The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.
Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore
There are 12 different Starwood options in Seoul (10 of which are currently open and accepting reservations), including four Sheratons, two Design Hotels, two Alofts, two Four Points, one Westin, and one W.
The only brand I currently needed to complete the 11 brands 11,000 Starpoints challenge was an Element, which I would pick up when I go to New York for the US Open in September. Although it was mighty tempting to go with a Sheraton for the triple points bonus, their locations were all terrible compared to the Westin. Besides, the Westin Seoul had the highest reviews of all the Starwood properties in Seoul
The Westin Chosun Seoul (not to be mistaken with the Westin Chosun in Busan) occupies a prime location downtown, very close to the Myeongdong walking area.
But did you know this modern looking building has a much more storied history?
The Chosun hotel is the oldest hotel in Korea and in 2014 celebrated 100 years of operation. From the Korea Herald–
The construction of the Gyeongbu railway line in 1905 led to an increase in freight and passenger transport, both domestically and internationally, and the demand for hotel accommodation in Seoul began to grow.
At the time the original four-story, 52-room Chosun Hotel was built in the early 1900s, it was considered to be the epitome of affluence for its modern, Western-style design. Nestled in Sogong-dong in the heart of Seoul, The Chosun Hotel was the first hotel in the city to have an elevator, French restaurant and buffet, and to offer its guests ice cream. It was also the first to host a dance party.
The hotel’s rich political history has also made the Chosun Hotel one of the most significant lodging establishments in the country. After the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1945, the U.S. military occupied the hotel and Gen. John R. Hodge made the Chosun its official residence. Shortly afterward President Syngman Rhee, the country’s first president, changed the hotel’s official English name to The Chosun Hotel from The Chosen Hotel (the Japanese pronunciation).
The original Chosun featured the hotel’s popular royal suite Room 201, which was mainly reserved for royalty from Japan and Europe during the colonial period. Also referred to as the “Imperial Suite,” the room was most famously occupied by Dr. Jae-pil Seo (Philip Jisohn), who lived in it for nearly a year from July 1947. So was an influential figure in Korea’s independence movement and the founder of the first Korean newspaper in Hangeul.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Chosun was briefly taken over by the North Korean army. However, despite the massive political turmoil and widespread destruction of infrastructure, the hotel was one of the least-damaged buildings in the city during the war.
Over its century-long history the Chosun has played host to an endless number of VIP guests and dignitaries, from presidents to politicians and celebrities. Former U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, General Douglas MacArthur and Marilyn Monroe were all Westin Chosun guests.
Note to self: history lessons are easy ways of filling word counts
Our taxi driver got lost at first and had to loop around a few times before he found the entrance to the hotel. The area around the Westin is a bit like the CBD in Singapore- a lot of one-way streets, and missing the turn can add 5 mins to the journey because of traffic lights and loops.
We finally got the right turn and pulled into the driveway. We were greeted and ushered into the lobby.
Check-in was speedy. I was given both the 500 points and complimentary breakfast for every day of my stay, which I could take in the lounge, at Aria (buffet) or at Vecchia E Nuovo (ala carte). I’m already impressed when a property offers to let me take my breakfast in the main (usually bigger spread) restaurant, let alone 3 options.
They also informed me that I’d been upgraded to a junior suite. My colleague was thoroughly envious of the perks of SPG Platinum status by now and was at the tail end of a status challenge. With this stay she would hit the 18 nights mark required to get her account upgraded. Until then, she had to make do with the usual generic Gold upgrade of “high floor room”.
I’d been given a room on the 7th floor (the property has 20 floors)
I had room 711, which as you can see from the floor plan is plenty big, about the size of 2 regular rooms
When you enter the room you can turn left and go to the living room or turn right and enter the bedroom. There are 2 bathrooms in the suite, one in the foyer and one in the bedroom.
This is the living room. It had a big work desk and seating area.
There was a coffee machine on top of the minibar which used Nespresso capsules.
On the table I found a little welcome gift of chocolate and a note
The bedroom had 1 single bed and 1 double bed. You’re normally used to seeing suites with only 1 king bed so this was potentially useful if you were travelling as a group.
The view was uninspiring, but this is a business hotel after all. I had an awesome view of the carpark where China tourists disembarked to swarm upon the nearby department stores.
Everything in the room was controlled through this central console. I could control the lights, the A/C, the audio on the TV, request the room to be cleaned, get a K-pop band in your room etc.
The bathroom featured a big sunken tub and shower (but stand alone tubs are, in my opinion, so much more welcoming)
A toilet sans bidet.
Major design flaw with the loo- when you sit on it your legs are pressed up against the shower glass. It may look sort of roomy here but believe me there isn’t a lot of space to move.
Only one sink, which was a bit disappointing for a suite room. That said there were 2 bathrooms so you could always have your partner use the other one.
I liked the cute arrangement of the toiletries. You could refer to a grid map and see what was what. This had the toothbrush kit, the shower cap, the razor, the cotton kit, the shower cap etc all in one neatly laid out box. I think housekeeping was OCD because when I removed one box and disrupted the picture it was replaced immediately the next day.
Even better, in addition to the (somewhat underwhelming) Westin brand of toiletries, this property had added Sothys to the mix. Even a philistine like me knew that Sothys was a good (read: expensive) brand.
Housekeeping replenished the Sothys liberally each day.
One of the best features of the Westin Chosun is its excellent club lounge. Although I preferred taking breakfast down at Aria because of the bigger spread, I’d always head down for the 5-7pm happy hour at the lounge.
The evening spread in the lounge is head and shoulders above any other executive lounge I’ve visited before and puts to shame those terrible ones in the US which nickle and dime you for everything.
On the spread is an assortment of cold cuts and smoked salmon
Chips, nuts, guacamole, salsa
Fresh cut fruit. Melons were in season but not in this photo.
A robust alcohol selection including sparkling wine, beers and the usual hard liquors.
I assembled myself a plate and found a place to sit. The lounge had great views of surrounding Seoul.
All in all, a very nice place to sit and relax
And the service was impeccable. Invisible when you didn’t need it, always there when you wanted it.
On to breakfast-here are the options the hotel has for taking breakfast.
I opted to dine in Aria throughout because I really liked the spread.
The interesting thing about this property is that your card controls everything. You scan your room card when you get to the breakfast venue and immediately the host knows whether or not your rate includes breakfast, and if you’re a Platinum guest whether you’ve already had breakfast in another venue. I got the lounge to reverse my tap during the second day when I went to check out the lounge and found the selection to be much weaker than downstairs.
The spread was extensive and featured several organic items too. I’m of course not sold on the benefits of organic but I appreciate the thought.
Some bonus material. My colleague and I really wanted to try Korean BBQ so we googled and found that Maple Tree House was a highly recommended place to go to.
So we found one nearby
It started promisingly enough and I was looking forward to the beef.
But all the meat came unseasoned. I get that if the meat is high quality enough it should speak for itself with minimal intervention. Still, this was so tremendously disappointing compared to the Korean BBQs I had in Singapore.
But maybe what I’m having in Singapore isn’t the real thing and I’m like one of those Americans who goes abroad and is disappointed to find that General Tso’s chicken does not exist. Korean experts, feel free to pitch in here.
More bonus material: I had originally been intending to stay at the Westin all the way until I flew back to Tokyo, but I noticed a great weekend rate for the W Seoul and decided to check out for the last night to explore that property instead.