Yesterday I was in Seoul, at Casa Pepe Guest House. Sensationally good at a very low price. It really is a guest house — attached to a house — with a separate entrance. There are four rooms, with shared kitchen and bathroom. The owner is an renowned chef. The first evening he brought salad and wine from his (Japanese) restaurant. The first morning, he invited me to come with him to buy fish at the Seoul fish market. Every morning, he made breakfast — something different each time.
I found it through hotels.com. On their map, it was off by itself. I thought that meant bad location, but the opposite was true. It is the sort of good location you cannot normally get. It is near the Blue House (Korea’s White House) and many foreign embassies and is very safe. Dozens of interesting restaurants and cafes are nearby. (Even more than the rest of Seoul.) The neighborhood is the Beverly Hills of Korea, with better (and cheaper) restaurants and less pretentious architecture. Casa Pepe started about a year ago, with a remodelling. Everything is new and clean. The floor is heated. The building is up a steep path and has a nice view of streets, hills and houses. Free laundry. All for less than $50/day.
During my stay I briefly overlapped with a Tsinghua student (how could that possibly happen?) but otherwise I was the only person.
Why is it so nice? The owner said, “It’s my hobby.” I think that explains it.
I’ve said that doing a job and doing science are fundamentally incompatible. Any job requires steady and repeated output. You do the same thing over and over. The goal of science is discovery — and a discovery is inherently unpredictable and unrepeatable. (Art is a job with science-like elements — and artists were the first scientists.) Casa Pepe Guest House illustrates another side of the job/science conflict: A job is inherently conformist. You give people, especially customers and your boss, what they expect. Science is inherently nonconformist. The more a discovery challenges “what everyone knows”, the better. Hobbies make this point because they can vary more than jobs. If you make tables as a hobby, for example, your tables can vary more than if you make tables for a living. Casa Pepe is way outside (better) what one expects from a rented room.
Another way Casa Pepe is unusual is that it is very hard to find, even if you study the directions. I found it by knocking on a neighbor’s door. The neighbor called Casa Pepe. Someone from Casa Pepe came to meet the neighbor and me on the street — it was too hard to tell the neighbor where it was. Here are better directions. From Incheon Airport, take airport bus 6112 to the Hangsun University stop. Go to Exit 6 of the nearby subway station (Hangsun University Station on Line 4). Walk up the street (Seongbuk-ro) indicated by Exit 6 — toward the hills. After walking about 13 minutes, where the road veers right, you will see a sign that says Seongbuk-ro 19-gil (gil = side street), which points almost exactly to a steep concrete path on the left perpendicular to the street. It is the width of a driveway. Go up about 40 meters. Casa Pepe is on the right — a white house with a red door, with a sign that says “casa pepe”. Don’t be misled by the fact that the listed address is not on Seongbuk-ro 19-gil.