[personal profile] niori_1709
There are a ton of ways to cross the Han River, which cuts Seoul in two. Most of those ways are bridges (for both cars and the subway lines), and crossing them is a lovely view. While not visible in every place crossing the Han (it's a long river), in a number of places, if you look out, you'll see an island out near the middle, with a very large building on it. The building looks a little curved, and shines gold under the sun. It's big, it's splashy, and it's called Building 63. The name comes from the sixty-three floors, which makes one of the tallest buildings in Korea (number three, though that might not last that much longer, with a new tower being built near Lotte World). It does have the honour of being the tallest gold clad building in the world (remember when I said flashy?). It's not just a tall building, of course, because why would I be writing about it if there wasn't something to do there? Rest assured, there is something to do.

Building 63 sits on the small, man-made island of Yeoido, which itself sits in the middle of the Han river. The area it's built is a nice one, where a five minute walk will bring you down to a section of Hanyang Park, which is the park area along the river. Inside Building 63, there's a number of things to do. There is an aquarium, an art gallery, two different theatres (one an Imax -the first one opened in Korea- and the other for stage performances), a wax museum and even a buffet restaurant that claims to be the best in Korea. I can't comment on the buffet (or any of the other smaller restaurants in the building), but I can assure you that the lines were long, so they had to be doing something right. On a similar note, I can't give you a personal opinion on either of the theatres. This, again, goes back to long lines and a lack of reservation for the theatre production. While I was there, it was a masked dance performance and a dinosaur short in the Imax (obviously, the shows change periodically). Both looked incredibly interesting, and I wish I could have caught them.
Now, onto what I can tell you about. During my day in Building 63, I took the time to visit the wax museum, aquarium and art gallery. The first of these attractions I went to was the 63 Wax Museum. I'm going to come right out and say it- this wasn't the best wax museum I've ever been to, not by a long shot. It was small, and some of the wax figures looked a little shoddy. The Chamber of Horror section wasn't all that scary, though there were some great figures of the classic horror movie monsters (and the witch there, clearly based off the one from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was great in a creepy way). All of that said, it was still worth a wander through. The main figures here are historical ones (of all forms, which was nice) and some pop culture related ones (musicians, athletes and even a superhero or two). For the historical figures, there's a huge array, from composers such as Beethoven, to painters like Van Gough, to politicians galore (a personal favourite was the very well done King Sejong the Great, who I've spoken about many a time before. This was an excellent statue, and the detail was superb). A personal hero of mine, Mahatma Gandhi, also made an appearance, sitting crossed legged in his traditional white garments and with his walking stick. While his statue wasn't as great as Sejong's, it still made me happy to see him there (fun fact- whenever someone asks those 'if you could meet anyone, who would it be?' questions, Gandhi and Queen Elizabeth I are always my go to people). For the figures of pop culture, the winner for me was Spiderman (you can never go wrong with Spiderman). He's there in his blue and red glory, just waiting for you to wander up beside him and take a picture. Besides him, there are also athletes (David Beckham), politicians of a more modern nature (Obama), musicians (Michael Jackson) and some other random ones (giant teddy bears dressed up to look like Harry Potter or Wonder Woman). The best one, however, for both size and detail, is the figure set designed to recreate Da Vinci's The Last Supper. It takes up nearly an entire room, with a long table going from one end to the other. It took three years to completely put together, and it's clear why- the details on each of the disciples is spectacular, and not only in the wax figure itself. They're arranged just as the painting depicts, and the table matches as well. A lot of thought went into creating this exhibit, and it worked out well. The minute you walked into the room, you knew you were looking at Da Vinci's The Last Supper.
Wax museums, in general, are rather silly things, if you think about it. The main purpose, in my mind, is photo opportunities. You get to stand beside all these famous figures and take pictures, be they serious or silly ones. This wax museum was no different, and people looked to be having a great time of it (myself included). They were posing beside the figures, trying to make themselves fit in or to look like they were doing something crazy. It was fun, and that's why I really recommend a visit to the wax museum.

