Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pororo, Pool, and Parks

After our Expo excursion, we brought Stephanie and Emma to Seoul to enjoy some time with us while Ben was in Houston.  As usual, it was one big party!  Our first outing was to a place called Pororo Land.  Pororo is the most popular children's cartoon character in Korea, and this play place was typical of many around Seoul with it's cute characters and decor that invite thousands of photo opportunities.  We were able to stay for three shows which Emma really enjoyed:  a magic show, a 3-D Pororo adventure, and a character sing-along performance.  I guess that's why parents are charged an admission fee.  (That's Pororo with the glasses!)

The following day, we decided to check out the Supia Swim Park on Yeouido.  We decided water fun is a necessity in order to survive the hot and humid summers of Seoul (but not a good place for a camera).  The third day, Stephanie and Emma needed a change of pace, so I stayed home and played with Emma, while Stephanie took off on the subway to do some shopping.

Saturday, Bob was able to join us as we explored Childrens' Grand Park.  The name says it all:  this huge park has everything a kid could desire!  There was a zoo, a petting area, camel and pony rides, an amusement park, a water play area, performances, botanical gardens, playgrounds, a marine animal house, a parrot village, aquatic birds, musical fountains and a kids auto park.  It was more than we could do in one day, but we covered a lot of it.  It was fabulous, and I only wish we had visited here with all the family.

 Oh . . . look; it's a five-legged elephant!

Ben arrived late that afternoon, and we headed to the recently discovered "Taco Bell" in Itaewon.  We picked up a box of tacos and headed to Banpo River Park to watch the colorful water fountain show off the bridge.  We were surprised and delighted to see the river ferries gather in the middle of the Han River to watch a fireworks display.  With a band playing music in the background and the rhythmic flow of fountains spraying across the river, it made for a magical night in Seoul.

Yeosu Expo 2012

The World Fair was held in Yeosu, Korea this year, which is the city down south where Bob's company plant is located.  So, taking advantage of Bob's need to meet with his plant managers, we planned a visit to the Expo.  We drove down to Geoge to spend a couple of nights at Stephanie's home.  Saturday night we enjoyed dinner at the Turkish restaurant, and Sunday we went to church where we boosted the attendance by about one third.  As some friends have commented, that's not a branch, but a "twig"!  That evening we walked along the harbor in front of Ben's office building.

Ben had to leave on business for the week, so we took Stephanie and Emma with us to Yeosu, about a ninety-minute drive from Okpo.  The theme of the Expo was “The Living Ocean and Coast” with sub themes of “Preservation and Sustainable Development of the Ocean and Coast,” “New Resources Technology,” and “Creative Marine Activities.” There was participation from more than 100 countries and international organizations, and an expected 8 million visitors.  Little did we know that those visitors would all show up this day - or so it seemed!  Apparently, it was the first day of summer break in many areas throughout Korea, and this was the place to be.  Thankfully, the fare was reduced from 33,000 to 3,000 won for foreigners that week, because that's about all it was worth that day.  The sun and humidity were unforgiving and the 45-minute to 3 hour ques to get into the various exhibits was pure torture.  Too bad we didn't come earlier in the summer, because there really were some wonderful presentations that we just could not see.

Here's a few of Emma's favorite activities, including exploring a sunken ship:

 And there were lots of colorful sights to see:

The international exhibitions were interesting, including the giant "Lego" wave in the Denmark pavilion and a photo opportunity while "wearing" traditional Russian apparel.

Just for Michael, we visited the Peru exhibit and saw this gigantic squid encased in a table top at the bar.  On display was what they called the invention of the first surf board -
 too bad Elder Goodman won't be able to try that one out!

There was some amazing architecture at the fair, including an abandoned silo on the beach which was turned into a huge harp-shaped pipe organ.  On the ceiling of one building was a digital gallery which created images of the ocean from thousands of photographs of expo visitors.  They created a "Big O" structure in the bay, which would be the focal point of an amazing culminating performance each night.  The building behind the "Big O" was designed to look like a whale and was integrated into the nightly show.

That evening we managed to secure a place to sit with a partial view of the "Big O", among the thousands of visitors who gathered to witness the grand finale.  It was a spectacular display of lights, lasers, music, water fountains and sprayers, fog, and fire.  I think it told the story of a whale's quest to save the ocean from destructive pollutants from above.

 Yes, we got our three dollars' worth of fun!

The next day, Bob went to work at the plant and the rest of us enjoyed the beautiful new waterpark at our resort.
Aaaahhh, lazy rivers, slides, wave pools, water massages, hot tubs, and amazingly - no crowds!

Olympic Park and Wicked

The 1988 Olympics was held in Seoul, and I had heard that Olympic Park was a fun place to visit.  Supposedly, within the park was one of the largest outdoor sculpture exhibits in the world, featuring more than 200 works of art.  So we took off to find it on a Saturday afternoon.  The museum was quite small, but we enjoyed some of the distinctly Korean displays, such as synchronized swimsuits with all their "bling", and the "cute" Olympic mascots.  We were reminded of great Olympians such as Mark Spitz and Nadia Comaneci.

The huge Korean style Olympic "Peace Gate" at the Park entrance was really quite impressive, and we had to smile at the funny totem poles which lined the walkways.  The flame would soon burn at the games in London.  The days were being counted down in the museum.

We walked around and found a couple of art museums, but when we asked about the sculptures, nobody seemed to know what we were talking about.  The brochure we had received in the museum failed to mention anything about sculptures.  We began to follow a path through the trees and there they were . . . scattered throughout the huge park.  It appeared to us that in connection with the Olympics held in Seoul, each country that participated in the games was invited to commission an artist or two to design a sculpture to place on exhibit in the park.  The sculptures would represent the country and perhaps an depict and element of their culture or philosophy.  We enjoyed seeing the diversity of creative expressions and the artists interpretations - as bizarre as some certainly were.  Could it be we are not gifted with their "artistic vision"?

I dallied too long walking around the park in search of some fortress and we got caught in a torrential rain fall.  That quickly ended our tour of Olympic Park and we returned home soaking wet!

A week or so later, we set out to experience one of the big performing arts centers in Seoul.  For Father's Day, I had purchased tickets for Bob and I to see the Broadway Musical "Wicked" which was being performed by an Australian Company.  Unfortunately, I bought the cheap tickets like I do in Houston where every seat has a great view of the stage.  No such luck here!  It felt like we were half a mile from the stage.  I forgot how many people they try to cram into everything here!  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the show and I was glad Bob was able to see it.  We couldn't figure out why they used a dragon prop to advertise the show and an enormous one which hovered over the stage; but then again, we are in Asia!