Hello Kitty Planet: Week 38

The Songdo neighborhood of Incheon is curious mix of urban design and the American Wild West. Despite the futuristic blueprints of the high rise apartments, the wide and vacant streets felt as spacious as an open plain. It was the first time since leaving home that I had felt a sense of déjà vu. I was lost in the reverie of a familiar landscape when the Incheon City Tour bus passed the Tri-Bowl.

The Tri-Bowl was an enormous aluminum molar hovering insubstantially above a reflection pond. It was an overcast day and the only splash of color came from small red bows dotting naked tree branches. I excitedly wiped the moisture off the foggy windows for a better look and vowed to return to this otherworldly structure.

The following weekend my two female coworkers and I coerced my boyfriend to visit the Tri-Bowl to see “Hello Kitty Planet.” For Barret it certainly seemed like an extraterrestrial environment populated by cotton and polyester beings. While us girls admired Hello Kitty’s extended family, he was aimlessly adrift amongst the dioramas: Hello Kitty the apt art student, the cowgirl galloping across the open plains, the rock star with miniature bottles of whisky.

As we wound our way through the decades of paraphernalia, we kept a lookout for an extravagantly over-sized plush Hello Kitty. My coworker had found an image in the local newspaper and it was a big reason why we made the trek to Incheon on such a cold day. However, as we passed the final exhibit (a tight pink coil of poop with a tidy yellow bow), the fabled toy was no where in sight. We soon realized Giant Hello Kitty was on hospital leave. Oh cruel world! Ms. Kitty just doesn’t look the same when she is sick.

How to get to the Tri-Bowl:

At Gangnam Station Exit #7 catch bus M6405. Exit at Central Park Station. Or take the subway to the Incheon Line 1, Central Park Station Exit #4.

 Hello Kitty Planet: On display till the June 30th, 2012 (Open Tuesday-Sunday 10-6pm) Cost- 12,000 won.

63 Building & Hello Kitty Cafe: Week 27

The observatory inside the 63 Building can only be reached by a transparent elevator. On my way up, the twinkling lights of the city unfolded while the dark flowing water of the Han River shrank beneath me. Exiting the elevator, families and dopey-eyed couples wound their way through the exhibits of the Sky Art Museum.

The current exhibit, Faces, was a collection of portraits from Korean and international artists. At night the artwork reflected against the windows of one of the most iconic buildings in Seoul. Guests peered through the vibrant colors of an Alex Katz or Julian Opie ghost exhibit before taking in the glittering view of Seoul.

When I approached the last room, a small crowd of people were whispering and pointing. A rope separated the gawking group from a single girl seated in a balloon covered room. A heartfelt essay was being projected while a cameraman filmed the slouched figure. Considering her petite frame and casual clothes, she didn’t look old enough to be proposed to. She obviously felt self-conscious of the crowd behind her and occasionally glanced back at her impromptu paparazzi.

When the projection finished, a slender man emerged in a suit for an awkward hug. The little crowd began to chant what I’m pretty sure was, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” However, the romantic moment failed to materialize and the couple walked over to a table for a private toast. While the view was beautiful, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the decorations and method of delivery were embarrassing. Balloons are a bad symbol for love as they deflate and pop, while a power point is too impersonal. Perhaps he should have tried giant rock pyramids- now that is a decoration which demonstrates durability and dedication.

As our group stumbled in, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the familiar ovular face on the photographic menu, the woman at the cash register appeared bored and irritated. She dully pointed to a sign which read, “Please find a seat before ordering”. The bright and cheerfully decorated front room was full, so we proceeded to the interior room. The walls were pink and the lighting dim. The chairs were comfortable, but I could tell the staff hadn’t been back in this corner to wipe up spilled drinks and sweep away stray hairs.

The pricy coffee was served in thin paper cups. “I would be disappointed if I didn’t see Hello Kitty on my Earl Gray latte,” I exclaimed before photographing my beverage. “I’d be disappointed if did,” my Finnish couchsurfer replied indicating her black coffee. While I enjoyed my drink, I didn’t feel like I was in Hello Kitty’s café. The space felt like my claustrophobic dorm room- small and void of sunlight.

How to get there:

63 Building – Line 5 Yeouinaru Station, Exit 4 (11,000 won for the Sky Art Museum)

Hello Kitty Cafe – Line 2 Hongik Station, Exit 9

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