There's another reason I suggest it as well. Just before you leave the museum, there is a small workshop area. That area is where you can get your hands immortalized in multi-coloured wax. There are vats of different coloured waxes and cold water, and a staff member takes your hand (positioned however you want, from splayed fingers to peace signs. There are even couples who got their entwined hands, which was adorable) and dips it in for the process. It's uncomfortable, of course (hot wax is, you guessed it, hot), but not particularly painful. You can either get a multi-coloured rainbow design, or get a colour that fades into white. It only takes about ten minutes for the whole thing to finish, so it's a quick and really cool way to memorialize your visit.

Next up was 63 Sea World. I'll admit that the Coex Aquarium spoiled me when it comes to aquariums. Because of the location, the aquarium in Building 63 can't be as big or elaborate as that in Coex (Coex has much more space to play with). While it was impossible to measure up to Coex, it was still a nice, medium sized aquarium that had lots to see. There are the basics that you will see at nearly every aquarium you'll ever visit- seals, fish from all over the world, a section devoted to marine animals that spend at least a fraction of their time on land (otters, frogs, etc), and the giant tanks filled with sharks, rays, big fish and some other things I couldn't even begin to classify. There are a few highlights that I'd recommend, of course. There are penguins, which I will always love to see. This time, however, there were not just the small penguins, but an emperor one as well! Granted, it wasn't all that big, but it was still a new kind of penguin for me to see! The most interesting thing to see was the coelacanth. This is a fish you might have heard of before, since it was in the news within the last decade or so. For a very long time, the coelacanth was thought to be extinct. It wasn't until one was caught that scientists realized that this was not the case. It's very cool to see, a fish that dates back to the dinosaurs, and is rightfully hailed as a 'living fossil'. There are a number of feeding shows as well (penguins, seals) and even a synchronized swimming show where swimmers perform in the big pool with sharks, fish and other sea creatures create the background. There is lots to see in 63 Sea World, and for all it's smaller, it's not a disappointment.

Finally, the highlight of Building 63. Both the wax museum and the aquarium are fun, but they're not what you're there to see. If you're visiting one of the tallest buildings in Seoul, than you're there for one thing: the view. That is where 63 Sky Art Gallery comes in. On the 60th floor of the building, there is the highest art gallery in the world. Getting to this gallery is a harrowing experience for those of us scared of heights. Since the elevator is clear glass that runs along the side of the building, it makes sure you see everything outside as you go up and up and up. I maybe got to floor twenty (if that) before I had to close my eyes and wait for it to be over. Slight height induced panic aside, it was worth the trip up. The art that was displayed when I was there was a mixture of traditional and modern. There were paintings and sketches, along with photographs and more abstract pieces. The works are all done by Korean artists, and are interesting to see, especially since there is such variety to look at. There are plenty of places to sit to take it all in, and a cafe if you want to contemplate the art (or take in the view) longer over a hot coffee. The art is lovely, but the view is even better. Much like Seoul Tower, the walls of the floor mainly consist of picture windows that peer out over the city. On a very clear day, you can see all the way to Incheon (it's roughly an hour and a half drive), and even on not-so-clear days, you get a beautiful view of Seoul Tower itself. You tower over the city of Seoul, and when you look down, everything else seems so small. You can see the length of the Han River, and it's a stunning view. For all that I'm afraid of heights, I'll be the first to tell you that a view from the top is the best thing you're ever going to see, and Building 63 proves that all over again.

I left just after watching the sun beginning to set over the city of Seoul from the 63 Sky Art Gallery. It was spectacular, and a view I wouldn't have missed for the world. Building 63 might not have been the most exciting thing I've done during my stay in Korea, but it was an excellent way to spend the day, and a utterly fantastic way to end. If you listen to nothing else, remember this- sunset over looking Seoul is amazing, and Building 63 is one of the best places you're going to get to see it.

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niori_1709

August 2017

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