Not at all familiar with Seoul, I picked Gangnam Artnouveau City II – a service apartment-type accommodation in Gangnam district for my recent trip to Seoul.
Getting there from Incheon Airport: Rode the airport limousine bus number 6009 from the arrival hall. The ride cost 15000 KWN and took approximately 45mins. We got off at the bus stop on the main road (the driver announced it as Gangnam Station) and walked our suitcases into one of the side streets.
Location: The Gangnam Artnouveau City II is somewhat* convenient as it’s tucked along a quiet side street while the main road is three blocks away. The nearest subway station (Gangnam Station, Line 2 and Line 7) entrance is on the main road so it’s a “about 5 minutes” short walk.
Notably, the underground mall at Gangnam subway station is one of the largest around and there are plenty of kiosks selling inexpensive clothing, shoes and what nots. I think they stay open 24 hours, but I’m not sure.
This trip isn’t about shopping for me anyway. It’s about the food, hello! Even though there are plenty of cafes and Paris Baguette outlets on the main road (aka Gangnam Daero), I am interested in hole-in-the-wall joints selling local fare and I very quickly realize the restaurants within immediate 5-8 block radius around the hotel don’t quite hit the spot. Too proper, too Anglo, too decent.
The hotel itself has a restaurant on the ground floor (burger, pizza, pasta… *scoffs*). Frankly I find the CU 24-hr minimart/convenience store two doors down much more exciting. Oooh, warm bottled honey ginseng drink. Aaaaah, seaweed soup in a microwaveable packet. Oooooh, instant rice porridge with abalone. Aaaah, warm bottled yuzu drink.
The room: The twin-room is quite spacious and it’s set up like a small studio with a living area (sofa, coffee table, and TV console-cum-desk), a bedroom area with sliding panels to make this into a separate space, a bathroom with standup shower, and *the best part* a kitchenette complete with stovetop, full-sized fridge, sink, microwave, electric kettle, cutleries, pots and pans, bowls, rice cooker, and a washing machine, all niftily hidden away behind cabinets.
Decor-wise, there’s a baroque theme going on so the overall feel of the room from the wallpapering to the cabinetry to the curtains to the gilded fixtures is opulent-ish.
Details: The front vestibule is designed just like an apartment’s, with a holding area for shoes and house slippers as soon as you enter.
Bedding is comfortable although there’s only one pillow per bed and I had to request for extras. Housekeeping ajumas clean the room daily. There is plenty of closet space for long term stay. Every room is also equipped with an electronic safety box (which didn’t work for me and I was too lazy to get it looked at).
I was ecstatic to find a small portable humidifier in one of the closets! IMO one must always sleep with the humidifier on during wintertime as the air is very dry and a crusty nose isn’t pleasant to wake up to every morning. Not to mention skin gets dried out and leathery too. See, I tend to wash my hands a lot during wintertime = flu time; germs get transmitted via metal objects in public areas (eg. subway poles, door handles are common culprits) so all that handwashing strips skin’s natural moisture. You can bet that this humidifier is being put to great use throughout my Seoul trip.
An electronic console next to the bed controls all the lighting in the room with just a tap of the screen.
Room temperatures can be controlled three ways: via console, via a separate remote control for air conditioning, and via a wall electronic dial for the heated wooden floors. Whooohooo, I super duper love heated flooring!
I know that the reason why NYC winter and I never got along is because of the drafty apartment that I used to live in. The house was over a century old and it had high ceilings so heat didn’t linger around much. As a homebody, I used to seriously detest that bone-aching chill and would wear my outdoor jacket inside the house, over layers of fleece + socks, and sleep with a heated blanket. -_- Living like this daily through stretches of cold winter is bound to make anyone grumpy and bitter = yep, that’d be me.
While the low temperatures outdoors in Seoul (Feb-2015) bring back winter memories, I’m thankful and happy it’s toasty warm inside my room at the Gangnam Artnouveau City II.
* Admittedly the location of the hotel is not as centrally located as I’d have liked since I’m traveling with my parents and they are senior-citizens who don’t do so well with too much walking. Three-block radius max is about as much as my dad can handle these days. While the nearest subway station entrance isn’t too far away, going up and down the stairs totally knocks the wind outta him. Where are the elevators and escalators?! There aren’t a lot of empty taxis along the side streets either, WTH.
After looking at maps, getting orientated, and realizing that Gangnam written in Chinese is 江南 (literally, south of the river – ie. Han River), it all makes sense now. Gangnam District is situated south side of the river while the areas my parents enjoy more, the older pockets of the city, are at the north side of the river – aiyah!
The front desk staff is generally courteous and friendly, although I realize that Koreans don’t speak as much English as I thought they would. We manage to get around by having the hotel call for a taxi, which is relatively inexpensive: 3000 KWN starting fare plus 1000 KWN booking fee. A trip across the river to downtown Seoul takes about 20 mins and average cost is 10,000 KWN from the hotel.
Between my dad and I, Seoul is a very special city for us. My dad loves sharing this story of the time when he brought me along while on business trip to Seoul, back in 1985. It was our first time stepping foot in Korea; a small-time entrepreneur with an English-speaking little daughter in tow as translator. In a random quiet alley one evening, we stumbled upon a butcheria with glass counter of fresh meat on display by the sidewalk. We paused to gawk hungrily and gesture at the meat, and then got whisked indoors by the proprietors into what turned out to be a small living room (also a restaurant) serving Korean BBQ. There were just 3 low tables with a charcoal grill in the middle, we took off our shoes and sat around one of them cross-legged. The family who owned and lived in the restaurant did not speak a lick of English, we didn’t speak Korean, so the entire ordering and eating process was conducted by miming.
At one point (here comes my dad’s fave part of the story) we wanted soup as it was freezing cold outside, but no one understood my gesture of cupping one hand while using the other as a scoop. No one also seemed to associate soup with my enthusiastic dramatization of slowly lifting both hands into the air in wavy motion… you know, like rising steam? Despite not quite acing this round of charade though, I’d definitely displayed aptitude in graphic design at a young age from what happened next, ha!
As a final attempt, on a paper napkin I started drawing a semi-circle with three squiggly vertical strokes over it – a bowl, steaming = hot liquid… Geddit??? Nada. Zip. Nopes. Nein. No one knew what the hell I was trying to communicate. Not a drop of soup was in sight for us that night but gawddayamn if it wasn’t the bestest Korean meal my dad and I had ever tasted and the best memory we have together!
So we are back in Seoul together again, thirty years later. In spite of all the technological advances (being self-reliant on translation apps and GPS, blablabla is practically useless unless you have cellular data or in a free wifi zone), IMO the language barrier is largely still a handicap for non-Korean speakers visiting Seoul. *gwa gwa gwaaa~* My smattering of Hangul, very much like my understanding of French, is strictly limited to food names only. Which brings me to…
Time to explore the random alleys and hunt for food. I want all kinds of BBQ (let me have intestines!!!) and a variety of steaming tang (soups) – be it clear, milky, or spicy. I am also crossing my fingers to chance upon other exciting local stuff that I’d never had before. *rubbing palms with gluttonous glee*
Gangnam Artnouveau City II
133-07 Seochong-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul