Korea 2008 Day Thirteen: Olympic Park, Coex Aquarium

by Kara on October 20, 2008

Today, the plan was to go to the COEX Aquarium, which is in the COEX (ritzy) mall. We got off the train one subway stop early so we could walk through the Gangnam business district. Gangnam literally means “south of river” and it was. It is newer business district and was full of interesting looking skyscrapers. Stephen’s Dad’s English is pretty good – better than I remembered – but he still runs across words he wants to know the meaning of. Today it was barrista. When we aren’t here, I am sure he speaks Korean all the time, but for us, he speaks a mixture of Korean and English. Often, he will say something in Korean, then repeat it in English, which is helpful.

A young boy points at a shark in a tank at the Coex Aquarium in Seoul.

A young boy points at a shark in a tank at the Coex Aquarium in Seoul.

We got to the Coex Mall and headed to the aquarium. I am not kidding when I say it took us about 20 minutes to walk all the way across the mall. It is gigantic. The aquarium was small, but actually quite nice. They had some species that I had never seen before in person and many of the displays were very good – though again, lacking in English. There was one tank of koi that was at about calf level. Stephen’s Dad left his camera in the washroom so I waited on a bench in front of this koi pond/tank while we waited for him to come back. I started noticed that every time someone would walk by, the fish would follow them. The tank had no covering, so I am sure the employees just stand in the same place the visitors do to feed them, so they equate human calves with food – kind of like Pavlov’s Goldfish. When Stephen came back into the room, he wouldn’t believe me, so he started walking back and forth in front of the tank and the fish just followed him this way and that. It was really funny.

Don’t worry, I won’t describe all the fish, but they sure had some interesting ones. They had about 10 species of shark, and at least five species of rays. My favorites were the Humboldt Penguins. They are such inadvertent comedians. They stand on the edge of their pool and can’t decide whether or not to go in. Then one clumsy oaf will come by, bump into another one, and they all fall into the water like dominoes. Then they jump out and do it all over again.

When we finished at the aquarium, we decided to go to Jackie’s Kitchen, which is a restaurant chain owned by Jackie Chan. Stephen and I were looking at the noodle/rice dish menu, but his Dad said, “All dim sum – we will have this, this, this, this, this and this.” His selections? Steamed spicy jellyfish dumpling, sang hong dumpling, steamed shark’s fin dumpling, pan-fried seafood dumpling, Chinese-style deep-fried small octopus, and deep-fried spicy jellyfish dumpling. These would not exactly have been my choices! But I will have you know that I ate all of them, even the octopus. I think he could tell Stephen and I were a little reluctant about the octopus, but it was battered and deep-fried, and therefore unrecognizable. I just tried not to think about it. It tasted okay I guess, but I wouldn’t order it again! Anyway, we thought the restaurant was over-priced and just average. It was probably our worst meal in Seoul.

After that, we had hoped to visit a prehistoric excavation site, but we all kind of forgot it was Monday, and most museums are closed. We walked all the way there from the subway, then turned around to go back.

The World Peace Gate, constructed from steel and iron, stands 24 meters (78 feet) high. Painted on the wings of the structure are a blue dragon, a phoenix, a tiger, and a turtle, by artist Baik Kum Nam.

The World Peace Gate, constructed from steel and iron, stands 24 meters (78 feet) high. Painted on the wings of the structure are a blue dragon, a phoenix, a tiger, and a turtle, by artist Baik Kum Nam.

We decided to go to Olympic Park. There are some early fortress ruins there. We knew the fortress museum would be closed, but Olympic Park is pretty interesting in its own right. The Olympics were held in Seoul in 1988. The park is huge and beautiful. We did a lot of walking around, though we were slowing a bit by this time – even Stephen’s Dad. My knee has finally decided that I have gone up and down too many flights of stairs in the past couple weeks and it staged a protest. I had a little tougher time getting around this afternoon. But I managed to grin and bear it. I just dreaded getting back to the apartment, since I have to climb five flights of stairs.

When we got to our subway stop, we went to another traditional restaurant. This one seemed to have a specialty in mushrooms – which sounded good to me. Instead of asking for no spice, Stephen’s Dad asked for not too spicy so Stephen would enjoy it more. If that is their idea of not too spicy, surely their normal level of spiciness would kill me. But it was quite good. It was a noodle soup cooked at the table with lots of mushrooms and some sort of leafy vegetable I couldn’t identify. We also had seafood pancake and dumplings.

Check out more of Stephen’s pictures of South Korea.

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