Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's Daejeon! - The "Little Seoul" of South Korea

A few weeks ago I went to Daejeon.  Daejeon is the fifth largest city in South Korea and is located in the center of the country, so it serves as a crossroads for buses, Korail, etc. Daejeon is the "Silicon Valley" of South Korea and it showed in the neon signs at the massive mall/bus station (one of several) that I arrived at on Friday night, and in the LED computer screens outside at each bus stop showing the approximate location and arrival time of the city buses.  Daejeon even has its own subway system, which I think contributed to Daejeon's nickname, "Little Seoul".

I had several reasons for visiting Daejeon: (1) To visit Laura and Lindsay (and their puppies!); (2) To visit a real/nice jjimjilbang after the sad one we stayed at in Seoul before going to the DMZ; (3) To visit the National Science Museum (nerd alert... but it's Korea's Silicon Valley!); and (4) To see Catching Fire in theater (FUNNY: Daejeon's subway has a stop called "Panam" on the end of its line... it's not Panem, but it's close enough that it sent me into hysterical, mental giggles).

I arrived on Friday night and had a hilarious time trying to navigate from the bus terminal to Laura's place.  Through constant texting with Laura about my location (which was hilariously delayed on one or both of our ends a lot of the time), I hopped on the appropriate city bus, then got off because it was going in the wrong direction, walked to find a subway entrance and almost gotten taken out by two boys on bicycles singing loudly at the top of their lungs, got on the subway (*cue laughing at Panam*), found Laura at the subway, got on another city bus with Laura in the knick of time, got off, and finally walked to Laura's apartment. That description seems sadly short/lacking now, but it took at least 45 minutes and I realized halfway through that I didn't even care that it seemed like I was gallivanting all over the city, extremely late at night, in the dark, and was what some people might call "misdirected or lost".  Actually, I'm quite fond of this memory because at some point I realized I would eventually make it where I needed to be and spent most of the time shrugging and laughing hysterically in my head.  They say that you must be flexible before you come to Korea.  I think Korea will pick you up, shake you, and as un-carefully as possible begin unraveling little bits and pieces of you until you become more flexible whether you like it or not. 


Okay.  That was exceedingly long.  Let's get on to what I actually did in Daejeon.  First I went to the National Science Museum (not to be confused with the Science Expo Park which is farther away, but connected to the museum by a Maglev Train).

My first visit was to the Biosphere.  Seeing Latin names made me so happy.

In the biosphere they had tons of dioramas made from items like seeds, nuts, grass, dried plants, etc.  The dioramas depicted historical scenes, fairy tales, animals in their natural environment, etc.  Some of them were phenomenal.  A woman there tried to get me to... vote?... on the one I thought was best, but I eventually escaped when her back was turned.  I knew just enough Korean that she apparently thought she could make her point known, but she eventually gave up (and it took her for forever too... almost 15 minutes, but she was so insistent!).  They all were accompanied by small descriptions in Korean. Check these things out:

 The bears on the left are playing a traditional Korean spear tossing game.  The octopi are... having tea?

 Ever wanted to see educational biology posters in Korean? 


Want to pet a fish?  Here you go:

 The hedgehog was all curled up in his little hut sleeping when I came by, but I saw some of his little spines!  This picture is for Kevin & Co.  Now you can know how to say hedgehog in Korean (pronounce it 'Goseum-dochi'):

What's that? Yes, it's a gigantic circular solar panel.  Easily bigger than the 4-5 line intersection right next to it.

My first exploration was of the Science Alive Exhibit.

I wonder how they clean these.  One of them had fish swimming it.

 On the first floor, there were several exhibits geared towards physics, including a laser light show, a giant 'Rollingball' machine, a dark maze (that was really fun... you navigated by touch), and an electricity show.  The electricity show was fun because they made a kid get into a car and shot a bolt of electricity at it.  There was a worker at the center trying to explain/translate the show to me and I kept filling in names (e.g. Van de Graaff) or providing the English because he didn't know and I can do science.  He was thankful he got to practice English and it was funny when he said, "Oh, you're so good at figuring out what I mean in English!  How do you do that?"  And I just looked at him and said,  "English teacher... remember?"

On the second floor, a group of students was playing a game with the Interactive Wall where they had to throw balls at invading aliens to destroy them (below, left).  There was also an area to solve tangram puzzles.  There was a projector which displayed the screen on the wall, and then another camera mounted on the ceiling which somehow verified that the cushion shapes were in the correct locations.

The center of the spiral staircase between the floors was actually a time capsule, taking you from the past to the present and into the future.




After exploring it for less time than I would have liked, I went to the planetarium because I felt I would never be forgiven by my father if I didn't.  The show was entirely in Korean (obviously), but it was really cute and pretty easy to follow.  The best part was how the word 'MISCONCEPTION' (in English) would be stamped across various ideas like the Earth being flat, etc.

