Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Speedy Trip to Seoul and a Disastrous Stay at The Plaza (Only Humorous in Retrospect)

So, after my luxurious and wonderful stay at the Mandarin in Taipei at the end of November/beginning of December (I will admit the hotel had its downfalls, but overall it was very pleasant and enjoyable), I was in for a rude awakening for my work trip to Seoul.

I was in a pretty grouchy and tired state, having sat through an entire day's session of meetings conducted in Mandarin, knowing that I was sleep deprived and just dreading my late night flight into Seoul.  I knew that it was really cold in Seoul and not only I did not have a winter jacket, scarf or gloves, Seoul was an hour ahead so I would be losing more sleep, and to top it all off, I only had more meetings to look forward to the next day.

Needless to say, I was already not very happy.

So imagine my dismay when I landed at Seoul at midnight (due to the time difference), where it was a shocking -5 degrees Celsius (people in Hong Kong grumble when it drops to 12 degrees Celsius, and while I am still an American at heart it is true that my blood has thinned significantly since coming out here), and learned as I pulled my car-sick self into the hotel car… that it was an HOUR's drive to the hotel…

It was so bad that it was becoming comical as, at 1 AM, my driver finally pulled up to the Plaza, a local hotel masquerading as a luxury premium hotel.  How do I know it was not quite luxury?  Hmmm… these were the hallways.
 These were the entrances to the room.
 This was my door!
 This was the mini bar…where in addition to tea and water, you can also purchase a toothbrush, toothpaste or razor.  I actually ended up purchasing both because I had thought the hotel would provide me with these things.  Incidentally, I enjoyed every single bite of the nearly frozen Almond Snickers bar that I had from that mini bar fridge.  Yum.
My room was tiny - just big enough to fit a double sized bed (you can see how close the counter is to the bed in the mirror), a counter for my stuff, and a flat screen television.

The very best part of the room is that it was adorned with two huge mirrors on either side of the wall.  Ludicrous!  I started laughing when I entered the room.  All I needed was another mirror on the ceiling.  Seriously?  The mirrors were likely there to make the room feel bigger, and I know the bed is an important part of a hotel room... but surely this was taking it too far…
and just in case the set up did not feel sufficiently boudoir-esque with the gold lights, dim hallways and bright red lamps, my room also had these two huge lamps on either side, comically large in proportion to the room, to make me feel like I was starring in my very own seedy production.
They could not have made this feel more like a love hotel slash pornography set if they had tried.  Just what I need at 1 AM at night after a long flight fighting food poisoning from my greasy spoon lunch in Taipei.

I didn't take pictures of the bathroom because it was so tight in there that it was impossible to take a picture of anything and have the picture make sense.  The door to the bathroom was a sliding door because there was no room for a door that opened into the bathroom.  The shower was a tiny cube of a stall that was actually all glass, but for a curtain on the outside that kept it hidden from the bedroom.

The whole thing screamed…classy.

The only good thing I have to say about the hotel is that they offered nice toiletries.  They had a very nice Molton Brown shampoo and body wash set that I enjoyed.

Everything in the room was programmed to be controlled from a touch screen by my bed - however, that ingenuity didn't really work when the touch screen kept freezing up and I spent a lot of time jabbing my fingers at it and growling.

Things actually were much worse the second night when I was up until 2 AM (I would like to point out that that was in large part due to my loving and supportive fiancĂ© who was incredibly frustrated that somehow I did not have time, between back to back meetings, diligence calls, more meetings, late night flights and drafting multiple draft documents, to look at Catholic churches in New York City and do more wedding planning), and the heater in the room went ballistic, heating up to an incredible 28.5 degrees Celsius.  It was actually almost demonic - the more I jabbed at the buttons to lower the heat, the higher the heat climbed!

It was so hot and I was so frustrated that, after calling the front desk demanding help, I propped the door open.  I tried to ignore how vulnerable I felt with the door propped open at 2:30 in the morning in this super sketchy hotel as I frantically tried to pack.  After what felt like hours, three big Korean men showed up at my room, with various tools and a fan.  Yes, their solution was to bring me a fan -- a bona fide, oscillating, 1980s look alike floor fan.  They tinkered with the heat for a good five minutes, trying to ignore me in my pajamas, and finally declared that the heater was actually only at 23 degrees Celsius, but the heat indicator was what was broken and therefore showing an unrealistic temperature.  Oh-kay.

At that point I decided to chalk this whole thing up to just a ridiculous farce and a good story.  I chugged two huge bottles of water, trying to ignore how parched I was from the frantically overworking heater, and just prayed for a speedy departure.  I guess the moral of the story is, you have to roll with these things when you're working and traveling… because sometimes you get the Mandarin Oriental… and sometimes you get the Plaza!

This was my view in the morning. I looked out upon the ice skating rink and was situated directly across from City Hall.  If Seoul looks cold, trust me, it was. It was frigid.  Random side note: I thought it was interesting how wide the streets were.
We went to two days' worth of meetings in Seoul, which were fine and interesting enough as far as these negotiations go.  This was the view from the office meeting room:

I liked the clear skies but I was so very grateful to be indoors!

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