I am fascinated by Korean love motels. Despite the uber-sketchy name, most love motels (러브모탤) are not seedy, by-the-hour dive joints. These once-taboo establishments have become part of mainstream Korean culture over the past twenty years. I found an excellent explanation of love motels in Korea. The full article can be found here:
“Briefly, love motels are ubiquitous motels that have their sociological origins, like Korea’s bang culture, in the fact that Koreans tend to live at home until they are married. In a developed country, where people may not get married until their late twenties or thirties, this results in lots of people who need to get away from their parents for a while.
The phrase ‘love motel’ conjures up an image of something seedy and dangerous. The truth is nothing like that. Yes, they are used by young, unmarried couples, and people carrying on affairs; yes, some of them rent rooms for two hour stays. But they are also used by business travelers and families on holiday. Koreans may snicker about them, or be embarrassed by them, but I have never stayed in one that felt dangerous.”
I travel around Korea often. Intercity travel is so cheap and easy that I try to visit a major city or historical site at least once per month. Last month, I rode the KTX to Busan twice and stayed in two different love motels.
During my first six moths in Korea, I repeatedly made a rookie mistake: staying in hostels. I booked ahead, which limited my flexibility, and paid upwards of 30,000 won ($25) to sleep in a dorm room with several other travelers. This usually meant waking up several times at night as groups of drunk twenty year-olds stumbled into the room. This was not my idea of a relaxing weekend away, but it was the only way I knew to travel without spending an arm and a leg at a hotel.
Sometime last summer, a friend turned me on to love motels. I’d heard the name before, but I always assumed that they were dirty places that cater primarily to businessman/hooker clientele. I was way off. For a little more than the cost of a bed in a hostel, you can rent a large, clean room with tons of cool amenities.
On a recent trip to Busan, I decided to start documenting these motels so that I could share them with you. I’ll start with my current favorite: VOV (Voice Of Victory Hotel).
Located near Dongrae Subway Station (동래역) in downtown Busan, VOV is tucked into a small side-street with at least a dozen other love motels. All of the motels on this street appear to be nice and each has its own theme. The VOV’s theme is cities. Each room is decorated with photos and accessories from a different famous city.
I stayed in New York City. The entire room was wallpapered with a huge panoramic photo of Times Square. The shower and toilet, which were inside the main room instead of a separate bathroom, were surrounded by frosted glass walls with black and white photos of the New York Times printed on them.
The shower was huge an had a rain-style shower head that was set directly into the ceiling. The toilet was a high-tech Japanese model with a heated seat and bidet. Best of all, the toilet seat warmer can be activated in advance with the remote control (seen in the picture above). The remote allows a guest to control all of the lights, the toilet seat, the TV, the heat and A/C from the big comfortable bed.
As you may have noticed in the picture above, there were two computers in the room. They were equipped with large screens and placed side-by-side on a long desk with two comfortable office chairs. They had internet access and tons of useful information about Busan tourism. Each was equipped with a USB multi-charger that could charge almost any cell phone. They thought of everything!
The best part was the price. VOV only costs 40,000 won ($35) during the week and 60,000 won ($55) on weekends. It was absolutely worth the extra $15-20 to relax in style.
I’ve been to a few other love motels in the past month, and I plan to stay in plenty more, so this will become a regular post in coming weeks and months.
Until next time.