Friday, January 23, 2009

Lotte World

Lotte is a large corporation in Korea that has its own McDonald's-esque fast food burger chain and also makes the popular snack Pepero, more commonly known as Pocky in North America. And it also has its own theme park.

Anthony and a couple Korean friends of ours, Catherine and Carolyn, went to Lotte World last week. This was the most elaborate of previous Colin-being-a-wingman-for-Anthony adventures as Anthony did his best to charm Catherine, who speaks very little English. Interestingly, Carolyn lived in Surrey for a while, of all places, so as she and I discuss the pros and cons of living in Surrey, Anthony is given a golden opportunity to work his magic.

Lotte World is basically a smaller, indoor version of Disneyland. There is also a substantial outdoor section, but the day that we went it was freezing cold and standing in lineups out there was pretty unpleasant. The theme seemed to be let's-shamelessly-rip-off-Disneyland. Pharoah's Fury was a direct copy of the Indiana Jones ride, Comet Express was a rehash of Space Mountain, and The Adventures of Sindbad was alarmingly similar to Pirates of the Caribbean. The logo was identical to Disney, and when I saw the giant white castle that adorned the outdoor section I could tell that they were making no effort at all to hide their copyright sins.


This last photo is of Anthony tentatively entering a photo booth called "Sweet Holic", although I prefer to think of it as "The Chamber of Horrors" . Stepping into this room was like entering the mind of an eleven-year-old hyperactive Asian girl on drugs. Everything inside was pink or shiny. The video would scream instructions at you in Korean and allow a time limit for you to select one of dozens of awful backgrounds to embellish your photos. Then, you would go outside to another computer screen and adorn your creations with a number of twinkly images super-imposed onto the pictures to make them even more revolting. Anthony and I were stunned during the entire experience, especially when we noticed how immersed in the decorating phase the girls were. Unfortunately, there was no time limit to the finishing-touches stage. The grand result: miniature photo stickers that I keep for the comic value, but still cause me deep shame every time I see them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hwaesong Fortress & Calvin Harris

This is a very late update, mainly because I've been busy with the new school schedule for December, partly because I've been experiencing gastrointestinal horror for the last week. Korean cuisine has finally caught up to me, after seven months of what I thought was simply cheap dining.

Lizzy came to visit me over here in Suwon from Dec 19 to Jan 5, which was a FANTASTIC distraction from the frustrations of Korean living. Now I had someone to complain with! I think she liked her stay (apart from the vile affliction she got during her last few days, but luckily she was good to go for the flight home); we got a lot done during her stay. We had a look at the Fortress (which is the large wall that surrounds the centre of the city I live in) as well as Hwaesong Palace in the middle. To be fair, Hwaesong Palace is a smaller, slightly less impressive carbon copy of Gyeongbok Palace so it wasn't worth investigating.

This actually all happened after the highlight of my time in Korea so far. What I'm talking about of course is the legendary Calvin Harris concert we attended at Club Eden in Seoul. It was visually overwhelming, the sound was excellent and the crowd was composed of two main factions: Koreans who had no idea who Calvin Harris was, and die-hard Calvin Harris fans from all over the world. Such as myself. The best part, of course, was MEETING Calvin Harris as we happened upon him, casually walking down the street, as we were heading home the next morning. Unbelievable luck. The best part was that he was a very genuinely normal guy, not a pretentious Tom-Cruise type celebrity. I think he was mildly surprised to have a random Canadian guy chase him down in the middle of Seoul.