By Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 28, 2014
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Author's Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles about recreational travel opportunities for service members stationed in South Korea. Each article will highlight a specific South Korean destination, attraction or event within the authorized travelling distance for U.S. forces in country. The aim of this series is to encourage everyone to safely and enthusiastically explore their surroundings, develop an appreciation for the history, culture and customs of their host nation, as well as showcase the diverse activities available to service members, and their families, near and far, while stationed in the Republic of Korea. Concluding each article will be an approximation of how much money and time are required for each destination, attraction or event, as well as directions and amount of physical activity required. Many opportunities to travel in groups are available through the base's Information, Tickets and Travel office as well as Outdoor Recreation.
Featured is an easy to access downtown location, and housing over 40,000 water animals, the COEX Aquarium is an accessible day trip for service members and their children stationed near Seoul.
In addition to being an attraction for kids and families, the array of animals including sharks, seals, otters, penguins and squid is easily accessible because the aquarium is attached directly to Samseong metro station.
Getting to the aquarium on the metro line will take about 90 minutes from Songtan Station and only costs W2,000 per person. The COEX shopping center and aquarium can be accessed immediately from exit five or six Samseong station. My wife and I left for Seoul at about noon and stopped to get a coffee before entering the aquarium a little before 2 p.m.
For the uninitiated, traveling on the metro in Seoul, especially on evenings and weekends, can include some crowded rides, particularly the closer one gets to downtown. However, most train cars are air conditioned at this time of year, and the low price will offset the temporary discomfort. In a city large as Seoul, there's really no cheaper and stress-free travel alternative for foreigners than the metro. Also, the trains are no more crowded than the ones in Paris or New York, and transferring is considerably easier than other large metro systems.
Inside the aquarium, the exhibits took us a couple of hours to go through entirely. There's a variety of fish and sea mammals from habitats ranging from South America to Eurasia. The fish include several species of shark, while there were beavers, otters and a couple of monkeys representing the mammals.
Admission to the exhibits costs W22,000 for adults, W19,000 for teenagers and W16,000 for children. There are additional discounts available for very young children or the disabled. The aquarium is open 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. every day.
Outside the aquarium, there's a plethora of shopping opportunities and places to eat. For the shopping enthusiasts, the COEX has a number of stores, and in addition to a food court, there's a number of local cafes and restaurants just across the street.
After we finished scoping out the animals, Cece and I spent the rest of the afternoon in downtown Seoul, perusing this or that, checking out a neighborhood Buddhist temple and grabbing something to eat before heading home, getting back to my place by 11 p.m.
In all, a day trip to the aquarium costs approximately W35,000 per person, less for kids. There were a lot of families out and about downtown, making this a safe and pleasurable destination for any service members in Korea, but especially ones with sponsored dependents.
Location/event: COEX Aquarium
Directions: Samseong Station leads directly to the COEX and Aquarium. From Songtan Station it's approximately 90 minutes and involves two transfers.
Total Cost: W4,000 for round-trip transportation. W22,000 for adult admission, W19,000 for teenagers and W16,000 for children. Food varies.
Time: A couple of hours, but the COEX has plenty of stores for shopping and places to eat, plus it's in downtown Seoul.
Documentation required: None
Who it's for: The aquarium will be a big hit for kids and families, there are a lot of sea creatures and even a couple mammals to keep them interested.
When it's open: Year round 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Activity required: Nothing at all physically challenging about this, if you can walk around at your leisure, you'll be fine.
What to travel with: There's nothing particular to bring for this day trip. Just pack a camera if you want to get pictures of the animals. Everything else is entirely up to you.