The scene below is from one of the hallways of U-Para in Haeundae. This franchise runs leisure centres around Korea, offering a huge variety of options to wind down. Primarily they're targeted at teenagers and children but there's also plenty of stuff for adults to do. You just come in, pay an entry fee of about $8 and most things are free or a small charge.
There's everything from bowling, pool and darts to massage chairs, karaoke rooms and music studios where you can play in your own band on real instruments.
Back in the day, I used to be a big fan of Timezone in Australia which were arcade gaming outlets. U-Para have an impressive range, including a lot of music machines I'd never seen before. You can play games that put you on electric guitars, turntables or traditional Korean drums. There's even a realistic railway train simulator (it was incredibly boring) and an unrealistic shovel tractor simulator (it was only slightly better). On the tractor simulator the objective is to shovel as much computerised sand onto the back of a truck in a given time frame. It was mildly surprising to find out how bland the earthmoving business can be.
Yup, you can even go fishing. You put in a deposit at the front desk and get handed a fishing rod and a plastic bag to put your catch in. The tanks were a little small but it didn't deter this guy, who seemed to be having a relaxing time.
And what exactly are you fishing for? Well, goldfish of course. This is another one of those crazy 'only in Korea' examples. When you catch them you can take them home or throw them back. I gave it a miss, but I watched the guy fishing for a while and the fish didn't seem to be biting. I guess they'd learned their lesson a few times in the past.
This is a scene from one of our occasional 'pot-lucks', where we gather at someone's house and each bring a dish of some sort. Here we're at Katie's apartment for her birthday. I usually make curries, which are rare in Korea and exceedingly difficult to find ingredients for. My curry powder was flown in from Malaysia by a friend and given to me last year. I'm using it sparingly. The other teachers like to cook Italian and Mexican recipes. These are also pretty much the only times when we drink red wine these days.
On the weekend we went up for a day at Caribbean Bay, near Seoul. We got up at 4:30am in the morning, took a 4 hour bus ride, spent the day there and came home before 9:30pm. It was a nice change but rather exhausting.
Caribbean Bay is Korea's largest waterpark. It covers an impressive expanse of land and is right next to Everland, another big amusement park. Entry fee is about $35, but we took a package that included transport from Busan for $80 which was pretty good value. This is the main artificial 'beach' area, where the water is lightly heated.
The park has surroundings with a lot of attention to detail, like this artificial waterfall. There's also Caribbean-style music playing from hidden areas behind the plants.
In the middle of the day, the main area starts to get pretty crowded. I've heard that the most popular beaches in Busan get worse than this in the summer. It was still enjoyable out in the deeper parts, but you do tend to get the occasional kick from passing swimmers.
An interesting quirk in Korean culture is that people generally don't apologise for accidentally bumping into you. On the subway you can get jostled around a lot and nobody will even make eye contact. It works both ways though, I've sometimes accidentally bumped into an old lady and turned around to apologise, only to find she's already on her merry way halfway down the street. I've started to get used to it.
One thing I also need to mention is that the main beach attraction is also a wave pool. At regular time intervals large hydraulic pumps create fairly large waves to excite the swimmers. It's a lot of fun. They can even make different styles of wave come out. Check out my video above. The first wave of the day was hilarious. A foghorn sounded, then everyone started screaming and more than a few people were bowled over in the ensuing chaos.
Winding its way around the park is this artificially flowing river. Water-pumps along the way drive it continuously in a clockwise direction no matter where you start. The current is strong but steady and if you grab something to float on it can be a relaxing way to tour the area. It even winds its way to the indoor section.
This outdoor jungle-gym feature has a lot of bells and whistles that invite further investigation. People on higher areas can direct jets of water onto the people below or fill up rotating buckets. Large mist sprays are periodically released into the air.
But the coolest thing is that the skull at the top is a huge bucket of water that is continuously filling up. Every 3 minutes a foghorn will sound and it will tip the entire contents onto the crowd below. It doesn't look as scary from here, but when you're standing under it, the weight of the water is surprisingly heavy and it gives you a cold shock. Julie was standing under it and it managed to pull out her earring.
Here's another view of that river we saw before. In this section the current speeds up a little and splits into different routes that you can choose.
There are also a few water slides around the place too. We went on one, but it took about 45 minutes to line up for, so we gave up on the rest. That steep orange one there is called The Bobsled and it's very fast, I think they clocked it at 80 km/hr.
Flow Riders are artificial surfing machines. A row of highly pressurized nozzles produce a 2 inch sheet of water over a rubber incline on which you can surf. In order to keep someone continuously afloat on such a thin film, it pumps out around 200,000 litres per minute.
I was impressed too.
Here's a video of someone on the machine, who has evidently had a little more practice than the average joe.
And here are the ladies who I spent the day with. On the left is Heather, then Emily (her sister) and Julie. It was Emily's idea to come out and see the waterpark. Good stuff.
This is my new card trick I was showing them. The ace switches suit really quickly and it's a regular deck of cards. Watch the ace after it gets flicked three times.
If you can't work it out, what's really happening is that I'm flicking one card behind the other very quickly.
We rented the hut closest for a reasonable fee and used it as a base. It was a really good idea and we even had a nap in it for a while. It was overlooking the wave pool and was a nice place to escape from all the hustle and bustle.
Well, if you've been following this blog since Day 1 you may realise that I started this merry little caper just about 1 year ago when I left Adelaide. I'll continue to blog whenever there are things interesting enough to talk about, which happens often enough in Korea. 'Quality before quantity' as someone somewhere once said.
It's been plenty of fun thus far and I hope the future will bring many new and interesting things to share with you all.