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Asia » South Korea » Seoul
December 29th 2009
Published: January 5th 2010
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Going for a walk...Going for a walk...Going for a walk...

Alex thought he wouldn't need his coat. He was wrong.
Seoul, South Korea 27th-29th December 2009
The whole reason I wanted to go to South Korea in the first place was because of the food. I love Korean food and it did not disappoint. As I’d anticipated, there wasn’t much else to interest me, especially as I’m not a particularly huge shopper, although I was looking forward to experiencing what the 4.5* Intercontinental had to offer. I think it was my first time in such a highly starred establishment.

The flight into Seoul was a fun one for me. I love flying. Take off, landing, and turbulence are the best parts for me. It’s like being on a rollercoaster and I love rollercoasters. I don’t really think about dying when I’m in a plane - if it happens, it happens, so just try and enjoy the ride…. There was some serious turbulence on flight OZ165 - we both had to hold our drinks up to stop them from spilling. That was fun. Alex, I’m pretty sure, was finding it a lot less exciting. I think he was s***ing himself almost as much as when we got stuck in the rocks white water rafting in Thailand. When we arrived at Seoul
Pelican CrossingPelican CrossingPelican Crossing

except the "button" that Alex told me to press wasn't a button.
Incheon, the ground was covered in snow and it looked like a proper winter wonderland. So pretty, good start!

We hadn’t checked any bags in, so we walked straight out once we’d gotten our passports stamped. There were about 7 gates we could’ve walked out of, and we walked out of gate E. There were a few people holding up signs, but we couldn’t see anyone with a JTB Look sign, so we walked down the other gates to see if we could find our guide. We walked all the way to the end without finding her, so we stopped at the information desk and asked if she could help us. She ended up calling the KTB office and arranging for the guide to come to us there. So we sat and waited for a few minutes, and even managed to buy a bottle of water and chocolate bar for KRW 1,000. I was about to say thank you in Korean to the till person, but then realised that I didn’t actually know how to say it. When the guide came, there was a family of 3 with her and we all went outside to get picked up. The guide didn’t speak any English, just Korean and Japanese. Great.

When we got into the minibus, our guide told us that as it had been snowing heavily that day, traffic was bad and it’ll probably take longer than the usual hour to get to the hotel. We sped along the motorway, seeing poor bus drivers who had skidded and turned the wrong way on the icy roads along the way. We saw a few sirens go past as well. We then hit a load of traffic and the hour drive actually took us FOUR HOURS to complete. Alex was not happy! I started reading Slumdog Millionaire that Alex had bought for me a few weeks ago and got through a couple of chapters. We both slept for a bit and talked for a bit, but when we reached the hotel, everyone was relieved. Praise the Lord we didn’t have to spend the night in the bus. We walked in to the hotel to check in, but the guide told us to sit down and did it all for us.

That’s what I don’t get about the Japanese. They like to go on package tours, where absolutely everything is
ParkParkPark

we walked nearly the whole perimeter trying to find the entrance. We never got in.
either done for them or explained in painful detail as if they have no common sense. Maybe I’m just being presumptuous in thinking that only a complete moron wouldn’t know how to check into a hotel, because I’m so worldly wise… :p So finally we get given our room keys and some more vouchers that we’re quite clearly never going to use, and made it up to our room on the 17th floor. Room 1764 to be precise, right at the end of the hall. Nice view. We never saw the other family again. They were weird anyway.

After days of wondering what a 4.5* hotel room looks like, I finally managed to see what all the fuss was about. Bugger all. The room was smaller than the Westin, although furnished a lot nicer. Lots of storage space and a comfy seat in front of the mirror, but a smaller bed than the Westin too. The bathroom was pretty nice, although I wouldn’t say any nicer than the Westin. So all in all, I’m a bit disappointed, because I was expecting it to be fancier than the 4* Westin Awaji. Oh well. It’s still a nice hotel. But then
Korean pancakeKorean pancakeKorean pancake

i forgot to take a photo before it got eaten.
we realised that there were no toothbrushes!! Neither of us had brought ours, because we assumed that the hotel would have some. But apparently because of new environmental laws, they’re not allowed to provide them for free. So they’re selling them. Which we didn’t even realise until after we’d bought some from the 7-11 for KRW 2,500 each. All in all not a great impression of my first stay at the Intercontinental.

The hotel is connected to the Coex Mall, much like the Westin Awaji is connected to the shopping complex and plant museum. I seem to be comparing these two hotels a lot. I should probably stop. We walked to the Coex Mall and had a quick gander at what shops and restaurants were there, before going round the food court a couple of times and finally deciding on some bibimbap. Yummers! It was pretty spicy, so I’m surprised that Alex managed to eat it, but impressively he did. After dinner we went for a walk outside and did a circle of the block. It was so nice walking out in the snow - we haven’t really had that feeling for a long while. Our first impression of
Korean BBQKorean BBQKorean BBQ

yummers!
Korean people wasn’t great. They come off as pretty rude and miserable. My opinion is yet to change…

Before getting back to our room for the night, Alex decided he wanted a McChicken Sandwich! We come all the way to South Korea and he wants frickin McDonalds!!!!! So he ate that on the way back to the room, because I insisted on him not stinking out the room with it. I watched an episode of CSI:NY while Alex played Champ, before falling asleep to Michelle Yeoh talking about children in Vietnam.

