Monday, February 28, 2011


Standard room at the Relax Motel, Busan
So this is going to be a bit random, and mainly directed at people actually in Korea, but it occurred to me that a post on love motels, particularly decent ones that I've stayed at before might be helpful, not in the least to myself if I later on can't remember the details. For the unitiated, love motels are basically just cheap and quick accomodation (usually). Unlike hotels, people don't usually book ahead for them (although you can with most of course) and as the name suggests, are commonly used for couples looking for some privacy, whether it be from parents and siblings or from spouses and co-workers. Which is not to say that everyone who uses love motels is a no-good cheating louse, but the fact that you can often rent rooms for a one or four hour stint rather than for a night, and the fact that you can sometimes only check in after 10pm, and the fact that the carparks usually have some sort of rope curtain that goes down to about a metre off the ground so you can drive right in and check in without being seen does kind of hint at an illicit kind of reason for many clients being there. Having said that, when most Koreans live at home with their parents until they are married, and even then will probably frequently come home to visit - for example, a friend of mine lives at home with his parents and four of his five siblings. The other also often sleeps over because his workplace is closer to his parents house than his own, and then his wife and child also frequently visit, so no-one really has a permanent bedroom and finding sleeping space is a bit first-come, first-served (Koreans traditionally sleep on the floor, which is heated during the winter). So a bit of privacy might be hard to find at home, especially because (apparently) many Koreans don't necessarily tell/introduce their parents and family or even friends about the person they're dating until it's serious, which to some people might mean 2 or 3 years into the relationship when they decide to get engaged.
Bathroom from a 'themed' love motel
At any rate, for whatever reasons they are used for, love motels are also great for travellers looking for somewhere cheap to crash without having to worry too much about security and shared bathrooms. While some of the cheaper options in the love motel range are decidedly seedy, there are many that are not and are as nice or nicer than a hotel, and whatever deficiencies they might have, these are easily overlooked when you might only be paying from 30 000 to 60 000 won a night (from about $28 - $55), or maybe a bit more if you want somewhere 'themed' (each room is individually decorated in different themes) or with something fancy like mirrors on the ceilings and plush padded walls. A standard room will come with a double bed, a bathroom with at least a shower and toilet, and if you're lucky or it's a bit more of an upmarket motel, it will have a bath or a hot tub. There will also be a kettle, some basic hair stuff (brushes and a hair dryer, maybe a straightener), satellite tv (usually with at least three 'adult' stations), towels, a computer with internet access and a mini-bar fridge with complimentary water and probably a can of coffee and a cold drink in there. Although the dodgier ones there for mysterious romances are sometimes not too worried about things like replacing sheets with cigarette burns in them, for the most part, if you're paying more than 45 000 won for your room you can expect a decent standard of cleanliness and shouldn't be too worried about sleeping in the beds. On the other hand, if you're just looking for somewhere to crash and have a larger number of people, some of the dodgier places don't bother to check (or don't care) how many people come back with you to your room, whereas the more careful places will either make you pay more to have more people in your room or will downright refuse.

To date, these are the love motels that I've stayed at this year that I can still remember the names of and a quick rundown of where they are and what they were like:

- Busan, Haeundae
The Relax Motel (은하수 모텔): A 'luxury' motel at Haeundae Beach, about five minutes walk from the waterfront. I don't know why they decided to translate the name of the motel as 'Relax' when I've always thought '은하수' meant 'Milky Way', but there you go. I've only ever stayed there on the weekends (Friday and Saturday night), and rates are usually a bit higher then but still reasonable - 50 000 for a normal room, 60 000 for an 'executive', which means you get a bigger room and a nicer bathroom with a hot tub (I think). I believe the rates are 40 000 and 50 000 won respectively during the week, which is bordering on amazing for nice rooms, clean everything and somewhere that doesn't even have a hint of cigarette smoke, desperation and regret. However, because this motel is right on the beach, it does mean that prices skyrocket during the high season (think the second week of July through until August) as I found out after rocking up at 11pm on a Friday night expecting to find a room and being told that a standard room was now 160 000 won and an executive room was 200 000. If you do go to Busan during the summer, you're better off looking for cheap accomodation around KSU or somewhere not on one of the beaches, but unfortunately I can't remember the name of the motel I stayed in there.

Directions: go out of Haeundae Station, exit 5, walk down and take the second road on the left. You should see a big parking tower with a 'P' on it close by.

