What an experience. I can now say that I’ve visited my first 노래방 (noraebang)! And in Seoul no less (rather than LA’s Koreatown).
How I ended up in a noraebang at 3 pm on a Friday afternoon is actually kind of a funny story. As usual, after class ended at 1, a few friends and I walked to Sinchon for lunch. The two restaurants my friend had in mind were full of people, so we decided to try an Italian place we passed instead. While the menu looked pretty standard – various spaghettis, a couple pizzas, and some risotto – the décor bordered on ridiculous. It was like I was at Disneyland, touring Mickey Mouse’s house, except that there were more sparkly things and some clear Alice in Wonderland influence. We only really noticed the restaurant because it looked like it belonged in a circus carnival or theme park, not a relatively quiet street in Sinchon.
Anyways, I ordered the chicken risotto, but our waitress returned a few minutes later to tell me they were out of risotto, so I decided on baked spaghetti instead. (This was after she had returned once to retake our orders because she forgot to write down one person’s pasta.) The spaghetti was actually quite good!
Because of all the confusion regarding our orders and the extra wait for our food, she gave us free garlic bread and told us that we could have a 50-minute noraebang session for free (they have noraebangs upstairs, you see). I mentioned that I had never been to a noraebang, and none of us had anywhere to be after lunch, so we went for it.
It was…like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The little room was equipped with two microphones, a sizable tv monitor, a fun light system (you know, like at your high school prom or a frat party), two small couches, and another large, round bed-like couch covered in pillows. You can eat, drink, and smoke in these rooms (cigarette smokers are everywhere). Did I mention the Egyptian theme and décor? The pictures pretty much explain it all.
Their songbook had everything from Michael Jackson to 빅뱅 (Big Bang, a Korean pop boy band) to Barbara Streisand. We sang some Backstreet Boys, Coldplay, Whitney Houston, and 샤이니 (Shinee, another K-pop boy band) – okay, okay, that last one was just an attempt.
My attempt at one of the only K-pop songs I’m familiar with (and like!). When I can sing this song in a noraebang, I’ll know my Korean skills have drastically improved. At this point, I can’t read Korean nearly fast enough to keep up with lyrics I don’t know. Also, the background image is what appears to be a cartoon version of the band dancing along to the song… interesting.
Noraebangs are really popular so they’re everywhere in Korea, especially in hotspots like Sinchon and nearby Hongdae (home to Viya café, if you’ve read my previous posts). Now I know why – they’re a ton of fun even if you can’t sing!