(Neither I nor Chickadee has any relationship with the place covered in this article)
I was a little bit annoyed when my husband called my name repeatedly to wake me up in the morning. But when I turned around and slowly opened my eyes, a beautiful sunrise was gradually coloring the dark sky and ocean with red on the glass terrace doors in our room.
I was so hyped up as soon as I walked into the hotel that I couldn’t fall asleep until late the night before. Moreover, the moon reflected so beautifully on the deep, magnificent ocean that I had to stay on the terrace for a while, listening to the waves from the beach nearby and staring at countless stars and alike lights from fishing boats far from the shore. It’d been only a few hours since I went to bed and I was very tired. But I got up and went up to the pool with my husband, who seemed determined enough to go up there even by himself. I just didn’t want to miss the sunrise.
Stepping out of an elevator, we saw the glass walls wrapped around by a beautiful sunrise. The dark sky had already turned blue and the ocean was casting back the very first sunlight of the day. In the middle of them, there was the sun, a small, burning circle still hanging low above the horizon. We went outside in a rush. The air was cold and fresh. Strong winds blew in from the ocean messing up my hair, causing both of us to burst into laughter.
We quickly took our robes off, jumped into the pool and started swimming towards the sun. The wind kept sending strong waves against us, but we fixed our gaze on the beautiful sun, which was shining in multiple colors not found in any color palette I’ve ever seen, and kept swimming towards the horizon. The pool seemed to be extended to the sea. The sun rising felt so close to my eyes I was sure I could reach it by swimming.
It was one of the most beautiful sceneries I’d ever seen. It produced a pure joy and happiness like the feelings I used to have a long time ago when I was little. What made me even happier was the feeling that I had renewed my happiest moment at that time. It was just two of us in the early morning outdoor pool.
After magically changing the sky and ocean in real time, the sun finally ushered a bright morning in. We decided to stop by a sauna before going back to our room. Out of the pool, we quickly put our robes on and moved inside full of warm and cozy sunlight. We felt at ease. What a peace of mind knowing that the place where we could warm up our bodies again is just a few steps away!
We melted our bodies in the sauna and had a quick shower. Then we soaked in the outdoor hot spring. I slowly dissolved my sleepiness into the hot water while listening to rustling bamboo leaves and bubbling water sounds. A ray of warm sunlight sneaked in, along with a fresh breeze, through the bamboo trees surrounding the hot spring.
In the garden outside the building, reeds, wild flowers and needles of black pine trees were moving in sea breezes above the ground decorated with moss and bracken ferns that grew low. It was radio silent besides some birds tweeting and rustling leaves. Fresh air and clean sunlight filled the garden.
Totally zoned out, I stayed in the hot spring until I finished my bottled water. Sometimes I soaked in the water or cooled down sitting on the edge of the hot spring with only my legs in up to the knees. I enjoyed the peaceful scenery around me when I opened my eyes while focusing on the sounds of nature when my eyes were closed.
I went back to take a quick shower and gently scrub my body with fine massage ice. Then I grabbed a new robe from a locker in front of the garden and put my feet in a pair of sliders. Now, I was so ready to explore the garden!
There was a nice wooden walkway and four sun loungers spaciously spread in the garden. I lay down on one in the corner under light shadows and stretched my body on it. Pleasant winds and sunlight softly landed on my face and my body, freshly cleaned.
This sauna garden was private enough, but still allowed me to have the beach, beautiful sky above and the main garden in sight that I felt I was alone in a deep, peaceful forest. I could even discern the sounds of rustling grass from the wind itself when I closed my eyes. Even unwashable things in my mind seemed to have been cleansed away by the wind.
“Is wind bathing this good? If I were rich, would I take a wind bath naked in my private garden like this located on my own island?” I couldn’t answer these questions as amazing satisfaction swept through my mind, just like a little kid being able to play with her favorite toys by herself all day. It felt like a luxury to me. After a while, I went back to my room and fell asleep after a quick brunch on the terrace.
This is what happened on our first day at SEAMARQ. Honestly, we didn’t expect much for our honeymoon. The regret of not being able to go abroad due to the pandemic trumped our excitement for a honeymoon. More importantly, we are not big fans of spending time in a hotel. Even if we have to, we like boutique hotels with a small number of rooms and relaxing atmosphere.
But I got excited from the moment I stood in front of the elevators in the lobby. Made of well-polished aluminum and steel and carved into the walls, they looked smooth and soft. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me they were originally made for some art galleries. Inside one of the aluminum boxes, the wall containing the buttons was made of opaque, milk colored glass. Subtle orange light was coming out of the glass. When I hit a circular button, the light changed to a lemon color and the number on top showed in orange. I loved those touches as if they’re tailor made for me.
