Located in the province of Gangwon, South Korea, the quiet and comfortable St John’s Hotel is also close to most attractions, writes Loong Wai Ting
THE light drizzle turns into a heavy downpour. I pull out my heavy luggage from the back of the shuttle van and with a loud clunk, it hits the ground, splashing rainwater onto my new boots.
Cursing under my breath, I lift my luggage up to the curb that leads to the St John’s Hotel lobby in Gangneung city in the province of Gangwon, South Korea.
A good-looking butler comes running towards my direction, an umbrella in his hand. “Here, take this umbrella and let me get your luggage for you,” the handsome employee says, thrusting the black umbrella into my hand.
With a grateful smile, I take the umbrella and he runs towards the lobby with my luggage. A blast of cold air pushes me forward and I quicken my steps to join him.
Inside the brightly lit hotel lobby, I ditch the long queue and proceed to do my own check-in at one of the self check-in kiosks located beside the reception counter.
With a swipe of my passport on the screen, I can see my booking details written in English. A couple of touches later, the machine dispenses a couple of key cards and displays details of my room.
Opened just last year, this hotel is one the biggest in Gangneung, a city on the eastern side of Seoul. Just behind the hotel is Gangmun Beach, where pine woods line the entire expanse of the coast.
From the outside, the hotel facade looks like a huge cruise ship docked near the beach. Inside, the modern hotel has over 1,000 rooms, three restaurants (including a BBQ Garden) and an infinity pool that overlooks the beach, fitness centre and its very own glamping site.
This pet-friendly hotel also leaves multiple water bowls throughout its premises so that no pet has to go thirsty. Not only that, I like how the hotel has a small park for pets to run around in.
Many toys are strewn around the mini park for the pets to play with. If you’re planning to bring along your pet for a holiday here, the hotel also has a Pet Room, complete with a small bed for the furry ones.
I expect a common set-up in my room: A huge bed taking up most of the space and a work desk by its side. Sometimes, a few extra features go a long way. For example, I discover a small induction cooker and a sink, where guests can cook small meals throughout their stay.
I make a quick dash to the nearby convenience store and grab spicy kimchi ramyeon, which I later cook and eat in the comfort of my own room. Not only that, the large sliding window in my room opens up to the cabbage field below and I can even catch a glimpse of the ocean on my left.
Another feature I like about my room is the bathroom. It may look small but instead of a cramped space, the bathroom is divided into three smaller cubicles via a sliding door. When fully closed, it reveals a full-length mirror.
The next morning, I head to Flavor, one of the hotel’s main restaurants for breakfast. It is served buffet style and there is a wide array of dishes to choose from. When in Korea, you can never go wrong with rice and the various side dishes known as banchan.
Grabbing a plate, I pile my plate with gimgaru jumeokbap (rice balls with seaweed flakes) and banchan of all types. I also eat a huge bowl of fresh salad consisting of local vegetables and a special sauce. To complete my breakfast, I add a beautifully cooked sunny side up egg and a bowl of seaweed soup.
Now that I’ve filled my stomach, I am ready to explore Gangneung and see what the city has to offer. But first, I am going to stop by Sonamoo, a famous sundubu or tofu shop near the hotel for soft tofu ice cream gelato.
Pictures by Loong Wai Ting
ST JOHN’S HOTEL
307 Changhae-ro, Gangneung City,
STAY The hotel has 1,091 rooms, including
pet-friendly rooms and suites. Every room is
equipped with modern fittings and free WiFi access,
bathroom amenities and a smart TV. Although most
of the tourist attractions are located close to the
hotel, some can only be accessed by car or public
bus. The famous Sonamoo tofu restaurant is
a 10-minute walk away from the hotel.
EAT The hotel has five restaurants: Flavor, Hino’s
Recipe, Angpang. 307 Pocha and Verandah.
Wake up early and enjoy the wonderful breakfast
spread at Flavor. Meanwhile, 307 Pocha is a great
place to relax over a bottle of soju and Korean
DO Swim at the infinity pool or go for a leisurely
walk at Gangmun Beach.
GO Explore nearby Jumunjin Beach and take
pictures at the world-famous BTS bus stop.
If you’re a coffee lover, remember to time your visit
so that you won’t miss the yearly Gangneung Coffee
Festival. You can also grabaseat at one of the cafes
on Anmok Coffee Street and sip your cuppa while
enjoying a view of Anmok Beach.
As Gangneung is a coastal city, seafood is plenty in
this area. Do not leave Gangneung without eating
in one of the grilled fish restaurants or digging into
a bowl of piping hot tofu stew.
HIGH Quiet and comfortable rooms.
LOW Very packed during the holidays.