When wandering around Busan on a day’s exploration mission, inevitably somebody just has to use the loo. The thing that we quickly discovered in South Korea is that the cleanest, most well-maintained and sparkly toilets are always in the department stores.
We were cruising the subway on our way to Haendae beach when we remembered that somebody had told us that there was a department store at the Centum City stop. Being the intrepid explorers that we are, we were thought this might be a good time to check out a new area with a side mission of finding a department store with a nice loo.
Walking through the subway were found a huge lobby type area with a very Romanesque statue calling itself the Lotte Trevi Fountains!
We started to realise we had walked into something epic…Shinsegae Centum City, literally the biggest department store in the world!
Upon stumbling into this entranceway of gargantuan glossiness, we located a sign that explained that there was a big Lotte Department store to one side, and in competition beside it the Shinsegae store. Having already seen a number of different Lotte stores by this stage of our adventures in Korea, we headed into the unknown and into the extremely styley entrance of Shinsegae.
One thing that Korea definitely excels at is the art of retail. The Shinsegae mall has 14 floors above ground and four below ground. Apparently it cost 1.025 trillion won ($2.1 billion NZD) to build. It has a huge 293,905 m² of retail space with more features that you can shake a stick at.
There are, of course, shops galore. As per most department stores in Korea, the ground floor is full of all the expensive brands that the likes of us, cannot afford. But like to drool over.
There is a really, really, REALLY big bookshop with a pretty decent foreign section. Oh and stacks of the overly cutesy stationary supplies that Korea loves so much.
There are different levels dedicated to specific types of clothing, such as women’s wear, sports wear, men’s wear, children’s wear and youth wear.
There are also entire levels dedicated to homewares, electronics, shoes. You name it, you can probably find it somewhere in this complex. There is also an overwhelming and slightly intimidating number of staff…
Anyway, enough about shopping.
“But what else is there to do in a department store?”, we hear you ask. It turns out at Shinsegae, quite a lot.
Yes, you read that right. For the sporty spices, there is a rooftop 60 tee golf range or an ice rink.
Strangely, when we first got there no one was on the rink.
And then all of a sudden a gate was opened and a gaggle of children, together with a few awkward looking couples (first dates?) ambled onto the ice all at once, all clad in safety helmets.
No one looked like they were having much fun. The children looked a bit like they had been sent there in order to be occupied while their parents did much more fun things (like shopping at Louis Vuitton?). The couples struggled around stony faced and looking a bit sheepish. This could be due to one of two things: firstly, that they were definitely in the minority of being over the age of about 14; or secondly, that the ice-skating rink is surrounded by a food court! Diners are seated, munching on their burgers and kimchi while watching the (mostly) graceless skating.
Which leads to another feature of Shinsegae – the eating options! The ice skating floor also features a Food Park.
At this kiosk you place your order and pay and are presented with a ticket which you then hand over at your chosen food vendor. Very efficient! There are the usual suspects on this floor such as Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and KFC, as well as katsu, gimbap, sushi, Chinese and Korean options.
On floors 9 and 10 are the more upscale restaurants, again with quite a wide range of types of cuisine. But the best eating options to be found are on B1, right down the bottom of the mall. Here, again as in many department stores in Korea, you will find the food hall together with the fresh food market. These places are incredible – huge spaces filled with vendors cooking everything under the sun in a fast food setting.
The variety is impressive. Huge, gourmet looking katsu plates, sushi trains, noodles cooked fresh in front of you, bakeries with goods that would rival any country, New York style hot dawgs, the most delicious steamed buns filled with spicy pork and kimchi, sashimi, bibimbap…endless choices of wonderful, freshly prepared food. This sure beats the food courts filled with franchises!
There are also numerous cafes dotted around the place for shoppers in need of a pick-me-up. Sadly, cofffee is one of those things that STILL so many places don’t get right. Especially when you’re a pair of utter coffee snobs.
The coffee in front is this particular cafe’s version of a macchiato. Sigh. We won’t even get into the monstrosity behind it. The pastries, however, were fabulous.
Spa Land is another epic feature of this mall, apparently one of the most impressive in Korea. It has two types of natural hot springs, Korean style baths and a bunch of different treatment rooms such as the Yellow Ocher room, the Charcoal Room, the Salt room…the list goes on. Being of the tattooed variety of expat, we haven’t experienced this part of the mall yet as many spas in Korea actually ban you from entering.
We can, however, visit the CGV multiplex cinema. As can monks, it appears!
When the ability to spend money fades, the place is actually impressive enough to just wander around taking in the sights. Seriously, the place is decked out in incredible sights left, right and centre. There is also a free art gallery on the 6th floor that exhibits international artists.
We chose to skip the gallery this time and meander around the mall taking in the sheer scale and grandeur of the place. The floors are marble, crystal chandeliers hang from the escalator cavities and the levels all interplay to create some pretty interesting visuals…
When we looked down we realised there was a break-dancing demonstration going on!
