The Alluring Neon calling out to Couples in need of privacy

Given that it is common for young Koreans to live with their parents until they get married, it is probably not surprising that there is a surfeit of places catering to the amorous young couple in need of some privacy.

Perhaps foremost amongst these is the love motel. These are in effect small and cheap hotels in which to spent the night (or a couple of hours if you have a curfew).

The idea of the love motels seemed pretty grim when I first heard about them, but the reality is not necessarily as seedy as I first thought.

Last year when I was living in the country side I made use of many a love motel when I was on weekend trips to the city as a cheap place to crash. They usually cost between 25,000 to 50,000 won a night (around 15-30 pounds). For obvious reasons they don’t require pre-booking.

The range in quality of love-motels is broad. It can be very difficult to tell from the outside whether it is specifically a love motel, or simply a cheap, down-market hotel. I guess there isn’t really much difference between the two, but inside there are some tell-tale signs.

For one, Love motels tend to have vending machines selling, uh, provisions for the evening. On top of this, the quantity of mirrors situated around the room (and especially next to the bed) is a bit of a give away. You can also find little-cards promoting the working-ladies of the area to lonely businessmen. Perhaps the most obvious sign that you’re in a love-motel is the provision of a circular bed, which just simply screams debauchery.

The Hall way. Try not to think of The Shining

Love motels are often clustered around one area, usually next to night-spots and train stations and the like, though they can be found elsewhere. This makes haggling rather easier (I would definitely recommend haggling, even just to see the ajumma’s exasperated expressions as you try to do so). Usually when I have stayed in one, I have been somewhat under the influence, and so deciding on which one to choose is usually cursorily based on external appearances which often have little to do with the interior quality of the place.

Once you have made your choice and entered, you approach the little hatch in the wall in front of you. If the hour is late, it is not uncommon to have to wake whoever is lurking in the room on the other side. I have seen whole families sleeping on the floor in there before. After paying for your room, you’ll probably be given toothbrushes, a razor and perhaps towels.

Circular Bed. Alright!

Then comes the fun of finding out whether your choice was a good one. The least I would usually hope for is cleanliness, but there is no guarantee. Much of the time the bathrooms are kind of dirty, and on some occasions there have been no sheets on the bed. At best the motels are comparable to 3 star hotels in the west, although to up your chances of finding these it makes sense to pay a little more, say around 50,000 won.

Generally speaking however, Love motels are a great way to spend a cheap night,  as well as being a true Korean experience-particularly for the slight feeling shame you might feel upon leaving the next day, even if you stay was an entirely chaste one.

Standard Bathroom. Watch out for the peep-holes

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