Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Peter is going places

Yeah so needless to say though I am in Korea and living a dream life right now for a guy my age, I am jealous. Jealous.

Have a blast, Peter. Here's to you and me never stopping doing whatever it is that has permitted us the opportunity to explore. (Though apologies to those we have left in the wreckage of our miscreant behavior. Sincere apologies.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

On English Grammar and Usage

I just re-read my last post and am learning how incredibly difficult it is to maintain a strong command of English usage.  My prose sounds tweaked/forced at times and I've stopped using contractions.  (And I've only been here for six months.)

I'm not going to worry about it.  What can I do?  I have to attempt to teach five, seventeen year olds a thing or two about Articles in ten minutes.

Frustrating inverse proportionality: as my skills improve in explaining complex grammatical subjects to EFL learners, my own writing skills decline.  In shorthand: Explaining Grammar goes up AS Using Grammer goes down. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

광장 Tourist Hotel, 부산

busan noir

Korean Motels

motel lamerIf I were to tell you about the hotels in the Republic of Korea, I'd have to talk about western-style hotels. I gather you know about such places and how incredibly over-priced they are.

To travel throughout Korea and to stay in western, name-brand hotels would be one simple way to miss Korea. Western hotels tend to be in the wealthy Korean districts or, as they are in Seoul, stuck into the foreign districts. These districts are designed to be unlike Korea: the worst bars, the worst food, the highest prices, the cheapest cheap stuff, etc.

My advice while in Seoul, for example, is to stay out of Itaewon and Gangnam. You miss nothing by staying away. Nothing. And Sadang, too, though there is great hiking not too far from the Sadang Subway Station. Rich Koreans are annoying pigs (I know, I just say what's on my mind, right!) and the foreginers who live in these areas tend to roam in packs, binge drink, and whine about how stupid and intolerant Koreans are while blowing smoke in your face.

I have learned two things from my first six months in Korea: 1) Foreigners think they know Korea better than Koreans; and 2) wealthy Koreans appear more out-of-touch and callous than wealthy Americans. So, why a traveler would want to stay in an international or western hotel in Korea is beyond me.

If you come, stay in one of the many dozens of motels in every district in every city you visit. (You don't have a choice when visiting the smaller cities and towns.) There are two kinds of motels: "Tourist Hotels" ($50-80/night) and "Love Motels" ($20-80/night).

I suppose you can guess what a love motel is. You'd be right if you guessed place where I take that special someone I've been dying to see naked and sweaty. But you'd be a fool to let the shennanigans in neighboring rooms scare you away. These motels are often modest, stylish, clean, and (very) cheap places to spend one or two nights. Of course, a love motel is no place for the kids. They are kind of seedy and do have porn channels mixed in with the regular Korean Cable TV offerings.

I refer to Tourist Hotels as motels because they are very much like clean, quiet, and safe Super 8 Motels or Days Inns but with Korean style. They are often easily confused with love motels, too. Look for the word "tourist." Also, love motels tend to have small parking lots that are hidden behind half or full curtains to respect (not protect) adulterers' privacy. (I am only half-joking: while many of the guests are cheaters, many are simply enjoying an afternoon's or evening's roll in the hay.)

Love motels litter the bigger cities like coffeeshops, kimbap cafes, and convenience stores. This is a benefit for wise travelers permitting them to move around a cosmopolis like Seoul with relative ease. In addition, there are no Check-In times and, generally, no need for reservations. You just walk in and pay for a room through a window and head to your room. Moreover, if you like to sleep in, no worries. Nobody is coming into your room until you drop off the key and leave. What? Your chosen love motel looks seedy? Not to worry, there are more around the corner. And the pricing is super-competitive. In Seoul, some of the love motels are super-chic. Enjoy.

I'll post Love Motel photos in the future. (I told Peter I would: sorry for now but I have been a slacker.)

I spent a week (with Praise-awww-) in 부산 & 광주 (Busan & Gwangju) and stayed in one love motel and one tourist hotel. In 광주 we stayed at Classic Motel, a love motel. Our room was great. Many larger motels will have classes of rooms. I suppose you could classify them by liaison desired: quickie, all-nighter, and romantic. Most love motels have 3 choices: small, standard, and suite. The suites are referred to as VIP Rooms. (Pronounced "vip" not "v-i-p.") If you are one to desire VIP treatment, then find the local tourist motel. The standard rooms are similarly priced, minus the seedy environment. Moreover, for an additional $10-20, you can get a suite.

What's all this mean? The love motels in safe neighborhoods often are the best pick for clean and affordable lodging. As a traveler in the US, I learned very quickly that spending more money is often the only way to insure safety and security, and cleanliness. Not so in Korea. (A note: the standard of cleanliness pertaining to bathrooms is different here. The person cleaning your room may not clean the toilet or bottom of the tub.) If you aren't sure about the neighborhood you're in or if you're simply creeped out by what has been happening in your love motel bed (really, though, this stuff happens in your Hamilton Inn or Sheraton 4 Points, too, right?) then you can get great deals at a tourist motel.

gwangjanghotelThe tourist motels offer a front desk rather than a counter behind a window, which means you get a staff who is willing (and able) to help you. The Gwangjang Tourist Hotel in 부산 rocks. For W80,000 (Under $70,) we stayed in a suite. We could have spent around $50/night to stay in a small room. The staff was very helpful. The laundry service was cheap. The facilities are dated, but clean; this made our stay charming. And Korean customer service is amazing.

Enough on lodging. More later.

Future posts: Why I love the PC bangs and the noraebangs; train traveling; Trip Notes; Love Motel Photoshow; Hongdae or Sinchon?

Did you hear that The Beastie Boy's Paul's Boutique has been remastered (finally) and reissued (again)? I wonder if I should download it?