SEOUL - A thick acrylic wall holds back millions of gallons of sea water. Sharks swim by, giving an eerie look at the hundreds gawking tourists. It's just another day at the COEX Aquarium.

The aquarium is located inside the Convention and Exhibition Center Mall. The western-style Seoul shopping complex is home to a megaplex theater, book store, coffee shops, food court, clothing stores and the largest aquarium in Seoul.

The indoor ocean has more than 40,000 fish from 650 species in 70 tanks in more than 2,500 tons of water.

When visitors enter the aquarium, they follow a path leading through the "Fantastic Journey of Water," the theme for the aqua park.

After passing an exhibition of common Korean sea creatures, visitors walk through an Amazonian rain forest.

Inside dark caves, tropical freshwater fish swim just as they would in their home environments.
Hundreds of piranhas - toothy flesh-eaters of the Amazon River - swarm in a huge cylinder tank that reaches to the ceiling.

For many visitors, seeing the different species is a first. Everywhere you look, tanks are full of large and mysterious fish.

The aquarium is not only home to fish. A large-billed macaw stands watch over the rain forest. Sea otters swim playfully, crocodiles see how long they can stay in one place without moving and tortoises roam to-and-fro. The forest is filled with waterfall and bird sounds, thick fog and lush vegetation.

Further down the path, visitors can almost reach out and touch sharks and stingrays, although it is not recommended. The aquarium has special feeding times posted for visitors to observe how the sea creatures devour their meals.

In the Deep Blue Sea viewing area, tourists go face-to-face (so to speak) with jellyfish, giant sea crabs, electric eels and octopi.

The Marine Touch exhibit affords visitors an opportunity to lay a hand on everything they dare to touch. Fearless Korean children reach into the low-level tanks and feel sea urchins, starfish and sea slugs with no hesitation.

Near the end of the tour, a walk through an acrylic sea tunnel gives a unique perspective as sharks and sea turtles swim directly overhead.

The COEX Mall is above the Samseong Subway Station, stop number 219 on the Green Line. The COEX Aquarium is open every day of the year from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. There is an entrance fee. For information online, visit their web site.

Editor's Note: This story is part of the USAG-Yongsan Welcome Guide and does not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense. There are many things to do and see in Seoul.