When the Rain Arrives, It's the Malls That ReignWith the unpredictable downpours and annoying humidity these days, taking your children on an outing may not seem like such a good idea. But in Seoul, indoor shopping malls provide a nice alternative, a place where you can treat your children to a variety of activities protected from rain and cooled by air-conditioners.
On a recent summer day, the weather was too hot and humid for Seong Hye-suk to bear. Ms. Seong, a housewife, at first thought of going to an amusement park, but gave up on the idea because she was afraid that the weather would be too much for her daughter.
Instead, she looked for a place where her family could spend the day in the shade and cool, and chose Central City. It took her only about 40 minutes' drive to reach her destination, and she was pleased to find that she made a good choice: Central City is much like a wonderland indoors.
After parking her car, she and her family went to a movie theater housed in the complex, and booked seats for "Shrek," a recently released family movie. Then they went to the World Food Court to grab a bite. The most important stop of the family's visit that day was the huge Youngpoong Book Store located in the mall. "It is a lot of fun to visit a bookstore and browse the shelves. My husband needs to read many books for his work, and my daughter is very interested in illustrated children's book," Ms. Seong said.
At the bookstore, it is common to find some parents, especially mothers, reading books with their children for hours. "Everyday, dozens of moms bring their children to the store," a Youngpoong employee said.
However, it is not just the Youngpoong bookstore that provides fun at Central City. The whole complex is a playground for youngsters. For instance, many children come to race about in their in-line skates or on their two-wheeled scooters (also called "kickboards") on the mall's marble floor. Lee Hyo-eun, a kickboard rider, comes to Central City at least once a week. "I like the place because I can hang out with my friends at the stores that sell fancy stuff after enjoying riding my kickboard," Lee said.
In addition, Central City offers a variety of cuisines at its foodcourts, family restaurants and cafes. The foodcourts, with their light snacks and simple meals at reasonable prices, are most popular among families.
Coex Mall, located at Samseong-dong in Gangnam district, is generally considered a place for young people. With famous facilities such as an aquarium and the Megabox movie theater, Coex Mall is also a fun place for families.
Coex Aquarium is one of the major tourist attractions in Seoul. In spite of being rather expensive at 12,000 won (about $9) for students and 14,500 won for adults, the huge aquarium is always crowded with couples and families.
Megabox, with its 16 screens, offers a variety of selections for movie lovers, and you often can find many people queuing to purchase tickets until late at night. Also popular at the mall is the Megabox 3-D Turboride, a virtual 3-D movie theater.
The eye-popping 3-D effects on the wide screen are enough to make anyone forget about the hot weather and plunge instead into the world of fantasy.
Choi Ho Yeong, an office worker, and his 5-year-old daughter enjoyed horseback riding last Tuesday at DMZ, a big video arcade located on the first floor of Techno Mart in Gwangjin district. The horse they rode was actually just a model, and their ride was virtual, simulated on a big screen. Mr. Choi's little girl, excited by the dynamic game, refused to leave the arcade for hours. "Techno Mart has many facilities that children like to play with, and it had several different kinds of exhibitions and performances. It's good for whole family," Mr. Choi said.
The arcade has the latest games, including high tech machines with huge screens and amazing graphics as well as simple classic games. The sixth floor of the Techno Mart, where computer-related products are for sale, is also a nice alternative for a summer outing.
There, you can find many families like Kim Kyeong-hun's, enjoying economical shopping while keeping cool. "I enjoy browsing through the CDs for computer games with my son. Time flies when we are here together looking at the newest software programs," Mr. Kim said.
On his way back home, he usually stops at the discount market in the second sub-basement of the Techno Mart to buy groceries for his family.
The best way to get to the places to the right is by subway. To reach Central City, take line 3 or line 7 and get off at the Express Bus Terminal. To visit Coex Mall, take line 2 and get off at Samseong station. Techno Mart is at Gangbyeon station on line 2.
If you plan to drive, remember that you may have to spend a few thousand won on parking. It is usually less expensive to park your car at a public parking lot located nearby than at the parking lots inside the malls.
For instance, the Coex Mall's parking lot charges 2,000 won ($1.60) for half an hour, but another lot called "Tancheon," about 500 meters farther from the mall, charges the same amount for up to seven hours.
Central City www.centralcityseoul.co.kr 02-6282-0114
Coex Mall www.coexmall.com 02-6002-5312
Techno Mart www.tm21.com 02-3424-0114
by Kim Sung-tak