Thursday we arrived at the resort town of Pusan and checked in to a Japanese micro-tel that had opened the day before. Neat little rooms with bathrooms like RV inserts. There was a mix-up, so we could not stay 2 nights as we had planned. The faculty member acting as our guide hopped on the internet and found us a place to stay Friday night in a neighboring city. Friday, we visited a huge fish market, drove a bit, and then had a prolonged visit to a Buddhist temple, complete with silent meal and a short religious service. Afterwards, we went to our hotel, named something like “Hotel San Juan.”
The first thing we noticed was how out-of-the-way it was, and how the small parking lot was tucked back off the street in a most inconvenient manner. The lobby was small and bare, with no seats. But we’d just been to a very different type of hotel, the micro-tel, and what do we know about Korea? So we got on the elevator. There, we noticed a small plastic box into which room keys had been deposited. How odd, we thought, that folks would just leave their keys and not formally check out, and strange that the hotel hadn’t collected the keys left that morning (it was now 10 p.m.). When the elevator doors opened, we giggled a little at the ’70s disco/gypsy/neon vibe of the hallways, but the rate was cheap (35,000 won = $33.00) and what do we know about inexpensive Korean hotels in non-prominent towns? So we split up and went to our rooms.
My room continued the ’70s disco/gypsy/neon vibe. It had the largest bathroom I’d seen so far in a Korean hotel, including a steam shower and a spa-style tub. Noting that I would certainly enjoy a long bath, I entered the room proper and noticed first the heavy headboard over the bed. I flipped the light switch, and the back of the headboard lit up with neon. Then I noticed the large array of women’s grooming items and products laid out on the dresser…..and a single mini-pad in a special holder….and a basket of condoms and little packets of lube. And then it hit me: I was in a sex-tel of the type in which the prostitute gives a kickback to the establishment. I found a new array of light switches, including a slow-strobing, multi-colored light over the bed, and that proved my suspicion. Well, that and the 50-inch TV, which showed what one of my fellow travelers called “weird Korean titty porn.”
Here’s the thing though — every place in Korea is immaculately clean. The bathrooms, even at truck stops, even the outhouse behind a small restaurant we visited in a village, are sparkling no matter the time of day. Restaurants are amazing, and in many of them you can see the food preparation areas. The street food vendors are clean, the fish markets are clean, the streets are clean, the subways are clean. Koreans who travel to the USA must think we are pigs. And so, while we agreed we wouldn’t have done it in any other country, we had no problem staying in the Hotel San Juan sex-tel.
Upon arrival, we arranged to meet in the lobby about ten minutes after going to our rooms, so we could find some late night snacks. We congregated in the parking lot and of course there was much laughing and “did you see x?” conversation. Then our boss came out all distracted and walked straight to the car, past our chattering group, rooted around in the back seat and, not finding the specialty gardening implements he had bought earlier that day, announced, “I’ve misplaced my hoes.” We howled until I though I’d choke. Then the faculty member who had, unknowingly, booked the motel (although the round beds should have tipped him off), apologized and was really afraid we’d be upset. We assured him that the sex-tel was one of the highlights of the trip. He was still embarrassed and explained he’d picked the hotel because it was so convenient to the Buddhist temple. That set us off laughing again.
And that’s how I stayed (and slept very well) in a Korean sex-tel.