Monday, 19 October 2009

R Hotel, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul


I think Love Motels are evolving... They're meant to be seedy stop-outs for lovers, adulterers, or foreigners who like motels with lots of bells and whistles, but the R Hotel is something else entirely, yet the prices are the same.

My husband and I had planned to visit Seoul for Chuseok due to the 4 day holiday and mass closure of all businesses, especially in the rural areas such as Goseong where we live. I figured that Seoul wouldn't close, or while some things would, enough would stay open for us to eat, drink and be merry.

Once Greg and I had agreed on a trip to Seoul I set about finding the perfect place to stay on hotel365 and again found myself wading through fabulous motel after fabulous motel. There was one motel that really caught my eye though. I wanted us to stay in a district of Seoul which was in striking distance of Hongdae, Insadong, and Itaewon. Say what you like about Itaewon, but you can buy foreign food essentials there and get a good curry.

The R Hotel is situated in Yeongdeungpo which in itself is a thriving, neon lit place to visit at night full of clubs and bars and places to eat and perfectly located in order to reach the places I wanted to.

It was a bit of a journey to get to Yeongdeungpo on a late Thursday afternoon, just as the Chuseok holiday began, but Greg and I were up to the task. We took a packed coach from Goseong to Daegu and then the subway across Daegu to Dong Daegu Station before taking the KTX to Seoul Station and then the subway to Yeongdeungpo. It took about 6 hours from start to finish, which I think is pretty good going considering.

The R Motel made up for everything though. These were our first sights of the motel:
I can't tell you how excited we were! It looked better than we could have imagined! But we were still amazed when we went inside...
Above you can see the corridor leading to our room. We stayed 3 nights and changed rooms each night for the full experience. On our first night we stayed in the Rainbow Room...
Our bed in the Rainbow Room was enormous and had the softest most comfortable bedding with plump pillows that gave us a great nights sleep. The room had surround sound that hooked up to both the TV and the PCs and the PCs were also able to be viewed off the wide screen TV which faced our bed.
Every detail had been thought of and the whole room put together immaculately; there wasn't one flaw and you could see that much consideration had been given to creating the best use of space. In the bathroom and above the bed there were special lights which slowly changed colour to make our stay even more relaxing. The shower in the bathroom was powerful and required no fiddling to get the perfect temperature.
Our room had large windows which faced out to the railway track and the park beyond it but due to not double, but quadrupole glazing we could hear nothing of the trains that sped by late into the night and instead could immerse ourselves in the tranquility of our beautiful room.

When we checked in we got the usual little packet of free single serving toiletries, pictured below...

This was one of the more comprehensive toiletry sets we've received at a Love Motel and consisted of: 2 x toothbrushes, 2 x toothpaste, a razor, a sponge, bubble bath, shower cap, hair band, cotton wool pads, cotton buds, vaginal douche (!) and two condoms.
In the rooms themselves they also provided facial wash, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner (called rinse in Korea), moisturizer, hair spray and hair gel.

Before we went out for our first evening in Seoul we explored the rest of the hotel and this is what we found...
This is the dining room, where a complimentary breakfast is served each morning, redeemable with a little voucher they give you when you check in. Again, the decor and the standard and quality of the motel is outstanding, the whole of the R Hotel is like an art installation.

The next morning my husband went off to enquire about us changing rooms, not that our room wasn't lovely but we wanted to see what else this motel had to offer. The guy who worked at front desk advised us that checking in before 6pm would increase the price of our room considerably (this is because Love Motels rent their rooms by the hour as well as overnight, I'm sure you can understand why) but he reserved our chosen room and kept our bags in his office all day so that when we can back in the evening we could go to our new room. Perfect!

My wonderful husband chose me the perfect room for our second night and in a wonderfully selfless act as it was far from his ideal decor. Have a look...
Yes, it's the Hello! Kitty Room! The photos can't do it justice. Again, this room had large windows, this time facing out over the city affording us one of the greatest views...
And then as dusk fell...
I loved the Hello! Kitty room and it's fantastic views. This room had a double shower instead of a bath and only one PC but you still had surround sound and the ability to view the PC on the wide screen TV plus the complimentary soft drinks in the fridge, coffee sachets, green tea bags and hot and cold water.

For our final night at the R Hotel we upgraded to a VIP penthouse suite. While this room wasn't pink and glittery, it was larger and of course, higher up so the views were even better...
As you can see, there was a bath in the room so that you could lay back with the jacuzzi bubbling while you watched the wide screen TV. This really appealed to me and I spent a happy 45 minutes watching Gossip Girl from the comfort of the bath. The room also had a separate shower, 2 PCs, and all the complimentary toiletries and beverages which the other rooms provided. Again, the bed was a large and comfortable as it had been before and the whole room was put together perfectly and professionally.

In addition to the great rooms and the dining area already shown, the R Hotel had a roof garden which we were invited up to each night by the manager to enjoy a complimentary beer. My pictures don't do the roof garden justice but I'll show you anyway...
A roof garden is a great touch and it was wonderful to round off our evenings up there with a beer, looking out over the city.

