Review: Trick or Trompe at Seoul’s Trickeye Museum

Trickeye Museum in Seoul

Dance on the beach with the woman in the red dress in Jack Vettriano’s Singing Butler. Climb a tall bamboo with a panda bear. Ride a bicycle through the clouds. Or ride a unicorn through the blue waves.

This is just a sampling of the cheeky fun available at Seoul’s Trickeye Museum, a place where art and optical illusions come together for an interactive exploration into art and 3-D thrills.

It’s a very fun place for kids. Though ours (ages 2 and 5) were a bit young to understand the optical illusions, they loved the freedom of touching and interacting with all the exhibits, climbing up and around and becoming a hilarious part of each exhibit.

According to the museum, the name of the place comes from ‘Trick of the eye’ and refers to the traditional art technique Trompe-l’œil, which  turns two-dimensional paintings into three-dimensional images through the use of optical illusions.

The museum has cleverly placed paintings on the walls, floors and ceilings, creating 3-D scenes perfect for photos and laughs.

It also boasts an ice museum, a love museum (no kids allowed there), and a carnival street area just as you enter the museum.

We’re always looking for something different to do while in Seoul, and Trickeye was the perfect addition to our weekend in the city.

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Trick Eye Museum, Seoul seoul-fall-2016-34

See for yourself

What:Trickeye Museum, which also features a love museum, ice sculpture museum, and a carnival-style play area
Where: Hongdae #B2 Seogyo Plaza 20 Hongikro 3gil, Mapogu, Seoul / Tel) 02-3144-6300
How much: Tickets are W15,000 for adults and W12,000 for children under 18. Group discounts available.
Learn more:


Ready For Contact-5 Ways To Prepare Yourself for Korea’s Dangerous Roads

By Whit Altizer

This morning, as I do every morning, I rode my bicycle to school. I was a little later than usual so I had to battle the between-classes-traffic that I usually try to avoid. Cars, bikes, buses and pedestrians all hurry to make up for lost time spent this morning drinking coffee, missing a bus or sleeping a little late.

I was going over my 9:00 class lesson plan in my head when I locked eyes with an oncoming biker riding in my lane. We looked at each other in the eye for what felt like a whole minute. Neither one of us slowing down or yielding. Then, like something off an episode of Jackass, we hit each other head-on at full speed (did I mention my brake pads need replacing?). The word that came out of my mouth right before contact? “DUUUUDDDDDEEEEE!” More in a “WTF” tone than a “you just did something awesome.” Maybe you would assume that.


I’ve now fallen off my long-board and hit another bike head-on on the campuses I’ve worked. Check two things off the bucket list and pass me my helmet.

Bumping into people is part of life here. The amount of people here compared to the amount of space available makes Westerners like me uncomfortable, but it’s a part of life you just have to accept or go crazy. In my first few months of living here I had bumped into, been shoved by and seen more cars banged up and more people lying in the streets after collisions than I have in my whole life in America. Ever seen someone get hit by a car? I have. My wife has several times.

So you could also safely assume that it also has a reputation for some heinous driving. Google “Korean driving” and you’ll see video from people’s black boxes of cars getting in the most ridiculous wrecks. Koreans often drive too fast (bali, bali!!) or under the assumption that no one else is on the road. Which doesn’t work on roads that are choked with traffic.


Look both ways. Then look both ways again.

When I got up after smashing into this other bike, I really didn’t know what to do. Luckily, it was just a couple of idiots on bikes and no one was hurt, but it reminded me of how ill-prepared some foreigners are for accidents in foreign countries. We have a tendency to forget that the law and the customs also apply to us, especially when we get into an accident. There are tons of resources in English to get you familiar with what to do. See links in my tips below.

Here are some things to consider before taking to the Korean streets.

