The ceiling caught our attention first - it was made up of an enormous skylight. And along the perimeter of the 5-story ceiling were monorails and simulated hot air balloons touring the facility. 

Below the ceiling was the largest ice rink we've ever seen. Around the ice rink there were 5 country-themed levels. 

Our very first stop was the Korean Folk Museum for some authentic Korean food. We didn't anticipate it taking so long to arrive so it was 2:30 by this time and we were famished. 

There were several restaurants and we chose based on the menu - here it is pretty customary for eateries (even at the mall food court) to display their menu using fake food which is great for us foreigners! They even had a display at the New York hot dog eatery.

The restaurant primarily had a traditional set-up where you sit on the floor but Cooper's not ready for that quite yet so we opted for a table. The meal was wonderful as always. 

Next we rode the carousel - the wait was about 30 minutes or so but Cooper was entertained by the carousel itself so it went pretty quickly. 

I was so excited about those hot air balloons but the wait was over 2 hours so we decided against it. The wait for the monorail was almost as long so we opted out of that ride as well. 

No worries - we visited the Italy, America, Germany, and Mexico-themed floors and had a lot of fun! 

It rained all. day. long. but we still wanted to take a peak at the Magic Island. So, we bundled up in our rain gear and headed outdoors. Most of the Island was shut down but we still got a taste enough to know that we wanted to come back. And it was worth it just to see the Cinderella-like castle! 

Soon after we strolled back indoors and caught a bit of a Korean stage show. It was a broadway-style montage of popular stories. Here's a video with Korean music and a little video of the performance and some of Cooper.

My favorite part of the show was the Wizard of Oz performance - there was a background image of the yellow brick road and Oz, what sounded like a Korean version of "follow the yellow brick road" and all of the characters you'd expect... well almost. There was Dorothy, Tin Man, the Lion, and Pinnochio! Ha! Only in Korea!

After one last shop for souvenirs we said goodbye to Lotte World for the day. Here are a few more pictures from our day:

No trip to a theme park is complete without trying on hats or ears of some sort. It was much like Disney here - I think every third person had on a pair! 

There were a lot of rides that we just admired from afar - like this great water ride that we watched from a couple floors above. To the left of this picture is a steep drop of the ride from a waterfall and there are roaring dinosaurs along the river as they float past. 

And these rollercoasters...

And we stopped at every little car or train we saw for Cooper to ride. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flower Market in Namdaemun, Seoul

A couple of weeks ago Cooper and I went with our friend Aimee* to a large flower market in  Namdaemun, Seoul

The complex is made up of several buildings each with it's own specialty of flowers, pottery and garden. The main building we visited was two stories  packed with vendors selling fresh cut flowers and various blooming branches. 

There were rows of gorgeous roses in every color and stage of bloom. It was difficult to not snap a photo of every beautiful rose display. The blue roses below were especially unique. 

The fragrance emanating from the lilies was intoxicating. 

There were so many orchid color variations that I've never seen before. 

And there were more exotic flowers like these blooming branches of cotton. What a welcome sight that took me back home in a moment! 

And booth after booth of various other flowers - if I could read Hangul then I'd know what these were...

They also sell faux flowers, garden decor, and baskets... 

Wrapping papers, containers and ribbon. 

The prices were as beautiful as the flowers and they're wrapped in Korean newspaper or large packing paper for the longer stems. This bunch of azaleas only cost about 5000 won or a little over $4 dollars. 

The flower market was a welcome retreat on another cold day too far into what should be Spring. I can't wait to visit the market again now that our household goods have arrived and we have a home to display flowers in - after all I don't think there's much that's better than fresh flowers at home. 

*Actually, Aimee's become a bit of a rockstar on the blog - we've had fun purse shoppingvisiting E-mart and the stationery store in Songtan, furniture shopping and taking our boys to play at Little Bear (pics coming soon!). 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Our Household Goods Have Arrived!

Last week was a very busy week with our household goods arriving on Thursday, picking up our car on Friday, painting, Cooper's first week in hourly daycare and the family all getting sick. 

Household Goods
We received our temporary items a few weeks ago which was a nice holdover for the rest of our household goods but finally on Thursday we received the rest of our stuff (that didn't go to long-term storage). 

When you haven't seen what you own for over 2 months everything seems so new - it's like Christmas - but so comfortable too! In a very quick 2 hours the movers loaded 10,000 pounds of stuff into our house. Then, as movers do, they tried to duck out. Oh... no... now it was time for them to unpack! It's a great bonus to have them unpack some of the larger and more mundane items - like kitchen dish packs and bathroom items but boy they weren't happy about doing so. Actually, it was the very first time I've seen a Korean with a bit of an attitude - they are such a sweet culture. 

By noon they were gone and our house looked like it was picked straight out of an episode of Hoarders - with boxes to the ceilings, layers and layers of stuff, and only tiny walkways through the madness. Oh, where to start. I'm normally the methodical one that can breeze through tangles of information or stuff, but not today - not to worry, Owen picked up the slack and directed me step by step what to focus on. Kitchen first for me, Cooper's room for Owen. 

By 3:30 I had finished the kitchen and couldn't stand being away from Cooper any longer so I headed to daycare to pick him up. 

This was a hard week for both Cooper and I - being apart for the first time in over two months. We knew we needed him to be in daycare for much of the day on Thursday so I put him in a couple hours each day to let him get the hang of it. He didn't. 

Short of family the people I trust most with Cooper is our daycare in Oklahoma City. But this isn't Oklahoma City and they don't know his likes, his dislikes, his ticks... When I arrived he was crying and looked awful. They said he hadn't really eaten or slept and he felt warm. As soon as we got home he went straight to sleep for several hours. When he woke he had a 102 degree fever. I not-so-silently cursed daycare. In all honestly he could have picked up daddy's cold but I couldn't help but be suspicious (now mommy also has the same cold - yuck!). In OKC, Penny, Shelby or Amanda would have picked up on Cooper's odd behavior and knew he was sick right away - oh, how I miss those girls!  

The Acadia
Our car arrived at almost the same time as our household goods so Owen spent part of Thursday morning taking his Korean driving test and getting his license. On Friday morning he picked up his driver's license, got a temporary tag for the Acadia and then hopped on a bus to the Army base in Seoul - Yongsan. We were initially planning to make a weekend of the little trip to Seoul but a sick baby trumps all plans! Next week I'll take my Korean driving test - wish me luck! 

Oh, and as it turned out it was a great day to get the car - after Cooper had gone to bed the Towers fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate - so glad we had a warm car to keep a sick baby warm in.

It was an ambitious week! We painted late into the evening on Tuesday and Wednesday before our HHG arrived - chalkboard wall in the kitchen, red wall in the dining room, chocolate chairrail in the living room, khaki stripes in the hallway and khaki in the bedroom. Of course we didn't want to cut it this close but getting paint here isn't as easy as heading to Lowe's - there is no Lowe's, no Home Depot, no yellow page listings for 'paint stores.' I'll soon dedicate a whole post to the before and afters and the process. Note: Special xoxo to Owen - he was really, really sick and exhausted from 10 hour workdays but he still hung in there we could finish the painting in time. Thanks honey!  

Our goal is to have the house completely 'put together' in two weeks. The clock is ticking.