Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Quest

I am happy to report the plane didn't fall out of the sky, and I am now the unlikely resident of a Love Motel is Guri, South Korea. More on that in a minute.

Yesterday was my first full day here. I'm quite sure half of the twenty year olds in Canada are over here teaching English. The girl I sat next to on the plane was on her way to start a year long job as an English teacher. I have several friends whose kids are here too, and we met up with one of them yesterday for lunch.

This is Ellen's son Joel, and I think he was very happy to see me. I was the Canada to Korea courier service and had over 400 tea bags and a brand new laptop computer to hand over to him. It was fun connecting with him, and our lunch was so good. There is nothing better than Korean food. Seriously.

After saying goodbye to Joel, Rebekah and I went for a walk along the river. I loved the scene with the family having a picnic under the bridge. You see this a lot here - day tents pitched in random spots while families enjoy some time together.

Here is my random street scene collage of the day.

Top left to right clockwise:  Kimchi pot on a balcony; Rebekah and Anton leading the search for a motel; Rotisserie chicken truck on the street corner; hot peppers spread out to dry

Now, about that Love Motel thing. Before I came over I asked Anton if he could find a hotel for me. Being the excellent son-in-law that he is, he said sure. (Given that the other option was me staying with them in their itty bitty one room apartment you can see he was fairly motivated to help me out.) This is what he discovered.

Because Guri isn't a tourist destination there aren't any guest houses, B&Bs or even regular hotels. He told me there were lots of Love Motels though, and reservations didn't need to be made. Koreans typically just went and looked at them to see which one they liked and chose one on the spot. So I was told this information before I left, but didn't really think through what it meant.

Anton picked me up at the airport Friday afternoon, and after a one and a half hour bus ride from the airport to Guri we dropped off my stuff at their apartment and the two of us went in search of a motel. (Rebekah was still at work.) Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to put the pieces together. Love Motels. No reservations required. There were dozens of them sprinkled around the city core, most with these very creepy dangling things hanging halfway to the ground that you had to walk through in order to get to the front door.

As we went into the first few and they kept asking, or gesturing if they didn't speak English, if I wanted the room for sleeping or just for a two hour time slot I was mortified. Very seriously mortified. I looked at Anton in shock and he simply stated, "But I told you all of this." I agreed that he had, indeed, told me all of this, but I had no framework to put it in so hadn't really heard what he was saying.

He told me he had spent time going around to lots of the motels, and had collected business cards from some of them in his search. I told him that must have looked great - the white guy showing up at the love motels inquiring about rates, etc. After looking at about five different ones I finally settled on one. It wasn't like it was any better or worse than the others I had looked at. I was jet lagged and at that point was beyond caring where I spent the night. It is amazing how one's standards can drop in such a short amount of time.

The next day when Rebekah and Anton came to get me (I had absolutely no clue where I was. In fact, I was so tired by the time I went to bed Friday night I wasn't even sure who I was) we went to the front desk to pay for another night. Get this - if I wanted the room for another night and didn't want to check out and come back in the evening I had to pay for the two hour time slots during the day plus the sleeping charge for night. We took my stuff back to their apartment and decided to deal with the accommodation problem later.

So after lunch with Joel and the walk along the river we started The Quest. Anton had the same intent look on his face I have seen on computer gamers. Totally focused on the goal. As we would enter each place he would pull out his cheat sheet with our request written out in Korean, and even when it was apparent the place wasn't going to work he still wanted to have a look at the rooms. It was like he was hotel geocaching or something. You can catch a glimpse of the crazed gamer look on his face in this picture, set against the backdrop of those creepy dangling things at one of the many hotels we looked at on our quest for a room.

I finally settled on the Lotus Hotel. I thought about taking a picture of the items they included in the welcome packet they handed me when I checked in, but this is supposed to be an "approved for all ages" blog, so decided against it.

The bar is set pretty low when the best feature of your accommodation is the fact it doesn't have things dangling in front of the entrance.


  1. hahaha.....that last line cracked me up. yes, that is certainly a low bar. :) but on the other hand: great food and rebekah!

  2. I wonder if the dangly things are there to prevent people on the street from peeking in and catching a glimpse of who's inside bartering for a room?

  3. That is hilarious, Kristie! I was laughing through the whole post. Glad to hear you arrived safely and connected with everyone!

    Erin B

  4. And I thought walking across Scotland took courage! ;D

  5. So the local market supports a large number of by the hour hotels, but no tourist/family hotels? That sounds like S.E Washington. LOL! But I'm guessing the laws are different in the two places.

    You're a good mom making the flight to Korea. R and A both look great, but the dad in me wants you to make them eat more while you're there--my wife is rubbing off on me. :)

  6. Goodness you will be an expert on seedy hotels by the time you get home!!

  7. Glad you made it safely. It is very important that you have a place to rest your head at night......and feel safe. Hope you have found that!

    Now, have fun!