▲ The Marine Resort near Seongsan Ilchulbong offers guests a unique night’s stay on a floating hotel. Photo courtesy The Marine Resort
When it comes to travel, my least favorite expense is accommodation. No matter how economical the price or luxurious the room, I cannot seem to justify forking over hard-earned cash for a place to rest my head and wander through dreamland when it could be better put towards an actual experience.
In Jeju’s competitive hospitality industry, where hotels constantly strive to differentiate themselves from one another, the Marine Resort has endeavored to combine an authentic Jeju experience with comfort to stand out from the pack.
What makes the Marine Resort different from other lodging on the island is that it is not on the island. It is a floating hotel moored off the coast of Seongsan Ilchulbong, on the China Sea. The hotel, which opened in May 2009 with only 17 rooms and a capacity for 80 guests, is not a large resort, but offers a quiet, solitary atmosphere compared to the behemoth caravansaries located in Jungmun. This at mosphere is augmented by the isolation of floating on the ocean.
The Marine Resort experience starts at Seongsan Ilchulbong harbor, where a boat picks you up and escorts you to the hotel. However, when I was venturing to the Marine for this article, I found figuring out the transition from land to boat to room to be confusing, a situation made worse by my lack of conversational Korean. I went first to the platform to wait for the boat, but when it arrived I was not granted admittance – first you have to pay for the night’s stay. Then you show your receipt to the ferry operator before being ushered across the sea.
While traversing the ocean in the dark I felt the slightest inclination that an adventure was underway, but this quickly abated upon actually arriving at the hotel, which was only a hop, skip, and a jump from shore. I was disappointed that it wasn’t further out to sea and felt that the ethos of the Marine Resort was little more than a gimmick.
The hotel is a two-story pontoon boat with the first floor dedicated to what the resort referred to as a traditional Jeju restaurant. Also on the first floor are a small shopping booth and fishing area where patrons cast rented rods over the side of the boat under bright white light emanating from the squid lights attached to the ceiling. The second floor contains the rooms, of which the hotel offers two styles; a studio room for two to four people and a 25 pyeong (82.5 square meter) room which sleeps up to 15 guests. I was assigned the former. It was nice and clean and had a queen bed, modern fixtures, a large plasma television, and a tiled bathroom, but what was more interesting was the action below.
I was surprised to discover that rods are not included in the price and must be rented for 10,000 won. I paid and was given a rather shoddy fishing rod with a squid lure fastened to the line. This was great fun and became rather addictive. On previous fishing experiences, in Jeju and abroad, I always left empty handed, but on the Marine, my luck changed. I pulled in squid hand over fist. When I had accumulated seven of the slime-covered invertebrates, I decided it was enough, that these alone were more than enough squid for one man.
I took my catch to a staff member, who said they would prepare it for a charge. I said three squid, and they said 20,000 won. After a while a plate of raw squid came to my table in the restaurant, and I began to eat the rubbery sea food. Those around me seemed to enjoy their catch, while I regretted the expense. It seemed unfair to charge for both the rod and to prepare the dish, especially since we could not leave the Marine Resort without the aid of one of their shuttle ships, which I was informed ran frequently. I did not attempt to leave the boat until the next morning.
▲ A couple pose with a fish they caught from off the side of The Marine Resort. Photo courtesy The Marine Resort
One of my biggest worries on first entering the hotel was sea sickness. Though the waters were rather calm there was an odd sensation of movement imperceptible to the eyes. My worries were cast aside when I brought the uneasy state of my stomach to the attention of the staff, who quickly provided me with seasickness medication.
Though it’s not my habit to spend money on lodging, the 130,000 won for the studio-style room during the off season (150,000 won during busy season) is generally out of my price range. Still, it seemed a decent price for a genuinely-unique night on a floating hotel.
The Marine Resort is closed during typhoons and other bad weather to ensure the safety of its guests.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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