I have an obsession with beauty products. Especially those that are hard to get and promise miraculous results. K-beauty is by definition all of the above. So, a trip to the land of sheet masks, BB cream and the 10-step skincare routine has been on my bucket list for a while. The stars aligned and a Korean investor invited me to Seoul for a few days and I almost instantly said yes.
Between meetings, I delighted in the solitude of quiet temples; and I collected a suitcase full of K-Beauty products for my team back home.
One of the highlights of my travel was the hotel that lifted me up in the clouds and bundled me in their fluffy hospitality.
Opened last year in April, Signiel Seoul at LOTTE World Tower (the tallest building in Korea) is shiny new. It borrows from both the sides of the globe, the East and the West and aesthetically blends the two.
Soaring in the skies between 77th and 101st floors of the tower, Signiel Seoul - a member of The Leading Hotels Of The World - gives a taste of luxury in the busy Gangnam district. Come here for the view - the hotel towers over the city and paints the skyline from all its 235 tastefully decorated rooms and suites. Wooden furnishings, marble tiles, wall murals, and carpeted floors in the guestrooms add to its understated luxury.
My room was on the 99th floor. The views were mindblowing. It was pretty much the most hi-tech hotel room I have ever stayed in and I kid you not - the most comfortable bed ever. The toilet seat alone came with all the bells and whistles you could imagine! The hotel is linked to the Time Square mall. I was in heaven.
For gourmet travellers, the hotel has a really special line up of five restaurants and lounges: A Michelin-starred restaurant STAY; contemporary Korean restaurant Bicena; members’-only Signiel Club; a champagne bar, Bar 81; and The Lounge.
One thing that is top priority for me is a fitness centre, and the hotel was equipped with that as well. It also has a spa, a salon, an indoor swimming pool, and a sauna. I had some wonderful sessions in their Pilates studio. The instructor was a delicate Korean woman who spoke little English, but she managed to give me the most body-altering lessons!
I enjoyed a daily scrumptious breakfast at STAY - their pancakes were a work of art. On the weekend they host a lavish brunch. It’s the place where locals come to see and be seen.
The efficiency of the staff won me over. I was running in and out of the property and they made sure I had everything to keep me moving. On my day of departure, I had a stylish escort - a Rolls Royce. I will definitely be back and am looking forward to staying at the Signiel Seoul!
South Korea’s capital is multi-faceted: modern and traditional; quirky and calm; running in the world race and meditating atop sentinel mountains. There are plenty of things to do in Seoul, so plan your travel with food, shopping and culture in mind.
On your menu in Seoul should be bibimbap and kimchi, a Korean-style barbeque, and live octopus (for the adventurous souls). You must also try soju, an alcoholic beverage made of rice. It is deceptively mild. The traditional Korean banquet is many, many courses long, so get comfy.
Must-visit restaurants in the city are Bad Farmer’s (for veggie food), and Mingles (for new Asian cuisine).
I ate a whole ginseng root with honey - so delicious - the most phenomenal ‘temple food’ at the Michelin starred Chaegeundaam.
Definitely try street food at Gwanjang Market - I loved the Veggie kimbap - with the phenomenal yellow mustard sauce, spicy rice cake ‘tteokbokki’, mung bean pancakes ‘bindaettok’.
Flanked by high-rise buildings, the Bongeunsa Temple is a 1,000-year-old Buddhist landmark in the Gangnam district. It was a peaceful oasis in the midst of a bustling city. Another must-visit is the Gagwonsa Temple that welcomes travellers with a giant Buddha statue.
This is the best part. Korea has everything from clothes, make-up and skincare products and cool gizmos and gadgets. For beauty products, look up brands such as Memebox, I Am Sorry For My Skin, and April Skin. You have to go to the Meyong-dong district that is like a mecca for beauty - hundreds of beauty stores in clustered together.
Fashionistas should head to Hongdae region for trendy clothes and contemporary designs. The LOTTEWorld Mall is unmissable - a crazy, massive duty-free store. I spent lots of time (and money) at the Times Square Mall.
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