Back in Seoul ahead of the Christmas holidays, I took the opportunity to visit the European Christmas market (again!) and get to the top of the fifth-tallest building in the world: the Lotte World Tower.
The last time I spent any appreciable time in Seoul, the Lotte World Tower was complete but not yet open to the public. It was time to address that…
While the exterior of the building itself is not overly distinctive – no zigzag lines like the Taipei 101 or bottle opener notch like the Shanghai World Financial Center – the interior observation decks are very well done. There are four observation areas – two of them are outside, two have glass floors for an impressive view of the city below. What impressed me most was the five floors of observation decks were all included in the same single admission price – unlike the Tokyo Skytree, where you get most of the way up and then find there is an additional ticket to purchase to really get to the top of the building.
It is not surprising that the Lotte company would have its name associated with this Seoul skyscraper. Lotte does pretty much everything: the have a financial arm and an engineering and construction arm (shocking, I know) – but they also have a distillery, a series of movie theatres, department stores and a ginormous amusement park. conveniently adjacent to Lotte World Tower. It is not uncommon for these large companies to have many different operations but Lotte is highly visible to the daily consumer. It seems fitting that they would want to have their distinctive signature on the city’s skyline.
Impressive as it was, the Taipei 101 still holds the warmest place in my heart – and not just because it looks like the fortress of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings films. The Taipei 101 exposes the damper ball used to stabilize the building from swaying in the wind and, one hopes, the seismic tremors that dot the countries in the Pacific. There is nothing inherently exciting about the damper ball; it is a large heavy object suspended in some form to serve as a counter balance. But it is still great to get a peek behind the curtain to see what goes into the construction of something so fascinating.
Despite the harsh chill (15°F / -9°C and windy), I wandered up to the Bukchon Hanok Village in the northern part of the city; although cold, it was not raining like the last time I was there. The village is a collection of traditional Korean homes situated atop a hill (to be honest, pretty much everything in Seoul is situated atop a hill). The village is a common setting for films and TV shows that are looking for authentic period backdrops. Unfortunately the charm and beauty of the area attract many visitors, much to the great chagrin of local residents. Visitors to the area are “welcomed” by local volunteers – some dressed in traditional attire – to remind you to shut the hell up.
To be fair, the gluhwein at the Christmas market took the edge off of the chilly weather.