Nicole and I woke up early in Sinsa-dong and grabbed some smoothies at Smoothie King. It’s crazy the franchises that make it over to Korea. There was one in St. Pete, and that was the only place I’d ever seen them, but I hear they’re popular elsewhere, apparently in Korea. After our smoothie breakfast, Nicole bought a sweater with a sheep on it at a little boutique around the corner. Korea is filled with odd little boutiques selling unusual clothes. We boarded the subway to Lotte World and in minutes we were deep below the Earth ready to check out the Disney clone that is Lotte World.[divider_flat]
Birthday Weekend at Lotte World
Lotte World is connected to Lotte Mart, a mall, and a large subway station, all underground. Its a labyrinth of treats, shops, restaurants, an ice rink and of course, Lotte World.
Before we went into Lotte World, Nicole and I picked up some delicious cupcakes in the subway. Christmas cupcakes to be specific. They were adorable and Nicole is a sucker for cupcakes so we had to stop.
After our cupcake break we stored our bags in a locker and went into Lotte World. Lotte World is the world’s largest indoor theme park and one of the best theme parks in Asia, along with Tokyo Disney. Lotte World is also home to Korea’s largest indoor ice skating rink.
Lotte World Scalpers and Two-handed Waves
When you walk into the lobby, if you can call it that, of Lotte World, you’re hit by just how unassuming it is. Despite the world’s largest indoor theme park being just behind it, the lobby is a simple room. Aside from the vibrantly decorated fiberglass characters the room is just a desk with a few employees behind it. Nicole and I walked toward the counter but before we could reach it, a man tapped me on the shoulder and spoke to me in Korean. I was confused at the time and just told him, “no thank you” before turning around, but Nicole and I later surmised that he was probably scalping Lotte World tickets. It was a bold move considering he was standing right in front of the counter to the theme park. It was a doubly bold move because tickets are only $41, half the price of most theme parks back home. Tickets are even cheaper if you’re a teenager, kid, or baby. Discounted tickets are available if you want to enter the park but not ride any of the rides, which seems like a great idea for grandparents or people who suffer motion sickness.
[box type=”info”]Oddly enough everyone at Lotte World greets you with some sort of corporate-mandated two-handed wave…not sure why.[/box]
As you enter the park it hits you just how big the place is. You walk into the second level of the building which looks down on the largest ice skating rink in Korea and looks up to 3 more floors of theme park above you. Despite the breathtaking view, there’s not much to do on this floor. The theme park is pretty much the 3 floors above you.
The main floor is two floors above the skating rink and one floor up from the entrance. From this main floor you can see all of the indoor portion of the park. There’s a monorail, a hot air balloon ride, a roller coaster, viking ship pendulum ride and massive “outdoor” theater with American dancers lip syncing to Kpop.
Sunday Bumper Car Drivers
Nicole and I started with the bumper cars. Bumper cars in Korea is a bizarre experience. Everyone here is so polite. Most people just drove around in a confined space or gently bumped their friends but avoided strangers. Nicole and I were like bulls in china shops. We bumped our cars from one side of the rink, I think that word applies, to the other. At one point a Korean accidentally bumped into me and apologized. It was an interesting experience.
After bumper cars, and definitely not before it, we got a pizza. It was nothing to write home about, accept for the fact that I am doing just that as we speak.
Nicole and I were overwhelmed with the numerous possibilities and opportunities that Lotte World held before us. We decided to do as the Koreans do and follow the nearest crowd which led us into a tunnel-like hallway, a la Bug’s Life at Animal Kingdom. Inside was a 4D theater, like bug’s life, but this one played a movie of an insane roller coaster chasing an eagle through a canyon. Every few minutes the eagle would cry out and I would turn to Nicole and loudly whisper, “EAAAAAGLE CRYYYYY!!!”[divider_flat]
I made Nicole go on the monorail with me, because just like the People Mover at Epcot, I love slow moving pointless transportation at theme parks and its my birthday weekend. It was great in that it was both slow moving and pointless transportation that ended where it began. In short, it was everything I could have possibly hoped for.
After the monorail, Nicole and I left the inside of Lotte World and ventured out to Magic Island, the outside half of the park. Magic Island is Korea’s imitation of Magic Kingdom, complete with a giant castle. The only difference being, aside from everyone is Korean, is that the rides surrounding it are closer to carnival rides than Disney theatrical rides.
