Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hotel Review: JW Marriott Seoul

Seoul is the second most populated city in the world and a lot more fun that we expected.

I loved the JW Marriott Seoul.  Everything about this hotel was excellent.  I personally feel it is the top urban hotel I’ve stayed in.  It’s certainly a classy, beautiful hotel.  However, it also offers some unique features that were a lot of fun for our family.

The lobby area of this hotel was gorgeous.  The check-in process was smooth and the front desk and concierge was very friendly and helpful.  The second floor of the hotel had some amazing restaurants and the lunch buffet was amazing.  There was a great selection of traditional Korean food with a good mix of western foods.  It was a very professional setting, yet we didn’t feel uncomfortable dining with our kids.

The Marriott Seoul rooms themselves were what you would expect from a JW Marriott.  They were clean, the bathrooms were spacious and the beds were very comfortable. 

What made the Seoul JW Marriott such a great hotel were some of the features.  First, below the hotel is a huge sports club.  It’s a public sports club that the hotel guests were allowed to use.  The club had an Olympic sized pool, golf driving range, tons of work out equipment, a running track, etc.  Warning though, if you go in the men’s locker room’ be prepared to see some old naked guys doing strange squats and stretches.

Second, a hall leading out the back of the hotel leads directly to a high-end shopping center.  If you go to the basement of this shopping center, there is a massive food court with over 40 food booths representing every type of food you can imagine.  Never had pizza with corn as a topping, you can find it in this food court.  Feel like Indonesian sate, no problem.  Korean BBQ, of course.  Beside the food court is a grocery store.  We have always thought visiting a grocery store was one of the best ways to get a sense of what a country is like and Korea’s grocery store was a pretty unique experience.  Next to each fruit stand was a woman wearing a dress who insisted on squeezing and selecting the most perfect, most ripe piece of fruit.  They then took this fruit and wrapped it in nice, shiny foil before we were allowed to take that fruit to check-out.

Finally, below the basement of that shopping center was a huge subway terminal as well as a virtual underground city.  There were clothing stores, fast food restaurants, tailors, newsstands, coffee shops, and people hawking all sorts of products.  The subway system in Seoul is clean and a very easy way to navigate the city.  We took Mason’s stroller and noticed that it wasn’t common for parents to bring children to the subway, but we were given a pass since we were “confused foreigners”.  

Some of the things our family did in Seoul included going to Seoul Tower, which provided a great view of the city.  They also had some of the most unique bathrooms I’ve ever seen with toilets against the glass windows allowing for a panoramic view.  We followed the tradition of buying a lock, writing a message on that lock and attaching it to the chain link fence on top of Seoul Tower.  We also visited the COEX aquarium.  We arrived a little late, but wanted to attend a baseball game and take part in the coordinated cheers that Asian baseball fans are famous for. 

It doesn’t have anything to do with the Marriott hotel, but I have to also comment on the special treatment our family received from everyone in Korea.  It was quite a novelty for them to see two young blonde kids.  We were stopped by groups of schoolgirls as well as groups of grandmas that wanted to take pictures with our kids.  Older men would reach into their pockets and produce pieces of candies for Gwen and Mason.  We felt like celebrities and got a taste of what Angelina and Brad must go through. 

The JW Marriott in Seoul was awesome.  Seoul was just a layover and kind of an after thought.  We were surprised how much fun we had and the JW Marriott was a perfect launching point to exploring this city.  We look forward to going back one day.
Gwen and Katie overlooking Seoul

Stopped by Korean schoolgirls fascinated with Mason's blond hair

The locks around Seoul Tower

Gwen and Scott adding the Chandler lock at Seoul Tower

Our little lock, someone look for this next time you're in Seoul

Gwen, Mason and Katie inside Seoul Tower

Unusual toilets at Seoul Tower with a view

Gwen and Katie in Seoul

More Koreans fascinated with Gwen and Mason

Can you see Gwen and Katie's blonde hair in the sea of black hair?

Some older ladies giving Gwen the rock-star treatment

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