People who made my travels more enjoyable: Jeong-min (Korea)
As soon as I stepped off the plane I was hit with a wave of humidity. Ahhh it felt good to be back. It had been almost a year since my departure from Korea (I had spent 10+ months living in Seoul from 2008 to 2009). This was my third trip to Korea, and the sounds, smells and people were still very familiar to me. I made the long trek down the terminal toward immigration. Since I had flown a Korean airline, I was fortunate to be in the main terminal. A second terminal was built a few years ago for foreign airlines. While that terminal is equally beautiful, it requires that you take an underground tram back to immigration in the main terminal. A bit of a hassle...
Once I reached immigration the officer scanned my passport, took a look at my previous Korean visa, and welcomed me back. Incheon airport is one of the more beautiful airports in the world. The design is spectacular, large windows, hard wood floors throughout most of the terminal and very modern amenities. I collected my bag and went through customs without a hitch. Unlike American airports, I the airport at Incheon uses more of an "honor" system. The customs agent barely looked at my card before letting me through. None of the interrogation tactics used at American airports.
After exiting, I rented a cell phone, got some cash from the ATM and bought a T-money card at the Family Mart. The T-Money card is an absolutely necessity in Seoul. It can be recharged at any convenience store, and allows you to pay for the subway, busses and taxis within Seoul. Next thing I boarded the 6015 bus, and was on my way to Myeongdong in Seoul.
In my previous 3 trips to Seoul, I had always arrived at night. Despite being jet lagged, it was nice to take in some of the scenery on one hour trip to Seoul. Korea goes through seasonal changes more severe than any place I've ever visited. In the winter its cold. A bitter wind blows in from Siberia, and the lifeless landscape appears harsh and unwelcoming. In the summer, the winds change and Korea turns in to a lush sub-tropical climate. I'm strange, so I prefer the winter, but you can't help but marvel at how it changes so drastically.
While on the bus, I noticed that the stop nearest to my hotel was the last one. I decided to get off three stops earlier in order to save some time. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake. I was further from my hotel than I thought, and I had to lug my bag and laptop case through the crowded streets of Myeongdong. A little bit of an uphill before the hotel had me sweating profusely. I was mentally prepared for the heat and humidity, but unfortunately my body was not. Having come from San Francisco, where the summer feels like winter, this change in climate was taking its toll. I arrived at the hotel thoroughly soaked. In order to minimize the effects of the jet lag, I decided to stay up and go out for dinner with my friend Jeong-min.
After a quick shower, I set off to meet up with her near the Sejong Hotel. I had planned to go to my favorite gogi (Korean word for meet) restaurant, but sadly they were closed for renovations. We settled on a place across the street. There are so many restaurants in Seoul, many of which offer the same fare, so one way to tell if a place is good is by the size of the crowd. The downstairs was full, so we went upstairs and ate on the floor. Many restaurants still offer this traditional style of eating. The tables are set low to the ground and you sit cross legged on the floor. Its a fun experience, but my poor posture and lack of flexibility make it uncomfortable after awhile. We enjoyed our panchan (korean side dishes) before the meat arrived. We settled on thinly sliced beef, with soju and beer to drink. It was as delicious as I remembered.
After dinner, I said goodbye to Jeong-min, and returned to my hotel. Completely exhausted I passed out after a few minutes. Before falling asleep I thought, god its good to be back!
Seoul Hotels & Accommodations review
The Astoria Hotel is located near Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway line 3) and is about a five minute walk from the heart of Myeongdong. This is a grea… read entire review