The manager of the R Hotel went out of his way to make our stay as comfortable as possible and there was always someone on hand if we needed anything. The service at the R Hotel was exceptional and as personal as you'd get even if you payed ten times what we did and stayed at a 4 star hotel. My husband and I are already making plans to return to the R Hotel in a few months time.

Due to staying over the Chuseok period we managed to get discounted prices for the rooms and payed 60,000 each night, even for the VIP suite. According the the R Hotel's page on hotel 365
prices for standard rooms (such as the Rainbow Room or the Hello! Kitty Room) start at 50,000 Won with VIP rooms starting at 80,000.

If you would like to stay at R Hotel then there is a map here. The motel is easily found from Yeongdeungpo subway station; simply come out of the main exit, and turn right onto the main road. Continue for five minutes and turn right just before you reach the large flyover. You should be able to see a short street with a row of large Love Motels of the same size and dimensions, the R Hotel is the most fancy looking one with the rainbow neon lights all over it, as pictured at the top of this blog post. Should you arrive during the day the R Hotel will look like this...
You can contact the R Hotel on 02-2675-4800

DW Motel, Bugok, Gyeongsangnam-do

We'd been back in Korea for about a month when we decided to visit Bugok hot springs. Last time we lived in Korea (4 years ago) we lived very close to Spa Castle in Chungcheongnam-do and I can't begin to tell you how great it was! Before we moved back this time and once we'd found out where we'd be living, I'd poured over the guide books checking out the places that I knew we'd want to visit once we arrived. Bugok, and particularly Bugok Hawaii was high on my list, in my mind it seemed a lot like Spa Castle. Anyway, I'll come back to that later.

We got to Bugok by taking a bus from Masan, we'd had to set off early in the evening as it was a Friday and Greg had been to work, but I was so enthusiastic about the resort that we'd planned to spend two nights there, to pack in as much fun as possible. Due to this we arrived in Bugok at about 9pm and stepped off the bus into a misty rain.

As we'd driven into Bugok all we'd been able to see in the darkness was neon sign after neon sign advertising motels and yeogwans so we'd been optimistic about finding a good place to stay but once we'd left the bus the options seemed less attractive. After wandering the deathly quiet streets of Bugok for 5 minutes we noticed a motel in the distance with rows of rainbow coloured neon lights flashing. In my opinion, while a book should apparently not be judged by it's cover, if a Love Motel looks old and uncared for on the outside, don't bother going in. This Love Motel however, looked extremly well cared for and above all new.
As you can see, the bath was HUGE and also had the obligatory jacuzzi function and the room itself was also big, with a partition in the middle creating sleeping and living areas. In the middle of the partition was a section that swiveled round with a large mirror on one side and a wide-screen TV on the other. That, as far as I'm concerned is class.
It wasn't just the room which was nicely put together, the whole motel was full of cute details and was clearly the best place in town. I'm impressed that such a small town could have such a nice motel and they have my admiration for making such a nice place.

This time, I managed to take a proper photo of the freebies which they give you when you check in:
The flash spoiled the picture somewhat, but you should get the gist. You have two toothbrushes, a razor, some face-whitening soap, some bubble bath and a condom.

We had a good night in the DW Motel but sadly Bugok Hawaii was a real let down, it's faded, falling apart and half of it was closed. The outdoor pools had no water in and some of the buildings had just been left to crumble. I guess it was really something 2o years ago but now it's a faded relic, more seedy than a lot of Love Motels and above all a rip-off.
Greg and I ended up only spending one night in the DW Motel as we'd exhausted Bugok in half a day, but had what we'd gone to visit been better we would have gladly spent another night there.

I'm afraid that the DW Motel has no website of it's own and is not listed online anywhere, nor do I have contact details. However, should you want to visit DW Motel the town is small enough for you to find it armed with my photos of the exterior and and the name alone.

Mu Motel, Haundae, Busan

Our next stop on our brief honeymoon before my husband started his job here in Korea, was at Haeundae Beach in Busan. We took the KTX down to Busan from Seoul and then a 20 minute bus ride to Haeundae. Haeundae is also reachable by subway from Busan station, or by overground rail. The woman at the information point in Busan station was not forthcoming with the fact that it was possible to get to Haeundae by train and since we had a years worth of belongings stuffed into two enormous suitcases we were unable to scale the stairs down to the subway and thus, we took the bus. It wasn't much easier to take the bus with two huge suitcases but the other passengers were very tolerant of us taking up so much room. Personally I would suggest that you take the subway if possible as it is cheap, clean and efficient.

Hotel365, the website I like to use when choosing Love Motels, doesn't have a great selection listed for Haeundae and I had been advised before hand that there is such a wide selection of great places to stay down there that it would be possible to just pick one when we arrived at the beach.