Then I went to the permanent exhibition hall which was four floors of history and science.  It was awesome.  Korea is fantabulous at museums.  I'll present the pictures in order of my exploration.  I don't really have any pictures from the physics portion because there were too many fun things to play with.  The Dizzy Room was great.  As was the giant ceiling slinky and the bell in a vacuum.

The permanent exhibiyion hall: all three levels.
A huge fish tank with plants on top. Taken from the
second floor.  There was water and little fish under-
neath the pots as well.

Foucault Pendulum anyone?
They had cases featuring important STEM contributions
by Koreans.  I took a picture because Flight Simulator
brings back memories of middle school!
They had a mummy exhibit!  This is for you Jill!
Describing the analysis process...

Map showing the location of mummies (all of royals I think) recovered
in Korea.

This exhibit was mainly about the recovery of
this royal child's mummy (can't remember prince/princess).
The two pictures below describe ways that mummies are preserved (i.e. dessication, chemicals/embalming, etc.) and indicate mummies around the world that have been preserved by x, y, or z means.

 I'm a science nerd.  Seeing diagrams in another language makes me giddy.  That's the only reason this picture exists.

Korea had a whole section of one floor dedicated to explaining how various energy production methods work.  You could hit a button and it would light up various parts on the 3D model while explaining what was happening.  (In Korean, unfortunately...)

Nuclear power...
Thermal power...
Underwater water turbine power...
Obligatory exploration of the space exhibition...  Actually, the second floor started with the beginning of the universe and walked through prehistoric life, geology, and then the diversity of life.

It has all the same elemental symbols I'm used to
though you might not be able to see them.

 Yes.  I rubbed the meteorite for you dad.  We have some of this one!

From the prehistoric section: fossils (including a dinosaur nest with baby dinosaur skeletons) and gems and minerals.

From the beginning of what I'm calling the 'Diversity of Life' section:

Obligatory owl shot.
These models were ridiculous.  The animals were all numbered and had
corresponding species cards beneath them.  This would be amazing to
build in a school.  School museum... sounds like a good project.

I no longer mispronounce 'lobster',
but here I don't even have to bother.
That's right.  It's labeled "Angiosperms".  This museum rocked the plant life
selection. They also had a 'Protist' display case - I kid you not.

And on to the Korean history section...

Want to try weaving something?
How fermentation for making Korean
Distillation in the old days of Korea.

They had many miniaturized villages for various
periods in Korean history.  Sorry for the glare.
Not as miniaturized.  This was used to build fortress
and palace walls.

Display on making paper. They all had
the little buttons you could hit which would
explain the process and light up the correct
step of the process.

Korean bronze casting:

Above is the largest bronze bell cast.  They had a
display around it that showed how it was made.

Korean pottery/ceramics.

Korean musical instruments.

Korean contributions to science(!):

These were Korean astronomical charts.  Very old.  I tried to get
a good picture, but it was very difficult because they were so faded.

This is "Seogakcheonsangyeoulchabunyajido."  The founder
of the Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo, wanted a new astronomical
chart.  The above stone chart, engraved with 1,464 stars, was
made December, A.D. 1395.
The next section contained items related to Korea's military history, including various types of arrows, the fire arrow launching device mentioned in one of my previous posts, guns and gun-/explosive-related items, and - of course - a moderately-sized Iron Clad Turtle Boat replica.

I really like turtles.  These were cool turtle gunpowder flasks.

I really wanted to ride the Maglev Train, but the tickets were all sold out for the next 4 hours and I had places to be.  At least I got a picture of the track and a brochure.

Post-science extravaganza (man, I needed it), I walked back to the main part of Daejeon and found a coffee shop (The Twosome Place) where I had a Rolling Almond Affogato and did math problems on napkins (all your fault, Guille) to fill the time until Laura and Lindsay arrived.

Then we went and ate food!

It was delicious.  At the bottom of the bowl, the rice browns and gets stuck on the side.  The spoons are actually dulled and misshapen on the end because you have to (yes, it's required) scrape/chip/chisel off the rice.  And it is the best part of it!  Kind of like popcorn, yet not.

Speaking of popcorn, before we hit the movie theater to see Catching Fire, we killed some hours at a jjimjilbang.  A real jjimjilbang.

Obviously I can't take pictures inside the bathhouse portion, but I can give you a general description of how they work.  Coming from someone who hated the high school locker room, I find it kind of weird that I like these places so much.  I will miss them.

The jjimjilbang rundown:

1) Pay money.  Around 8,000-10,000W though weekend or evening prices may be higher (since you can sleep in these places).

2) Receive awesome little wrist band with locker key and chip device so you can charge purchases (e.g. snacks, drinks, shampoo, etc.) to it and pay when you leave.  No need to carry money around!

3) Receive your pants, shirt, and little bath towels.  All highly stylish.

4) Take of your shoes and store them in your shoe locker.

