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Unique places to stay 2: when comfort meets convenience

2012/03/21 | 651 views |  | Permalink | Source

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If you're looking for a unique place to stay in Korea, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has released a new publication rounding up Korea's most unique hotels, resorts, spas, and guest houses.

The booklet features 50 accommodations across Korea, divided into five chapters: "Unique Designs Featuring Special Themes", "When Comfort Meets Convenience", "Discovering Korea's Traditional Culture", "Beautiful Places with Picturesque Views", and "Luxury Resorts". The spotlighted lodgings are selected based on accessibility, environment, nearby tourist attractions, facilities, and uniqueness.

Image courtesy of the KTO

The second chapter spotlights 13 hotels that serve not just as lodging but as destinations themselves. Some offer art and culture, while others provide facilities for activities like swimming and skiing. Also, some of the resorts have a traditional Korean theme, while others take their design cues from European countries including Spain, Scotland, Italy, and Germany.

As we saw in the previous chapter, many of Korea's most unique hotels have a strong connection with the arts, and are designed and operated by artists. This chapter presents three such examples, all which are located in Paju City.

For art fans, Yonaluky is an ideal destination, in which every room is transformed into an art gallery. Each room has a unique theme, spotlighting its own artist or theme. There is also a cultural complex in the basement, and the lounge and lobby are venues for a variety of exhibits, performances, and special events such as weddings. As well, Yonaluky is renowned for its diverse offering of spas, earning it the nickname "Spa Ville".

Yonaluky in Paju (photo courtesy of the KTO)

 Yonaluky may be for art lovers, but Motif 1 is for the artists themselves. Located in Hyeri Art Village in Paju, Motif 1 is not just a guesthouse -- it's also an art studio open for its guests to use. Run by photographer Lee An-soo, the five-room accommodation has hosted painters, writers, poets, photographers, sculptors, and musicians from around the world. Lee maintains Motif 1 as a meeting point for global artists.

Motif 1 in Hyeri Art Village in Paju (photo courtesy of the KTO)

For readers, writers, and publishers, Jijihyang is another guesthouse themed on books and literature. It is located in Paju Book City, a cultural industrial complex dedicated to the publishing industry, hosting dozens of publishing companies as well as book stores, book cafes, and art galleries. Jijihyang, whose name means "birthplace of paper", is an ideal place to stay when visiting the area. Although Jijihyang has a minimalist design compared to most of the other places included in the KTO's book, it is intended as a place to go to learn about the Korean publishing industry and maybe relax between the covers of a good book or ten.

Jijihyang in Paju Book City (photos courtesy of the KTO)

 Another interesting place to encounter Korean culture producers is Morning Calm Village, a resort in Cheorwon County, Gangwon-do (Gangwon Province) run by Sim Entertainment, an agency representing many of Korea's movie and TV stars. As such, the resort is a popular destination for Korean celebrities, as well as a frequent set for the filming of TV shows and movies. The resort not only provides the opportunity for a glimpse into celebrity lives, but also features beautiful scenery around the nearby Hantangang River, as well as birdwatching opportunities during the colder months of the year.

A cafe in Morning Calm Village adorned with movie posters (photo courtesy of the KTO)

 Some of the accommodations featured in this chapter have more of a historic theme, although the following chapter will delve deeper into traditional accommodations.

Opened in 2010, Lotte Buyeo Resort is Korea's first resort that combines history and culture. Although the resort looks like a normal modern building, it incorporates traditional architectural concepts into its design, bringing them into the modern world. Due to its location in Buyeo County, Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong Province), it's right in the heart of the kingdom of Baekjae (18 BC - 660 AD). Visitors can visit nearby attractions such as Baekje Cultural Land and Buyeo National Museum.

Lotte Buyeo Resort in Buyeo County, the old capital of Baekje (photo courtesy of the KTO)

Further south in Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang Province), travelers can get a different slice of history at Sancheong Hanbang Resort. The region is significant to the history of Korean Oriental medicine, or "Hanbang", playing host to traditional medicine and herbal festivals, as well as related museums and other destinations.