The bus dropped us off at the beach front and we could immediately see a large cluster of motels across the road. Due to the fact that one of our bags broke almost as soon as we set foot in Haeundae and also due to a Korean man who directed us enthusiastically towards it, we chose the Mu Motel as it was close to where we were standing when the bag lost it's wheels. There are probably better reasons to select where you'll be spending the night, but this method worked very well for us. We chose a deluxe room this time, rather than a VIP, as fantastic as the VIP suites are we weren't planning on spending too much time in the room.

Our room was a reasonable size and light and airy with a beach theme that chimed nicely with the long sandy beach just down the road from us. Everything was clean and modern with great decoration including a huge sliding panel which slid across to cover the window instead of curtains or shutters.

As you can see from the pictures, this room had two PCs with free internet access side by side! Perfect couple harmony! No more arguing over who gets the computer when you stay at Mu Motel...

This motel room also had a steam shower, jacuzzi bath, large screen TV with DVD player, fridge with free soft drinks, hot and cold water dispenser and all of the assorted free toiletries which are given to you when you check in.

Having looked around Haeundae since, I think the quality of love motels in the area is a little overstated by some and the Mu Motel is one of the better, more modern places to stay. Here at the Korean Love Motel Guide a PC and a bath does not a great Love Motel make, it's the little touches like soft sheets, nice, quirky decor and a total absence of seediness which marks out the great Korean Love Motels, and it's my mission to seek them out!

Motel Mu have provided this great map on their website which will help you find your way, should you arrive from the subway/train station.

Otherwise, if you are arriving by taxi then here is the telephone number, if you wish to give it to your driver so he can get directions: 051-743-6830.

Haeudae is a truly gorgeous place to visit, I was a little nervous before I went that it would be a tacky nightmare, but it's not. The beach in August was crowded by not impossible and while the water wasn't as warm as it is in India, it was comfortable and you can enjoy yourself splashing around in a large rubber ring available to rent right next to the water.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sheel Motel, Jong-no Gu (Insadong area), Seoul

We arrived back in South Korea one late afternoon in August 2009. Having landed at Korea's international airport in Incheon we quickly boarded an express coach destined for Jong-no Gu in Seoul.
Jong-no is situated north of the River Han and amongst other places, comprises of the Insadong and Anguk districts which are popular tourist destinations due to their traditional architecture, traditional craft shops and traditional restaurants. Insadong has a great atmosphere that feels almost separate from the city of Seoul and the many winding alleys lined with places to eat makes the area a wonderful place to wander around and explore.

I had chosen the Sheel Motel to stay in for our first night in Korea. After many hours of browsing armed only with Google Translate and my very slow Hangul reading abilities I had been massively overwhelmed with options. The Jong-no district of Seoul is full of Love Motels and many of them looked amazing but what really swung it for me was the themed nature of the rooms at the Sheel Motel. Along with the amazingly plush Royal Suite there are a number of gorgeous looking Japanese rooms full of pale wood and bamboo, a European room, an Indo room (which is hard to place really, it doesn't look Indian at all) and several Korean rooms. Of course I had my heart set on the Korean room before I'd even left the UK!

Finding the Sheel Motel was fairly easy, all things considered. After disembarking the express bus we hailed a taxi and I showed the driver a map and directions to the m
otel (all in Korean) which I'd printed from here. Koreans don't seem to favour maps particularly but after a few minutes of the taxi driver telling us there was no such motel he finally fixed on the written directions and changed his mind. Moments later we drove down a side street and there we were, the Sheel Motel!

Since this was our first night back in Korea and also our honeymoon, Greg and I chose to stay in the Korean VIP suite, room 103 and the hotel365 page. It cost us about 120,000 Won which is around £60 in English money and we were not disappointed!

As you can see, the suite was lovely. Amongst other things this room comes with two televisions, one a huge projector screen in the bedroom and the other in the lounge hooked up to a Nintendo Wii. Other perks included a steam shower, a PC with free internet access which worked remarkably well considering how many people will have used it, a DVD player, an enormous bath and ample hot water to fill it and a selection of free beverages and instant coffee sachets in the fridge.

This motel is up there as one of my favourite places I've ever stayed, Insadong is a great area to stay in if you want an authentic Korean feel to your experiences and the Sheel Motel is well situated with range of different rooms in different price ranges. As with all Love Motels, the price increases at weekends with the Royal suite quoted as being 200,00 Won, the VIP suite being 150,000 Won and smaller rooms being between 60-75,000 Won but all rooms appear to have baths and PCs in them and they are all nicely decorated.

If you would like to stay at the Sheel Motel here is the map detailing where it is in Jong-no, if you're taking a taxi then show this to the driver 서울 종로구 관수동 137. It is also worth taking the phone number of the motel you wish to stay in as the taxi driver may want to phone the motel himself to clarify. The phone number for the Sheel Motel is 02-2278-9993.

Generally Love Motels don't take bookings and even if they do, it's unlikely that whoever answers the phone is going to be able to speak sufficient English to take your details so it's best to just turn up. In most cases and definitely in the Sheel's case there are other motels down the same street so you should always be able to get a room somewhere.