The Seamarq Hotel: Gangneung’s Best Feature
For years I have wanted to go to the city of Gangneung specifically for the coffee. If you are unware, the city of Gangneung is Korea’s coffee city and if you know me then you know of my obsession with coffee. However, the fact that it is about a 4 hour drive there and much of that is on the smaller 2-lane highways, sort of put me off.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to stay at the Seamarq Hotel as part of the Hyundai Hotel’s Global Supporter program. After checking out the hotel online, I was more than excited but a little confused. Why would they put such an awesome hotel in…. Gangneung. The pieces didn’t really fall into place until we arrived. Gangneung is beautiful and the Seamarq is the shining jewel that completes this seaside city.
Not to mention that Gangneung is the site for the ice events of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Thus, I am sure that this little city will continue to improve in the final months before the start of the olympics. Now, the reason that I am steering you toward the Seamarq is because it truly blew my mind. So much so that I almost forgot about the coffee… almost.
The Journey North to Gangneung
From Ulsan to Gangneung, it can take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours depending on the route and the traffic. With the new expressway to Pohang, you can shave off a bit of time before you head along the coastal road. As we approached the city for our much needed weekend away, I was saddened to see that skies were darkening. I have never been in the area before and I was hoping to have good weather to see the sites. Not knowing what to expect, we pushed on towards our destination and were blown away when reached the ocean. Despite the poor weather, the Seamarq looked magnificent. This was comforting when you’ve just driven 4 hours only to have your weekend washed out by heavy rain.
Gangneung is a cool city to check out. From the pine forests to the Gyeongpoho Lake which is just meters from the ocean it has a bit of everything and a lot of coffee! It is known for being the home of Korea’s first professional barista and the famous “Coffee Street” which is a strip of cafes along the beach. Trust me when I say that as a coffee-fiend, I was in heaven. With the Olympic park almost finished and so many interesting sites to visit, we vowed to return as Gangneung deserves more time to explore.
An Oasis in the Pine City
One of the reason’s I fell in love with this hotel was that it truly felt like an oasis. I have traveled to Jeju and stayed at some nice places but I never really achieved that sense of relaxation that you want when traveling. The Seamarq has been designed in such a way that it exudes relaxation. I am not exaggerating when I say that the “bali bali” eagerness of Korean life gets removed as soon as you step foot into the lobby of the Seamarq.
It could be that this hotel is so uniquely designed that it tricks the mind or it could be the fact that everything right down to the very scent of the hotel has been crafted to give you a true sense of relaxation. Whatever it is, this hotel and this beachside city stole my heart as soon as I walked in.
Designed by world renowned Architect Richard Meier, the Seamarq is a hotel unlike any that I have seen before. The white marble building sits upon a hill overlooking the ocean. Everywhere you look in the Seamarq is piece of fine art including the furniture in the lobby.
An International Approach
Upon checking in, I was amazed at how professional the staff were. Everything was written in both English and Korean. There were freindly notes in the room explaining important details and making us feel welcome. In my time in Korea, I have traveled all across the country and rarely am impressed by the service at some of the hotels. Here, everyone was warm, friendly and knowledgeable. I met Chris Kim, who is the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Seamarq, who offered to give me a tour of the hotel at my leisure. I took him up on the offer shortly after checking in. I wanted to know more about the hotel and it’s unique features.
The level of professionalism and courtesy from the staff went above and beyond anything that I have experienced in Korea. Chris and the rest of the Seamarq staff were amazing. This was what I expected when staying at a high-end hotel but rarely achieved until now. For a place that will be minutes away from some of the most important venues for the 2018 Winter Olympics, the staff at the Seamarq are more than ready.
After the 4 hour drive in the rain, all I wanted to do after my hotel tour, was to lay down and relax. Typically for me, hotel rooms are jumping off points for my photographic adventure. However, our room was different. I didn’t want to leave!