When we entered the room, I looked around the terrace and bathroom where the cute amenities caught my eye. There were whales, fish, dolphins and other maritime animals on the package made of paper and recycled plastic in round shapes. All of a sudden, I declared to my husband in a low and determined voice, like that of a seriously angry person, that we should stay here for the entire honeymoon.
I asked him to cancel the hotels we were supposed to stay in at Yangyang after SEAMARQ. He seemed perplexed, but I had to. It was obviously impossible for me to get enough of the hotel. My gut feeling kept telling me that I would fall in love with everything in this hotel.
SEAMARQ hotel is located where Hotel Hyundai at Gyeongpodae used to be, which was built in 1971 and owned by the late Chung Ju-yung, CEO and founder of Hyundai Group. At a quick glance, SEAMARQ looks like it is afloat on the East Sea in Gyeongpo, Gangneung. Behind the hotel, the tranquil Gyeongpoho lake, Daegwallyeong mountains and wide plains spread as a backdrop. The hotel is built on an elevated strip of land at the corner of the seashore near Gyeongpo beach.
Hotel Hyundai was born again into SEAMARQ hotel in 2015, designed by the famous architect Richard Meier, a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner. The elegant building with modest height stands towards the ocean at an angle. It didn’t take long for me to understand why the legendary entrepreneur picked this plot early on. The sun shines on the façade of the hotel during both sunrises and sunsets; the Daegwallyeong mountains fill the entire view at the end of hallways; the rooms at the back of the hotel are covered by only sky and sea; and you can swim towards the horizon in the outdoor pool. I think the location is truly blessed.
The architect must have designed the building to get the most out of its unique location. Everything visible through windows from inside the building feels serene and even sacred sometimes. I think this truly added something to this already blessed land.
The outside of the hotel is snow white and wrapped around by glass. The inside of the hotel keeps the same consistent theme while adding some natural woody colors here and there. Besides the wood details, you will find other colors thoughtfully used as you step in the hotel. They are not too outstanding, but would make you feel good if you happen to find them.
Although the hotel was fully booked, it was not crowded at all thanks to its generous space allocation. The only exception was at the restaurants for breakfast or the dinner buffet.
As we canceled the hotels where we initially planned to stay for the last two days of our honeymoon, we had to find any available room at SEAMARQ. We had the luck of securing a room for the second day, but couldn’t find one for the first day. I was willing to stay at any place near SEAMARQ and come back the next day if we couldn’t make it. Luckily, after countless calls to the front desk and visits to their website, we were able to book a room for another day as well! It brought me comfort to know that I had enough time to enjoy this place I love so much.
During the five days, we were as happy as small herbivores hopping around beautiful plains without predators. We moved from a Deluxe Double to a Deluxe Suite to an Executive Suite. Unless we really had to, we tried not to leave the hotel at all. My husband made a quick trip to grab socks, films and other small items from nearby stores. But that was it.
We were floating on the pool like big leaves every day. We stared at seagulls flying across a beautiful sunset above the ocean or appreciated the beautiful nature in a hot tub next to the outdoor pool under warm sunlight. Luckily enough, the weather was gorgeous throughout the trip and the chill air was as crisp as something new just coming out of a box.
There are two restaurants in the hotel. The Restaurant, which offers a dinner buffet, is hard to get a table for dinner without reservations. So, we walked in there for lunch at 3pm, a time deliberately picked. What a choice! The Restaurant was completely empty except for the two of us. When we had almost finished lunch, a tall couple in leather gear who seemed to be just off of motorbikes walked in with big helmets in their hands and dark sunglasses on.
I felt starving that night and ordered calamari, cream pasta and red wine to our room. We elegantly wiped our mouths with nice linen napkins and pushed the cart outside the room. When I walked on the long terrace, I felt as if I was stepping on the dark sea. When I opened my eyes in the morning, a beautiful sunrise was spreading across the glass terrace doors.
One day, we got a whole body massage with hot mineral stones and aroma oils at Omorovicza, the spa within the hotel. Then I wore nice make-up and we went to the Chef’s Table, another restaurant in SEAMARQ, in a long silk dress that slightly touches the floor with every step. A server ushered us through the dark to our table, covered with white linen. There was a light pink rose on the table. Round couches with high back pillows were lined along the walls. We had a course menu that night. Actually, the menus available for room service, at The Restaurant or Chef’s Table are identical unless you have course menus or a dinner buffet. But we always had some serious discussions around where to eat.
If you go to The Restaurant in the daytime, you will be entertained by the beautiful beach infinitely spread behind black pine trees. If you have dinner at Chef’s Table around sunset, you will appreciate the blue hours in your glass, the light rosy clouds and a blue sky gradually turning dark.