  1. Be insured and be legal. If you are a driver or motorcyclist you better have a license and insurance. Though I have never had to show my license it is important that you have one. If it is a small accident you’re likely to come to terms on some settlement money(some expats call “blood money“) without police supervision. In 2007, a friend of mine t-boned a car that pulled out in front of his motorbike (a motorbike my wife was on the back of..yikes!). de200-driversThe car seemed at fault to me, but my friend had no recourse without a license or insurance. At the time at least he was like many others who decided just to gamble for a year and avoid the hassle of getting street legal. These are things we wouldn’t dream of driving without back home and shouldn’t be without in Korea. Fortunately, the man he hit didn’t come up with a giant number off the top of his head, but drove my friend with him to a shop for an estimate. The man also saved my friend from some problems with the police. However, this is something common in Korea, pay the damages, stay out of court and move on. If you are a cyclist, cycling insurance might help you with your own injuries or equipment but probably not with someone else’s.
  2. Call the cops. That is, if you are insured and legal and you feel like it will help the proceedings. The cops should help you get a fair settlement1851556_image_1, but it is common in the expat community to feel that the cops will never side with the foreigner. I am sure there have been some unfair judgments made by cops in Korea and will continue to be, but I’ve heard of more cases where cops have been fair to expats than not. Just be ready for anything. Click here for the Korean police website for foreigners. They have translators you can reach.
  3. Proceed cautiously. It’s crowded here and incidents where you think you’d be free from fault you aren’t. Take this example, where a cyclist hit a woman walking in a bike lane. The cyclist was liable for damages even though the woman was putting herself at risk by walking somewhere she shouldn’t. This happens all the time. Pedestrians walk into traffic certain you are going to stop. Old Korean ladies walk their oxcarts full of cardboard in the middle of the road. Pay attention. Be ready for someone or something to jump out in front of you. Seriously. It happens.


    Fun while it lasted. Dumb in retrospect. Regardless, you should have your license and insurance while riding one of these guys.

  4. Get a black box or GoPro. Having a black box on the dash of my car or a camera mounted on my bike feels like overkill. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have either. But I should. It would be very difficult for me to use my limited Korean to explain to the cops what happened and a black box would make it infinitely easier. These things are becoming way more common and most new cars have them. Also if the kid wanted to make an issue out of our wreck this morning I could have had video evidence that he was in the wrong lane.
  5. Walk or Take Public Transportation. We relied solely on taxis, buses, subways,If I only knew this was still the beginning! our bikes and our feet before kids and it was dead easy. If you are only planning on being here for a year or two avoid the headache and walk or take public transportation. Korea has an amazing public transportation system that goes most places you need to go for cheap. Also, despite my experience today biking has always been my favorite way to travel around. But if you find yourself in a game of chicken with another bike. Move first. You might just save yourself some embarrassment and some money.

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Explore Korea by bike… with KIDS!


By Lindsay Nash

Thanksgiving usually means sitting around a table and stuffing yourself with turkey and all the fixings. In Korea, on their Thanksgiving known as Chuseok, most Koreans are doing the same. Well, if you substitute the turkey for songpyeon and the dry red wine for clear strong soju.

But we’re expats here in South Korea, and the same doesn’t necessarily apply to us. We don’t have any extended family obligations and have nothing on the agenda except a glorious long weekend begging for a family adventure. Sign us up.

We decided we could finally gamble with bringing along our almost-1-year-old on a biking/camping family adventure, along with our well-traveled and cycled 4-year-old. We got some friends and their families on board and we hopped on our bicycles and rode from our home in Gyeongsan to the traditional folk village in Andong, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Daegu to Andong bike paths

Cycling in Korea is picking up in popularity, especially with all the wonderful new dedicated bike paths criss-crossing the entire country as part of the Four Rivers Project. And, as you can see from Whit’s many blogs about it, we’ve jumped on the boat bike too.

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Interested in your own family bicycle adventure in Korea with kids? Here are a few tips:

    • Do your research. For starters, download this brochure about the paths and learn where you can access them. We’re lucky because we can leave our house and reach the bike paths in Daegu in less than an hour (cycling through some farmland and along rivers before we hop on the official path).
    • Get the gear. Your bike trip will only be as fun as your gear is reliable. In 2013, I biked from Daegu to Busan on a rather cheap 7-speed bike and I lagged behind the group most of the trip, though I worked nearly twice as hard. I recommend at least a 21-speed bike. Mountain bikes, touring bikes, and road bikes are all great for this trip. I personally ride a hybrid bike and it’s just perfect. It’s also important to have good gear like panniers to hold all your supplies that you’ll need.


