November 30, 2017

Escape Room, Board Room Cafe, Cat Cafe and some Chi-Mek, too

On a warm Sunday, Yangkyu and I spent the whole day hanging out with his brother's family. They had been a big help to us and are super fun to be with and so we kind of saved the best for last and allocated an entire day to be with them.

Before our trip to Korea, Yangkyu's sister in law had inquired through an online forum asking for advice on what kind of activities might be worthwhile for people visiting Korea who haven't been back in a long time. Included in a long list of suggestions was something called Escape Room cafes, which were widely popular all throughout Korea when we were there (I am not sure if the trend has passed now). 

Yangkyu and I love board games and so this type of physical adventure was something we really wanted to try. We didn't think we would be all that good just the two of us and so we decided to do it as a group with his family.

We went to one (of many) in Gangnam called The Clue and while I don't have any photos to show you (except for their logo - photos are not allowed inside), I can tell you that it was incredibly fun. For people who have already experienced Escape Rooms before, they pick up on certain tactics that help them pick up clues and solve the riddles faster. For me, it was a little hard because while I do speak the language, it's harder for me to read and understand/process sometimes. Still, it was thrilling every time we got a step closer to making it out of the room. 

There were about 6-8 rooms you can choose from - ranging from beginning to advanced. There are scary/horror themed rooms, which we didn't choose because Yangkyu's niece was too young.

After you choose your room, you get in a single file and are asked to put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you. You are given blindfolds and are guided inside the room you are to escape from. To me, that whole process was fun in itself. Kind of builds of the excitement. When we were allowed to take our blindfolds off, the room was completely dark. The first step to making out of the room is to find the light switch.

You are given 1 hour and there was a huge digital clock inside the room to help you keep track of time. You are also given one opportunity to ask for a hint, which is done by making a call from the phone provided inside your escape room. The people who work there I think also monitor your entire process using CCTV cameras. We used our hint at about the 30 minute mark and we made it out with just a couple of minutes left on the clock. 

The whole experience wasn't corny and was actually very well made. A part of me thought I would be disappointed but I wasn't at all. Yangkyu and I even thought about going again just the two of us but unfortunately we couldn't find the time. Yangkyu had wanted to go with his colleagues back here in the states but somewhere something got screwed up and their plans got foiled. 

Next we made our way to a Board Room cafe also located in Gangnam (but again there are many throughout the city). 

For some reason I can't imagine going somewhere like this back home but in Korea it was actually really fun and I think Yangkyu and I could spend an entire day there (ok maybe not an entire day but hours and hours - we're game nerds). 

It just so happened that Yangkyu's brother likes board games as well and comes here with his daughter when they have their daddy/daughter time during the weekends. And so we started off with some games they both enjoyed (Ovo was a super fun one) and chose games that none of us has played before. A huge favorite was called Love Letter. It's just a simple deck of cards with characters who out rank one another. The goal is to avoid being eliminated by being the one holding the highest card. It's such a simply made game but one that made us play for several rounds. 

  // Thai lunch // 

 // Pit stop at a capsule coin machine store. Another big popular trend while were in Korea were stores dedicated to toy grabber machines and stores that only housed capsule coin machines. We had gone to a toy grabber machine with Win's family few nights before and came to the capsule store because Yangkyu's niece wanted to go. Aside from being completely dumbstruck at why these things were popular was the fact that she is just like Yangkyu in that she takes her times in deciding what she wants. I couldn't help but laugh and tell Yangkyu, to which he replied, "I know! She takes a long time! Just like me! We must be family." But it was nice to see her think about what she really wants instead of making a haste decision. Something I thought was very mature for her age. // 

Our last activity for the day was going to a cat cafe. 

Before going to Korea, Yangkyu and I had wanted to go to all the animal themed cafes - dog cafes, raccoon cafes, sheep cafes. Then I started reading about incidents where animals were actually being abused and neglected. One person who claimed he had worked at a dog cafe wrote a plea to the general public asking them to stop frequenting these cafes because they need to shut down as animals are neglected and treated poorly. So Yangkyu and I decided not to patron them. 

We did however stop by a dog cafe on our last day in Jeju Island, which we regretted immediately (written about here). Yangkyu's brother knew of my disappointment but asked if I would be willing to try a cat cafe and since Yangkyu's niece likes going there (she loves animals) I said ok. 

I do have to say that it doesn't seem like the cats at this cafe were neglected and poorly treated. I liked how there were clearly written directions and rules, in Korean and English, asking customers what not to do (don't scream at the cats, run, pull on their tails, etc.). Some of the cats had bananas on which meant that people should not feed them as they have dietary issues. Which were all great. But, the problem lied with the people who came to the cafe. 

You can clearly tell who among the customers loved cats and knew how to be with them. You can also clearly those who weren't. They stuck out like sore thumbs - well to me at least. They were mostly kids who would run up to sleeping cats and yell at them to wake up because they wanted to play with them. Kids who would feed any cat, even though they had bananas on them. Kids who would try to drag the cats on to their laps, etc. The people who worked at the cafe had to spend time explaining to the children that they weren't supposed to do that but after being told they will did it anyway. The parents didn't really do anything and were either busy taking pictures or being just as annoying to the cats as well. Thankfully they weren't the majority but that didn't make it better. 

Even with the healthy cats, I wasn't too into the idea of buying cat food and feeding them. I couldn't imagine how many people came to give them food throughout the day. I liked the people who spent time there ordering a coffee or two and reading a book, or sketching (there was one girl who just sat there with napping cats all around her and she was just sketching one cat after another - she was clearly an awesome crazy cat lady).

Yangkyu spent time with his niece and fed the cats while his brother ended up with a peacefully nappy cat on his lap which he gently stroked the entire time we were there. 

I'd say, if you want to visit an animal themed cafe in Korea, please follow rules and etiquette. Even if the store doesn't have one set up, remember they are animals and not solely there for your amusement, entertainment and selfies. 

We ended the day with chi-mek. It's a shortened term for chicken and mek-ju which is beer in Korean. Yangkyu's aunt joined us and I think everyone felt a little bitter sweet that it was going to be Yangkyu's last day before heading to Paju to stay with my family for a night before going back home. 

 // Yangkyu and his niece. The last we saw her was about 6 years ago when she was still so little. She apparently likes games too! // 

We're almost almost done with our Korea trip. We'll be in Paju next at a little art village. Hope you'll come back for that story. 

 // Korea, according to my iPhone (pt. 2)
 // A Gem in Hongdae
 // A Cocker and Friends Meet Up in Hongdae


  1. My younger sis has done an Escape Room a few times, I think. She really enjoys them:D And even though I'm not into board games, it still sounds pretty cool.
    I would love to try one of those animal-themed cafes if I do get the chance but alas, my oldest is scared of dogs and allergic to cats as well...sigh....
    PS Yes to chi-mek! Bwahaha! Not the healthiest, but's too short.:D

  2. *high five* for being game nerds! I went to an escape room for my birthday a few years back and loved it! Well done for making it out! Nice to spend time with family and see familiar traits too!!


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