Seoul can get crazily overheated.. so overheated that Koreans have developed numerous ways to stay cool; cold foods like patbingsoo and naengmyun, and also 얼큰한 soups (foods that are piping hot and spicy but somehow refreshing at the same time) like boshintang, seafood soups, and other peppery stews.
But when it gets unbearably hot, the best way to escape the heat is simply to go somewhere cooler. This Saturday I sought out the coldest places in Seoul...
Attached to Lotte Department Store at Jamsil subway stop on Line 2 is a big ice skating rink
, the biggest one in Korea:
It's surrounded by restaurants, cafes, shops, and arcades. You pay for entrance and to rent skates (they can convert your American or European shoe size to the Korean size). You can also buy a pair of one-size-fits-all gloves in various colors (I got pink) for 500 won. Go after 6 PM and ladies over 20 years old with a partner get 50% off admission!
Funnily enough, the best skaters on the ice were the oldest! My favorite was a diminutive ajummah in a bright purple floral shirt who gracefully skated circles around young couples.
The ice rink is cool without being too chilly, a plus if you're coming in from the sweltering outdoors wearing just shorts and a t-shirt. Normally, a huge round window on the ceiling lets light in, but when I went on Saturday it was covered up with tarp. Lotte World, the attached amusement park, is undergoing renovation right now-- I hear that someone died last year
on a ride, and there have been problems with injuries and so forth...
Another great place to go to beat the heat, especially in the evening, is Chung-gae-chun. Get off at Gwanghwamun Station and walk straight till you get to a huge snail shell with water flowing out of it.
Chung-gae-chun used to be a large road, but was converted into a loooong stream with walkways and trees. The water is chilly and fast-flowing, and lots of people sit on the side of the stream to dangle their tired feet in the water. Take a look at this video:
It's a great place to bring a picnic snack or a few drinks and chat with friends while enjoying the cool breeze :) Being surrounded by college students in Sinchon where I live (and college students in New Haven), gives me a somewhat skewed perception of Koreans. It's easy to start to generalize from Sinchon and say Seoul-ites are all fashionable, slender, and young. Chungaechun, of course, had its share of dating couples, but it was nice to rub shoulders with the rest of the population... rambunctious families, young children trying to paddle in the water, and elderly couples.