And if you look up…
Alas, walking around inside the world’s largest department store can start to feel a little overwhelming. Thankfully, they have actually thought of everything and on floor 9 of this behemoth is an aptly named ‘Sky Park’.
Its great as you can not only get a breath of fresh air…
but also great views over Busan!
So after a day of wandering around a the biggest mall in the world, we were pooped! Speaking of that, the lavatories gained an impressive 9.8 on the Dan’s public ablutions scale. So a successful day all round.
Time to go back to the wop wops!
Disclaimer: Please forgive us for the poor quality of some of these photos – photography is not actually allowed inside this (and many other) department stores in Korea. There are security guards EVERYWHERE…so a lot of these photos were taken ninja style. Hehehe.
Reblogged this on Saffa' posts and commented:
Wow! Wonderful! I hope i can go to Korea!
I was at Seoul Lotte few days back. I saw similar sculpture of Romans too when exiting the subway! I will be posting my Seoul travelogue soon! Great entry btw 🙂
Great post. I love the artistic interiors and those sculptures! I’m so tempted to go to Korea.
Its a pretty interesting place! And the malls are just incredible. Bring LOTS of money to play with, haha. Thanks for reading.
I love all those pictures with the multiple floors! So artsy!
The place is pretty amazing. Well worth a look even if you’re not shopping.
Is the meridian mall bigger?
I think it’s the photo of the ground floor that you took from way up that REALLY captured the grandeur of the building. When you say “14 floors” it doesn’t mean quite the same as when you SEE “14 floors.” Also – side note – 14 floors above and 4 below – I’m assuming this means Korea is exempt from the general Asian superstition about the number 4?
Good observation re the 4th floor thing – we weren’t actually aware of that so I did a quick google and here’s what Wiki had to say: “In Korea, tetraphobia (aversion or fear of the number 4) is less extreme, but the floor number 4 is almost always skipped in hospitals and similar public buildings. In other buildings, the fourth floor is sometimes labeled “F” (Four) instead of “4” in elevators. Apartment numbers containing multiple occurrences of the number 4 (such as 404) are likely to be avoided to an extent that the value of the property is adversely affected. The national railroad, Korail, left out the locomotive number 4444 when numbering a locomotive class from 4401 upwards.”
So I guess the jist of it is that it varies in Korea!
And yip, the outside is pretty impressive! It sure is a big building 🙂
My dad’s side of the family originally hails from China (granted, in the 1800s), so I learned about “sei” when I was little and learning to count in Cantonese. Some buildings here in Toronto have skipped floor number 4 and all floors ending in the number 4. Also, because of Western fear of the number 13, I’ve seen buildings that skip straight from 12 to 15 – and some that leave spaces on the elevator panel where the buttons should be, to give the illusion that the floors don’t even exist.
I used to looooove the cutesy stationery but it’s not really appropriate now that I’m nearing 30. The views of Busan are amazing!
Yeah you would think…but age doesn’t seem to matter here. We are constantly surprised by things like bank tellers all having Hello Kitty mousepads. And how when I expressed to my co-worker my “embarrassing secret” of liking Britney Spears music, she couldn’t figure out why that was embarrassing…hahaha.
(Phew … so relieved to know Dan got there in time!)
Hi, I’m Krystal & I just wanted to say “cool blog!” & I love this post
It makes me excited to visit South Korea one day & also visit that mall.
Looking forward to future posts (:
Hi Krystal! Thanks for your comment. South Korea definitely has lots to explore…and that mall IS amazing.
Was chuckling at the start of this post as I fully understand the “finding a decent loo” thing! Wow – that was HUGE…glad you made it in (and out) safely 😉 and love that you did Ninja style photography!
We cannot recommend Korea’s department store toilets highly enough, haha.
Wow. Amazing. I was at the Shinsegae in Seoul near Namdaemun market and it was love at first sight. The food court was on the roof and had outdoor seating near fountains. The most pleasant shopping experience. If only the U.S. had stores like that.
Ah don’t you just LOVE the food courts?! Hehe. And the fact that they all have roof top areas to go and chill…its so smart! We’re finding the tops of malls a great way to orientate ourselves to the different cities too, haha.
Cool! that looks really big. I’ve been to Seoul for a few months on holiday but didn’t get the chance to explore outside the city much. I’ve heard of Busan. Aren’t they developing that city as the next big thing in Seoul?
thanks for visiting my blog. I will be visiting here again…
Kamsahamnida and Sayonara
Seoul is a pretty amazing city! If you do get the chance to go to Korea again Busan is definitely worth checking out. Its the second biggest city in SK and its seaside so has beautiful beaches. Due to its southerly location it also has lovely weather 🙂 While we love Seoul its just too far away from our little village so we have got to know Busan a lot better due to its proximity. Thanks for visiting us!