The Giant Rubber Duck in Seoul

giant rubber duck seokchon lake seoul korea

The giant rubber duck has been making its rounds around the world to a surprising amount of fanfare. After all, it’s just a really big inflatable duck that sits there and… just sits there. Now the big rubber duck is in Seoul, hurrah. Honestly, when my girlfriend proposed the idea of going I wasn’t skeptical but I wasn’t excited either. After all, what if anything is there to see or do near a giant rubber duck.

Getting there wasn’t difficult, just take the subway to Jamsil Station (Line No. 2 and Line No. 9) where you take exit number 3. Just walk straight and make a right at the traffic light (without crossing the street) and you’ll get to the Seokchon Lake park; there you’re greeted by this.

giant rubber duck seokchon lake seoul korea

More than likely, a large crowd of people milled around a large inflatable duck. Getting through the crowd wasn’t going to happen, especially since we had our dog with us. So instead we walked around the lake and took photos from different angles to capture ourselves and the duck in a variety of poses (well, we posed). All the while, people were cramming themselves into openings in front of the great rubber judge while security guards kept an eye out for would-be-bathers in the lake. More than once, people were shooed from getting too close to the edge or crossing the ever present rope between us and the precious wooding landing that would have brought us ever so closer to the divine mallard.

giant rubber duck seokchon lake seoul korea

giant rubber duck seokchon lake seoul korea

I don’t know about the enlarged bath toy’s other appearances, but this one coincided with the opening of the brand new Lotte World Mall right behind the lake. In addition to being one of the largest shopping malls in Korea, it also has the honor of being the cause behind several sinkholes that have been appearing in nearby areas. Capitalism at its most transparent I suppose.

lotte world seokchon lake seoul korea

The highlight of the day was really just having a cool place to walk our dog. We’re always taking him out to new places but this was the first time we were taking him to Jamsil and the first time we were going to an area that would be perfect for a dog walking. The entire park is really just a path around the lake with a few areas to stop and admire the scenery. While the crowds were stifling, once you get away from the photogenic spots it was a nice walk on a nice day.

dog maltese puppy korea

dog maltese puppy korea

At the end of the day, we snapped more photos than we needed and took our dog out on a nice refreshing walk around the yellow giant. The gift shops (one near the big duck and one inside the actual mall) were all out of rubber ducks and only had small prints and paper foldouts of ducks available. We bought a print out (W1,500) and counted ourselves lucky that we weren’t tempted to spend more on a bathtub companion, especially since we don’t have a bathtub.

giant rubber duck seokchon lake seoul korea

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Tokyo Disneyland

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Last year, my girlfriend and I were originally planning a trip to Boracai which unfortunately went sideways. The weather turned, we cancelled our reservations, and I ate a $300 service fee. We did, however, make plans to visit the Mickey’s Japanese home. We made reservations at a hotel near Tokyo Bay, well outside the confines of the city, and spent two days at the Happiest Place on Earth (or Japan?).

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Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 as the first Disney Park to be opened outside of the United States. Just like the original Disneyland, it’s split into two parks: Disneyland and DisneySea. We headed over to the Disney store in Tokyo and picked up two passes to each park, one for day two and one for day three. Having never visited Disney World or the other parks outside of Disneyland, we weren’t sure what to expect. When we finally got there, it was almost like stepping back home. The park held almost all the classics like Peter Pan’s Flight and Winnie the Pooh along with other different attractions like Cinderella’s Castle (as opposed to Sleeping Beauty’s in Anaheim).

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Tokyo Disneyland held a few new surprises, for example all the different flavors of churros scattered throughout the park. Each area holds a few flavor and while they weren’t exactly cheap, they were very delicious. In addition, we’d never seen Cinderella’s Castle before since the Anaheim park is occupied by Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It was small touches like these in addition to new rides that kept our experience fresh but familiar.

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DisneySea, on the other hand, is filled with set piece experiences. The entire park is built on the sea front on a bay which has been taken into the design of the park. The huge volcano located at the center of the park by the Journey to the Center of the Earth and 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea is awesome to just look at. And the rest of the park doesn’t disappoint, most of what my girlfriend and I did at the park was to just wander around and look at all the awesome areas from Agrabah to Ariel’s Grotto. Each part of the park held new experiences and new worlds to explore, like falling asleep in front of the television and dreaming about scenes from a movie.

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I wish I could say that we went on every ride since most were new to us, we really spent most of the day just walking around and enjoying the sets and scenes. We were still tired from the previous day’s treks but more than anything it was exciting just walking around in Agrabah.

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Toy Story

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For anyone planning on making the trip, I’d suggest find a hotel located in a nearby area with shuttle service to the park. It’s not exactly the easiest place to get to and takes a while by subway. Both parks are pretty big with more than enough stuff to see and do, but I’m glad we took our time getting around and enjoying our time. While there are hotels close to the park (and one inside DisneySea!), they were way to pricey for us to even consider. We wandered about after the park closed and explored a few of them but in the end we went our way back to our own hotel.

