Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Love Motel Post / How to Rent A Love Motel in Korea

After our second stay in a lousy Korean Hostel (mentioned here) I vowed never to stay in a Korean Hostel again and to write about how to book a Love Motel in Korea. Here's the information I promised.

First, you need to find a motel. They're usually in clusters near the transport hubs - bus terminals, train stations - but also in big touristy areas like Jongno Sam Ga in Seoul and Haeundae in Busan. Look for their sign - it's this:

I think this sign is also used for Jimjilbangs (saunas) and it's meant to be a pot with steam coming out of it, because I can't for the life of me understand how this = motel. But it does. If you can read Korean, you can also just look for 'Motel' - 모텔 or 'Hotel' - 호텔.

'Five Star' Motel
They are Love Motels, which means they can be rented out for a two hour slot. Because they're hired on a short-term basis, there isn't a need to book - the only nights we've had trouble were Christmas (a couples' holiday) and during the fireworks festival in Busan. Their nature does mean occasionally finding odd vending machines in the hallways, porn on the television and hearing ... noises ... late at night. They're also cheap for a reason - they're generally poorly maintained and can be on the grubby side, but they cost less and are more pleasant than Korean hostels. Just bear in mind that you're not getting the Hilton for under $80. 

When you've found one that tickles your fancy, it's time to go in. Before you do, it helps to know a little Korean. Specifically how to count. Love Motels are generally between 30,000 and 70,000 won per room - they can be more/less, but they're probably gross/why would you spend that much???? - so if you know how to count to ten and what ten thousand is in Korean, you'll be fine.

And I'll teach you. (New Zealand accent translations in brackets, anyone else: good luck.)

3 - sam (sum, as in awesome)
4 - sa (sah, as in sartorial)
5 - oh (oh, as in oh my god!)
6 - yuk (yook, as in ... this one's too hard.)
7 - chil (chill, as in chill out man!)

1,000 - chon (chun, as in chunder)
10,000 - man (mun, as in munter)

Koreans count a little differently to English-speaking countries, so keep that in mind. Instead of saying forty-five thousand, you say four - ten thousands, five - one thousands.

So, by that logic 45,000 = sa man oh chon. 

Here's a few more to try. I've put the answers at the end of the post.

a) 50,000 
b) 35,000 
c) chil man 

Okay, once you've mastered counting you'll need to learn one more phrase:

Hana - bang - al-my-ee-oh?

or in New Zealand - Hana (girl's name) - bung (oh no, it's bung!) all (all) mai (Mai Time!) ee (just the letter, okay) oh (sound of surprise!) 

One - room - how much?

If in doubt, type some things into Google Translate and get a robotic Korean voice to approximate the pronunciation for you.

Now armed with moderate Korean, ask the person at the front desk how much one room is. Hopefully from your practice above you'll understand their response. If not, repeat back what they've said and hold up your fingers with a quizzical look on your face. They should hold up their fingers, with the amount, in response. Otherwise, you will bring out the pen and paper you prepared earlier and get them to write it down.

Most places will let you see the room first, the best way to get this to happen is to ask loudly and slowly CAN I SEE THE ROOM? while making that 'I'm watching you!' gesture where you point your index and middle finger at your eyes and then flip them round at the person you're looking at, like this:

Thanks, Ken Jeong!
Try to make your face less sinister if possible. If the room is to your liking, pay cash up front and it's yours until approximately 11am the following day. Some things to note:

- If you leave the hotel and want to come back, leave your key at the front desk and collect it when you return, even if that's at 5am.
- Never wear your shoes inside the room. The same is true for Korean homes.
- The drinks in the fridge are yours to take, the beauty products in the bathroom can be used but aren't to keep.

As I mentioned before, the quality may vary. I've stayed in 20+ during my one and a bit years in Korea, and most are clean enough, very dated and staffed by delightful or grumpy old ladies who provide tiny fresh towels and occasionally little baggies with toothbrushes and condoms inside. The cheapest I've stayed in was around 25,000 won, the most expensive I've seen was 150,000 and it was pretty nice. Sometimes, though, you hit the jackpot and get one that's cheap and amazing. 

