Thursday, 17 March 2011

Inwangsan: Tranquility in the heart of the city

After a long night of partying, my mind and body needed a moment of calm this weekend and I headed to Inwangsan, a mountain close to the centre of Seoul. Inwangsan is home to a glut of Buddhist temples and shamanist shrines, huddled together around the base of the mountain. Spend some time meandering among these sites, and the fascinating history of Inwangsan will start to reveal itself.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


One of my favorite ways to chill out with friends, Korean-style, is at a singing room or 'noraebang'. For those who don't know what this is, it's similar to Japanese karaoke 'box' rooms, and it's FUN. OK, for me it's fun, but then I love singing. If karaoke aint your bag, then maybe it's not something for you. For a lot of people I know, it only becomes fun after copious amounts of alcohol.

Noraebangs are EVERYWHERE in Korea, and it's popular amongst pretty much every demographic. You can find them by looking for brightly flashing neon signs that say '노래방'. Inside, you'll see a corridor with numbered doors, and a reception desk. The guy at the desk will take your money and give you an appropriately-sized room for the number of people you have, and then that room is yours for however long you want to spend in there! The rooms often have some kind of disco lighting and are usually kind of tacky-looking, unless you go somewhere really fancy. You select the songs you want to sing using an electronic controller, and there's always a big selection of Korean and English songs to choose from.

Something to note is that while you can usually buy soft drinks at a noraebang, most that I've been to don't sell alcohol, and a friend told me that alcohol is actually banned in many noraebangs. This seems a bit strange, but then again most people are already sloshed by the time they hit the noraebang anyway. This is the main difference between a Korean noraebang and my karaoke room experience in Tokyo, where a variety of awful cocktails could be ordered to the room in the place we visited. In this Japanese version of the singing room, we were also hit with an enormous bill at the end of the night - which would rarely happen in Korea, where you can visit a noraebang for as little as 15,000won per room per hour.

To conclude this post, noraebangs are AMAZING fun and I love them.