There are plenty things to do in Korea. You can climb up the tower at Namsan or visit the top deck of the 63 building, look around traditional palaces and temples, ride a bike along the Han river, try a whole variety of tasty street food and stay up into the early hours of the morning shopping in Korean markets. But when it comes to indoor activities, this is when another aspect of Korean culture comes alive!
The Korean word for room is 방 (bang). There are many types of 방 you will come across in Korea that you need to know about!
This is the Korean equivalent of karaoke. Depending where you go, the average 노래방 will cost only 4000-8000 won (£3-5) an hour for the room and you always pay first. So as you are happily singing along with your friends but you are unfortunately coming to the end of your hour, very often the owner will add on some additional time for you. This can be anything from 10 mins to half an hour. This is called 서비스 (taken from the English word, service) and it is completely FREE!! And even when your service runs out, if the place isn’t busy, then they might keep adding extra time for you! The most service I have ever received was 2 hours!! But by that time, my voice was gone, so it’s not always a good thing 😛
At higher-end 노래방s, often called luxury 노래방, the prices may be a couple quid more and you normally get considerably less service, but usually the price will include unlimited drinks and ice cream! Also another (not-so-secret) tip is to get your singing voice ready to go earlier in the day, as the prices are a lot cheaper and if you go before noon, sometimes you can get an hour of singing time for a pound!
The verb 찜질하다 means to apply heat to something, normally to soothe and massage a part of the body you may have hurt or sprained. 찜질방 is basically a sauna. But it offers so much more than just a hot room to sweat away peoples’ soju-intoxicated bodies. You may have seen these appear on dramas and some entertainment shows, where you will find people dressed in sauna clothes, their heads wrapped in towels, drinking 식혜 (shik-hye; a sweet rice drink) and eating boiled eggs. Koreans love going here to sweat and have a good rest. Often people will even stay the night to sleep. If you need temporary accommodation while you look for a place to stay, there are a lot worse places to go to than a Jjim-jil-bang for such a cheap price. Costing around 10000원 (a fiver), you definitely have to visit one of these while you’re here.
This is just as it says on the tin. It’s a room full of PCs, but nothing like your typical internet cafe! Go into one of these dark rooms and you will find rows and rows of personal computer cubicles, with leather swivel-chairs, people eating cup ramyeon and playing computer games. Starcraft and League of Legends are the standard games that everyone plays. There are professional teams and Korea is known for being one of the best in the world. The top stars can be paid as much as professional footballers! You will find a PC방 on almost every street in Korea, so if you’re into computer games, or want to check your emails, head to one of these for another cheap way to pass time.
Can you guess what 플스 stands for? I certainly couldn’t when I first heard the name. As you know, Koreans love to shorten words(check out my previous article on Korean abbreviations), so you should have guessed that 플스 comes from the 1st and 4th syllables of 플레이스테이션 which is… Playstation! Yes, 플스방 is a room dedicated to Playstations. These are a lot harder to find than PC방s, but rather than single cubicles, you will have a sofa so that at least two of you can play against each other. 플스방s are dominated by males playing football games, normally either 위닝(Winning Eleven – PES as we brits know it) or 피파(Fifa). But you can play other games as well, so ask at the counter to see what other games are available, otherwise it’s just assumed you’re playing football! Make bets with your friends so that the loser has to pay for the next round! ^^
Finally, we have something called 멀티방. A multi-room, as the name suggests, it has pretty much everything rolled into one! In the room, you will find a TV which can be used for a multitude of things. You can chill out and watch films or turn it into a 노래방 and also play Playstation, but I think most people come for the Nintendo Wii. 멀티방 is a good choice when you don’t really know what you want to do and for around 20000won, a room for two hours, drinks, snacks and ice cream are all included!
So that’s it! Personally my favourite kind of bang has to be 노래방! I love singing! What about you? Which of these rooms would you most like to go to? Leave a comment and I’ll see you again next week.