Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The W Hotel

This past weekend, I was invited to attend my good friend Kelly’s wedding in Atlanta, GA. Kelly was one of my closest friends since 3rd grade, and I figured this would be an awesome opportunity to visit my neo-home of 8 years prior to college.
 As always, I opened my laptop and googled two words that I always typed when planning a trip—“cheap” “hotels.” As always, I was inundated with sites after sites that offered cheaper hotel deals than the competition. And as always, I held my finger on the “Ctrl” button on the keyboard while clicking on every one of them. I didn’t care where I stayed as long as the hotel was close to Midtown Atlanta.

Just a quick side-note: Atlanta has always been one of America’s most dangerous cities. It is rumored that, to win the selection for the 1996 Olympics, Atlanta decided to report only violent crimes in order to decrease the crimes statistics. So, the downtown area of Atlanta is still frequented by the report of gunshots while other parts of ATL, like the Buckhead and Midtown areas, are populated by the rich folk who love throwing money, showing off their leather-bounded-iPads, and vrooming their Ferraris.

As I surfed from site to site, from cheap deals to cheaper deals, I realized that the hotels were not as sky-high-expensive as I had imagined. Hyatts and Hiltons were rather considered mundane places while the Ritz and the Omni were offering Hail-Mary-promotions and sales. That’s when I came across the W.

The W hotel is a part of the Starwood brands that boasts itself as the most chic palace to enjoy for the nuevo riche. In Seoul, the W is ranked a mere 2nd to the most prestigious Shilla hotel where only the bankrollers dare to lay their heads—located just adjacent to the Walker Hill Hotel just outside of metro Seoul, the W hotel emanates an aura of wealth and splendor. Simply put, the W adds another decimal point at the end of the hotel bill compared to commonplace Hyatts and Hiltons (at least in Seoul).

Knowing how I would never enjoy the prestige of the W anywhere else in the world for the price shown on my screen, I booked it without a second glance (FYI, a normal one-night stay at the W is around $600 for the smallest room, before tax—I paid much much less).

As I drove up the hill that led to a LED-lighted glass entrance, my heart began pounding at the thought of feeling rich. As I thought to myself, one day I might actually belong here when I’ve raked in enough cash, the valet guy in a button-down and slacks opened my door and saluted me with, “Welcome to the W, Mr. Kim.” Wow. Here, I was Mr. Kim. To my already folded two $1 bills, I slipped in a $5 bill. Yes, I regret it now looking at my credit card bill, but what can I say? I felt wealthy at the words, Mr. Kim.

I melted from amazement as I entered the W, and I had to ooze myself from the lobby-slash-house-bar to the elevators. Unlike other hotels, the W was not afraid to crank up its house/lounge music to the level that matched Saturday nights at Necto (much better music than Necto, of course).  The elevator itself wasn’t too exciting, but the really cool part was that I needed to slide my room card to make it move, just like in the movies. Although I was only staying for two nights, I felt like I was a part of the in-crowd—a selected few in the world who had access to this upwards/downwards moving machinery that would grant access to my floor.

As I walked into my king-size bed room, my expectations were not let down. From the lush carpet to the ceiling, from the 40-something-inch LED television (LG, no less) to the awesome shower stall, the only word that pinballed around my head was CHIC!
Almost all the furniture were black in color while the dim lighting made me feel like I had entered the VIP backroom of Hef’s mansion (never been; only what I’ve seen on Entourage). There was even lighting beneath the bed to create a sexy ambiance!

Instead of boring curtains, a black mesh so that anyone looking in would only see my silhouette.

No need to plug-in my card key to turn on the lights.

A prepared iPod dock to charge my iPhone.

An aromatic, soothing set of toiletries in the shower stall.

8 down pillows. Nuff said.

For the wedding, I had brought a tailored suit. But after suffering through 5 hours of cramped luggage space and linebacker-size baggage handlers, my suit looked no better than the copies of crumpled Michigan Daily at the Fish. Since I couldn’t just iron a suit like a dress shirt, I panicked and picked up the cordless phone. When the other end picked up, I expected  a “This is the front desk.” What greeted me was a cunning set of alliteration in a seductive woman’s Siren: “Welcome to Whenever/Whatever! What is your Wish, Mr. Kim?” When I explained the situation, within minutes the concierge herself came up to my 20th floor room and picked up the suit. Then, before I could take off my socks and turn on the TV, she returned with my suit, fully ironed.

When I apologized about not having enough small bills to tip her (actually, I was still recovering from the $7 tip to that valet bastard), she said this was just a complimentary service for the guests with no lookout for tips or service feeds. A complimentary drycleaning and ironing? Never heard of at your local Hyatts and Hiltons. 

The rest of the trip was filled with similar bubbly memories, and I still wonder why the hell I came back to Ann Arbor and to its 40-degree weather. Of course, I felt my heart drop to my feet when I saw my bill. But, was the spiffy-dressed valet guys worth it? Was the card-required entry to the elevator, the fantastic lounge music 24/7, and the fully loaded mini-bar worth it? Absolutely.

What a guy wouldn’t give to feel rich.

p.s. please excuse the amateur photos; my first time going all-out on my iPhone camera.

By: David J Kim

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