As you can probably guess, we were drawn to this hostel because of the name, because how could you not be?
Location – 8/10
Bong House is situated in a University area with lots of small pedestrian-friendly streets – which makes it close to a lot of karaoke (but maybe that’s just everywhere in Korea), bars, cheap local eats, 7/11s, and if you get home sick – there’s Dunkin Donuts, Tous Les Jours, Pizza Hut, and other international chains. Another plus is that you can spend hours wandering around the neighbourhood streets and discover new places to eat/drink/be merry. It’s within walking distance to Hyehwa Subway Station, although it’s not really close, I’d estimate about a 15-20 minute walk. This didn’t really bother us as we enjoyed the walk along the way, which is littered with shops selling everything from clothes to gadgets, street food, karaoke bars, and whatever else a University student might need.
The main premises has both an upstairs area and also a basement area. There’s a large range of room-types, from shared mixed dormitories, to private singles/twins/etc. (with the option of a private bathroom). We stayed in two different room-types while at Bong House:
1. 8 bed mixed dormitories: It is what you expect for the price, and for a hostel. It’s clean, and the beds are in bunks, the room is a decent size.
2. ‘Mountain View’: Not sure if this is the official name, but this was the name Mr. Bong jokingly used to entice us up 5 flights of stairs with our suitcases. This was a new room Mr. Bong had just added to Bong House while we were there, not located on the main premises, but about 3 minutes walk from it. It was a private apartment with a private bathroom, but was very minimal at the time with a table, and 4 mattresses on the floor which added to the Korean experience (Mr. Bong gave us cheaper rates). The apartment itself had a nice balcony area which looks down upon the area, which would be great during Summer.
The great thing about Korea though – heated floors in Winter. This made all the difference during our stay at Bong House.
At the time of my visit (December 2010), Mr. Bong was expanding the hostel beyond the main premises to more private apartments within a 5 minute walking distance. He decided to take us along to have a look at some of his new rooms, which at that stage were a bare minimum and still being prepared, so I can’t comment on those rooms personally, but Mr. Bong did take a lot of pride in his hostel, and as a seasoned traveller himself, carefully considered each aspect of a traveller’s needs.
The kitchen was quite small and cramped, which made cooking accessibility quite limited (I believe we tried to cook spaghetti once with okay results), but there really isn’t a need to cook since food is so affordable. There’s a laundry, free WiFi, a computer for guests to use, and an information desk (maps/tours/etc.). The bathrooms are very much your typical small, toilet-and-shower-in-one-room Asian bathrooms, but the hot water works perfectly and that’s all you really need.
The best facility of Bong House is the bar downstairs (Bong Bar) – each guest gets 1 free beer per night.
I thought the beds were what you’d expect, and I found them comfortable (but I’ve been known to sleep on floorboards comfortably before). The overall place was a good size – small enough to allow for conversations and meeting new people, but with just enough room to give people privacy if they so desired.
The place was cleaned regularly by staff, and all shoes had to be taken off in the foyer.
The dormitories are KRW15000 per night per person, which is about $15AUD. There’s also a deal where the longer you stay, the more % you get off. Also, one free beer every night at Bong Bar.
The staff was the best thing about this place. We got to know everyone really well and still keep in touch three and a half years later. Every night was spent going down to Bong Bar to chat with the staff, other guests and occasionally a local. Mr. Bong was very welcoming, most nights he would play pool or darts with us. The hostel staff genuinely considered you a friend and wanted you to have a great time in Korea, so much so that we were taken out to bars, karaoke, clubbing, North Seoul Tower, and local dining places. One even stayed in for an evening to play Scrabble and Uno with me. Also, there was always a staff member there, which made life a lot easier if you had a problem or wanted a recommendation.
The communal living area is great for travellers looking to meet other travellers. It’s open, bright, has a comfy sofa, heated floors, and the walls are covered with photos and notes from past guests, as well as bills and coins from all over the world. The bar also has a great atmosphere, some nights ranging from a quiet night where you can chat to the locals manning the bar, to big nights where everyone from the hostel is there for a rager. The overall atmosphere was helpful, friendly, respectful, with a vibe of travel and adventure.
The main premises is only accessable via a pin-code electronic door, and the pin is changed regularly. The rooms separate from the main premises are still extremely close so if there’s ever a problem, help is not too far away. Standard lockboxes are available.
There is none because of the pin-code access door, but like most hostels, house rules are that after a certain time the communal living areas have to be quiet.
If I had to pick a place to stay in Seoul again, I’d be back here in a heartbeat.