If you're from the US, chances are you're not a big fan of these furry creatures. You probably have visions of your rubbish being riffled through and your pets being harassed. But to us South Africans, this funny little creature is a complete novelty.
We don't have racoons in South Africa, the only thing we can compare to the US 'racoon' in terms of how much havoc they wreck around your house is the vervet monkey. Most South Africans (at least those from Kwazulu-Natal) have at least 1 story of a monkey (or even a troop of monkeys) breaking into their house, causing complete chaos with the dogs and cats and stealing any food they can get their hands on.
I'm not a big fan of monkeys, so I can understand some of my American friends and their aversion to these so-called 'pests' but I was quite taken with these two racoons that we spent time with at Blind Alley Cafe near Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul. Obviously, these racoons are pets and so tame, I wouldn't advise anyone running up to a wild racoon and try and give it an affectionate scratch (ouch...you'll be in for a nasty surprise).
These two racoons were very entertaining (especially the white one who was the braver of the pair).
The cafe itself is separated from the racoon enclosure (for hygienic purposes mostly). Once you've placed your order and had a read over the racoon visiting instructions (i.e be careful when entering to prevent the racoons from running out the door, don't take any food in with you and most importantly don't have anything in your pockets...they will try to steal your things!) you are free to wonder inside the racoon enclosure.
We both really enjoyed the drinks, I had a hot chocolate & Farmboy had a berry smoothie, and we were both very impressed with their menu prices. Very reasonable and quite a large selection of drinks and nibbles.
The racoon room was clean and didn't smell bad (a lot of pet cafes I've been to tend to be a bit smelly but not this one). Also, we visited the cafe on a Friday late afternoon (around 6pm) and it was pleasantly quiet. This meant we didn't have to wait ages to be able to see and pet the racoons, and at one point we were the only people inside the enclosure. This was great for my camera as it meant I could take as many photographs as I wanted without having to wait for people to move out of the way. I think the cafe gets busier on the weekend, so do keep that in mind when planning your trip.
Also, another thing to keep in mind, racoons sleep A LOT. When we arrived both racoons were sleeping, and I had read about other people being very disappointed that the animals were asleep the entire time they were visiting. Guys and girls, these are animals we are dealing with, and therefore we can't control their schedules. Make sure you have enough time for your trip that if they are sleeping, you can relax and enjoy a tea or coffee while you wait for them to (hopefully) wake up.
Something that does always worry me with pet cafes is how well the animals are actually treated. Of course it's mush nicer for animals to be out in the wild where they have tons of free space to roam around in. But, the racoon's enclosure was roomy, and they had a lot of space and hidey hole places (and not to mention toys!) to keep themselves busy. Also, they have each other to play with which was nice to see.
Even though there are only 2 racoons, don't let that put you off. I was a bit disappointed at first, thinking that it would be boring to only be able to spend time with 2 racoons, but it didn't phase me at all once I was there. The little white racoon provides enough laughs and entertainment for your whole visit.
We noticed something very strange (& funny) about their toys. Can you see what's missing from each of their soft toys? Such a strange thing to do...perhaps they didn't like their toys 'watching them' while the run about?
If you like visiting pet cafes here in Korea, here are a few more for you to check out:
Blind Alley, Sookdae
9am - 10:30pm
서울시 용산구 청파동2가 63-20 (63-20 Cheongpa-dong2ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul)
From Sookmyung Women's University Station, go out of exit 10. Immediately make a U-turn and take the first right which will lead you through a tunnel. Keep following this road straight for about 5 minutes, passing through the tunnel and crossing at the intersection. Blind Alley will be on your right, before you reach the university campus. It's slightly tucked away from the main road.