Welcome back, dear reader, to another Café Culture Korea post…that has nothing at all to do with cafés. In this article, I am going to be reviewing the Trick Art Guest House (TAG). Located in the quieter part of Hongdae, the TAG is about a five or ten minute walk from exit three at Hongik University subway station. It would have been harder to find, but the staff provide a map, and a phone number, to make it easy to find. Marta and I found it through Hostel World, where it had great reviews.
On our arrival, we were greeted by our enthusiastic hosts and owners. There was no front desk, so they immediately helped us with our bags up to the third floor, where you can sign in and collect your room key. After explaining the hostel and the rules to us, they gave us our room key AND a handwritten note welcoming us. This is the first time I have got such personal treatment at a hostel.
One of the best things about the TAG is that it takes you out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Korea and transports you into a tranquil (almost spa like) environment. The walls (and much of the interior design) was in white, with blonde coloured flooring (which, as per Korean tradition, you remove your shoes to walk on).
However, the most interesting feature (by far) was the art decorating the walls. It emerged (later during the trip) that our host had previously been an art lecturer at Hongik University and he had commissioned a lot of unique art work and murals from his students. This unique feature sets the TAG apart from any other, in my opinion. There were also some trick art pieces (as per the name). My favourite was the drawing of a traditional demon in the room Marta and I stayed in.
Just on the interior design alone, I would rate this place as perfect. But, as we know, a review can’t just be based on style but also needs substance too.
We booked a private double deluxe room and it was set up in the traditional Korean style. Our hosts were worried this would bother us but I actually found it more comfortable than my bed in my apartment. We had a thick sleeping mat on the floor, with a comforter and pillows, which Marta found hard but I found about perfect. They also provided a hair dryer, adequate closet space and towels. The single private room we had booked for our friend Karen was just as comfortable. The rooms cost us about 25,000 KRW per night per person (extremely reasonable, especially given the quality of the service, rooms and general atmosphere and that fact it was a public holiday weekend here).
As for the other facilities, there was a kitchen that was well stocked with food for the complimentary breakfasts we could have. Marta assured me that it was delicious. I didn’t actually eat one whilst we stayed here but they offer toast, jam, cereal, coffee and an almost endless supply of eggs between 8:30 and 10:00am. After 10:00am, the kitchen is used by the family to cook their meals. Indeed, Marta and I often saw the owner’s children being fed by their grandmother.
The bathrooms were divided off from the kitchen by a very bohemian hanging curtain (a bohemian vibe is probably the best way to describe the feeling of the hostel as a whole). These were actually better than my bathroom at home – instead of the shower being attached to the sink and the whole room being the shower, they had a separate shower encased in glass. They also provided a number of basic toiletries like shampoo, face wash and shower gel.
This hostel was all the more impressive, as the owner told us he had only been open a few weeks. I later learnt that it had taken them a month and a half to prepare the hostel for guests. In such a short time, they achieved near-perfection. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my visit was the final night. The owner invited us all to drink and eat with him, his wife and the other guests in the hostels common area. My friend Karen and I went and were able to talk to the owner to get to know him. He dreams of being a concept artist in America and told us he had been learning English to help him achieve this He provided a range of beer and snacks. The nicest part of this was when he showed us his art portfolio (something his wife assured us he had never done with anyone before). They made the hostel feel like a second home and the guests feel like family. This personal touch was even extended to us leaving, when the owners provide all the guests with handwritten and personalised thank you notes.
So overall, I would happily suggest this hostel to anyone looking for a place to stay in Seoul. Although it is not well known at the moment, I can assure you this will change. They had already been fully booked when we left, and with the excellent service, design and comfort of the hostel, there is no way it can fail.
Overall Score: 9/10
The only downside is that some may find it a little far from the throng of Hongdae but this is just a part of it’s charm, in my opinion. I wish the hostel owner the best of luck and will be returning to stay at least one more time before I leave Korea for good.