First Time In Korea

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End Jan 28, 2012

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Where I stayed
Incheon Airport

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wow, a lot has happened from my last entry. We had a pretty uneventful flight to Seoul, Korea. All of my students arrived at the college on time. We loaded our luggage and departed on time, 5 pm. Traffic was light and despite a few wrong turns in NYC we made it to JFK sooner than I expected. As we exited the NJ turnpike we decided to refuel and grab a bite to eat. A middle aged man saw the Messiah College logo on the side of the van and asked us to pray for him because he is feeling that the Lord is calling him to attend MC but he does not have the money to go right now. The world seems so small at times.

This year we traveled on Korean Air. I would highly recommend this airline. We were on the Airbus 380. I was amazed at its size and room. It had high ceilings and wide sides. Very quiet and smooth ride. We each had our own entertainment system which included tons of movies, TV episodes, music, games, etc. We were lacking nothing. They gave us fresh clean pillows, blankets and a travel bag with slippers, toothpaste and toothbrush. I never had that kind of treatment before.

We were not in the air long before we were served beverages and peanuts. Not long after that we were served a full hot meal. The menu included chicken or beef with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, side salad, pineapples and a roll. Following our meal, lights went out and we were encouraged to sleep. I believe everyone slept for a few hours but it was certainly not a sound sleep. It is very hard to sleep sitting up for a 14 hr flight. In the early morning we were given a hot wash cloth to help wake us up and an assortment of juices. Breakfast choices included an egg omelet, continental breakfast or Korean rice porridge.

I would love to have been able to work on my Thailand presentation but motion sickness always prevents me from being too productive on these kind of trips. So, I took in several movies. The first movie I watched was Footloose (second time around for me) followed by The Driver, The Help and The Real Steal. If my opinion matters, I would recommend all of them.

We arrived in Seoul at 4:55 am, 35 minutes before expected arrival time. We found our way through customs and all had time to freshen up. Half the group ate a Korean breakfast while the other half sipped on coffee and ate Dunkin Donuts. I had a Korean meal that was really good. I do not know what it was called but I have included a picture. I found out that Korea is another culture who enjoys sweet and sour condiments with their meals. Definitely satisfies my Pennsylvania Dutch eating style.

I had booked our group for a 6 hour transit tour of Korea. We were joined by a Thai native who just returned from a study abroad program in the USA, a Manila native from Vancouver and a European gentleman who is now living in NYC. Greg was excited to begin speaking his Thai with the Thai native. She was very impressed with his Thai language skills so much so that she wanted to know how long he had lived in Thailand. She could not believe how well he spoke. She told him he spoke as a Thai native. Of course his head swelled and the students commented that he will never let us forget that compliment.

The tour had only cost us $40/person. This included our transportation, lunch and the entrance fee to the palace. It was very cold during our visit. The landscape reminded me of PA. It was 12 degrees Fahrenheit with brown grass, no leaves on the trees, a snow dusting on the ground with mountains in the distance. Needless to say, I was disappointed. We had some distance to drive from the airport to Seoul. Seoul was very congested with traffic and reminded me of a large city in the US.

The first visit we made was to the Changdeok Palace. It is the best preserved palace among the 5 royal palaces.
We arrived just as the "changing of the guards" was occurring. Following the ceremony we spent an hour or so touring the buildings and museum of the palace. We then visited a Korean temple, the Jogyesa temple, followed by lunch. The restaurant was located in Insadong which is an antique street lined with shops. The restaurant reminded me of a small wood cabin back in the colonial days of the US. It was a very nice experience. We had a little bit of shopping time following our lunch before we departed to visit the Cheonggyecheon Stream. We arrived back at the airport around 3 pm. Despite our time going through security and customs we arrived at our gate in plenty of time for our departure. We departed Seoul for Bangkok around 6 pm.

Our flight to Bangkok was pretty uneventful. Everyone slept on this flight. Walking all day in the cold on top of jet lag = unavoidable sleep. We were provided snacks, a hot meal and beverages. Once again we had a wide range of entertainment options but unfortunately my little remote control was not working correctly. It did not really matter because I never saw more than about the first 10 mins of anything I attempted to watch. We arrived in Bangkok around 10 pm. We went through customs and gathered our luggage. All went well and all our luggage arrived in one piece. Our hotel representative was waiting for us as we exited the terminal. The driver loaded our luggage and off we went to the Great Residence Hotel for an overnight stay.

The hotel was fairly new and located underneath an expressway ramp. A dirt road led to the hotel entrance. I have to admit at this time I began to get concerned about my hotel selection; however, my worries quickly passed as we approached the main hotel atrium. How bad could it be? I paid $19/night per room which included 2 people per room, breakfast and roundtrip transportation to the airport. It turned out that I found a bargain. I will need to remember this one for the future. It was here that we met up with Bekah, Tom and Angel. I could not believe it but Angel put out her arms and immediately came to her Grammy. Needless to say, I have been enjoying her ever since. We settled into our rooms as everyone was totally exhausted. Only 12 more hours and we will reach our final destination. Dates and times are a blur at this time. I just want to sleep. zzzzzzzzz
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