As I ease my way into my new life, I look back at the last four years, and think about the fun that I was able to have in this country I have grown to love. There are many things that I enjoyed, but the one place that brought me the most memories would have to be the norabongs. There are other places like these in other countries, but there is something about the norabongs in Korea that are a lot of fun. They would be my one true guilty pleasure from this country.
What is a narobong, you ask?
Well, it is hard to describe without telling the stories that happen in them, but rule one if the norabongs is, what happens in the norabong, stays in the norabong. I know that I make it sound like some illegal and illicit goes on in these places, and they are not like that at all. It is just that people have a tendency to let go in norabongs, and they might not want other people talking about their performance the next day.
Yes, it is a performance based place. Basically, you get your own little room that you and your closest friends rent. In it, you are given a bunch on tambourines, and microphones. There is also a large book with an extensive list of pop songs that correspond to the karaoke machine that is hooked up to the large screen television. From there it is just the time to let loose, and this is the place where you can really let loose. The amounts of cheap beer and soju that you can order from the front counter really allow this to happen.
I know you are thinking this is nothing more than a glorified karaoke bar, and in a way you might be right. But there is a distinct difference between singing in front of a bunch of your closest friends when you don’t care what they think about you, and doing it in front of a bunch of strangers. When you are with the people you can trust, your inner rock star comes out, and you start acting the fool. It is this moment that you can really let go that makes these places the hidden gems of South Korea.
So when I think back on my time in Seoul, one of the places I am going to miss the most are the norabongs. I have had some great evening at these places, and I would always wake up the next morning being barely able to speak because of all of the songs I belted out in the norabong rooms. I don’t claim that I was good even though I would score 100s on the songs a lot of the times, but this was probably due to the fact that I had volume and rhythm, not any other musical talent. It was still worth the laryngitis because it was the one place that I could leave all pretensions at the door, and just enjoy the moment. It is a must do thing if you ever make it to South Korea, and it will always be one of the things I miss the most from my four years there.