The next day, we didn’t get up particularly early - around 9:30ish. I started the day with a chapter of Slumdog whilst waiting for Alex to get up. We went back to the Coex Mall for some pastries and a “black chocolate muffin”. It was just a chocolate muffin. Pretty dry and crumbly for KRW 1,200. We then went for another walk outside, because Alex had seen a park in the distance. We got a map from the concierge and started our trek to the bunch of bare trees o’er yonder. We managed to find it quite easily, but there was no gate, so we walked all
the day we leftthe day we leftthe day we left

the snow completely cleared. it was still freezing though.
the way around to the other side before finding a sign that said it was a WHO site. Fantastic. So we decided to head back to the Coex for some lunch. We kept on walking instead of turning back, and found a lot of the restaurants inside the mall were big chains that we passed on the main street. They’re everywhere - Paris Baguette Café, Paris Croissant, Seven Monkeys Coffee, etc… This city does not excite me in the slightest. And Alex thought we were getting looks from the locals because I’m oriental and he’s not. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure. Either way, we’re leaving the next day anyway so it doesn’t bother me too much.

For lunch I decided that I wanted some pancake, so we spent a while looking for a place that looked nice and did pancake, and finally managed to find one in the back parts of the mall. It was quieter than the main section, which was nice - I’ve already decided that the Coex Mall is horrible and I don’t like it one iota. The pancake was frickin huge!!!!!! And I love all the little side dishes you get with
Glad to be leavingGlad to be leavingGlad to be leaving

the miserable people at least
every meal. Kimchi, green stuff, bean sprouts, etc. I love the food here! Alex helped with the pancake, but we still left about a fifth of it. Not bad for KRW 1,500. However Alex insisted on getting a slice of pizza after, so we stopped off in the food court and he got a pepperoni slice for KRW 3,700. The guy at the till there was actually smiley and friendly. I liked him. He restored my faith in the Korean people. They’re not all surly misers after all…yay!

When we got back to the room, Alex napped for a bit and read some more Slumdog. Dinner was a bit of a palaver. I wanted Korean BBQ, so we went to a restaurant that the concierge recommended, but turns out Alex doesn’t like Korean BBQ. So he ordered a room service club sandwich later. I got a Baskin Robbins Very Berry Cheesecake cone. I managed to get a smile from the lady serving me, which was a nice surprise. I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to tip the room service guy. We probably were. But we didn’t.

When it was time to leave the Intercontinental, we went downstairs
Incheon toiletIncheon toiletIncheon toilet

you press the button on the left and the seat cover turns so you have a brand new clean toilet seat cover to sit on. nice.
to check out, and our Korean guide was waiting in the lobby. As we were waiting to check out, she told us to check out. Yes, we know! What the hell do you think we’re doing waiting for one of the receptionists to become free??! When we’d checked out and settled our bill, we got into a newer minibus than the one that brought us here, and spent the next hour driving to Incheon Airport. When we reached the airport, we were about to go inside to check in and Alex waved to our guide, but she said she’d come in with us. So we waited and as Alex was about to cross the road, the guide was all “no no, wait!” and pointed to the red man. There were no cars on that road for the next minute or so, but she insisted we not cross. Alex didn’t take kindly to being mollycoddled by the guide. She waited with us in the queue to check in, and when a desk became free, she motioned us towards it. We checked in fine, without any help from any guide, thanks. The Asiana agent asked if we wanted window or aisle seats,
Business ClassBusiness ClassBusiness Class

we didn't even ask to get upgraded!
so we picked aisle. Alex then asked if it was a full flight, to which she replied “yes”, and then offered to give us exit seats. We took them and got our boarding passes and were about to leave, when the guide checked my boarding pass and told me which gate to go to at what time. YES, I KNOW!!!! It’s written on the frickin boarding pass!!!!! Luckily that was the last we saw of our guide. We had a couple of hours to kill, so I bought some kimchi chocolate as souvenirs, and we had a doughnut and hot chocolate at Dunkin’ Donuts, before heading to the gate for the last 15 minutes.

The flight back from Seoul to Takamatsu was probably one of the best we’ve been on, purely because we got upgraded to Business Class! I reckon someone else needed the exit seats, so we got bumped up. Nice! We so didn’t look the part in our trackies and hoodies, and it was a bit weird being served orange juice at the beginning and having a “table cloth” on our little tray. Alex gets embarrassed by these things. I was just enjoying the ride. The meal was better than the one we got on the way. We had pickles, vinegared rice, broccoli, beef, baked fish, fruit, and were offered wine, which I declined because I had to drive to the hotel later. We landed after just over an hour of flying, and were back in Japan (shame it wasn’t Virgin long haul, could’ve done with the luxury of their business class for a lot longer). Aaaaah, home sweet home!

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