Essay and Photographs: Seoul, South Korea

Bad times can be slow and good times too fast.

The Love Motels of Seoul is the result of spontaneity thanks to poor planning and a resolve to remain open-minded as one should when they travel. I left China with two other travel companions and a last-minute booking on Airbnb. When we arrived at Incheon our Airbnb contact number was disconnected and our deposit cashed. I made a frantic one night reservation at a loft house, which I thought was in Seoul, but actually took us an hour north of the city to Paju in South Korea's DMZ. The night at the DMZ is another story, however. While on the bus to the loft in the Korean countryside, not knowing where we would end up, one of my companions said, "We could just stay in the love motels. I know they are super cheap." They are also almost never fully booked.

For love motels in Seoul, there are a few neighborhoods where one can just wander around until they find something they like. We picked the Sinchon area because of its illuminated kiosks, endless restaurants, and neon vacancies marked with either a pink heart or a steaming spa cup. Within a few days we had hopped in and out of multiple hotels each with its own theme. Some themes were more sophisticated and some were more playful.

I got up early before the others in the mornings to find some images and see who was stumbling out on their way into the world. The first morning I saw a young couple slipping out of the side door of the hotel next to ours. The two of them, heads down, threw on their helmets and took off straightaway with his motorcycle. On the second evening in the elevator of Hotel 9, I met a middle-aged couple dressed in the familiar monochrome business attire on their way to their room. They didn't speak as he led her in. The elevator moved and they sized each other up as, I was sure, they had just met.