- Seoul, Sinchon (신촌)
Q Motel (큐 모텔): This is a pretty average motel, 50 000 a night per room (w/e rate) which will be about the size of a standard (Australian) dorm room. Still, it's not too bad, and although the floor space is pretty minimal and they are shower + toilet only bathrooms (I don't like bathing in a bathtub anyway so I don't have a problem with this), it has all the rest of the regular facilities, including a huge range of porn channels - beware, Japanese porn is not for the conservative, easily frightened or slow on the uptake. You may find yourself slightly aghast, confused and disgusted if you aren't quick to change the channel, unless of course that's what you're after. Someone crying and looking frightened on tv? Nope, it's not a horror movie, it's Japanese porn.

For those of you not familiar with Seoul or Korean, I wrote Sinchon in hangul because there are two very similarly spelled - one is this one, which is near Ewha, Yonsei, Hongdae and Sogang Universities, the other (신천) is over near Jamsil Stadium on the other side of the river. Unfortunately I can't find this motel exactly on a map, but here's an approximation:

Directions: Go out of Sinchon St exit 7, walk past Grandmart, away from Sinchon Rotary (the intersection). Walk down until you pass a Hana Bank and get to a pedestrian crossing. Cross the road, turn left and then take the first right. This road should go up a hill which will be pretty steep at first and then level out. The Q Motel is on the 3rd block with a red 'Q' on a green sign.

- Seoul, Gangnam:
BNN Motel (바나나 모텔): A fairly nice hotel, but with an awful curling brush to which I almost lost a sizeable chunk of hair! I now realise why brushes in hotels are always full of hair - it's because idiots like me think they can use them (don't worry, this one had been cleaned and was in a sealed packet) and then get them stuck in their hair and have to yank out half their scalp to get free. If it weren't for my friend Chauntee and a lot of patience I'd probably still be wearing it. Now Gangnam does tend to be a little more expensive since it's where the rich kids play, but it's not necessarily that much pricier than the rest of Seoul by Western standards, and even then it's usually worth it. BNN/Banana had good sized rooms, about the size of my current five person office, and a really nice bathroom complete with bathtub if you are that way inclined, as well as all the rest, and best of all was clean. Also, it's really close to the subway (the hotel is represented by my demented picture of a bunch of bananas on the map), and most of the bars and clubs are over at exits 6 and 7, so it's very handy. Also also! Now that I've found some decent and affordable places, I've found that Gangnam is a good place to stay because it's where the inter-city Express Bus Terminal is, which is handy for us out-of-towners. Seriously, after a big night out when you suspect that you're still drunk on the after effects of the soju you had the night before, the last thing you need is a 40 minute subway ride across town with a bunch of tutting ajummas and ajosshis coming back from church.

Directions to BNN: Go out of Gangnam Station exit one and you'll see a kind of side street/alleyway immediately on your right. Don't worry, it turns into a proper street. BNN is maybe 5 minutes walk at most, next to the Chocolate Motel.

Directions to IMT: Same as to BNN, but keep walking down for about 15 - 20 minutes (depending on how fast you walk, your shoes, and how much you're carrying of course). This is the blue 'X' on my map (too unco to write IMT, sorry).

IMT Hotel (IMT 모텔): We probably wouldn't have found this one if it weren't for the fact that everything else was either booked, unavailable until 10pm or unreasonably expensive for 3 people. The concierge here perhaps took pity on our sweaty and weary looks of beseeching exhaustion and only charged us an extra 10 000 won for the extra person rather than making us have two rooms or one of the big family rooms that motels sometimes have which are usually for 4 - 6 people and about 150 000 - 200 000 won. So it was 70 000 all up and the couch was comfortable enough (if a little short) to spend the night on. Like most of the others here, it was clean, didn't smell bad and had a decent bathroom. Oh but here I should add a quick note of warning: because it's assumed that most people staying in a room together are a couple, the bathroom doors are usually semi-transparent. If you're lucky the bedroom and bathroom are accessed by separate doors in the little hallway where you leave your shoes, but sometimes this isn't the case. If you're a little less lucky than that, the transparency will be minimal (i.e. mostly clouded glass) and/or the bathroom door will be at an angle that gives some privacy. If you're completely bereft of luck you better be willing to see a bit more of your friends than anticipated because the door will be facing straight into the bathroom and either be almost completely transparent (think a clear glass door with a clouded glass bubble pattern which does nothing to hide anything) or if they got really creative, may have a reflective doorway which effectively lets you see right into the bathroom. Why these things are necessary... well it's probably best not to think about it. Anyway, this one was of middling luck (the bubble door but tucked away at the end of the room... however, it did face the toilet, similarly partitioned, and had the sink right between the two doors) and was of middle size, but apparently the jets in the bath didn't work. Mind you, the shower was freakin' awesome! After 12 months (effectively) of shower-nozzle showers this one was brilliant - it was like standing in the pouring rain, but warm :)

