Friday, November 23, 2007


My wife is a big fan of tennis and Roger Federer in particular, so when she discovered that he would be playing an exhibition match against Pete Sampras in Seoul just a few weeks after her birthday, it became the 'something special' we would do to celebrate it. In fact, it's always been her dream to see Federer play at Wimbledon, but now that my Government won't let her back into the country it looks like that's something that's never going to happen.

After the recent revelations about taxi drivers, I find myself now sitting in their cars wondering what type of people they really are. But our driver was nice and chatty, even if he drove in a style suggesting a missed calling as a fighter pilot. I wasn't looking forward to our trip as my condition hasn't been too good of late, and I was ill in the taxi which was not a good start, so I was glad to reach the comfort of our high-speed KTX train, which whisked us up to Seoul uneventfully in three hours. I slept for part of the journey, a first for me since I find it almost impossible to do so while travelling normally, but I was sufficiently awake to witness the gradual transition from the beautiful autumnal mountain forests of the south to the cold bare hillsides near Seoul where the winter was already consolidating its grip.

We hadn't booked anywhere in advance but my wife had identified a motel which had internet connections in the Songpa district of Seoul, which is where the tennis match was being held, and specifically the Bangi-dong area within Songpa-gu, since this is renowned for having lots of cheap motels and places to eat. It also happens to be thehome to Lotte World, which was planned as our scheduled entertainment for the evening. Unfortunately we couldn't find the motel, and despite a couple of calls to the owners which assured us it was by 'the octopus restaurant' it never became clear which octopus restaurant, none of which in any case seemed adjacent to any building offering accommodation. We hadn't booked in advance and it wasn't difficult to find another motel with an Internet connection and computers in the rooms.

We don't really have the word 'motel' in the UK, so it took me a while to realise that in Korea, presumably like the America it imitates, 'motel' is a code word for 'cheap hotel'. But there may be another difference - because it seems that a lot of motels very much cater towards discretion. Unlike our previous stay in a love hotel, unashamedly adorned with its cupid figures, the one we picked blended into the outside street rather better, but once inside there was no mistaking what you were entering. With their recessed entrances and semi-concealed car parking spaces, to their simple entrance hallway with a reception desk designed more like a Catholic confessional, leading to nothing more than an elevator door, these are places designed to minimise contact with other guests. After all, you wouldn't want the embarrassment of bumping into your husband or wife there.

After we'd checked the room for hidden cameras I slept off some residual effects of the morning's Meniere's symptoms, before heading out to find Lotte World. On the way out a woman down the dimly lit hallway was leaving a nearby room and quickly jumped back through the doorway the moment she saw us, but fortunately it never takes long for the elevator to arrive as you wait by the collection of porn videos situated on your left, hopefully none of which feature previous guests.

Korean tags: 택시, 기차, 가을, 모텔, 호텔


daeguowl said...

Next time you're in Seoul, if you want to, give me a shout and we can have a drink or something.

Mike said...

Hi DaeguOwl - thanks - that sounds like an idea next time I'm up there.

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