Observation decks are a common feature of many major cities, but most of them probably aren’t equipped to offer urinals with a view to die for.
Or, for that matter, a history museum full of teddy bears.
Whilst the Wee Troublemakers (read: my brother and cousins) – whereabouts unknown – were off laying waste to another part of Seoul, the rest of our party banded together and left our Myeong-dong hotel, heading westwards along Toegye-ro. At the intersection in front of Shinsegae (don’t miss its incredible depachika-style food-market basement), we turned left and started walking in a southerly direction, following a gentle incline that led up to the lower slopes of Namsan.
Near the top of the incline, a diagonal elevator running along sloped rails deposited us next to the base station for the Namsan cable car, where we caught sight of the ride that will take us even higher.
A few minutes (and some great views of the thickly forested hillside) later, we were enjoying an evening walk through the leafy park at the summit of Namsan, and gazing up at the massive concrete spike that crowned the summit.
Dating from the late 1960s, the N Seoul Tower first opened its doors to the public in 1980 – which means that it has been gleefully stripping tourists of their won for over three decades running. Not a bad record for a tourist trap.
Actually, as tourist traps go this one wasn’t half bad – we’ll see why shortly.
First, we lined up for tickets . . .
. . . then waited our turn for the lifts, passing through the inevitable photo booth where visitors are allowed to pose for free (and only fleeced of their money later).
After a short lift ride – themed rather tackily as a space rocket ride with CG effects (though I imagine younger souls will be more appreciative) – we reached the crowded observation deck high up in the tower.
Our visit was carefully timed for evening twilight, which gave us splendid views of Seoul during those few precious moments when the last remnants of the sun’s glow faded away and the bright lights of the city winked on to take their place.
The names of major cities and their distances from Seoul were pasted onto the upper parts of the windows, facing the appropriate direction.
One part of the observation deck was set up with writing tables, so that patrons can send correspondence from Seoul’s highest post office.
On our way down, I stopped by the gents’ lavatories – where I found that patrons can still enjoy a splendid nighttime view of the city even whilst doing their sordid business at the urinals.
At the base of the tower, we stopped briefly at a café for refreshments before heading for the Teddy Bear Museum, located within the same building. This interesting little institution consists of two separate galleries, the first of which recreates events from Korean history with dioramas and intricate models.
What makes the exhibits so special is that all of the people in the scenes depicted have been replaced by cute, fluffy teddy bears.
The second gallery depicts scenes from modern-day Seoul, displays a number of antique/historic specimens, and showcases some of the teddy bears featured in the Korean drama series Gung.
By the time we finally emerged, night had fallen and the tower was garbed in its bright evening suit.
Now it’s off to bed, and a good night’s rest before our guided city tour the following morning.