  • Think about your young ones. What gear and supplies will they need? We typically use one trailer and one seat on the back of a bike and let our two kids switch between these two options, though they typically love to ride in the trailer most, where they can play with toys, read books, take naps, and easily munch on snacks.

    Camping with kids is our favorite. Nothing beats a childhood sunset.

    Camping with kids is our favorite. Nothing beats a childhood sunset.

  • Plan your overnights. Will you camp or stay in motels along the route? We typically camp, since it’s much easier to camp wherever you feel like stopping along the route. The bike paths follow the rivers and it’s easy to pop up a tent wherever you please. We’ve had some pretty amazing spots. There are no rules about where to camp (unless you’re in a national park) so it’s free game. Hotels are nice too, but let’s be honest, in these small towns there won’t be many options other than love hotels. These are fine, but just be prepared to answer questions like, “Mommy, why is there a mirror on the ceiling?” and “Wow, look at that cool red night light!
  • Be flexible. Traveling with children in any setting requires a large amount of flexibility. Remember to go slow, stop often, and embrace your inner child. We stop at any playground we see, let the kids roll in rain puddles, let them have unusual amounts of lollipops and snacks, and stop to take pictures and hold any type of bug we find along the path.



Stop and catch a bug or two. But, then, release it. :)

Stop and catch a bug or two. But, then, release it. 🙂

  • Capture the moments. Bring your camera and snap up some shots of your adventure. These bike paths in Korea are the perfect backdrop to what will be some of your kid’s fondest memories of childhood.

Questions? Planning your own family trip? E-mail us. We’re happy to help.


By Whit Altizer

Yeosu has long been a favorite destination for us, but it had been years since we last traveled there. In the old days we would hop on a train from Seogwangju Station down the street from our house and ride to Yeosu (about 50 minutes longer than by bus, but worth it). We’d take a trip out to Hwangilam, go out to the 2012 World Expo site and walk around Odongdo and just hang out in this cool, coastal town.

The southern coast of Korea is striking in Yeosu.

When we arrived this year we came into a town we hardly recognized. With the World Expo having come and gone the area around the old train station and Odongdo has become a much bigger destination. We hit up some old favorites, but with a car and a kid we also tried out some new spots. As usual, we had a great time in Yeosu.

What we did:

Hwangilam This is one of my favorite places in all of Korea. This temple sits high on the side of a mountain and looks out onto the blue sea. It’s gorgeous and had an amazing cool breeze on the August day we visited. It’s a nice hike (though very steep) and so peaceful up top. Continue up the mountain for some more views and exercise. Buses from town are frequent and easy. There are also plenty of eating options around the temple. I could easily burn a whole day there.

Hwangilam has to be the most peaceful place in Yeosu.

Aqua Planet-  I’m a fan of aquariums and this one worked for me. There are two beluga whales here and lots of other marine life that I could spend hours staring at. Our 3 year old got a kick out of the whales, the sharks and the otters, but didn’t have the attention span to sit for hours. For a family of 3 the website quotes 71,000 won, but we paid a little less during the week. We even took in the 4D Imax theater.

Aqua Planet is not a bad place to escape the heat and stare at fish.

Beaches-  This was something we had surprisingly never done before, but with our car quick beach stops were convenient and easy. We stopped at Bangjukpo Beach (방죽포해변) on the way to Hwangilam and Manseongni Black Sand Beach (만성리검은모래해변) on the way out of town. These beaches don’t hold a candle to the well-groomed Haeundae or the desolate beaches of the Korean islands, but for a small mainland beach, they are fine.

The beaches in Yeosu are worth a stop. The further out you go the more impressive they get.

Check out this site for some other ideas and more details on these places. Yeosu is worth checking out.


