A Trip to Lotte World

29 Jun

011A couple of weekends ago, Jiwon, Yunju and I took an early-morning bus to Lotte World. The entrance was entrancing, all pink, sparkly, and filled with cartoon characters and small excited children. The woman who sold us our tickets (which came at the very reasonable price of about $22) was dressed in a pink outfit that looked like something Sleeping Beauty would wear if she got a job as a flight attendant. Looking down the line, I noticed that all the female vendors were in pink, while the lone man was in a complimenting powder-blue ensemble Prince Charming would be proud of.

Find me.

Tickets in hand, we boarded an escalator which ascended into a child-at-heart’s paradise. Hard to believe we were still indoors, but already I could see a teacup ride, a flume ride, a pirate ship, an inverter ride, and several “hot air balloons” circulating the ceiling. The roof itself was a sunny glass dome, and the room was filled with sky-high plants, lame but well-intentioned animatronics, and music. We spent a little time in there, riding the flume and the ship (still one of the best thrill rides ever invented). Then we decided to head to the outdoor section of the park, before the hot afternoon sun showed its worst. Here I emerged, once again, into an atmosphere of pure excitement. Excitement!A Disney-esque castle stole the view, people were screaming in glee and terror on the roller coasters and thrill rides, and literally through it all the monorail moved steadily on. We immediately tried out the Gyro-drop, which is flat out the scariest ride I’ve ever been on. It slowly lifts you up into the air, only to completely drop you without warning. As I plummeted toward the earth, I noticed my ability to scream replaced only with the more embarrassing ability to grunt in agony. It was a short drop, but long enough for me to reflect on why I’ve never gone bungee jumping and certainly never will. When we were back on firm ground, it still took me a minute to stop shaking enough to get out of my seat. At this point my adrenaline kicked in, I started laughing, and my brain tried to do that thing where it tricks you into thinking you’ve just had the time of your life (rather than having your life flash before your eyes).

Still trying to comprehend why my hands won't stop shaking.

Still trying to comprehend why my hands won’t stop shaking.

But there was no time to do it again! Too much more awaited us! There was an underground roller coaster where each individual car turned circles as it rode the track. There was another coaster that went from zero to full speed in less than a second, and didn’t stop surprising us until the end. There was the Gyro Swing, far more fun than the drop, and interesting because it swung over the lake surrounding the park. An interesting thing worth noting about ride safety instructions, at least at this particular Korean amusement park, is that they were not only spoken into a mic worn by one of the ride operators; they were then also said in a sing-songy chant  before the ride started. To this chant all ride operators would join in, and then then do some coordinated hand gestures and a series of hand clapping. I really wish I knew what they were saying, or that I had been in a position to film it whenever it happened! I just don’t think the high school-aged ride-operators at Vancouver’s Playland would ever be willing to do something that embarrassing.

Yunju and I with our snacks

Yunju and I with our snacks

Between lines and rides, we sat and ate snacks and people watched. No popcorn or cotton candy was to be seen, but hot dogs, fish sausage, kebabs, penny candy, and big swirl cones seemed popular. The ‘street’ vendors’ bestsellers seemed to be character ears on headbands, something else I think North American teenagers need to get over their embarrassment of and embrace for all their hilarious potential. During the course of the day I saw hundreds of ‘mice’, ‘rabbits’, antennae and (I wonder if Disney knows) big red bows with white polka dots. One of these was worn conspicuously by a park sweeper. He was about my age, fully functional and fully male. Yet there, on top of his head, was a ginormous Minnie Mouse bow. Having lived in Korea long enough, this didn’t even surprise me until he walked by a couple times and it dawned on me that, for a grown man living almost anywhere else in the world, this would be considered odd.

One of the snacks stands indoors

After taking the monorail back inside, we went on two of the worst rides available, back to back. Pharaoh’s Fury and The Adventures of Sindbad reminded me of Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, which I think I liked when I was eight, but have a sense would be boring as an adult. By this point we’d about rode all the rides once, and were pretty hungry and tired. We decided to eat at T.G.I. Friday’s which  I almost had a heart attack over, upon discovery. Oh yes, it was yummy.

By evening, my roomies and I parted ways, opting to spend the rest of the weekend in their respective hometowns, which they usually do. I took the bus back to Chuncheon and reflected, with a huge smile on my face, what an amazing use of a Saturday that was, and how much fun it was to spend with friends.

Lotty and Lorry

And now, as we’re nearing the end of Deborah in Korea, I’m going to start breaking out a few lists….

Things That Don’t Seem Strange Anymore:

  • The occasional mop and bucket sitting unattended in the elevator
  • Taking off my shoes to eat in a restaurant
  • Sitting on the floor in restaurants, church, and in homes (even my own!)
  • Free instant coffee machines in restaurants, banks, cell phone stores, etc.
  • Free samples at every grocery store
  • Lots of yelling at every grocery store (Newsies-style)
  • So many side dishes that you can’t move anything around the table
  • Being offered coffee, but never any cream or sugar to go with it
  • …and thus drinking black coffee
  • Taking taxis
  • Hangeul (the Korean “alphabet”)
  • The sound (and inflections) of the Korean language
  • My saying/yelling random Korean phrases
  • Complete non-understanding and minor embarrassment
  • Chopsticks
  • Bone, skin and gristle served with a side of meat
  • Treating a piece of seaweed as a delicious light snack
  • Going somewhere with people, not knowing where/what it is, and being completely okay with it
  • Paper cups, stationery, curtains and other home decor featuring nonsense English saying or poems
  • K-pop music videos (though that one might be a stretch; they often surprise me)

Things That Will Always Be Strange:

  • Parents not telling their kids to “buckle up” or “look both ways before you cross the street”
  • Eight year olds with their own smart phones
  • Cell phone etiquette in general
  • Couples who dress the same
  • Wearing full outfits instead of a bathing suit to the beach or pool
  • Many people’s serious fear of bugs, small animals, the sun, and electric fans (they will kill you. Look it up.)
  • ‘Fruit’ salad consisting of: green grapes, red grapes, and cherry tomatoes

2 Responses to “A Trip to Lotte World”

  1. Kristi June 29, 2013 at 8:59 PM #

    Well, that post certainly brought back memories of mt time in Korea! I worked at Woo Bang Tower Kand in Taegu. I wonder if it’s still there. Hey, you didn’t mention salty squid snacks in your lists – I bet you’ve really become accustomed to those!

    • Deborah June 29, 2013 at 9:33 PM #

      Hmm I didn’t see any squid there! It’s crazy, but Daegu is one of the few major places in Korea that I haven’t been… 😦 I looked up this Woobang Tower Land of yours and it looks really cool. Oh well…next time!

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