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Adventures at the Seoul Zoo (Seoul Grand Park)

Brown Bear

There’s a quote by Bill Waterson floating around the internet and I don’t know if it’s true or even in context, but it goes something like:

You know, sometimes the word seems like a pretty mean place… That’s why animals are so soft and huggy.

I love going to the zoo. It’s something I always wished I had done more as a child. On the other hand, I feel conflicted about the cramped spaces, loneliness, and overall unnatural state that the animals live in. Unfortunately, I have neither the skills or the money to wander out into the wilderness and photograph bears so I go to the zoo.

Giraffe

The Seoul Zoo isn’t the best zoo I’ve been to, but it is cheap and close to Seoul (yes, the Seoul Zoo is located in Gwacheon, just 15 minutes south of Seoul). Built into the side of a mountain, half of the visitors go to experience the zoo and half to hike up and down the mountain. The Tuesday when I went, my girlfriend had most of the park to ourselves. We literally went half an hour without seeing another person with the exception of a few students at one point; it was great.

Lion Pit

The zoo does offer a few opportunities to get up and close to the animals. At any time between 1 pm and 4 pm, there are a couple of petting and feeding sessions where visitors can get up close to llamas, goats, deer, and kangaroos. Unfortunately this Tuesday, all the petting sessions were closed. It wasn’t hard to see why what with the thirty or forty other visitors we saw that day.

Goat Pit

With the exception of the overwhelming emptiness, it was a normal visit to the zoo. Without the crowds around, more of the animals were willing to get up close to the glass and fences. Especially this little guy who posed for a few photos and even stuck around for a selfie with me on my cell phone camera (which was immediately posted to FB).

Bear Portrait

The size of the park and lack of any all encompassing trails meant that we’d be walking up and down the mountain all day. Especially since we didn’t realize that the petting programs were closed for the day, this resulted in my girlfriend pedometer giving us a friendly message saying we’d walked over 6 kilometers. Awesome. We ended our trip about six hours after we began, exhausted and slightly dehydrated from the intensive hike. It would be another hour before we arrived at home to greet our own little furry roommate at the door. Another animal to pose with and take pictures of.

Grandmother Bear

Portrait of a Red Panda

Portrait of an Otter

Getting There:

The easiest way to get to the Seoul Zoo is by taking the No. 4 Subway Line to Seoul Grand Park (대공원역) and going out through Exit 2. Afterwards, take the long straight away and you’ll arrive at the ticketing office. Be sure to take the package deal which gives you entry into the zoo, ticket for the tram ride, and sky lift ticket. Take the tram to the park (and back unless you want a very long walk) and enter the park.

Art Toy Culture @ Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Seoul, being the wonderful playground it is, always has somewhere to go and something to see even if you aren’t expecting it. Last weekend my girlfriend and I geared up to head out to a café outside of Seoul. Unfortunately it turned out it was further than we realized and we decided to get off at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (the new spaceship parked in the center of Seoul’s Dongdaemun shopping district). We wandered a bit and finally ended up in front of a large banner, crowds and figurines guarding an entrance.

“Welcome to Art Toy Culture.”

Banners

Immediately upon entering we were greeted with the smell of acetone, markers and acrylics; all the reasons I don’t work with ‘street art’ anymore. A handful of exhibitionists were working on designed metal boxes near the front. Later on we found out that these were small mini-fridges for Red Bull drinks… disappointing. The rest of the exhibition was awesome, though.

Deserted (group)

Working

Artists had set up booths in the center of the showroom floor while the walls were mostly reserved for showcasing works by different artists. The booths had glass (plastic?) cases showing off samples and actual figurines or statues for sale. There were a few that seemed to be only for show but those were few and far between. Unfortunately we were there for the last day so most of the booths were wiped… not that I would be able to find a decent excuse for spending $100+ on figurines, even if they looked this awesome.

Furry Monsters

Horns (court)

While a lot of the figures were hyper-realistic or somewhat anime/cartoon styled, there were more than enough booths with parodies or interesting new styles to keep the entire experience feeling fresh. More than a few times I would drift from a booth with cool realistic looking figures to one with simple and almost cartoonish proportions just because of the stylized work.

Cloudy Head

Xenomorph (in progress)

The highlight of the show were the showcases lining the walls with figurines and sets. A few were just pieces from specific artists catalogs of work while others were entire sets or scenes from movies (the Robocop one was awesome). Most of the time there were crowds and lines just to see some of the more popular pieces but it was pretty cool to see them up close and in detail.

Wall-E

Robocop

Monster Hunter

Unfortunately the show is over now, it was only from May 1st to May 5th. I had known about it earlier during my research for my magazine but I didn’t realize how short it was. I lucked into it, but anyone who didn’t go will have to wait until next year.

Until then, feel free to take a look around browse the photos that I could take. Cheers!

