Seoul Travel Guide
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From Brussel's stylish The Hotel to a Holiday Inn Express in Oklahoma, hotels are jumping on the hot "smartphone as room key" bandwagon. We don't blame them--we're sick of those flimsy little pieces of plastic.
Now, Seoul's Hotel Skypark Central is one-upping everyone.
Along with revolutionary accoutrements for the business traveler like, um, free airport shuttle service, the otherwise rather unremarkable downtown hotel has recently offered a new perk: bestowing free loaner smartphones to its guests upon check-in. The devices do just about everything, aside from calling home (actual phone services aren't available; unless you use Skype, of course), such as unlocking and locking your door, ordering room service, turning on the lights, channel surfing on your flatscreen, and browsing the web.
Courtesy of South Korean pop star Psy’s video-gone-viral, Seoul has gotten quite a bit of attention the last few months. Today, Hilton’s luxury Conrad brand is getting in on the action by opening the doors to its latest hotel in the city (but no word yet on any Gangnam packages).
We were tempted by British Airways’ astoundingly brilliant offer on its new route to Incheon (the home of Seoul’s award-winning airport) to drop £777 ($1235) on a business class return and spend a weekend here ourselves, but with our rational side kicking in we’ll have to settle for a look at the hotel from afar for the moment.
This is one glamorous Friday with two, count 'em 2, Fantasy Friday posts. The first one was dreaming about rubbing elbows with the rich and famous at Huka Lodge in New Zealand. Now this luxurious hotel package comes to you from Seoul, South Korea and is not for the penny-pincher. Super extravagance comes in the forms of an $80K spa treatment at the city's Ritz Carlton.
The hotel created a package specially designed for high-rolling Chinese tourists that chartered a flight to Seoul to be poked and prodded all to walk away looking and feeling younger. Part of a full tour package that allows for travelers to pick their poison, as it is, and tailor-fit their vacation because well, they have enough cash to throw around. The price range for the anti-aging packages start at $440 and tops out at $87,680. We don't think that includes tip.
Finally, a hotel has jumped on the bandwagon and will begin to offer hotel packages that revolve around the world's latest earworm better known as Gangnam Style. Just as we would expect, the package comes from the Novotel Seoul Ambassador, smack in the middle of the district the song is named after.
For those that may be living under a rock for the last 3 months, here's a little back story. The musical artist is named Psy (real name: Park Jae-sang) and he is a Korean rapper who produces K-Pop (Korean pop music). He posted a YouTube video for Gangnam Style and it has become the most viewed K-Pop video, not to mention the most 'liked,' on the site.
Now let's get to the hotel news. This Novotel located in the Gangnam District is offering Psy groupies the chance to stay at the heart of the area in which the singer grew up. Fans can 'cowboy' and 'horsey' all around the popular shopping and entertainment areas of Gangnam. Since the area is known to be dripping with celebrities, you may even spot some other K-pop stars.
Back in October, one of our contributors had a little love affair with the pools at JW Marriott in Phuket, but we think we've found another JW Marriott pool to set our sights on. And this one doesn't mess around with squirting elephant sculptures and swim-up bars.
We're talking about the fitness center at JW Marriott Seoul, which not only has a six-lane, 25-meter pool, but also a climbing wall, a scuba diving pool, and an indoor running track—oh, and it spans three floors of the hotel.
The Marquis Thermal Spa and Fitness Club calls itself the largest hotel fitness center in Asia, and it offers pretty much every type of indoor fitness amenity you can think of. In fact, guests who stay here should really be held to a certain standard of fitness simply because they have so many options available to them. Just the other day we were mentioning how obsolete the hotel racquetball court has become. Not so in Seoul—this place has got two of 'em.
Last week we saw the model rooms that design firm Studio Gaia did for the upcoming Thompson Toronto hotel and thanks to an equally nerdy hotel geek, we learned that the same firm is doing Thompson Seoul.
We're actually quite surprised that Thompson is still going ahead with Seoul in these times but it is some very welcome hotel news for the hospitality industry which has of late been socked by hotel delays and canceled projects.
Since 1986, one hotel has dominated both the luxury sleeping and shopping scene in Seoul: The Shilla. Although the hotel has been around for a little longer than that, 1986 was the year that it birthed an independent duty free shop, making the upper echelons of luxury goods available at a price that was almost a deal. The Shilla now operates more shops on the Korean holiday island of Jeju and in Incheon airport, but its original two-floor boutique remains a cult shopping destination.
