Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pearl Jam in Korea

Last night a coworker invited me to a concert in Hongdae. There were 3 bands, largely consisting of friends of the coworker. We got there early while the bands were doing sound checks and stuff so I got to have tall-boys from the 7-11 (the bar wasn't open yet) with various musicians before the show.

During the show, a riduculous number of people had nice SLR cameras. Apparently, half the point of going to a concert here is to photograph the band.

My favorite part of the show was the Pearl Jam cover band that played the second set. The singer did a pretty impressive Eddie Veddar impression, made even better when he would end a song and start speaking Korean to the crowd. Just a weird juxtaposition. I was especially amused by the fact that the lyrics at the beginning of 'Black' were much more understandable coming from the Korean cover band than the actual CD. But what really placed this show above a real Pearl Jam concert was when they took a break halfway through and the guitarest and basist sang an acoustic cover of 'Dancing Queen'. It was awesome. I wish Pearl Jam would take a break and have the guitarist sing acoustic Abba songs.

The 3rd group, who's vocalist wore a sleeveless turtleneck and sunglasses (a nice combo) also did various covers. Winger's '17' was my personal favorite. After the show, pretty much everyone who was there migrated to a pork place next door and then on to drinks in the area. A solid finale.

A few follow up notes about the love hotel.
1. It was cheaper to keep the room tonight. Apparently Sunday is not as busy a night.
2. It's definitely a love hotel. Despite all the efforts towards discretion, you can still hear things in the hallway pretty clearly. There are freaking surround sound stereos in the rooms, is putting on a little music to mask the noise while I'm waiting for the elevator too much to ask?
3. It's not just a jacuzzi, there's air temp sensors to turn the bathtub into a sauna. It's freaking sweet.

Previously I'd been told that the distinction between motel and hotel in Korea is that hotels tend to be the place you'd stay w/ the family and motels are the place you stay w/ a mistress. Usually, the distinction is clearly indicated by the gaudy neon lights. I'd also been told that the love motels are way nicer than normal hotels. Having previously stayed in hotels that generally consist of sleeping mats on the floor, I'd have to agree. Given the typical prices I'd seen on the internet for hotels in Seoul, this place isn't horribly expensive (just a little more than I care to pay to sleep somewhere). So, if you come to Korea, stay in places that have fringe covering the parking lot.

Now I'm going to go take a bath and use the "Body Sponge: Hotel Amenity Goods for Shower" since they're not big on normal washclothes here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Apartment Hunt

Today I finally ended my two month stay at the wonderful company dormitory. I figured it was worth spending a little bit more money I don't really have to enjoy my last (or is it?) weekend in Korea. Since I had an 11am appointment to tour some apartments in Gangnam, I got up early to check out and haul my gigantic bag to the subway for an hour long ride.

Not wanting to haul my bags around all day, I figured I'd find a motel before the meeting and drop them off. Unfortunately, the Orbitz website lied to me about the existance of a reasonably priced Best Western, leaving me lugging my heavy bags around an apparently hotel-less area near Gangnam with only 30 minutes until my appointment. I flagged down a cab and am eventually able to explain that I want to go to a hotel and I don't really care which one. I figure between his cabby-experience and his GPS this will be a simple enough request.

After what seems to be some aimless driving around, the cabby points at a place called Mul Hotel and asks if that works. Not really caring what the place is, I say sure. Black fringe so you can't see in the parking lot? check. Little wooden signs for blocking your license plate once your in the lot? check. Dark reception area w/ a tiny window so the hotel clerk can't really look at you? check. Condoms in the bathroom kit? Yup. It's a high end love hotel.

It's a bit pricey, but whatever. The room has a jacuzzi and a "Digital Control for Skin Care" box. So that's nice. And they let me check in at 10.30. All in all, a win. I drop my bags and head to meet the realtor people.

The apartment tour was arranged by the company. I received a call from someone asking if I spoke Korean and instructing me to meet my translator, Mr. Han, at Gagnam station 11am Saturday.

The first apartment is alright. A pretty basic studio place on the 18th floor. Nice view, good location. Seems a little dirty. Which I find odd. When I look in the sink to see if there's a disposal they guess that I'm judging the dirtiness and inform me that this is just a sample room and that the one I'd actually get is 1 floor above and would be professionally cleaned before I moved in. This doesn't really bother me, it just seems like you'd keep the demo room looking nice. Guess that's not how they roll in Korea.

They ask if I want to see other places. I say yes. Mr. Han, Realtor-lady and I head to the parking garage where Mr. Han's car is. Except he doesn't remember where it is. So after stops on the 2nd and 3rd level and several phone calls (it seems like he's asking where the car is? maybe it's not his, the whole thing's weird) we finally find his car on the 4th level. And proceed to drive like 2 blocks to the next place.

At the second place, we meet the additional realtor-lady for that buidling and head to the 15th floor. Here, they can't get the door open. Apparently this apartment is currently occupied and the occupant changed the door combination. The first realtor-lady apologizes and says that this apartment wouldn't be available in time anyway. So I don't know why we went there, but whatever.

The third place has a couple currently living in it. I get to take off my shoes and awkwardly look around. The place is nice though. That ends our tour of apartments. So now I'm back at the love hotel. It has a computer with free internet, making the love hotel a far better choice than expensive hotels in America.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fun Fact

If you buy a fan in Korea it will have a shut-off timer on it. Apparently there is a widespread belief that you will die if you leave a fan on while you sleep. So, there you go. Kimchi may make you immune to SARS and pig flu, but it renders you susceptible to consistent breezes.