It’s an old story. You’re doing your thing in one of Seoul’s party centres when disaster strikes: the craic ends abruptly in the wee hours of the morning and it’s a long time until the metro opens. Your options? Drink more? Taxi? Sit on a cold subway bench warily eyeing the soju-soaked ajeossi who shuffles along the platform like a lost extra from The Walking Dead?
You’re better than that. Here are 5 alternatives that may just transform your out-of-Seouler life.
The Humble Jimjjilbang
We start with the obvious: the ever-faithful jimjjilbang. While there are plenty of reasonably priced love motels, the jimjjilbang is a cheaper and often more pleasant option. Entry falls around the ₩10,000 mark. You’ll have access to the steam room, jacuzzi, showers and sleeping area. You’ll even be able to get a bite to eat for a little extra. Relax in the baths, hit the in-house noraebang or secure your spot in the sleeping area and drift off to booze-addled sleep. Having sweated out the night’s hard drinking, you can arise fresh and ready to face the world. If, like me, you live where no foreign food outlet has ever strayed, you can even avail of a delicious, fatty breakfast in town before hopping on the train.
Pros: cheap; ablutions; sleeping area; food.
Cons: can be crowded; possessions at risk if not watched/secured properly.
We recommend: Itaewonland in Itaewon; Happy Day Spa in Hongdae and Dragon Hill in Yongsan (featured in Chincha Nov 12).
Coffee, Company, Sunrise on the Han
If Hongdae is your location of choice and you’re stranded with some company, then an early morning stroll towards the Han is an enlivening way to pass the time. Walk off your encroaching hangover, chew the fat with your friends and catch one of Seoul’s stunning, pollution-choked sunrises. Thoughts collected and coffee imbibed, you can catch the train at Hapjeong (lines 2/6) or Dangsan (lines 2/9).
Pros: all for the price of a coffee; fortifying; feel like you’re in a Bruce Springsteen song.
Cons: during winter hypothermia is an unattractive gamble; not advisable if alone.
We recommend: Jeoldusan Catholic Martyr’s Park, Hapjeong (exit #7).
The PG-Rated Thai Massage
For lady-people like myself, the non-PG brand of Thai massage is unavailable (unless we’re willing to pull some very impressive Mulan-styled cross-dressing). So let’s assume we’re all on the up-and-up and look at the homelier alternative. Massage parlors are everywhere in Seoul and come in a staggering number of varieties. You can find a one-hour treatment for ₩35,000 and if business is slow, staff may let you relax there until the train starts up. To find a ‘nice’ establishment, look for ‘Thai/태국’ on the signs and avoid the ill-famed ‘anma/안마’ or barely subtle ‘sports’ places. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to judge from the decor and vibe; so warm up your nunchi before venturing forth!
Pros: feel like a baller, unwind with a good massage.
Cons: spend like a baller; risk of untoward goings-on in the wrong places.
We recommend: Thai establishments with a clean reception and up-front staff… so to speak.
The PC Bang
We assume you’re already wise to Noraebangs and DVD bangs as havens to while away the hours, so this is the only other ‘room’ on our list. Most jimjjilbangs have PC rooms within, but if you want a simpler place to lay your head then the ubiquitous PC bang is better suited. At around ₩1,000/hour you can chortle at your favourite cat videos, stream a movie, play a multitude of games or, if you can believe it, sleep! During the weekend’s mournful, trainless hours PC bangs are packed full of slumbering youths. If you’re lucky, the attendant will lovingly drape a blanket over your shoulders as you slobber onto your keyboard. The nyan cat would be proud.
Pros: cheap; informal.
Cons: can be uncomfortable; marauding teenagers.
We recommend: The least smoky place you can find.
The Empty Techno Club
Don’t roll your eyes quite yet. Out of the 5 options listed here, I have partaken in this one the most, seldom intentionally. When does thumping, bass-driven techno music become lulling? When it’s 3am and you’re out of steam; that’s when. Seoul is exploding with new clubs, but even with its enormous population, it still struggles to keep all of them full. Step away from the big name venues in Itaewon, Gangnam or Hongdae, and there are tens of narrow basement clubs just waiting for you: the knackered clubber. Some will have entry fees while others may require the purchase of a drink for appearance’s sake. After that’s out of the way, find yourself a booth and people-watch or snooze.
Pros: heat; a seat; a beat.
Cons: potential cover at the door; possible judgment from others; temptation to party more.
We recommend: Club 500 (오백) in Hongdae. It’s a slight departure from the emptier clubs described above, but the warren of candlelit caves allows for some quality chill time. It has occasional art/music/dance performances too.
Those are our five ways to wait for the subway home but what’s your usual plan of action? Let us know in the comments. X-rated suggestions totally welcome.
Written and photographed by Maggie Devlin. Follow her on Twitter on .