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Destination Dispatches: Unleashing That Inner (Urban) Resort Person at the Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul

- Meg Nesterov, Guest Blogger

I’ve never been a resort person. Maybe it’s a decade of New York City living, but I feel uncomfortable if I’m more than a few minutes’ walk from civilization and prefer to do more with my vacations than lazing by the pool. But after a month of travel in New Zealand and Korea and staring down the barrel of 36 hours of flights home with a one-year-old, I figured we could use a little lazing by the pool and I liked the sound of an “urban resort” like the Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul. Checking out the Google Map, I was pleased to see it was actually near civilization, tucked away in Namsan park but only a few minutes’ taxi ride from downtown, where we were doing some last-minute shopping.

Check-in at the resort was seamless and we were soon whisked up to our room (only four per floor, very posh), where we giddily checked out all the many amenities at our disposal. My baby Vera was beside herself with joy at playing with the smooth pebbles surrounding the relaxation pool bathtub, while my husband announced he might actually sleep in the pool. That suited me fine, as I could enjoy a steam and uninterrupted shower with awesome views of the city and Mt. Namsan. After a month of traveling to places with steep internet fees and limited usage, it was a pleasure to browse freely throughout the resort and get work a little work done, though we felt work went against the spirit of being at a resort.

We eventually tore ourselves away from our laptops and bathroom to check out the outdoor pool and club buildings. Bustling but not over-crowded on a hot summer day, it was refreshing to see many locals at the pool rather than just foreign hotel guests. We marveled at the well-behaved Korean children playing in the kids’ pool and introduced Vera to the fun of sand and water at the cleverly-designed sandbox/baby pool. With her entertained, we ordered some refreshments from the bar and people-watched as the crowd changed from relaxing businessmen and families with children in the afternoon to glamorous young students and professionals arriving in early evening for the extensive buffet dinner and cocktails al fresco. On the way back to our room, we stopped by the Kids’ Club and discovered a delightful clubhouse for children, with a pint-sized library, arts & crafts room, and lots of different places to play. If we’d stayed longer, perhaps Vera could have checked into the club while I had one of the delicious-sounding spa treatments.

Dinner plans were thwarted by the baby refusing to sleep (she wanted more pool time), so we ended up taking a stroll out of the resort and down the hill to lull her to sleep. The walk did the trick and I was pleased to see we were a relatively easy walk (or very easy bus ride if you are less encumbered) away from a few restaurants, grocery stores, and a metro station. We hiked back up the hill to admire the city view at night from the Festa bar, overlooking the club goers out by the pool. While the main building was buzzing with well-dressed wedding guests, all was quiet by bedtime and we managed to get a great rest before our journey began.

I woke up refreshed before the alarm the next morning, excited to see what was for breakfast, and the dining lounge downstairs did not disappoint. Starting with a sip of a creative smoothie (and a bit of restorative Champagne, it was the end of our vacation), we sampled a good mix of local and Western, healthy and indulgent, freshly-cooked and freshly-picked foods for breakfast. As we prepared to depart, the concierge helped me avoid a potential issue on the airport train (she guessed that our stroller might be too wide in the narrow aisles) and instead suggested we take a quick taxi to the nearby Shilla resort and take the airport “limousine” bus from there. We left Seoul wondering how soon we could return and that maybe we weren’t resort people, but urban resort people.

Meg Nesterov has been an Istanbul expat for two years, writing about travel for Gadling and about traveling with a baby on KnockedUpAbroadTravels.com.

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