After going on a fair share of trips in the past couple of years, I now firmly believe that any place is only ever as good as the people in it. “People” here can refer to my travel companions, the people I meet and make friends with, or simply both. That is also why I like staying in hostels and guesthouses – because you get to meet all kinds of interesting people.
UWA Guesthouse Review, Seoul
UWA Guesthouse, my hostel during a recent week-long trip to Seoul, was by far one of the best (if not THE best) hostels that I have stayed at. Before I start my story about the people there, here’s a quick fact sheet of why UWA Guesthouse is THE place to stay at when you’re in Seoul.
Location. It’s in Hongdae – the hip and lively area around Hongik University, a prestigious arts college in Seoul, where young people flock to and street performers are everywhere. It’s also within 5-10minutes walk of Hongik University subway station, which is central, strategic, and has a direct line to Incheon International Airport.
Price. For six nights in an 8-bed dorm room, we paid KRW123,000 per person, equivalent to SGD150. A daily breakfast of toast, eggs, cereal and the likes is included in the rate. It’s super affordable, even compared to other guesthouses in the area. Believe me, I spent days researching so you don’t have to ;D
Facilities. Each bed in the dorms had individual power sockets, lockers, and curtains so you get more privacy. I got a top bunk, but there were actual steps so I didn’t have to climb up the usual monkey-ladder style. The bathrooms were super spacious and clean. There were plenty of hairdryers, and even hair straighteners. There was a nice kitchen, a foosball table, a mini library on the second floor… And everything was decorated SO NICELY. Here are a couple pictures to give you an idea of how the place looks and feels.
But as I mentioned, for me the best part was the people.
A member of the staff, Eva eonnie, was always going out of her way to make us feel at home. On our first day, we arrived in Seoul way past midnight due to unfortunate flight timings and slight delays during the stopover in Taipei (BROWNIE POINT: guess which airline I flew with? ;D). She actually ended her shift at 10pm, but she had to stay up to check us in, and still managed to be very nice about it. On another day, I was waiting for my friends alone and she purposely left what she was doing and came over to keep me company. Plus on our second morning, she shared with us a large slice of strawberry shortcake for breakfast. Man, she had me at that cake.
There were also other guests who made the stay all the more fun. There was this girl from Finland who was traveling solo in Seoul for three weeks. She was always so friendly and animated, learning Korean in the evenings from some of the local guests. There was a Korean-Australian lawyer who was traveling the world for a year, and had been staying in the guesthouse for two months. He accompanied my friends to the fish market and helped them haggle their way through, getting them all the discounts and freebies. There was also an English guy who had stayed in UWA on a previous trip and came back a second time because he loved the place so much.
And the award for Best Guesthouse-Owner-slash-Host has got to go to Kim Jae Ho, the owner of UWA Guesthouse.
He designed the entire place, and I daresay he did a fantastic job. But more than that he was such a friendly, funny, helpful person, and so full of character! Every morning he’d be blasting vintage John Lennon records (yup, that round black thingy that’s mostly extinct nowadays) and calling out cheery “GOOD MORNING!”s to everyone. He’d always ask me where I was off to for the day and launch into a comprehensive explanation of how to get there and tips to get the most out of the day. He even gave us an upgrade to a private triple room! On the last day, we took a picture and he gave each of us a print, made on one of those instant mobile photo printers, with the words 잘들아가, which roughly translates to “Godspeed”.
I can go on for days and not run out of good things to say about UWA Guesthouse and the people I met there. They were a big part of why my recent Seoul trip was so special; them and a bunch of other random people I encountered, from a friendly ahjumma running a supper place we frequented to super helpful taxi drivers. You know how sometimes when you travel, the place just steals your heart and you know a part of you will never leave? Seoul and its lovely people did just that. The next time I’m there (hopefully sometime soon!) I’ll definitely come back to stay in UWA Guesthouse again.
If, like me, you are also interested in meeting people on your trips, heed this one tip: don’t settle for a hostel simply for its review score. READ THE REVIEWS and see what people say about it – is the high rating only due to its facilities/location, or is it really because the hostel has a warm and friendly atmosphere where everyone is out to make friends? And a nice owner is a plus!! ;D
197-16 Donggyo-Dong, Mapo-Gu
Seoul, 121-898, South Korea.
마포구 동교동 197-16, 마포구
PS. If you are taking a cab there, especially from the airport, you need to show the taxi driver the address I wrote above in Korean. Anything else will not work on the taxi’s navigation system.
PPS. My only regret is not taking more pictures – but you can visit their website and check out their gallery!