So this past week, my husband and I traveled to Korea. I had planned on writing what we did every day the evening of each day, but we ended up being out so late every night that it didn't work out. As it turns out, Korea has a very healthy nightlife. So much so, that nothing opens until well into the morning and sometimes even the afternoon. Anyway, I plan on writing something every day except on Thursday, as I will be out of the office. I hope you enjoy what I write!
We were scheduled to ride our airport bus at 5:40am. We needed to check in at the airport no later than 10:30am to make our flight that left at 12:30pm. Not sure why the travel agent felt that we needed to leave for the airport 5 hours early but oh well. It only takes about 2.5-3 hours to get to Narita airport from Maebashi. We were running late on that freezing morning so we were basically running with our bags to the stop. We made it just in time and get situated on the bus, but then I notice that I forgot my wallet. At first I was like, no big deal, Josh has money, and I have my passport, but Josh reminded me that I need my resident card in order to come back into Japan. So that was a big deal. Had my husband not said anything, I would made it all the way to the airport thinking I was ok only to be shocked when I reached immigration. At that point, there would have been nothing that I could have done. I would have had to miss my flight on purpose and cancel the entire trip. Thankfully, that didn't happen. I spoke with the driver and he arranged for use to take the next bus leaving the following hour. I checked with the ticket lady regarding the time being ok because around 8am traffic in Tokyo starts to pick up. With 25 million people commuting to and from Tokyo a day, it gets backed up pretty quickly.
She believed that I would make it just fine. We got off the bus, Josh went into the waiting room with our bags and I slowly walked home to grab my wallet. There was no need to walk quickly as I had had a whole hour until the next bus arrived.
When I got home, I made the bed. We were in a hurry so nothing could be cleaned like I would have liked. I took the time to make the bed at least and clear up the bedroom. Then I grabbed my wallet, and tripled checked that nothing else was forgotten before I headed out back to the bus stop.
The bus came and picked us up at 6:40am and we were headed on our way to the airport finally. I was so anxious because I don't like flying, plus I was also worried about immigration in Korea. I always get anxious about things I have never experienced before. I couldn't relax or sleep on the bus at all. I was so nervous. Plus, I didn't know where our seats were on the plane. I was hoping I had a window seat, but nothing was certain. This was mostly on my mind. The anxiety was so bad I was shaking. Josh didn't know how to comfort me.
After we get to the airport, we had to find the agency to check in before actually checking in because they had our boarding pass info. I actually didn't have it. I just knew was time and
airline, but that was basically it. So we go there, and they give us more coupons that were basically useless unless you were planning on spending like $500 at one time. It was all in Japanese, and she spoke so fast, I only caught like 20% of it, but thankfully that 20% was the most important part anyway. All the rest was
just fluffy stuff. We get our bags checked in, and we had 2 hours until our flight left. I took the time to get my yen exchanged to Korean won, then we headed to security. Every time I have gone through security at Narita, it was really quick. Either they have multiple TSA spots, or they are just really efficient. I have never needed to wait more than 5 minutes to get through. Immigration has also been rather quick too. Not too long. Pretty decent. At least, for leaving anyway. More people come in than go out. Anyway, I was expected the officer to ask us a bunch of questions so I was teaching Josh what to expect and how to answer. Every other time I had gone through immigration they always asked me stuff. This time, they said absolutely nothing at all. That was easy.
The next step was boarding the plane. The plane was huge! But the line for boarding was really short. We were finished within 30 minutes. I think it must have been a connecting flight from somewhere else because that giant plane was filled. Praise Jesus I actually had a window seat. I was so glad. The flight was only 2.5 hours long to Korea. There were entertainment systems (mine was broken) and they even served us lunch. Basically, it was take off, serve lunch, take garbage, serve drinks, take garbage, and land. I colored the entire time. It was so short. I was amazed. We didn't even change time zones. It was the first time I had traveled via
plane and it didn't involve time changes. 0 jet lag for us!
Now the time came for immigration in Korea. I expected them to speak to me in Korea, so I was reviewing the little that I know in my head, and he didn't say anything at all. He just had me read things off a screen. Then we grabbed our bags, and headed to customs. Absolutely nothing happened at customs. I am not even sure why they bothered with customs. No one even glanced in our direction. We just walked on through. Weird.
We had to meet up with our "guide" of sorts. I am not really sure what to call her. I worked with a travel agent to arrange our trip, and he said that transportation to the hotel was covered, but we would have to arrange our own travel back to the airport. He also said that I had no included meals. She was picking up several of us and basically acted as a tour guide for that first couple of hours in Korea but she really didn't do anything except pick us up and give us more useless coupons. When we met up with her, she was speaking English, but you could see the strain on her face. It was too much for her. So she asked if we could speak Japanese. So my first experience of speaking a foreign language in Korea was Japanese. I spoke Japanese, to a Korean. Interesting. She was very outgoing. She must have had 12 cups of coffee before picking us up or something. She would not shut up. What she was saying mostly had nothing to do with Korea, she was just talking for the sake of talking. All in Japanese too. We had to wait for 2 other people to get off their plane for about an hour, so we watched a cool acrobatic show at the airport. That was different. There was also Christmas stuff everywhere. Just everywhere! The entire airport was decked out in Christmas to the extreme. I think they
beat the US in the Christmas decorating department. Totally unexpected.
About an hour later we were on our way. Incheon is one hour away from Seoul and our hotel was in the heart of Seoul. We were next door to city hall, which happens to be the central hub of Seoul. All the shopping is easy to get to from city hall. Very convenient place. On the drive to the hotel, the lady just kept
talking. Her switch must have been broken. She asked us questions here and there, but never paused enough for us to answer. She just kept going. It was like he hadn't seen people in days or something. We get dropped off first, and she helped us check in. That was new to me. I also found out that the hotel we stayed at, was primarily Japanese speaking hotel. Most of the guests were Japanese.
The first thing we noticed in Korea, apart from the Christmas, is that they drive on the right side of the rode and the left side of the car. I didn't expect them to be closer to American traditions of driving. There were also a lot of Kias and Hyundais but that is to be expected. I mean, those are Korean cars. The city is not as packed as Tokyo because their population is not nearly as dense. The hotel room was quite spacious. We had two twin beds, but it was still spacious. We even had a table and chairs. Something you would never get in Japan. Also, we did in fact get breakfast included for the first day. Not sure why the previous guy said that wasn't going to be a thing.
After we checked in and got our rental pocket Wi-Fi working, we decided to head out and grab a quick bite to eat. There were many places within walking distance so we decided to go to Burger King and see what
they did to make it Korean styled. Koreans sure do love their coffee. I think they love coffee more than Americans love coffee. There had to have been at least 7 on the same street corner as our hotel. I am not
kidding you. There was coffee EVERYWHERE. At Burger king, they didn't have any fish burgers like in Japan so we went to a sandwich shop first to get something for me. Josh ended up getting a bulgogi burger. He said it
tasted good. I had a crab sandwich with corn bread. That was delicious too.
I started to feel overwhelmed with the events of the day, plus, I was so eager to speak Korean and no one seemed to give me the time of day with Korean and only spoke English, it really discouraged me. I didn't want anything more to do with the country. We walked around for a bit more and made a stop at a convenience store to grab snacks and headed back. It was about 9:30pm or so and people were still up and about on the streets. That gave me the impression that Korea is a night time society.
So that was the first day. Nothing much happened besides traveling. So please check back tomorrow
for another update!