Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hotel Lotte, Jeju Island - World's Best?

We arrived in Jeju Island an hour early.

Rainy and cold, we took the limousine bus (for 3900Won/person) because our limo was still in the hotel. That's what we get for arriving early.

Miraculously, when we stepped out of the airport with freezing weather of 9C, the bus was already ready to leave. Ala Amazing Race Part 2, off we ran and got into the warm comfort of the bus.

It was pitch dark on the streets on the way to our hotel.

Jeju Island is the resort island of South Korea. Situation about 300 miles away from Seoul, Jeju Island is a volcanic island and is the only self autonomous region of South Korea. Aside from the historical attractions that Jeju Island offers, it is the home to Daum Communications, South Korea's leading internet company and sole owner of Lycos. Similar to the Philippines, the Jeju islanders have their own dialect.

After arriving at the Hotel Lotte, touted to be the World's Best Hotel at around 10pm, our weary bodies could not take it anymore. The large hotel contains a Casino, a windmill backdrop, and a large duty free including an exclusive Louis Vuitton outlet. No photos allowed though.

Getting from the lobby to the room was a challenge. You'd need to go through the maze of rooms. Reception was on the 8th floor (which was the lobby) and needed to take the elevator DOWN to your room. It was quite a walk (around 5 minutes) and no help from the bellhops. They will show you to the corridor that leads to the elevators and you're on your own. This is fine if you travel light like I do.

The rooms were clean and though a bit old, still had modern amenities. The floors were heated (had separate heating controls from the airconditioning system) and the rooms were large, had private verandas and Korean wooden sliding doors to all areas in the room. The interiors were sparsely decorated which kept the simplicity of each room. Internet was available at 10,000Won (~10USD/30 mins). Swimming indoor in the heated pool was available at 25,000Won entrance fee, even for guests. Bottled water was 3000Won. Everything you did in the hotel required payment, aside from your room charges.

And because all the restaurants close at exactly 10pm, we had to order room service.

The 3 days meeting was fruitful and a great learning experience. Great camaraderie and the regional goals were set and addressed appropriately.

There are only 3 restuarants in the hotel - Japanese, Korean and Western. We were rotating breakfast, lunch and dinner among the 3. On the second day, I was about to faint from the food choices.

Because the weather was extremely cold and we had sunshine only on the second day of the meeting, plus the fact that the meetings ended almost near dinner time, we stayed in.

I attempted to do some shopping in the hotel's duty free on the day before my departure. Surprise surprise!!! You need to purchase the item before 330pm. You cannot purchase duty free items and pick it up there. You will need to pick it up at the international airport you intend to leave from (Busan, Incheon, Gimpo...whichever).

Unfortunately I did not join the group tour on the last day. I was headed for the airport for my trip back home.

On the last day, I left after the morning session for my very long journey back home. I caught the 1210 connection from Jeju direct into Incheon, arrived in Incheon at 100pm and had to wait for my flight back to Manila at 750pm.

So what else was there to do but shop shop shop shop and sleep!

The Asiana Airlines business class lounge while sprawling and clean and had good service had very limited food choices. Snacks were served as were drinks.

In spite of the long wait at the airport, the thought of finally coming home to warm (should I say hot) Manila was all I could think of.

Boarding was prompt. When we departed, the temperature at Seoul was 1C.

The plane touched down in Manila at exactly 1045pm. Manila temperature - 31C!

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