Love motel review: Pink Motel, Sinsa-dong, Seoul
For me, visiting Seoul is similar to what I imagine visiting North Korea would be like: interesting for the way it somehow remains functional despite all its problems, but ultimately expensive, unpleasant, and somewhere I am glad to leave.
I am pretty good at travelling in Korea, but Seoul always defeats me. I had a lot of time to think about this on Saturday while standing on the subway out to Hanguk University, and then again while I stood the entire way back to Hongik University, which was where I should have gone in the first place. (Don’t even get me started on Sinchon and Sincheon). I had time to think while I made several twenty minute changes between subway lines, moving endlessly up and down sets of stairs along with thousands of native Seoul-ites, all of us following color-coded stripes like rats in a lab maze trained to perform a senseless task for an intermittent morphine reward. I had time to think as I stumbled down the stairs of an enormous parking lot, trying to find the correct part of the Gangnam Express Bus Terminal to catch the last bus back to my town. There are really three bus terminals there, you see, linked by a subterranean warren, with only occasional signs pointing you vaguely to certain “lines”, which is not very helpful if you didn’t happen to memorize what bus company you rode in on. I was stumbling through parking lots because I had determined after several lost expeditions into the bowels of the Express Bus Terminal subway station that I would be better trying to navigate my way from above ground.
I decided that what I find so difficult about navigating Seoul is its three dimensionality. I don’t have a great sense of direction at the best of times, but in Seoul, where you have to navigate up and down as well as to the points of the compass, I get lost. There have been many times when I’ve stood on a street corner, looking only to cross to the other side, then descended and emerged ten minutes later, completely disoriented, in an unfamiliar place.
I’ve also come to rely too much on my smartphone. The first year I was in Korea, when I didn’t have one, I never once got myself lost to any great degree, but these days I always seem to be wandering around following an arrow on Google maps. But this is not much use when navigating Seoul’s subterranean spaces. I also feel this is why I went to the wrong subway stop – had I been using the signs, instead of an app on my smartphone, I’m sure I would have noticed the Korean “홍대입구” – Hongdae Entrance, which is a far more useful description than the English name of the station, Hongik University.
All this explains why I missed my bus and found myself exhausted at Express Bus Terminal, using the last couple of percent of my phone’s battery to search 모텔 on Google maps.
Unlike every other bus terminal in Korea, there doesn’t seem to be many motels around the Gangnam terminal, at least according to Google maps. I have a good eye for love motelly areas**It’s hard to say what makes an area “love motelly”, except I know it when I see it. Busy, lots of neon, a little off the main street, lots of noraebangs and gentleman’s clubs…, and in my various circuits of the terminal I hadn’t seen anywhere promising, so at least in this I wasn’t depending entirely on my phone.
According to Google Maps, Sinsa-dong was the closest place with a cluster of motels, so I caught the orange line a couple of stops to Sinsa Station.
The first motel I came to was called Motel 6 – whether it was part of the chain or not, I don’t know but I opted to check out the next one, the Pink Motel (핑그모텔) on the basis of it having only one “motel” sign in English. I caught the elevator to the sixth floor where a friendly middle-aged woman gave me a room for ₩50,000 – not too bad for Seoul, and I wasn’t in the mood to keep exploring. She complimented me on my Korean, which always makes me feel good.
At the counter there was also an offer for a grab bag of toiletries for the bargain price of ₩1,000, so I picked up one of those as well. I hadn’t intended to stay in Seoul overnight, so it would be useful, as well as providing additional color for this review. She gave me a key to a seventh floor room, and I headed up.
My impression of the Pink Motel – from the kindly, tired woman at the counter to the room itself – is that it is trying everything it can to succeed, but failing anyway. The room was a good size, but had seen better days. There were stains on the wallpaper, although the sheets were clean. The toilet had one of those little “sanitized for your protection” paper sashes across it, which I don’t think I’ve seen before in a love motel. There were two coffee sachets and a tea bag arranged on a tray, as well as two bottles of water, a canned orange drink, and a vitamin drink in the fridge.
I was surprised that my ₩1,000 travel bag didn’t contain a condom, but then I saw that a pack of three had been provided with the room. There was a room service-like folder listing local chicken restaurants and escort services, and, next to it, a handmade pad of scrap paper and a pen for jotting down phone numbers and other information.
In short, the Pink Motel was doing everything it could to be a good love motel, except for the really necessary things that require money and manpower, like replacing the wallpaper and aging furniture. I felt sorry for the woman at the reception, and the ancient grandmother, still cleaning the rooms at eleven o’clock at night, who nonetheless helped me figure out the lock on my door.
I inspected my toiletries bag, which contained a “Born to Love” set of two toothbrushes, a razor, a face mask, skin pack, and conditioner. A bargain at ₩1000. Shampoo, body wash and hair styling products were provided in the room.
I lay on the quite comfortable bed and switched on the television, which sprang to life on the motel porn channel, which the previous occupant of my room had obviously been watching. It was a strange porn movie – I mean, all Korean porn is a bit strange, and not very erotic, but this movie seemed to make use of the stock Korean comedic character of the chubby buffoon, prone to misadventure. Which is a strange lead for a porn movie. I ended up switching between the Melon music awards and CNN.
Unfortunately, The Pink appears to have been discovered by the waegukin crowd, and in the room next to me some drunken obnoxious Americans were having a party. I guess the Pink can’t afford to be picky, but they were very annoying. Fortunately, they went out again, and I went to sleep.
Pink Motel, Sinsa-dong, Seoul.
Getting there: Come out of Sinsa Station Exit 4 and walk back up the street in the opposite direction from which you emerged. Take the first left and walk about 100m. The Pink is at the top of a large building on your right. Go to the sixth floor for reception.
For what it was and where it was, the price wasn’t bad.
Coffee, condoms, a lighter, a selection of free drinks – and the toiletries bag was a great deal. These are the small touches I appreciate in a good love motel.
With the porn, the his and hers toothbrushes, and the triple pack of complimentary condoms, you might think that the Pink Motel is pretty high on the lurve scale, but it would be a wretched place to take a date. More a place from which to call up a girl from a da bang, I would think. The love motel touches are more a sign of The Pink’s desperate desire to be everything to anyone at all.
If I find myself stuck at Express Bus Terminal again – which is quite likely – I will happily hop on a subway and head to The Pink.