In The Mood For Love – Korea

In the interest of speeding things along, I won’t go through each and every stop bus ride, stop-over city, and fantastic meal that we had in Korea. Early on in our trip, we got our hands on a copy of Lonely Planet’s Korea guide. Using a technique that we had perfected in previous countries, R took a photo of each page of the book (a much quicker process than it sounds with yours truly flipping pages), then converted them all to jpegs, which he then loaded on his iPod touch and, voilĂ !, we had our own digital guidebook, which we followed to the letter

We didn’t try to get ‘off the beaten track’ in Korea because time was tight and we were actually very interested in the beaten track. That, along with language difficulties, kept us pretty much in line with the guidebook’s recommendations, but only in terms of which cities and sights we visited. Restaurants and hotels we found mostly on our own or through the advice of the handful of English-speaking locals that we met. South Korea is a pretty small country, all things considered, but we had to pick and choose among the highlights since there are enough national parks and quirky cultural spots to fill up more time than we had. We decided to skip Jeju Island (aka ‘Honeymoon Island’) because we felt that it warranted more time than we had. Ditto on several other island destinations recommended by our book- but that was more about cost of ferries and/or flights. What we ended up with was a tour of the east coast of the country, including highlights like Gyeongju, Samcheok, and the DMZ. We also visited two national parks, which exposed us not only to Korea’s natural beauty, but the cultural phenomenon of Hiking Grandmothers.

So many things..... (seen on the wall of a love motel in Gyeongju)

One very unique Korean institution that we discovered right away was the joy of the love motels. No, not like that. ‘Love motel’ is the term for a moderately priced hotel room, available in practically every city, that is intended for a couple to ‘get away from it all’. Yes, some of them are kind of sleazy, but they are easy to pick over and the nice ones are really nice! The idea is that unmarried young people will live with their parents until the wedding, so a couple that is dating needs a little privacy from time to time. While this invariably includes ‘love’ time, it also includes just lounging and hanging out together in a way that they can’t do at their family homes or in public. To that end, the love motel rooms can get pretty pimped out! A giant, flat screen Samsung TV with somewhere around a million channels is a foregone conclusion and the room will always include wi-fi and often include an entire desktop computer. There are usually an assortment of toiletries and coffee, tea, water and snacks all free! Anything other than the super-barebones hourly love motel will have decent decor and super-clean sheets and bathrooms (probably to avoid any ick-factor that the idea of a love motel conjures up). These rooms are used by older couples, young couples, travelers and businessmen; they are not unlike the average American motel (well, way nicer) in terms of user profile. Love motels are much easier to come by than a backpacker-type hostel and a lot cheaper (bunk bed rates start around $20 per person, whereas we never paid more than $30 for a private room in a love motel). It wasn’t as cheap as options in Southeast Asia, but for all the amenities, including K-pop TV, we were thrilled.

A primo love motel just steps away from the bus station. Colorful and convenient!

What is the subtext, here?

Oh! Sex!

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