The other day, we headed south across the Hangang River into — gasp — Gangnam.
We visited the Coex Mall in Samseong-dong, apparently the largest underground shopping mall in Asia. Woah. It’s located at the World Trade Center Seoul complex and just days ago had a big re-opening after some remodeling, so many of the stores are new and offering all kinds of promotions and free goodies (mainly free balloons for the kiddos). In addition to tons of stores, many of them high-end, restaurants and a fancy food court, at Coex you’ll find the Coex Megabox Cineplex (16 screens) and the Coex Aquarium. You can also visit the Hyundai Department Store which is adjacent, and the Buddhist temple of Bongeunsa, just across the Word Trade Center complex.
It’s a beautiful mall. Unfortunately, some work came up while we were there, so we only got to walk around part of the mall, but we did make it to the movie theater to see “Exodus” (snoozer), checked out the Hyundai Department Store and enjoyed some familiar, live, Christmas tunes:
We definitely plan to go back to do some shopping and explore the aquarium — they have an undersea tunnel — and the temple.
On Sunday, we returned across the river to attend a service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church. It has the largest (Pentecostal) Christian congregation in the world, with more than 830,000 members! We’d read on the website that they have services in different languages, including English, but when we got there, their staff (who had “Foreigners” vests on but didn’t speak much English) led us up into the top levels of the sanctuary and gave us headsets instead. It was so crowded, Will and I didn’t even get to sit together. Crazy! And they kept cramming people in, even placing mats on the floor for latecomers to sit on. It was interesting. The message was good, it was just a bit of a challenge listening to it via a live interpreter through the headsets, which kept crackling and cutting in and out. They served communion (I had to watch people to try to figure things out!) and took an offering and all the usual stuff. The music….wow. A full choir and then suddenly…an opera singer! Complete with a small symphony. Unreal. This short video below is from after the service was over, they just kept going. But yeah it was nice that they had large screens with English translations of some of the scripture verses and song lyrics.
At the end, they quickly filed everyone out of the church. A huge undertaking considering the thousands of folks packed in there. An experience for sure.