Anyway, as you may have noticed, BNN and IMT were on the same street - in fact, the street was almost entirely love motels. I haven't been in them, but it's probably safe to say that they are of relatively high quality. EXCEPT FOR ONE! Unless you are really desperate or have no money, do NOT go to the first motel (it is on the right side of the alley before it even becomes a street). We went in there to ask prices and immediately noticed that rates were quoted by night (40 000 won) AND by 4 hour stints (20 000 won). The guy at the front desk looked decidedly seedy, and then also decidedly pissed off when we asked to see the rooms. He took his sweet time getting up, but by then we'd decided to play it safe and left. It's probably a bit mean to cast aspersions, but if I had to stay there I'd want to be sleeping with a cast-iron wallet and a cast-iron belt around my kidneys.

Anyway that's about it. Of course, the other alternative is always jjimjilbangs or bath houses, but that's another post for another day. If any of my dear readers have their own favourites that they'd like to include, please feel free to post a quick description in the comments section.

Much love intrepid travellers!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Make that VERY sad. Because today is the day that my beloved KBFF Lala (or Lara to non-Koreans) departs in preparation for her flight home to South Africa tomorrow morning, and thus is a very depressing end to my first year of teaching English in Korea and living in Yongam-dong and start of my second. And there is little prospect of this situation getting less gloomy, as Neil and Geri also leave Cheongju today and Korea tomorrow for New Zealand, Emmy goes in four days, and then just when you'd expect the gloom to lift, Nat (the KB of the original KBFF) is off on the 28th of March (although luckily the FF will still be here ^_^). And even though she lives in Busan, it still saddens me (and probably a lot of other people who actually live there even more) that she won't be a bus ride away... lucky that I will be seeing her at least twice before she goes!

It's also a little bit of a weird day today because it's the first day back at school, but really also the last day of school from last year because the new year hasn't started yet. Because of the Korean public school system where teachers can't stay at one school for more than 5 years and can't stay in the same area for more than 8 years, staff at public schools frequently change, so today we had a leaving ceremony for about 12 teachers who are going elsewhere, and in one special case, retiring. For the teacher who is retiring, it has been a very emotional day, as he is leaving after 40 years of teaching to do a PhD at Hankook University of Foreign Language Studies, and, I gather, has spent most of that time here in the Chungbuk province. As well as giving everyone a leaving gift (an embroidered hand towel - this is a common 'remembrance' gift here I think) and inviting us all to the leaving dinner later held by the school which is mostly in his honour, he was presented with awards and flowers from the school, the Chungbuk Education Office and from the Parents Association. The Principal and Vice Principal made speeches, as did the new school captain, who even hugged him.

So to cheer myself up from all these slightly gloomy farewells, I and Cali Amy are taking ourselves off to the Bau Haus doggie cafe in Hongdae (Seoul) on Saturday to immerse ourselves in unquestioning canine affection (and one cat). This is the website if you are curious: here (it's in Korean). As far as I can tell, you get there by going out of Sangsu Station exit 1, walking straight down Wa-U-San Rd (not the main road that follows the subway line) until you see the 7-11, turning left and going straight (across the traffic island or whatever it is in the middle of the big road you'll have to cross) until you see it on your right. From the sounds of it, you'll smell a distinctively doggy smell when you get close.

For those who are only slightly curious and just want to see cute puppies, here are some screenshots :)


Ooh and I also went to the Hello Kitty cafe last weekend so stay tuned for a post about that when my computer is being less schitzo.

Lala KBFF continued!

Pt 2 of the photoshoot - this time with a 'studying' theme, which as many of you will know I am not likely to be terribly convincing at :p

But it was a good excuse (like we ever need one) to drink tea at a very cute cafe, have a giggle, and probably intrigue the other patrons with our photo antics.

