Before I get into more adventures, I first need to do some gushing.
Having decided on our holiday destination a little late, most Seoul hostels were all booked out and we were left with very limited choices. After many an unfruitful search, Hostel World recommended some places with beds left. Trick Art Guesthouse (TAG) was among these, and although we’d never heard of it, the 99% positive rating more than convinced us. That and the fact that a private double/single room was only 25, 000W (or about $25).
Located in the quieter end of Hongdae (about a 5-10 minute walk from Hongik University subway stop’s exit 3), we had surprisingly little difficulty finding it due to the map provided by the staff upon our booking.
Once we arrived, we were let in by the incredibly friendly owners. There’s no front desk, so they took us up to the third floor (carrying our bags for us!) to sign us in, give us the down low, and hand over our room key.
TAG is one of those places where stepping inside is enough to transport you from your daily life of balli balli (Korean for hurry hurry) to the mindset of a spa. In fact if I were to compare it to anything, a spa would probably be it. The interior design was all in whites with blonde wood staircases (at the bottom of which you left your shoes to walk the rooms and halls in socks).
Best of all was the abundance of art decorating every empty wall space.
Korea has a tendency to choose weird business names that have nothing to do with the services offered (example, “Clap Hands” is the name of a clothing store), so when we booked “Trick Art Guesthouse”, I thought nothing of it.
Thus when we encountered all this beautiful art surrounding us we were pleasantly surprised. We made sure to compliment the hostel manager who smiled wide and thanked us. He told us he had studied industrial design and now taught at a university. The art was from his students who had helped him set the place up.
We were given a quick tour of the floor we were on. He showed us a wall mural of Spider-Man hanging upside down so you could pose in a kiss with him. After that he asked us to open a door marked “toilet” only to discover a mural of a woman sitting on the toilet smoking a cigarette and giving the finger. Last was one in our own room of a Korean monster breaking through the wall.
Aesthetically, this place gets a full 10/10. No, I take it back. 11/10.
And speaking of our room, it was so clean. The double bed was a traditional Korean mat on the floor, but for anyone worried about back problems because of this, it was far comfier than my bed back home and I slept better than I have in ages.
A ginormous comforter was provided to keep us warm, as was a brand new air conditioner if we got too hot. A hair dryer was tucked in the cupboards and towels were given for free upon request. The pillows were much too hard for my liking, but hey you can’t have everything.
The single private room downstairs was a full bed frame and just as comfortable (though surprisingly as it was equally hard). For the multi-person dorm, they were all bunk bed style, and although I didn’t get up close personally, I was informed they looked quite nice and clean.
The bathrooms were also far nicer than my bathroom back home. Unlike the Korean norm of showerhead-over-sink, a glass encased shower made all your dreams of being clean come true. The water ran hot with good pressure and there was soap, shampoo, and conditioner provided in little squirty boxes. At the sink was toothpaste and face wash to use virtually making this place feel like home.
The kitchen gave off this vibe as well. Divided from the adjacent toilet/shower rooms by a discreet yet bohemian curtain, the cooking area is open for breakfast between 8:30 and 10:00. The table has all manner of food to eat/cook with at your disposal: a breadbox full of toast, a dispenser filled with frosted flakes, a basket full of eggs, and various jams and spreads.
You’ll probably smell delicious waftings of stew or soups from the stove as well since the family who runs the place uses it as their home kitchen after 10:00 (which is why it’s good to respect the breakfast hours or you’ll run into tiny Korean children being fed by their grandmother otherwise).
For a little bit of background on the place, this hostel is very new. It opened only in the last few weeks and is run by a young family. The manager is an incredible artist and wants to work in concept art in America eventually. If you’re lucky (as we were), you might get invited to share drinks with him on the outdoor roof terrace and he may show you his astounding portfolio.
Anyway, for a final checklist sum up:
- Free wifi: yes
- Free towels: yes
- A/C: yes
- Free breakfast: yes
- Friendliness: 10/10
- Cleanliness: 10/10
- Facilities: 10/10
- Location: 9/10 (a bit out of the way, but it’s doable and can be nice to get out of the crowds)
- Atmosphere: 10/10
- Security: 10/10
- Bang for your buck: 10/10
- Do it again?: BIG YES.
I really loved staying at this hostel and I’d hands down recommend it to anyone I meet. The location, as I said, was a bit out of the way and that made it a little inconvenient at night when all you want to do is stumble into bed, but it wasn’t that big a deal. As a positive to the out-of-way-ness, it was actually kind of nice to escape the suffocating swell of Seoul’s crowds and retreat to such a spa-like, well, retreat.
Anyway, there are enough convenience stores, restaurants, and shops to make the area you’re staying in one you don’t even necessarily have to leave. One way or another though, next time I come to Seoul, I know where I’m staying.
To crown off the amazing time we had, when we checked out, the owner gave us handwritten and personalized notes to wish us well and thank us for staying. It was such a sweet and unprecedented gesture that I couldn’t help but grin ear to ear. After that he asked for photos with us and then sent us on our way with much merry hand waving and bowing.
I sincerely wish the owner of this hostel the best of luck in his business. He’s really put a lot of effort into this hostel and the hard work is a pleasure to experience.
So spread the word and check out Trick Art Guesthouse! You won’t be – can’t be – disappointed.