I personally think their Korean foods were really good. The stone pot bibimbap with abalone and seaweed, crown prince soup and bulgogi jungsik were awesome in particular. Made of locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, these foods kept the natural flavors of each ingredient without too much seasoning, including the Korean beef known as hanwoo, potatoes, prince crown and seaweed. The grilled sweet potatoes and omija (magnolia berry) tea, provided as a welcome snack, were similarly treated. We ordered some soju to drink with the food. Out of the course menu we had, my favorite was the appetizer made of abalone and seaweed, decorated with lemon foam and purple and yellow flowers.
We truly loved everything in the hotel, large or small, ranging from the cozy comforters to personal dry sauna to the thick and clean rugs. We explored the hotel as much as possible. During the five days at SEAMARQ, we were totally separated from the real world. The sins and stains on our minds were cleansed away here. My life became so simple and relaxed in this gigantic box that insulated me from the outside world.
Unlike my usual fashion on a trip, I brought boots and dress shoes, instead of sneakers, and new designer clothes instead of casual wear despite them being not easy to carry around. I dressed up and spent time at a library in the hotel, reading art books or writing journals with a glass of champagne.
I couldn’t explain how happy I was for the five days at SEAMARQ. Sitting in a round bathtub in our room or on the balcony floor, I quietly stared at beautiful sceneries—the spilled light blue paint spreading from the sky to the clouds to the horizon; pink waves around the horizon at twilight; white waves on the dark blue beach late at night; and people on the beach playing with sparklers and small fireworks.
When I became too emotional looking at these sights, I just watched TV shows with some delivery food (king crab and tteok-bokki) to briefly come back to the secular world again. I just didn’t want to go to crowded bars and restaurants. Whenever I walked by a small store next to the sauna, I bought small items like perfumes, room sprays and bar soaps. I wanted them to bring me back to this wonderful moment later with their scents.
I became sad on our last day at SEAMARQ. I didn’t want to go home. Neither did my husband. I was not sure if I could live without the wave sounds that filled my room all day as if it was in the middle of the ocean. The night before check-out, we had Italian gelato and calamari with wine on the terrace under the beautiful orange moon and numerous startling stars. Then, I saw shooting stars!
The shooting stars made me acknowledge that I’d already had so many breathtaking moments and awe way more than I deserved for the last five days. I was finally ready to leave. I promised to be a good person for the good luck I had during my honeymoon.
I heard a lady complain about a pianist playing melancholic music in the lobby while taking a brief walk around the hotel. She insisted that the pianist play uplifting music and said she might have been able to stay at a better hotel for the price.
The hotel is surely very quiet. It’s hard to make loud noise anywhere in the hotel. Even the restaurants and pool areas, which are usually loud and vibrant, are calm. The sounds reverberating in the empty spaces and the peaceful scenery seemed to be the perfect rest for my mind and brain.
I understand her though. Not everyone is into such peaceful vibes. If you are not comfortable with quietness or like extravagance, SEAMARQ might not be the right place for you.
I didn’t have a chance to look around Gangneung as I was even running out of time for SEAMARQ. But I fell in love with the city and would arguably claim that I experienced the gist of it, as well as the east coast beaches. They feel more reserved than Jeju Island or the beaches on the south coast. A cab driver told us that SEAMARQ is one of the prides of Gangneung. We’re lucky to have picked this place for our honeymoon. As we stepped outside the hotel, my husband joked that he was actually born and raised in Gangneung.
After coming back to Seoul, I suddenly realized that I had been predominantly using the left-hand side of my face for expressions my entire life. I am intentionally trying to put the right-hand side of my face to use more these days. It is still awkward and a bit uncomfortable. Believe it or not, I think the five days at SEAMARQ enabled me to realize the imbalance by cleaning up my mind.
It’s rather hard not to be a more balanced person, both mentally, physically and even personality-wise, after having spent time in such beautiful nature. All I did for the five days was eat and sleep well, swim in the pools under the beautiful sky and go to the sauna whenever I wanted which I believe improved my blood circulation. It was such a quality period of rest.
Not long after I left the hotel, I realized how many small and meaningless things out in the world made my mind wander all over the place. My mind started racing at a lightning speed with those things I had put aside while staying in the bubble.
I was already started missing my five days at SEAMARQ. I didn’t expect our honeymoon to be this great given that we couldn’t travel to our bucket list locations abroad due to the pandemic. My husband felt the same way. We shared our nostalgic emotions with each other for a while.
After coming back home, we started a small project, throwing away anything unnecessary and redecorating our home. Whenever I use one of the room sprays, it brings me back to the peaceful five days at SEAMARQ.