What does today’s business traveller, or any other traveller for that matter, really want? Probably some, whether Korean or any other nationality, would not mind a golf practice facility, and any luxury hotel that provides it will rate higher in a customer survey. The gal popped into the golf room of Conrad Seoul merely to find somewhere to sit to put her shoes back on. Anyone booking a club room, by the way, gets 30 minutes’ free use of this golf room, which must be a big draw.
And why did I need to sit down to put my shoes on? I had been exploring the excellent eighth floor wellness complex of this fabulous hotel, one year old next month (and Conrad Seoul does not ‘do’ unnecessary seating, it is minimalism meets Scandinavia). I had been checking out the Olympic-sized pool, and the stunning and enormous gym. The deposit for outside membership, by the way, is a staggering US$50,000, but you get it back whenever you want. What is non-refundable is the additional $3,000 annual membership, but the 450 who have paid up can work out, whenever, 24/7. The gym has the latest Precor, by the way, with television channels clearly listed, in alphabetical order.
Will the 434-room hotel be celebrating its birthday, on November 12th, 2013? As GM Nils-Arne Schroeder confirms, the first birthday is the most important here in Korea (you have survived birth), with the next top-level anniversaries being 60th and 70th (you have survived life). He does not plan a mammoth party. Perhaps there will be a celebration in the very agreeable and popular buffet restaurant Zest, on the hotel’s second floor. You can reach it, obviously, by elevator or by 80 white stone steps up the significant wood-edged spiral staircase rising from the hotel’s lobby to the fifth floor (175 steps in all). Note to any designers – please make steps a feature.
The architects, Arquitectonica from Miami, have put in lots of features. The rectangular lobby soars up 75 feet, and bronze coloured glass amoebic shapes hang from its ceiling. Upper corridor floors are carpeted in soft teal, with emblems of gingko leaves, symbolising health, wealth and good luck: gingko leaves also appear as silhouettes on corrugated cardboard-like panels on elevator lobby floors (travel tip, never push the elevator button that has a handicapped sign by it as you then wait for that particular elevator – there is also a raised rubber floor panel, for blind people). Up on the top, 37th, floor, the end wall between the elevator features what looks like a wood ladder that rises up and over and becomes the ceiling.
The 37th floor houses the Club Lounge and also another restaurant, 37 Grill & Bar, this designed by Peter Remedios. Diners come here for views, over the Han River and the Seoul skyline. They also come for leisurely meals, with lots of emphasis on Australian beef. A glass cabinet holding fine wines acts as barrier between this, the public room, and a private dining room. Cooking is very public, as you can see, across the main room, black-clad chefs poring over their artistic presentations.
I loved 3506, a Conrad Suite which did give me access to that lounge: it also gave me a microwave had I wanted to cook for myself. I wonder what happened when the likes of Justin Bieber, Tom Cruise and Will Smith did when they stayed in this luxury hotel – did they heat up little somethings in their microwaves? I am dreaming. The alarm goes, I watch the sun rise the other side of the Han River. Time to get up, get ready and get into gear for a session of Seoul Fashion Week.