Below are some pictures of what I consider to be the best Love Motel in Korea. Back when we lived in Buan, we knew a couple who lived in different towns but Jeonju was their middle ground. To keep the relationship alive/themselves sane, they spent a night per week in one of the Love Motels near the Jeonju bus terminals - there are about 25 within a 3 block radius of both bus stations. As a result, they stumbled across 'The Carlton,' an absolute gem of a place. When Tom and I decided to visit Jeonju and Buan for a weekend, the Carlton was 60% of the reason we went.

I was horrified when told by said couple that they'd intended to spend their last Korean night in the Carlton, and it was closed for renovation. There are others in the area which are pleasant, but.. the Carlton. We arrived in Jeonju a little nervous, went to the front desk of 'The Queen Hotel' which stood where the Carlton had... and it was the same! New, mismatched wallpaper, upgraded bathroom but same rad features. Here's the tour:

50-inch flat screen, mini fridge, DVD player, hairdryer & jug.
2 PC's - one with a Netflix/video on demand capability holding 150 English Language films. Sofa, our junk.
Giant bed with padded headboard, HEPA filter, electric blanket, microwave.
I can't take a picture of it but this bed is what Korean beds are not: SOFT.
2 seater jacuzzi/spa bath, pervy tiled lady picture.
By now you're probably like 'Anna, I can't believe you broke your chil man won limit to shell out for this amazing hotel!' But fear not... this glorious room (larger than our Buan apartment) is a paltry sa man oh chon won (45,000/$51 NZD) per night. Jeonju is a mere hour away from Buan, but we stayed in the Carlton/Queen at least four times because it's so damn nice. Our favourite Love Motel in Seoul was a bargain at 35,000 per night, but it was very small, vaguely clean and usually smelled of cigarettes. Regardless, it was still nicer than a Korean Hostel.

If you do stay in a Love Motel in Korea and use these instructions, please let me know how it went! And here's the answers to the quiz:

a) oh man
b) sam man oh chon
c) 70,000

Monday, December 10, 2012

Korean Things I Have Eaten

I've kinda, sorta written about these things before, here and here, but this iteration is a little different.

A friend of mine said I could find these delicious treats about 5 minutes from our new house. They're a winter snack called 붕어빵 (Bungeoppang) and they're usually filled with red bean paste. I don't mind red bean paste in the icecream version of these, but I find it gross and squidgey when warm. These babies are filled with delicious, delicious, vanilla custard and you can get three for 1,000 won.

I meant to save one to give to Tom, but it accidentally ended up inside my face.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Third Time's A Charm (Part Two)

So, we moved. It was a bit of a challenge but so worth it. If you're my mum or my sister, you've probably wanted to see our new place for a while and the last post didn't help with the suspense. I'm sorry.

To help you understand how much of an improvement our current apartment is, please familiarise yourself with our most recent hovel here and the shoebox we inhabited in Buan here. To make it clear: I preferred the Buan apartment, but our current apartment leaves both in the dust. 

Here's the tour:

I get all weird in the middle because I remembered something awesome!

I used the super cool Panorama feature from my fance phone to take these pics. Enjoy/feel nauseated.

Front door - office - kitchen - laundry area - bathroom door.
Laundry area - bathroom door - bedroom - wardrobes - front door.
Magestic Kitchen of Majesty
Amazing horse tapestry - boyfriend and sofa - 'sofa' - New Zealand flag concealing crawlspace entrance.
I missed a couple of things in the video tour, so here they are.

First, through our bedroom window there's a little 'conservatory' which gets good afternoon sun and is where we store our herb planters. The coriander's doing quite well but everything else looks depressed.

We've also got a little patio area accessed through the door in our bedroom. It's ridiculously narrow but was an okay place for the smokers to hang out when we had a party recently.

Our red sofa is a futon and we've got some spare blankets, so there's no reason to stay away. Ha.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Third Times A Charm (Part One)

I've been meaning to sit down and write about our move for a while, but moving is hard and then unpacking is hard and then we had a party and then we went to Jeonju so I put off writing about anything but snacks for a bit. But we moved. 

I'm just going to put in a few pics of the hovel before I get to the move itself, because I talked to a some people who couldn't really understand why we wanted to move. There's Korea Take Two and Hovel Tour Take Two you can look at to refresh your memory, but here's some things you might have missed:

We had two of those random ceiling boxes in our house, the other was in the living room and the same size. We didn't have anything in our apartment which would have cause similar boxes in the apartment below us. The mystery ceiling boxes meant we couldn't keep my wardrobe directly in the corner, also WHY?

