Hello from Korea

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hello from Korea!  I arrived on May 15 at 4:30 p.m which is three hours ahead of Bangkok time. Flight was on a Boeing 777, not full, so on the 3.5 hour leg to Taipai, Taiwan, I moved to a row of 3 seats, which I had to myself.  THen in Taipai, everyone has to get off for the plane to be cleaned, then new people came onboard and I moved to a double seat but a person joined me who spoke English and we chatted for the 2 hour trip to Seoul. He had been travelling for 2 weeks on business to China; he owns his own import/export business and he gave me his card and said to call if I needed help. He brought me to the Korean Information desk at the airport upon arrival and so was a good first impression of hte Korean people; I had been informed they were more reserved than Thais, and not to expect much English.  I asked the info desk to phone the Backpacker's Guesthouse at the airport for me, as they would pick me up. They did, and Mr. Chan came for me with his wife and young son, in the Guesthouse van. While I was waiting for him, I got some Korean money exchanged from my Thai baht, and made my train reservation to Iksan, to leave at 3:05pm on the slow train, cost 15,000 won, or about $18, arriving 6:14 p.m. to meet cousin Steve.  While were driving out of the airport Mr. Chan got a phone call that more people arrived so we went in a circle, back to the airport, and picked up a couple from Japan and a person who appeared to be Korean.  The Guesthouse is only about 8 minute drive from the airport, and still on the man made island outside of Incheon city, which is an hour from Seoul.  The Guesthouse is  actually 12 rooms on various floors of an apartment building. I had a nice big room, sat tv, etc. and there were lots of restaurants and shops around.  I was tired as I was up at 3 a.m. so was glad I wasn't going further that day. 
The next day, on a rainy May 16, Mr. Chan drove me back to the airport terminal so I could take the bus to Yongsan train station, in Seoul.  Only 2 people on this big Greyhound type bus, and the other guy got out at Seoul Station so I was by myself for a few minutes!. Seoul has wide streets, wide sidewalks, I saw no litter, no poverty, so unlike Southeast Asia!  People are very industrious, serious.  Only food I could find that was somewhat healthy was a whole wheat bagel and cream cheese from Dunkin Donuts at the train station (a very modern, new building). Got on the train, which was very full and had to put my backpack between the train cars as I could not hoist it up myself onto the overhead bin, and unlike any other country I have been to, not one person stepped up to help which was quite a surprise.  Although I think I have been spoiled as I have had so much help everywhere and that is probably unusual.  However, when I arrived, a young man helped me with my bags (I have one extra one now, although I did send a box of extra stuff back to myself (thanks Kelly in Yellowknife) from Bangkok on Monday. Anyway cousin Steve me met at the Train Station and we took at taxi to his place in an apartment where they have a room for me, a real treat. His wife Rona came home about 7 p.m from her teaching job. Steve showed me some pics on his computer of my grandfather George and his grandfather Helmer, brothers, from back in the 40s. I had never seen those pics so was a nice treat. Steve also played some music that he has composed , he is a great songwriter, singer and guitarist/harmonicist - his passion is music and he has recorded 6 cds and is doing another soon.  We are planning to take a day journey to a temple outside of Iksan and they have recommended a couple of trips that I will do on my own so that's great.
Today is sunny and the weather is certainly cooler that SE Asia! Last night was the first night in 4 months i could sleep without aircon or a fan!  Today Steve and I played badminton at a park nearby and this afternoon I am going with him when he teaches English to his class of kids and I will talk to them so they can practice their English. Then we are meeting Rona for dinner. 
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