In addition to slow moving theme park transportation, I really love those rides that shoot you up into the air and then drop you suddenly. Coincidentally, Nicole hates these rides, but it was my birthday weekend so we did it anyways.
[box type=”alert”]Nicole may or may not have cried on the Gyro Drop.[/box]
We hopped into our seats and the harnesses lowered. At this point Nicole began to reconsider her decision to go on the Gyro Drop. She was halfway into convincing me to let her get off when the ride started up. Her hand was crushing mine as we lifted up into the air high above Seoul. From our vantage point we could see pretty far, or at least I could. I’m certain Nicole had her eyes closed.
There’s a strange calm that comes over you when you’re about to suddenly drop 100 feet. Bam! That’s when it happened. Nicole and I plunged back down to the Earth. Knees shaking, Nicole hopped off the ride and joined me for our next adventure. [divider_flat]
Waiting in line for Santa or a haunted house, or something…
How do you come down from the rush of the Gyro Drop? Easy! One word, two syllables, one delicious pretzel! Unfortunately Lotte World only had mediocre pretzels so Nicole and I opted for that instead.
Is Korean Santa different than Western Santa?
You bet your sweet bottom he is. Western Santa is fat, has a beard, judges people on their merit, and loves milk and cookies. Korean Santa is thin, clean-shaven, performs magic, and probably loves Soju. In typical kpop fashion he wears a microphone as well. Nicole even got to perform some close up card magic with Korean Santa as we waited in line for what turned out to be a haunted 3D movie. [divider_flat]
Inside the haunted house was a 3D movie playing a neat mashup of every possible scary scenario. The movie follows a cat in first-person perspective, into a haunted house filled with bats, rats, toys that come to life, and demonic plants. The neat part about all of these rides so far was that they were all language neutral. The fact that Nicole and I knew very little Korea didn’t hinder our experience in the park at all.[divider_flat]
When Nicole and I finished up the haunted house show, we went back into the inside half of Lotte
World to check out a roller coaster we’d seen earlier in the day, that didn’t open until 3pm. Nicole and I hopped in line and queued in front of the ride until we made it into the ride’s inside line. The line inside was really cool, it was very Egyptian and resembled a Pharaoh’s antechamber. It was bizarre that we waited outside of the ride in a bland line only to make it inside and run through the interesting part of the line.
It turned out that we were waiting in line for a different ride. The roller coaster we saw out front was part of a different ride that happened to pass by the line we were waiting in. The line we were in led to a neat Egyptian themed ride where you board a Jeep and drive through haunted tombs and caverns. It was eerily similar to Indiana Jones. Note the picture to the right, complete with Indy’s asian companion, Shortstop.
After our Jeep adventure ride, Nicole and I found the roller coaster we’d been searching for…the French Revolution. Lotte World’s best ride, in my opinion, is the French Revolution. Its a roller coaster that snakes, spins, and loops all over the park and through several other rides. Its awesome, and its really wacky. The ride is called the French Revolution, but the roller coaster cars look like spaceships. It makes no sense, but it was so much fun.[divider_flat]
A few other rides of note
After the French Revolution ride, Nicole and I went on one of those viking ship rides where you swing back and forth like a pendulum. It was a lot of fun, but nothing new if you’ve been on one before.
We went on a ride similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disney where you shoot at different animatronic creatures and collect points. There was a fun river rapids ride where you ride over rapids in an octagonal float similar to Busch Gardens or Animal Kingdom.[divider_flat]
It was getting late at this point and Nicole and I had done everything we wanted to do at Lotte World. We decided to call it a day at the park and left the theme park. On our way out Nicole and I stopped at the ice skating rink below the theme park to skate for a half hour or so. Skating in Korea requires, in addition to skates, cool bright colored gloves, I’m not sure why, other than ice is cold. We skated around the edge of the oval rink while Korean children practiced speed skating and figure skating in the inside of the oval.
After ice skating we were both pretty beat. It had been a heck of a day and we were both exhausted. This weekend was everything I could have hoped for in a birthday weekend with my lady. I got to drink delicious beers and eat foreign food in Itaewon and ride roller coasters and gyro drops at Lotte World.