- 7 September 2010
- Filed under
Martin RobinsonLonely Planet author
The future arrives in Seoul first, whether it’s the slimmest mobile phones, the biggest 3D TV screens or the fastest broadband wired to nearly every home in the city.
Everyone lives in high-rise apartment blocks, giant outdoor screens cover downtown buildings, and a nuclear power station’s worth of neon flashes all night. Superfast, super clean subway trains whizz millions of people around the city every day.
Everything is rush-rush, from gulping fast food on the hoof to drinking soju (local vodka) in one shot. Motorbikes zoom along pavements delivering urgent contracts or pizzas.
The future of entertainment
The future of fun has already arrived – 17-screen movie complexes, multi-storey spas with dozens of treatments, saunas and hot baths, and 24-hour entertainment options everywhere you look. The future is less sleep.
Bars, dance clubs, jazz and rock venues, cafes, DVD rooms, internet rooms, singing rooms, pool halls and bowling alleys are piled on top of each other up to ten stories high in entertainment areas.
Dragon Hill Spa outside Yongsan Station is a typical luxury spa. Charcoal saunas, crystal salt rooms, ginseng and cedar hot baths are spread over seven storeys. You can also whack golf balls, watch a movie, meditate, nap, and relax in the rooftop garden or outdoor pool. The decor throws together an eclectic mix of Las Vegas gaudy, Asian Zen and bamboo eco.
Lotte World is not new but this pocket-sized amusement park is ahead of its time as an all-round, all-weather entertainment complex that includes Charlotte theatre, an indoor ice-skating rink, a Disney-like amusement park with thrill rides, a folk museum and a shooting range.
A Korean wave of popular culture – TV serials, pop music, movies and fashion – is cascading around Asia and making all things Korean cool for Asia’s youth.
The future of dating
In Seoul love motels are as common as 24-hour convenience stores. With a castle or fantasy design, rooms (rented by the hour or overnight) can have round beds, heart-shaped whirlpool baths for two, starry ceilings, satin sheets, free condoms and even naked-lady door handles.
Copy local couples, buy a padlock and head to the romantic sunset atop Namsan, a splash of green mountainside, reachable by cable car. Fix the padlock to the railing at Seoul N Tower, throw away the key and you too will be locked together forever.
Take an elevator up 33 floors to Top Cloud (Jongno Building, Jong St) for a smart, candlelit bar, savvy staff, soft jazz sounds and a jaw-dropping view.
For ultramodern healthy cuisine take your date to Gamrodang (Hwagae-gil, Samcheongdong) for perfect morsels of vegetarian food, including a seven-herb dressing, cactus juice kimchi (spicy, pickled cabbage) and pink bamboo salt.
Art of the future
Seoul’s hundreds of small private galleries show modern art, much of it off-the-wall. The Seoul Museum of Art near Deoksu Palace hides a modernist art gallery behind the stone facade of the 1927 Japanese-era Supreme Court.
In Saemunan-gil, downtown Seoul, is a giant modern art icon, Jonathan Borofsky’s five-storey metal silhouette of a Hammering Man. A further 200 outdoor futuristic artworks can be found among the stadiums in Olympic Park.
Nominated World Design City 2010, the latest urban development is the Design Plaza & Park in Dongdaemun, dreamed up by architect Zaha Hadid, and due to open in 2011.
The future of shopping
The future of shopping is malls with more than shops. Seoul’s giant COEX Mall is underground and besides 200 stores has food courts, Seoul’s best aquarium, a conference centre, a Hyundai department store, hotels, a 17-screen cinema and even a Kimchi Museum. All it lacks is a GPS system to guide customers around the labyrinth.
For the latest designer fashions head to Galleria in Apgujeong to outfit yourself from head (Helen Kaminsky hats) to toe (Jimmy Choo shoes). But visit Daily Projects (Seollung St) for a showroom of cutting edge local designers. Then stroll down shady Garosu-gil with its euro-asian boutiques and eateries. Such east-west fusion is the future of both fashion and food.
The future of Christianity
Take a subway train to Yeouido, an island in the Han river, to join thousands of worshippers in the vast concrete Full Gospel Church. The seven Sunday services include church news shown on a giant screen, a full orchestra and a 150-member choir. The high-tech Lloyd Webber show is impressive and slick.