5) Go into the appropriate (male? female?) locker room, store your stuff, and change into your stylish jjimjilbang pants and shirt.  Take one towel and leave the other.

6) Go party with your friends/family (males and females)!  There are several things to do at jjimjilbangs.  You can eat.  You can get a massage (I did this!  40-50,000W for 60 minutes.  It was apparently also the price of a chiropractor's visit because she cracked my back and neck exactly the way my chiropractor did).  You can play Pokemon with your children or have your children all give you a massage (price: multiple child entrance fees):

You can explore little sleeping caves that look like they're part of an Egyptian exhibit.  And you can lay under the little sun lamp... or just use it to read the graffiti: "I love EXO!"  "U-KISS is the best!"  (Yes, those were in English which is just grand.)


Or you can hop into one of the saunas.  The mosaics (made from all different colors of quartz) were phenomenal.  Absolutely gorgeous, depicting flowers, seascapes, bamboo and traditional Korean houses... just plain gorgeous.

The saunas can vary by temperature, oxygen content, and even scent.  The sauna pictured below was an elevated oxygen sauna and on the low end temperature-wise.  It is also a dry sauna.  In the actual bathhouse area there are also wet saunas.

You can also go inside a traditional Korean kiln sauna.  These suckers also come in multiple temperatures (the hottest was above 100 Celsius) and might have different scents.  It is very much like sitting in a gigantic kiln.  If you ever want to know what a piece of pottery feels like, I think a Korean kiln sauna is as close as you can get.  This is what the top of the sauna looks like in the hottest kiln sauna:

You enter into the kiln saunas through a very short, thick wooden door.  Imagine the little arch you stick a brick oven-baked pizza through and then add a door.  Once inside, the floor is covered with thick, burlap-like mats because the stone is too hot to stand on.  You can lean against wooden boards on the wall (again, the stone is way too hot).  You can see some green pine fronds on the right side of the left hand picture below.  The inside of this particular jjimjilbang was pine-scented.

When you're inside the kiln sauna, you put the towel over your hair to prevent it from rapidly drying out.  There are also one or two hourglass timers for you to flip because heat strokes are bad things.  Usually you can tell when it is time to get out because you will suddenly be able to feel your heart beginning to beat rapidly.  You can also judge by the layer of glistening sweat that will begin to cover you all over.

 Here's a picture with flash so you can admire our pants, shirts, and towels.

7) Once you are all heated up and sweaty, you can visit an ice room (if they have one; this place did and it was covered in green, blue, and purple quartz... so pretty), sit around in a massage chair, sleep, eat... basically just do any of the things already mentioned above, or go grab your other towel, strip, and hit the gender-segregated bathhouse.

8) In the actual bathhouse you can sit in pools at several different temperatures (scalding hot, hot, warm, cold), sit in a pool with jets or waterfalls to massage your back, arms, etc., or sit in scented pools and/or pools with different types of water (which may also be at different temperatures).  You can visit a wet sauna.  Or you can take an actual shower at one of the showers along the walls and wash with soap/shampoo.

When you enter the bathhouse, you can grab a little white bowl to put your items in.  Usually this is your towel and any soap/shampoo you brought.  Since it's Korea, you really don't have to worry about anybody stealing your stuff while you're walking around getting yourself relaxed and clean.  Just make sure you remember where you put your stuff.

9) Once you are finished in the bath house, dry off and then you can find sinks, body lotion, coin-operated hair dryers, skin toner, etc. at the vanity outside in the locker room.

Steps 1-9 are basically what we did before we headed out to CGV to see Catching Fire.


On Sunday we went to a professor's house at one of the universities to watch the Ohio v. U of M game on a projector.  We had buffalo chicken cheese dip with nachos, celery, buckeyes, and cookies.  A few college insults were traded before half-time (required). For lunch we got "Mexican" burritos (they had coleslaw or something in them... I'd not repeat the experience) and I also bought a bubble tea (surprisingly my first in Korea).

I missed the last 5 minutes of the game in a mad rush to the bus stop (during which I purchased one of the last few tickets for the last bus to Gangneung).  I returned for about 10 minutes during which I was able to eat some cake and part of a Costco cinnamon bun before I headed back off to the bus stop to head home.  

I finally entered the house at 11:30PM, showered, and fell into bed to get some sleep before classes on Monday.  A busy - but good - weekend.


  1. Hey! Any chance you know the address of that jimjilbang? Looks great. Visiting Daejeon just for tonight and would love to go. Thanks

  2. I don't know the address, but I can tell you some nearby landmarks! It's across the bridge opposite of the National Science Museum. Right by it, there is a Twosome Place and Coffine Gurunaru across from each other. There is also a VIP wedding place that just opened up (11/2013). This response is a bit late, but I hope you found it! If not, there's some information for next time. It's north of the CGV that's in that area too (maybe two blocks or so?).