By Whit Altizer
We’ve been going to Bigeumdo for a while now and never seem to tire of it. Surprisingly, for us, it has rarely been an easy trip there or back, but once you get to the island it all feels worth the effort. To be clear, it isn’t a place where you go for a beach scene or parties(unless you throw your own) or to meet foreigners. It’s an island that you go to for island seclusion or to peer into regular farm life on a Korean island or to see amazing sunsets.
The Heart-shape beach is a wonderful place to spend the evening.
We easily spend two days here of doing almost nothing but hanging out on the beach or taking drives around the island. It’s worth bringing a bike or a book or a group of friends to keep yourself entertained here. I can’t sit still on the beach so I’ve spent hours playing soccer with friends, going for runs or taking bike rides around the island. All of those things are perfect on Bigeumdo.
Biking on the island was a treat. Few cars, decent roads and fun climbs along the coast.

There is almost no current and tiny waves. Perfect water for our little swimmer.

So if you are looking to escape the crowds of Haeundae Beach or just the craziness of your town; take a trip to Bigeumdo this fall. You’ll be hanging with the local farmers and feel like you have your own private beach.

Quick Tips:

Getting There: Getting there should be easy, but we’ve always made it hard on ourselves. There is a cheap(less than 10,000 won) 7AM, 1PM and 3:00 ferry(2 hrs) that we always take to max out our time on the island. The next cheap one isn’t until 1. If you are flexible and don’t mind spending money(about 15-20,000 won) there is a 7:50AM, 8:10, 1 and 4 PM ferry that gets you there in half the time(50 mins) of the cheap one.


Timetable for the fast and more expensive ferry.

Taxis are usually waiting at the ferry terminal and there is also an infrequent bus. If you are looking for the big beach with windmills ask to go to 원평해수욕장 (Wonpyeong Beach). If you want the heartshape beach ask for 하누넘해수욕장 (Hanuneom Beach). Both are lovely.

Places to stay: We’ve camped and stayed in a minbak on Wonpyeong Beach and both have been great experiences. If you have a tent, take it. For us with small child and July weather the pension was more convenient.  Check out this link for more places. I also found a

바닷가펜션(Beach Pension) 261.0001/017.631.1258 in high season it costs about 100,000 a night and has a kitchen. Do yourself a favor and order some of the owners kimchi jjigae. Amazing.


These days you can rent a platform for your tent, otherwise find a dry place and camp.


Though I’ve never stayed here, this looked like a fun, traditional place to stay Just 100 meters from a secluded beach.

Things to do: Hire a taxi to drive you around, bring your bike, drink, lounge, play, be. We’ve done them all and they’ve been worth it. The people on Biguemdo are lovely.

Sunset on Bigeumdo is one of life’s great joys. So peaceful and beautiful.


By Whit Altizer

We spent the first week in August traveling around our old home province, Jeollanamdo. This is the first of several blogs about our second “Korea Without a Care” trip.

The Mokpo that I know well is a very small part of the city. But it must be the most potent pocket of this funky little town. It is at times, my favorite little corner of Korea and at others, the most frustrating.

It’s the small corner in between the base of Yudal Mountain and the International Ferry Terminal. Every time I go to Mokpo, it’s to head out to the islands, but I usually spend a night there just to get a little bit of the city in my system. Once, my wife and I went to Mokpo just to hang out around this area and had a great time. It’s dirty, loud and generally unkind. It’s the kind of place where you might see an old lady punching a young man to run him off or get yelled at by a drunk passer-by.

But I still think of Mokpo with lots of nostalgia. Even when my waitress, visibly annoyed with my presence, brings me a side dish of pickled garlic with the longest, blackest hair laid across it; or when the ferry terminal ticket saleswomen has no interest in selling me a ticket, I still wonder when I’ll be able to return to that magical place.

It’s a city in Korea that just doesn’t give a damn, and that forces you to have some kind of reaction. Sometimes it’s love, sometimes it’s distaste. But it’s never indifference.

Still interested? Check out this page about Mokpo for things to do!