Looky here!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lala chingu~~

Photoshoot pt 1 courtesy of the lovely and very talented photo-jjang (photo-wizard) Lara, my KBFF (explanation in her blog). Pt 2 to be posted soon :)

Also, will put up a post about being back in Korea later this week or next when I am back to deskwarming. Watch this space!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ho hum

Hello dear readers! Profuse apologies for being so lax of late and essentially being so lazy as to not post for a very long time. There is not really a very good reason for doing so, merely that I have been enjoying being home so much that I've rather put my blog on the backburner for a while. Henceforth however, I will probably be posting with more regularity as I return to icy Korea and my even icier school and many hours of deskwarming (although contrary to what the name suggests, really my desk is freezing). For you see, this will be my last post from Australia for a good while, possibly for 13 months until I finish my contract on February 26th, 2012. Unless of course North Korea does actually decide they have nothing left to lose (having already said goodbye to their last shred of sanity) and decide to go out guns (or nuclear missiles) blazing, or something else equally calamitous happens that brings me back early, or that I really do just get completely sick of being there, in which case I might be back a little earlier, but at present I'm trying to steel my resolve and aim to stick it out for the year, irregardless of personal feelings on the matter.

Which is not to say that I am not looking forward to going back to Korea! Although I'm dreading having to go back to the cold and the insularity of Korean society and the lack of multiculturalism (ok, the lack of multicultural food options really) and of course, having to go back to work, I'm also looking forward to lots of things - Korean food, shopping, the convenience of Korean life, and of course, my friends. Actually, to be honest, I feel a bit ambiguous about seeing many of them, because for quite a few who have been important people in my life last year, it's not just about looking forward to seeing them again. Many of them will be leaving now that they have completed their year of teaching, and although this is thing I hate to believe is true and can never quite bring myself to say, it may very well be the last time I'll see them again, so for many, it's a goodbye too. Now those of you who are either Australian or are acquainted with Australians (which you should all be since you know me and to channel a Westie I know, you can't get much better than what's already awesome! :D) know that we are a nation of long distance travellers. We have to be if we want to go anywhere outside of the country. So there is a fairly large likelihood that of the many friends I have been lucky enough to make this year, I will see them again. In the words of someone well-meaning who probably ended up with a long line of Australian couch-surfers: "never invite an Aussie to stay with you if they're ever in the country unless you actually mean it, because they'll actually take you up on it." Nevertheless, depressing thoughts and accomodation-cadging aside, it will be good to go back and spend my last week of school-less freedom seeing everyone again, just in case. And frankly, also because some of them would also be likely to send me long abusive emails about my moral deficiencies as a friend if I did not see them at least once before they go and this is something I wish to avoid :)

Which brings me back to my original point (kind of) about my last day in Oz. The weather has actually cleared up a little and turned out semi-nice, so a swim with Fran later on in the (hopefully) less burny time of day is definitely on the cards. I'm also baking sticky-date pudding with butterscotch sauce (two actually, one for our grandparents and one for us), if we have any room for it after dinner with mum, dad, Fran, Edna and Allen (some family friends visiting from Wales) at Altitude 1146 perched on Bulli Tops, which according to a friend with an inside scoop on the owners (....) does some mean curries since they actually have a curry chef. I'm hoping the sticky date pudding will also make me less sentimental when I go to say goodbye to my grandparents for yet another year - a kind of Trojan horse I guess - but I'm glad that we at least have the miracle of Skype to keep in touch. I also have the last of my packing to do, or rather, re-packing, now that I've gathered all of these things that I somehow managed without for a whole year but have now decided I can't, and also all of my shopping for stuff I can't get in Korea, like Dilmah tea, peppermint tea, herbs and a decent stain remover which you'd think would be a cinch for a country that uses as much chilli as Korea.

Anyway, rather than writing about it and sitting on my butt enjoying the campness of Peter on Ready Steady Cook, I should probably get onto actually doing some of that stuff. My second sticky-date pudding is almost done so I should check on it too, and of course the crickets and cicadas chirruping outside in the sunshine are reminding me of my 'one last swim' resolution with Fran. Here are a few of my favourite photos from my trip to tide you over until my next post (I'll probably be whingeing about how cold I am). Bon voyage!

With Miss Lucy and Jini
With Lyss and Tracey
With the 2009 Wollongong OPSM girls :)
MC multi-tasking her way to fabulousness as usual