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Published: November 15th 2009
Never in my years of travelling have I gone from such despair to such joy, as I did at the Vancouver airport on Wednesday. I was waiting to board my flight to Seoul, when it looked like there wasn't going to be anymore than about 40-50 passengers. I thought... a whole aisle to myself... :-) Then to my horror, a group of about 150 Korean school children (aged 8-10) arrived like a swarm of bees... The thought of being surrounded by all of these school kids for 11 hours sent me emotionally off a cliff.
As I stopped to show the stewardess my boarding pass and id, she said she was going to switch my seat... At first, I thought she was going to just rearrange me amongst the kids, but as I was walking to the plane, I checked my new boarding pass I noticed 4F... That seemed awfully close to first class and sure enough... it was! Not only first class, but in a SLEEPER! I was going to be flying with the angels to Seoul! After years of transoceanic flights, the thought of sprawling out to sleep cannot be understated. I was not disappointed. If there was anything in my life that I would change with money, flying first class for flights of more than eight hours would be right at the top of the list.
Upon arrival in Seoul, I prepared myself for the cultural shockwave that I so dearly love. Seoul has a beautiful new airport that looks totally underutilized. My plane was one of the few that was parked at its terminal. Getting through immigration and hooking up with a bus to downtown was a breeze -- I love Asia. :-)
Once downtown, I encountered my first hiccup of the trip. While I knew it was high season, or as they say here "gold season", I wasn't totally prepared for how busy the hotels were in Seoul. I stopped at hotel after hotel with nothing but, "sorry we are full", or something like that in Korean. It was now 19:00. I was tired; I was frustrated; and I was getting "a bit" desparate. I finally found a guesthouse that was going to have to do for the night. I actually had to take off my shoes by the reception and use slippers to go up to my room???
After dropping off my luggage, I headed into town for dinner. The Korean's love to eat. There seemed to hundreds of restaurants in the area I was staying (one has to remember that greater Seoul is a city of 20-25M people). It is unfortunate that I'm travelling alone, as many of the meals are for more than one. The Bulgogi, which is a Korean barbecue seemed to be very popular here. I still made the best of it, as I had a Korean stew and beer for $10. I love all the little appetizers they serve with Korean food. Kimchi and pickled vegtables are going to a be a staple of my diet for the next week. There is also no taxes or tips required -- how sweet. :-) I was also getting the sense that getting ripped off isn't the rule of law in Korea.
So far off to a good start (minus finding accomodations).
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