My months in a love hotel
For about two months,
Room 1003 of
the Come Inn hotel served as both my temporary housing quarters and
Many of my stories about North Korean aggression, soldier trials,
base relocation and more were crafted under the pink neon light
hanging over the complimentary computer in my bedroom.
This wasn't my original plan.
Before my arrival at Camp Red Cloud as Area I's new reporter in
February 2006, the Army demolished my office on post to make way for
a new bus station. The temporary replacement office lacked a few
trivial things, like a phone and a reliable Internet connection.
Comparatively, the Come Inn was like an executive suite with a
bedroom and kitchenette.
Sure, there was the official Gyeonggi Province Tourist Hotel nearby.
But for the same price, my room had character.
And by character, I'm mostly talking about the body-contoured hot tub
with red and blue disco backlighting. But I was disappointed that
after a week, the maids stopped leaving me bubble bath.
I would have asked for more, but I could not find the words for
"Excuse me, may I have more bubble bath?" in my Lonely Planet
Korean-English pocket dictionary. Which is strange, since the book
does teach you how to ask a waiter if he has seen any North Korean
infiltrators (Page 234).
The room décor was futuristic, in that Jetsons-style of what people
in 1967 thought the future would look like.
Silvery wallpaper surrounded the shiny, neon-blue light fixtures,
underscored by wood accents and an aquatic scene under a glass-topped
bar table. A small glass box above the water cooler sterilized the
drinking glasses with ultraviolet light, which, while probably a good
idea, got me thinking far too much about the sanitary needs of the
I saw few other patrons at the Come Inn, though I knew they were
there. Customers were usually discreet about their activity. They
parked underground and covered up their cars to hide their license
Every now and then, a couple didn't need the privacy. After a
commissary trip, I shared an elevator with a 50-ish businessman and a
girl who could have been his daughter, but wasn't.
I gave him a quick look and a nod. He looked at my bags and gave me
the "What's he going to do here with two Russet potatoes and a bag of
washed spinach" look, like I was somehow the freaky one in this
Since my entertainment options were more limited than those of the
other patrons, I got to know a lot of the room's details. For
example, the toilet came with a control panel that played a little
song. Mozart, I think.
The bed's control panel was even more sophisticated. I always
wondered who bought those Craftmatic adjustable beds that used to be
advertised so heavily between 1980s morning game shows. Turns out
they're in Uijeongbu.
There also was a complimentary DVD menu. I couldn't read the movie
titles, though I was told that one of them translated loosely to
"Ajumma Fever While Husband's Away 3."
Since the idea didn't appeal to me, I was left to seek entertainment
with the big-screen television's satellite programming.
Along with CNN and a few movie channels, it gave me a chance to catch
up on the latest Britney Spears-inspired Korean music videos. I also
enjoyed watching South Korean rappers tell me about growing up "hawd"
on the mean streets of Hongdae.
I moved out of the hotel with a tinge of sadness. After two months, I
probably earned some sort of world record for solo length of stay at
a love hotel. I know I'll never again be able to walk by a disco hot
tub, a classical-music-playing toilet or a pink neon light without
thinking of the Come Inn, a place I once called home.
E-mail Erik Slavin at: firstname.lastname@example.org