julia dimon/for metro toronto


After eleven-and-a-half months of dusty, long distance travel, Metro columnist Julia Dimon played hooky at Seoul’s posh W Hotel. Here, guests lounge in the hotel’s lobby.

With a little luck and the right connections, I’d moved up in the world.

While in Seoul, I stayed at the W Hotel in a posh little suite with a killer view of the Han River.

W is far from my usual budget accommodation. The chain is renowned for innovative design and trendy cocktail bars that draw a celebrity clientele.

Every aspect of the Seoul location is über-trendy, from the elevators (complete with dangling green, glow-in-the-dark rings) to the interactive artwork (wooden pixels with built-in sensors that flip and follow your movements).

Their employees aren’t just “staff,” they are “talent.” The housekeepers are “stylists.”

Being a guest here made me feel like a somebody, a young Hollywood celebrity or a trust-fund socialite with money to burn. Truth was, I wasn’t famous, I was a backpacker, who, only a few days before, was paying the equivalent of $8 a night to sleep in the lower bunk of a six-person dorm room.

Wrapped in a white robe, I lounged in bed, grabbed the remote and turned on the TV, a mundane activity in everyday life but a real privilege when on the backpacking circuit.

I’d already seen many of Seoul’s hot spots. I caught a glimpse of North Korea and the DMZ, shopped ‘til I dropped at an all-night market, feasted on delicious barbecued meat, and steamed and soaked in one of the capital’s many saunas. I visited the War Memorial of Korea and posed for photographs with giggly soldiers who seemed amused by the novelty of a young blonde Canadian girl.

I’d pounded the pavement but, on this day, there was to be no more sightseeing. It was a day of rest; a day to veg out and take advantage of my stylish pad. In my 11-1/2 months of travel, I’ve seen temples, markets, museums and malls. I’ve gone canyon jumping, camel riding, white water rafting, shark diving and chimp trekking.

I’ve bargained in Morocco, cheered matadors in Spain, floated in Jordan’s Dead Sea, slept among lions in Tanzania, meditated by India’s Ganges River and climbed the Great Wall of China.

My trip has been amazing, enlightening and surreal. Bummer, it’s almost over. After all those months of dusty, long distance travel, it felt good to play hooky. I celebrated the near-end of my trip by playing VIP, cuddling up and indulging in a little W room service.

Julia Dimon, a Toronto-based freelance writer, is travelling around the world. She can be reached through www.thetraveljunkie.ca.

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• For more information about W Seoul, visit www.wseoul.com.