Although Seoul's winter weather might not always be ideal for walking around, the lower temperatures can afford you a peek into pockets of Korean culture you might not have noticed just going from one tourist attraction to another.Just as locals in Korea might, you can take part in 'bang' culture in Korea. Bang (방) literally means room and there are many kinds of private-room environments you can enjoy while escaping the cold weather during your visit. It is a common activity for many locals in Korea as many people live with their families in close quarters and the culture of inviting people into your home is not as widespread. Here, Koreans can take advantage of relaxing with their friends or lovers without the often observational eye of their families.
A sneak peek into Korea's older 'room culture' can be seen if you go to a dabang. Though at first glance a dabang may seem akin to a cafe, look a bit closer and you notice the accents from the past in them. Often these places serve instant mix Korean coffee instead of trendy imported drip coffees, there are comfortable and weathered sofas and people from Korea's older generation reminiscing upon their youth with popular music from the 70s or 80s. Dabangs are a disappearing breed and you'll be lucky if you can catch this experience before it becomes consumed by brand name coffee chains.
Editor's Recommended: Hakrim Dabang
→Line 4 Hyehwa Station, between Exit 3 & 4
One of the benefits of 'bang' culture is being able to partake in something you normally do at home, outside of the home. This concept is epitomized by the 'jjimjil-bang' or a steam room where you can go with your friends and take a bath. After paying a small fee, you get a locker where you put in your clothes and try out all the facilities that the jjimjil-bang has to offer. This includes an array of bubbling baths, steam rooms, resting areas and often, restaurants and television rooms as well. Although the bathing areas are separated by sex, resting areas and steam rooms are a fun place for the whole family.
Editor's Recommended: Itaewon Land
Itaewon Land Page
→Line 6 Itaewon Stn. Exit 3
For a quieter, more introspective time, you can take a hideaway in one of Seoul's many book cafes or reading rooms. Although academically minded Koreans come here with their textbooks and highlighters, there are many who are leisurely filling through novels and comic books. Here, for the price of a coffee, you can savor a book or take hours to write and reflect on your travels. Also a good place just to people watch, there is no shame in staying here for hours on end.
One of Korea's greatest overseas reputations exists in the computer-game scene and at PC bang, you can experience the root of its' existence. Here, you are given a card with a number that gives you access to a computer. Though it is possible to write emails and carry on other official duties, you may notice that the room is filled with many young men who are just relaxing and playing computer games with one another. Often, available at these PC bangs are several instant foods, snacks and beverages.
Nothing is more expressive than singing your heart out and a noraebang or singing room gives you the freedom to sing to your heart's content. At the counter, you and associated company can buy a room at a rate per hour and a few beverages. You will be given a book and a list of songs that range back to the Beatles to popular tracks currently on the radio. On your own personal stage, in front of your selected audience, you can follow the words to the song on the television karaoke-style.
Take both the features of the PC bang and the No-rae bang and you have the mecca of them all... the Multi Bang. Here. you can watch a movie, sing a song or play any sort of interactive video game that you like. For films. this place offers several luxuries that a movie theater cannot. Instead of going to a movie theater with regulated times, films and subtitles, you can individualize your experience by choosing a film of your own. A widely used feature of the multi-bang is the Wii where you can jump around and make as much noise as you would like.
Editor's Recommended: Multi-Plus Daehangro
→Line 4 Hyehwa Station, Exit 4