So a little while ago I found myself, for the first time in a long time, in a real brick and mortar bookstore. My bookshelves are literally overflowing so I don’t have space for new ones, and because I have a tablet I can buy ebooks! Not only do they occupy less space, but they are MUCH cheaper than traditional books, especially when I use Amazon coupons from sites like Discountrue – I’m paying almost nothing to grow my library! In any case, back to the bookstore, a kind of hole in the wall place you’d normally walk straight past.
While browsing I came across Weird and Wonderful Korea by Chris Backe and although I’m not planning a trip there, I was so intrigued that I decided to buy it. And man am I glad I did! Now I know that there are some truly weird places in the world, but it seems like Korea has made the weird and wonderful a special art! To explain what I mean, here are some of the destinations mentioned in the book that I consider the Top 10 have to sees!
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Apparently, Korea is obsessed with poop, and kids across the country often doodle soft serve style piles of poop on their notebooks and everywhere else. For some reason, they believe it is cute! And this whole fascination with poop may be because of a long ago mayor of Suwon, Sim Jae Duck. He so loved toilets and poop that he built a house in the shape of a giant toilet bowl and was called Mr Toilet. After his death, his house was turned into a shrine to all things excrement with statues of people in classic loo poses, a mural of poop, and a history of toilets and sanitation, as well as of the much loved Mr Toilet!
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I have always been fascinated by ice sculptures. They’re so stunning and obviously took ages to create, and yet if there is the slightest temperature change they disappear forever! This Ice Gallery claims to be the only place where you can see ice sculptures all year and is essentially a gigantic walk in freezer! You can borrow a warm coat and spend about a half hour browsing the collection, but the best part, in my opinion, is the ice slide! Oh, and the fact that helpful staff will show you how to make your own ice sculpture – well ice cup! A similar place that isn’t as cold is the Jeju Glass Castle Theme Park where absolutely everything is made from glass!
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We have all seen those photos where it looks like someone is catching the sun, leaning against the tower of Pisa or squashing a pyramid. Now while most museums frown on people taking photos, the Trick Eye Museum encourages you to take as many photos as possible. And the purpose of every display is to make you the star of an optical illusion! Apparently, there are even very helpful footprints that show you where to stand so that you can get the best angle possible! And just in case, the last attraction didn’t cool you off enough, there is another small Ice Museum you can visit.
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For a country that is known to be one of the wildest party destinations in the world, it is kind of ironic that they have a silent disco but there you go! Norita Park (which is in an area with a raucous party reputation of its own) is where the participants all gather before each donning a pair of headphones and then having a walking party through the streets of Hongdae. Only 300 sets of headphones get handed out, and not a single, other soul can hear the music that everyone is partying too!
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Now if you are a dog lover or dog owner, then you have probably heard of pet-friendly cafés – places where your beloved four legged furry friend is welcome. Now I am more of a cat person, so I don’t own any dogs but the idea of taking my pup out for lunch has always seemed wonderful. In Korea, they have taken this concept to the next level. I don’t know if your pets are welcome, but if you’re in the mood for a cuddle with something furry then you can head to the nearest cat or dog café and enjoy playing with kittens, cats, puppies and dogs while enjoying a cup of coffee or cold drink!
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While you might have gotten the impression that Korea is very traditional and kind of a little prudish, they have an ENTIRE park dedicated to penises in all shapes and sizes. Apparently the park first came to be because a young about to be married girl died, and apparently, her ghost was quite vengeful about the fact that this happened before she could lose her virginity – chasing all the fish from the waters near her village. In order to appease her, the villagers erected (I tried to find another word!) several phallic statues, deciding to leave them there even after the fish returned! There is also a sex-related theme park located in Jeju in case penis’s on their own is not your thing.
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I actually already knew about this particular attraction, having heard about it quite a few years ago. Now using mud as a beauty treatment might confuse some people and while I’m not going to explain how or why it works, I will tell you that it’s quite effective. The Mud Festival was originally started by a local cosmetics company to promote the therapeutic qualities of their mud and has since grown into an annual event that draws as many as 2 million people to participate in mud-related activities.
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People’s fascination with unused prisons has always confused me, but this one makes the list because it takes the whole principle to an unreal level. Intended to honour the Korean activists who fought against Japanese colonisation, the Seodaemun Prison History Hall features a series of both gruesome and odd displays meant to show just how awful it all was. And the craziest display? A webcam that takes your picture then superimposes it on a video of someone being tortured – meaning it becomes a video of YOUR torture!
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Asian temples are always awe-inspiring and breath-taking, and I’ve toured the ones near me hundreds of times. But apparently, there is one temple where the various statues are far more fascinating than the actual temple. From what I can gather, the temple is filled with statues that aren’t quite finished, that you can’t really identify and that is just a little bit confusing. There is a very interesting legend about where these statues come from (it sounds more like a fairy tale) but whether it’s true or not, it seems like a place worth seeing!
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You probably think you know all about themed restaurants, but I can tell you now – you have NO idea. In Korea, they pride themselves on their themed venues. Whether it is a park, a restaurant or a love motel (that is exactly what you’re thinking it is!) you will find somewhere with a theme that will tickle your fancy. There is a pirate BBQ restaurant in Gangnam (it’s a real place!), photography cafés, board game cafés, Wii cafés, high heel love motels, glow in the dark love motels and much more.