Seoul ... it's out of this world, but also very familiar
The city streets are awash with flyers of K-pop teen boys with their glossy, pouting J-Bieber lips and names such as After School and Super Junior. Meanwhile, naughty little girls in nine-inch stilettos and hot pants catch the eye of stern, grey-suited businessmen and my delighted male companions, who vote Seoul girls as having the best legs in Asia.
Each sector of Seoul has its own personality: South Seoul for fashionistas, Bukchon, pictured, in the north for gorgeous, traditional tea houses, the city for mainstream shopping. And then there's Itaewon, the Kings Cross of Korea, for better or for worse, the location of my hard-working hotel and also a club where my American-gone-native friend is drumming tonight.
With the army base there, it makes perfect sense that Itaewon is also Seoul's best-known foreigner red-light district. Well, it's Seoul's "whatever-your-taste" district. Itaewon's social scene is dominated by two hills - Homo Hill, where elongated Korean trannies languish on chaise longues in their downtime, and Hooker Hill, a mix of dingy rock pubs and red doors and nail-filing, pumped-up working girls.
It's the first time I've seen overt cleavage in Seoul and I now have renewed respect for the prostitutes of this city, seeing them trip up and down this 45-degree-angle hill in killer heels.
The band pub is like any other old-school band pub across the world; a nameless door, a dark corridor, sticky brown carpet and cigarette smoke so thick you could lose a small Pacific nation in the pub's dingy recesses. My friend puts me in a corner beside the thrumming aircon and the pool table, then heads off to the stage.
I realise that there's not one Korean in the joint - the accents are a mix of American, Canadian and northern English.
While my friend's mate, a Canadian security contractor, tells me of meeting Aussie English teachers because his government pad has a washing machine and a spa bath, a Mancunian pool player ambles across and leans over me, hand on the wall behind my head.
"Haven't seen you here before," he says in a beery fug, ignoring the roll of my eyes.
"Are you new in town?"
It may be Planet Korea, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.