Love motels are an institution that should be experienced at least once while you’re in Korea. That first time can be pretty daunting, so here are a few steps to keep in mind that may ease the tension and help you stay cool. Hopefully you’ll have some anecdotes to share with your friends after visiting: whether they’re X-rated or family friendly is up to you…
FIND A FRIEND / FRIENDS
Nobody wants to go to a love motel alone. It’s better to just spend the cash on a taxi home instead of taking the walk of shame after spending a night with yourself.
Don’t be intimidated by the red lights and steaming neon rice bowl that seek to draw you in. While love motels are great at the end of the night with Mr./Ms. Right Now, they are also extremely useful when traveling out of town with a group of friends. Pensions are a good option for groups but sometimes they are completely booked up during holidays or big events. Love motels, on the other hand, are usually available last minute so you can find a decent room no matter which event is going on in town. If you’re lucky, some last minute finds can include plush red circle beds, mirrors on the ceiling, waterbeds, 2-way mirrors in the bathroom, and employees so out-there they can only be labeled as spirit animals.
There is usually a set checkout time around noon. This isn’t really an issue at night but if it’s a place to stay for the weekend adjust your search time accordingly. If they have no rooms it could be because it’s too early and people haven’t checked out yet. Ask them if there are rooms available later. If not, keep looking. Usually where there is one motel there are many. If you are in the room and sleep past noon, be prepared to be awakened around midday by what sounds like a person escaping a murderer, just to see the slightest ajumma on the other side of the door urging you to leave.
TAKE A WALK
I’ve stayed in some less than desirable places because they were conveniently located, the right price, and I was too lazy to look around. This doesn’t have to be the case. Figure out what your priorities are and walk around until you find a place that fits the bill. You won’t regret the extra time or money spent if it means avoiding foreign matter in the shower.
If there are only two of you this isn’t really relevant. If however, you have a large group, pick two or three people to do the talking. Eight foreigners walking into a tiny lobby to ask about rooms can be a little intimidating. I found that things go a lot smoother if a couple people go in and ask how much the rooms are and if they allow groups to stay. They won’t judge you for, as my mom once put it, bedding down with someone, and they won’t think you are part of a gangbang if you roll up in a group.
The price is related to the area the motel is in and the cleanliness of each room. If you aren’t sure what you’re paying for, ask to see the room first so you are aware. Motels can range in price from as cheap as 40,000 won to upwards of 90,000 won for posh rooms. They may charge extra for a large group of people but usually not much. Negotiating the price isn’t totally out of the question if you are willing to try.
Now that you have your room, make sure to take advantage of all the extras they have to offer including toothbrushes, tea, mixed coffee, clean towels, cable television, and lotion. Nicer motels may have bathrobes, bathtubs, stocked mini-fridges, and little goodie bags to get you through the night. Bags include things such as condoms, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, razors, hair ties, fresh lotion, and a facemask to cleanse those possibly booze infused pores. My first love motel experience was with a guy who knew to be prepared; they didn’t have snacks so he bought one soda, one juice, and a half can of sour cream Pringles at the family mart. Oh so sexy.
For clues on where to find Love Motels you can check the Korean website Yanolja. Or just head to the Sinchon area and take exit 3 or 4 from the station.
Words and photographs by Colleen Whately