Sketches

Bad Apple

Claw Sword (closeup)

Bunny Mage

Bunny Axe

Cloudy Head

Victorian Futurism @ the Seoul Art Center

Masks 001

Whether you’re interested in fantasy or the alternative (read: fringe) sciences, ‘steampunk’ is a pretty cool concept. Similar to proponents of Nikola Tesla, ‘steampunk’ imagines a world powered by steam and pressurized fluid engineering rather than fossil fuels or electricity. The practicality of such a world might be up for debate, but that hasn’t stopped people from imagining what that world would look like.Picture 001

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Since March, the Seoul Arts Center (예술의전당) has been hosting an exhibit called, ‘The Art of Victorian Futurism’ which is otherwise known as steampunk art. The exhibit contains photos, paintings, drawings and other 2D works but the show-stoppers are the sculptures, figurines and other spotlighted works.

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All of the works are incredibly interesting, from the steampunk laser canon to the figurines of small robotic animals but my favorites of the show were the motorcycle and scooter which take center stage inside the hall. Each was retrofitted and rebuilt with amazing results. If Dr. Who rode a motorcycle, this would be it.

Vespa 003 Motorcycle 005 Motorcycle 001

The rest of the exhibition splits focus between framed prints and sculptures, installation art, and figurines. While the pictures were interesting to look at, some of the figurines and sculptures were truly engaging and take your imagination for a ride. While there were a few strange sections, specifically one dedicated to lamps, the rest of the exhibit is incredibly imaginative.

Toucan

the Owl

Pihrana

The exhibit has a W 12,000 entrance fee but there are several discounts available. One in particular is a ticket, available at a lot of shops and cafes, which offers foreigners a W 2,000 discount. The entire exhibit takes about an hour to walk through, more if you’re inclined to take lots of photos and less if you can beat the crowd. Either way, it’s a fun way to spend part of your weekend afternoon if you’re so inclined. The exhibit will be at the SAC until May 18th.

Scroll down to the bottom for a map with the location of the SAC.

Wings

Hermit Crab

Lego Elephant 001 (closeup)

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Robot 001

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Doll 003

Doll 001 (closeup)

Wall Art

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Doll 001

Brunch @ Jo’s Basket

While brunch isn’t something that occupies my mind often, it was definitely a concern of mine a few months ago when I was working on a brunch article for 10 Magazine in Seoul. The magazine was looking for the best brunches on offer in and around Seoul and the results were all over the place.Jos Basket (wp)

Finding a great brunch restaurant in Seoul isn’t easy. You have to deal with restaurants that create Korean fusion plates (which are great, but I prefer my brunch kimchi-less) or maybe don’t have everything on one plate. Then when you do find a great brunch place, you’ll end up paying W15,000 to W20,000 for something you could probably find at Denny’s back home.

That’s what I loved the most about Jo’s Basket, it’s not just another restaurant trying to cash in on the brunch craze. They’ve been offering up brunch for years while other restaurants have only started to catch up on the craze.

Tourists Breakfast

When I arrived, there weren’t any bells and whistles to greet me. The interior of the restaurant was great, but there wasn’t anything that screamed, “We have actual brunch and not some strange concoction made of last night’s leftovers!”

Most of the interview went along in Korean which was also a slight concern for more reasons than one. I learned a little later on that the owners can speak English, I should’ve just asked from the get go. It also turned out that one of the owners was a gyopo (born and raised abroad like yours truly). The conversation was fun but after taking a look at their menu, I was steaming in anticipation for the food.

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The portion sizes were amazing. Each plate comes along with a cup of coffee and a small soup which were great. Each plate was either American style or European style according to the owner/chef; I have no idea what the difference is since I’ve never had brunch in Europe. Then again, who cares… the food was awesome.

Princess Omlette

I visited Jo’s Basket as part of 10 Magazine’s search for the best brunch restaurants in Seoul. It still stands as one of the best brunch places I’ve visited, ever. If you want to see the full list, it’s available on 10 Magazine’s April issue or you can just check out 10Mag.com. Cheers!

A Wonderland, A Mess: Yongma Land (용마랜드)

I should have posted this to AFFM but for some reason I ended up posting it to my photoblog site instead. Here I am, correcting my mistake.

bludreaming

The first time I heard about Yongma Land I was drunk. I can’t remember who 0r where I had the conversation. All I remember was someone telling me about an old abandoned amusement park  left in the hills of northern Seoul. And then I forgot about it for months, nearly years. Like a dream.

Standing 001 (graveyard)

Finding Yongma Land turned out to be easier than I expected. I did a search on Naver and Google that, predictably, gave no directions. Eventually I turned up a subway station (Mangu Station, 망우역). From there it was the simple matter of catching a taxi and pronouncing “Yongma Land” with a thick Korean accent. It was a six minute taxi ride to the foot of a hill that looks about as interesting and unassuming as you can get. A further walk in revealed an abandoned structure, a parking lot, and grave sites which aren’t rare at…

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