The room offered unparalleled views of the ocean,Gyeongpo beach and also overlooked a pristine lake. Better yet, the room was silent! I am not sure how they achieved this but it was so quiet that you actually fall asleep to the sounds of the waves crashing against the shores below.
Each part of the room has be crafted to make sure that you are looked after. From the espresso machine to the rainshower, this by far the best hotel experience I have ever had. When a room is so comfortable that you don’t even want to leave, you know that it is quality. Not to mention that the bad was like sleeping on a cloud. Typically most foreigners have issues with the Korean style mattresses. Here, you will be able to fall asleep in seconds.
Overall, I was just amazed at how well the room was put together. Nothing annoys me more than heading to a hotel like this only to find that they skimped on the tiny details that make staying at a hotel that much better. By this I mean that the minibar and coffee was complimentary and the bathroom included high end toiletries. This maybe a weird thing to focus on but after working in hotels for a number of years like did, you recognized these details. You realized that the Seamarq has everything covered and you can rest easy.
A good hotel is nothing without a wide range of facilities to occupy and entertain the guest. The Seamarq has some of the best that I have ever seen. The infinity pool that overlooks the ocean and also an amazing indoor pool are open extremely early. This is a plus if you are like me and would rather not been seen by too many people while swimming. During the tour Chris Kim showed me the gym facilities that I desperately needed but failed to use. One feature that stood out was the yoga room that faced towards the ocean. Again, this attention to detail really shocked me.
The Thermal Suite
This was one of the highlights of the stay. I have gone to other jimjilbangs and saunas in Korea and they have been far from relaxing. Here, it was unreal. The staff again, was attentive and courteous. The pools were amazing! each pool was a different temperature and included a milk pool outside. That was my favourite as I just soaked there in the warm waters listening to the sounds of the seaside.
Another cool feature was the ice scrub. That is right after coming out of the sauna, there is a mountain of snow that you can cool yourself down with as well as increase circulation. Once finished you can head over the showers and was up. The area was immaculate and well maintained. Once toweled off I was offered a bottle of water by the attendant who made sure that fan was turned on for me. I walked out of the thermal suite smelling like a rose and feeling like a million bucks. What an experience!
The Lounge and Library
The Seamarq also has a number of other cool features for both families and hipsters alike. There is a fully equipped Kid’s Club to look after the kids while you can relax and “The Library” is unreal. Located in the VIP area, this place has a number of first edition books and a Brionvega turntable. These pieces are expertly curated and utterly amazing. You can also end your evening at The Lounge which not only has an amazing bar, overlooks the ocean but has live classical music playing there every Saturday night. The music can be enjoyed anywhere in the lobby and just seems to add to the luxury of the experience.
If you have spent anytime in Korea you know what a disappointment many of the so-called buffets are. From cold food to expensive prices, my wife and I vowed never to return to some in Ulsan. Our experience at the restaurant in the Seamarq was nothing more than life-changing. Starting with the warm greeting by the manager who remember me from the tour. He was so kind, it felt like he’d know us for years.
The food was amazing and I was impressed with the wide variety of the dishes. Everything was bursting with flavour. This is something lacking in many buffet restaurants. Here at the Seamarq, I kept wishing my stomach was bigger. From roast beef to kimbap, they had it all.The desserts were also so decadent and the coffee was amazing. To be honest, I couldn’t wait until morning. Waking up for the breakfast buffet was christmas morning to me.
There is also the higher end “Chef’s Table” which I can only imagine would be simply amazing. The quant room and style seating provides the perfect platform to enjoy some of the best food in Korea. On my next trip up, I will make sure to check this out.
Staying at the Seamarq was a great experience and one that I highly recommend. Too often we fail to treat ourselves here in Korea. My advice would be to head up to the Seamarq and check out what the city of Gangneung has to offer. The hotel and city will no doubt be a hit during the Olympics. For more information please visit their site by clicking the button below.
The Seamarq Hotel