This cool thing is our upstairs neighbours' drainage pipe, which ran through our kitchen. We hoped it wasn't for sewage, but flushing sounds would loudly emit from the pipe more frequently that could be expected for a kitchen sink. With gritted teeth, we called this our 'water feature.'

We moved on a Saturday, and spent the week preceeding shoving everything we owned into boxes we'd stolen from various supermarkets. We also raided the cardboard disposal bin in our apartment complex - fortunately it's kimchi season at the moment so there were a ton of kimchi boxes we could use.

Pack all the things and leave all the things all over the house.
After frantic packing and opting out of an evening on the town so we could be bright and fresh for the movers on Saturday morning, we got a call at 9am telling us they wouldn't arrive until 'the afternoon.' Woes. While we waited, we had the most awkward visit from our landlady/slumlord who asked why we were leaving. I could have spewed hatred at her but instead I opted to say that the new place was closer to our schools and that Tom couldn't fit in the bathroom. Tom didn't say anything, which was probably for the best.

At 1pm the same crane/truck (cruck? trune?) which had delivered our 'new' furniture turned up. Both of our co-teachers were conveniently out of town so we just gestured wildly and managed to get everything out of the apartment and onto the truck in one piece. One bonus about moving house in Korea is that you don't have to clean your apartment! It's a double edged sword as our blood-stained walls can attest to.

The new place is on a busy one-way street directly opposite the city's bus terminal. It proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare for the movers who parked on the side of the road for a good twenty minutes looking bewildered.

Eventually they realised they could move one of the bollards from the pavement in front of our building and they parked up and got to work. The crane usually leans against the building which gives it a bit of an anchor, but due to the narrowness of the street and frequent buses, the truck couldn't be parked far enough away to get it's lean on. This meant it was just sticking up in the air and it was absolutely terrifying. 

The wardrobes were the last to be moved, and the worst. The platform is relatively small (maybe 2 by 2 metres) so there wasn't really room for the wardrobes and the mover on the same platform. Watching him jump over the furniture and push it in through our windows gave me such bad heebie-jeebies that I'm getting them right now, as I type, three weeks later. Ughh.

After an hour of lifting and pushing and pulling we were all moved and we spent the day unpacking. I'll give you the tour in our next post.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Never work with children or animals.

So, I've got two stories for you this week and I'm going to preface them with this image:

That's a Picnic Bar, something I craved like crazy while google-image-searching for it but it will be an appropriate visual aide for what I'm going to tell you.

Yesterday, I went into my favourite class (Grade 5, class 3) and it was freezing. Granted, it's cold at the moment and the hallways of my school are like the grave, but the classrooms are generally toasty. Small spaces with 35-ish bodies and the heaters on warm up pretty quick. This one was freezing. ALL of the windows and doors were open and the kids were shivering and oddly rowdy - they're my favourite because they're quiet but enthusiastic. After 10 minutes (of a 40-minute lesson) we still hadn't started teaching. I tried to ask my co-teacher Yong-a but she was busy talking to the students. After 15 minutes, the homeroom teacher walked in to the classroom and Yong-a ushered me out of the room and into the teacher's office.

I looked at her with as much of a WTF face as I could muster.

"A student.... Uh...." 

Yong-a motions at her stomach area.

"Oh! A stomach ache?"

Yong-a gives me a look like - 'don't make me say this.'

"Classroom. Bad smell. Student - his mother, he's home to clean up." She motions at her chest area this time, which confuses me even more, (IT GOT UP TO HIS CHEST AREA?) but I think I've got the gist. 

Five minutes later we went back into the class and proceeded to teach one of the worst-received lessons ever. I checked all of the seats and none of the bags were missing, so the student who had gone home after shitting himself was going to return later. Poor kid.

This class came a week after my co-teacher Young-jin said she and her class had spent 20 minutes trying to find out where a particularly hideous odour in their classroom was coming from. She told me that the stench didn't dissipate so it couldn't have been a fart (her telling me this was one of the most hilarious things I've ever heard.) A day later, the homeroom teacher revealed what had happened - one of the students, presumably using a squat toilet, hadn't noticed when he'd pooped on his own jacket and had just returned to class like normal. Gross.