The buildings of Sancheong Hanbang Resort are built of local red clay and lumber, and are shaped like mushrooms, giving the area the atmosphere of a fairy tale from long ago. The pension houses each are named after local herbs, such as Sanyusu (cornus fruit), Sansam (wild ginseng), and Sambaekcho (flaming dragon), all found on nearby Jiri Mountain. The resort also features a Korean Oriental medicine sauna, with saunas using conventional pine firewood, as well as red clay, and even wormwood. Guests may also try out the herbal bath.

Sancheong Hanbang Resort in Sancheong County (photo courtesy of the KTO

As well as traditional Korean culture, this chapter of the KTO's book highlights four European-inspired accommodations.

The El Dorado Resort in Sinan County, Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province), provides the unique flair of a Spanish-style coastal villa. As it is in the same county as the island of Jeungdo, which became Asia's first town to join the international Slow City movement, the resort too is considered a "slow resort" where travelers can truly relax in peace.

On the opposite coast, Hanhwa Resort Seorak Sorano welcomes visitors to its Italian-themed facilities. The nine interconnected buildings are modeled after the small Tuscan village of Sorano, best evidenced in the resort's red roof and yellow walls. On weekends, the lobby is alive with the music of a string quartet, welcoming visitors and bidding them arrivederci! The resort also offers its own recently renovated waterpark, Seorak Waterpia, as well as a golf course, 4D movie theatre, and film set where many Korean TV shows are filmed.

El Dorado Resort in Sinan County (top); Hanhwa Resort Seorak Sorano in Sokcho (photos courtesy of the KTO)

 Mayfield Hotel & Resort in southwestern Seoul resembles a European castle, complete with gardens. As well, it's convenient to both Gimpo and Incheon international airports, and not far from downtown Seoul.

Meaning "hill house" in German, the Hugel-heim in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon-do, is a complex of limestone structures based on a modern, simplistic German architectural design. Located in the vicinity of the venue of the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, this resort is perfect for a wide variety of outdoor activities for every season of the year, set to the backdrop of beautiful landscapes.

Mayfield Hotel & Resort in Seoul (left); Hugel-heim in Pyeongchang County (right) (photos courtesy of the KTO)

Travelers don't have to go as far as Pyeongchang to find a good ski resort; Konjiam Resort in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province) is a mere 40 minutes away. Guests can try out the Wellness Spa for one-on-one customized programs, or try the outdoor family spa. There is also an artificial cave under the complex which holds a wine cellar big enough to hold 100,000 bottles of wine, as well as an Italian restaurant and a wine-tasting room.

Another decent resort with its own waterpark that comes recommended in the KTO's book is The Ocean Resort down in Yeosu, Jeollanam-do. The Ocean Water Park has several swimming pools -- including an outdoor wavepool -- and waterslides, the steepest of which has a 72-degree drop. As well, the waterpark offers a terrific view of the Yellow Sea and nearby islands. It will be a popular resort this year with Expo 2012 held in the city from May 12 to August 12. 

Further south, on the eastern coast of Jeju Island, Phoenix Island is a condo-style resort that is built right next to Sinyang Beach. The resort also offers a small theme park for children, and a members-only club covered by a huge glass pyramid designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Another attraction is Glass House, a restaurant that provides a stunning view of the beach on one side and Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak on the other.

Konjiam Resort in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do (top left); Phoenix Island's Glass House on Jeju Island (top right); The Ocean Resort in Yeosu (bottom) (photos courtesy of the KTO)

Korea's Most Unique Accommodations is distributed by the KTO's overseas offices. It is also available for online reading. You can open it in your browser from the KTO's webpage: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FU/FU_EN_15.jsp?cid=1560108

By Jon Dunbar
Korea.net Editor

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