After arriving on a long flight from Sydney, we jumped into a taxi and headed for our hotel in Seoul – a solid 40 minutes from Incheon airport. The taxi ride was rather interesting at night as we passed towering buildings with glowing flashing neon lights – welcome to South Korea!
Arriving at the Grand Hyatt, we were greeted by a rugged up doorman who took our luggage and ushered us into the foyer. The wooden décor and dimmed lighting had a traditional European feel – it was nice but had a dash of faux-tacky. Check-in was as easy as they come with the welcome news that we had been upgraded from a ‘mountain view’ king room to a ‘river view’ king room.
The room was quite small (to be expected in Asia), but the use of mirrors at ceiling level and well placed furniture made the room acceptable for our short two day stay. The bed was quite hard and the pillows were too soft for my liking, again fairly stereotypical of Asian properties. The air-conditioning was unable to be adjusted which made my partner and I sweat like we were in a Finnish sauna. Sleeping on top of the duvet was not fun.
The buffet breakfast was top shelf with an array of hot and cold options, an egg station, asian dishes (such as dumplings, fried rice and tofu) and waffle and pancakes cooked to order. The breakfast was included in our room rate.
The location of the hotel feels quite far out from most of the typical tourist attractions, although 5 mins away (down the hill) you will find Itaewon – the traditional expat area where bars and eateries stay open until the early hours.
Downstairs at the hotel you will find a great bar/nightclub by the name of J.J. Mahoney’s. This place really went off on the two nights that we visited, though the clientèle consisted of middle aged business men and young pretty asian woman. Despite the slightly seedy undertones, the music was fantastic, with an area of the bar having a live band and the other side having a nightclub dance floor.
One night, we stumbled upon a House Music night which had some very surprising beats for a western hotel brand. Customers sat in wooden booths, smoking cigarettes and drinking grey goose by the bottle. Was heaps of fun and felt like the ’80s all over again.
Another bar that we liked was the Paris Bar which was more gentrified and was more or less a whisky and cigar room. We came here a couple of times to enjoy a cigar and a Johnny Blue.
The only issue I have with the bars is the prices do not include taxes and application of the myriad of taxes was murky. I once went up to the bar and asked for a glass of champagne. We got the said glass and was presented with a bill for $50 for the pleasure.
I don’t know about most hospitality workers, but if someone asks for a glass of champagne, you wouldn’t necessarily go for the most expensive glass – well, at least I wouldn’t. That was a mistake we wouldn’t repeat throughout our stay, but one must be vigilant about the additional amounts that will be added on to the bill without a clear breakdown. Speaking of expensive drinks, you will pay $12 AUD for a 300ml bottle of diet coke in the lobby. Ouch.
Thankfully, it wasn’t just a big money grab from the hotel as we had free WIFI for our stay which was a nice touch
I’m unsure if I will return to the Grand Hyatt in Seoul. Perhaps I will venture to the (now) much famed Gangham area where the flashy lights and more ecclectic atmosphere is more appealing for us younger folk. The Grand Hyatt would certainly suit those on business, or those who need to be on that side of the river.