For anyone who feels the salacious temptation of a duty free catalog in the seat-back pocket, a stop in at The Shilla may be deadly (to your bank account). Being surrounded by smiling, impeccably-coiffed salesgirls and shiny products proves a drug for those who achieve VIP status at The Shilla shops.
That's right. Thompson Hotels, having finished with their monopoly on New York, is expanding overseas to Seoul, Korea.
We have to say, this destination is shocking. We thought for sure a London property was in the works. Yet today a press release was making the rounds of the interweb that Jason Pomeranc and co. are heading off to Seoul.
Have you heard about Seoul's hotness? South Korea's hipper-than-thou capital is gaining street cred due to a recent opening of a 10 Corso Como, a Fashion Week growing quickly in international regard, and not to mention the popularity of Korean TV dramas around the world.
The development of Seoul as a sort of new Tokyo (albeit slightly more affordable) is creating a distinctive thirst among tourists and locals alike: for luxury and high design.
This is why, in a city where women wear high heels everywhere, the Metro Hotel Myungdong looks and feels so good. So it doesn't have the best views, but then what is a great view in a city planned without much regard to green spaces and well...city planning?
You know the scene. You open the door to your brand new hotel room, run over to the window, open the blinds and bam, you are hit with the anti-view. Maybe you are looking down a dirty alley, witnessing a drug deal, staring at an air shaft in the face, or seeing a brick wall. Whatever you are viewing it is not extremely pleasurable. Help out your fellow hotel mavens by uploading your anti-views to the HotelChatter/Flickr photo pool, or by sending the photo along to us. Remember to tell us the name of the hotel and the room number with the not-so-easy-on-the-eyes view.
Before we talk about the view from Seoul's Metro Hotel Myungdong, let's talk about what their website promises:
A Journey ... Not the Same ... You will have plenty to feel satisfied about, plenty to smile about in Metro.
That's a big promise and if we check the view from this room, we're not smiling too hard or feeling enormously satisfied yet. There's a lovely concrete jungle, if you can smile about that kind of thing, and some weird architecture going on with the building next door. What are these big squares all about, and who is meant to see them, other than guests at this level or higher in the Metro Hotel? It kind of looks like a part of the building that they've put on in the wrong place.
We shouldn't be too hard on the Metro Hotel's view--Seoul's a huge city and there can't be too many killer views from Seoul hotels. To its credit, the Metro is centrally located and offers reasonably-priced rooms from around $100 a night. There are 75 rooms that include an internet connection, satellite TV channels and double glazed windows to keep out some of the city noise.
If you're still balancing up the bad view versus the decent hotel ideas, here's a quote from the Metro's website to tip the scales: "Seoul's Metro Hotel fits like a well-made Korean glove." Say no more.
· Hotels in Seoul [HotelChatter]
· Travel Stories in Seoul [Jaunted]
The Lotte Hotel Seoul just won a gong as the "Best Individual Hotel in Asia", as decided by Global Traveler USA magazine. The Lotte Hotel is a 1349-room extravaganza, recently refurbished (and 370 rooms were added brand new), and with a new grand lobby on the 14th floor.
While its specialization is "super-deluxe service for business travelers", there are obviously enough rooms for everyone and tourists also pick it for the central location. A few gripes include the expensive charges for the internet and the hotel's so big that it can sometimes feel a bit impersonal.
The Lotte Hotel is actually part of a huge complex called Lotte World which also includes an amusement park, sports center, water slide park, folk museum and a huge shopping center--promoters describe it as a mini-city. So you could go to Lotte World, stay in the luxury of the Lotte Hotel, and never actually see Seoul, apart from the trip from the airport. But that'd be a bit Seoul-less, wouldn't it?
· Lotte Hotel Seoul reviews [TripAdvisor]
About 10 years ago the Hotel Shilla in Seoul put some cool tech features in all its guest rooms. We're still waiting for them to show up elsewhere.
At the hotel, a bathroom break in the middle of the night is almost a pleasure. You turn on the bathroom light and it doesn't come on all the way. It starts off dim and gradually gets brighter. When you turn it off it gradually gets dimmer again. No blinding light when you turn it on, no stumbling back to bed in complete darkness, with spots swimming in front of your eyes.
The second feature is probably more of a pain to initiate, but it's brilliant. Whenever the phone in your room rings, the volume on your TV set immediately gets lower automatically. No fumbling around for the remote control, no "Hold on a minute while I turn down the TV."
Considering that a hotel in Korea has had these features in place for a decade now, why are we still waiting for the simple things like this to spread?
· Shilla Seoul reviews [TripAdvisor]