Day One: 24 Hours of Travel

Just a reminder…these long ones have it all. So if it gets a little caught up in trivial stuff, just do the blog equivalent of fast forward…skim and scroll down.

Here we are in Minneapolis, on a sorta crusty old NWA jet sitting next to an artist named Ric who does these amazing sky murals. We look relatively fresh, right? 12 hours, several pretzel snacks and OJs later, not so much.

This was the screen we could (kind of) see from our seats. When it wasn’t showing movies, it flipped through these blue screens. One screen told you how far it was until our destination (9782 km, thanks), the temperature outside (cold), and another screen told you in hours and minutes how far we had to go. 12 hours of that stuff, interrupted by Horton Hears a Who and a few peeks at Russian glaciers. Yipee! By the time we arrived in Tokyo, just about anything was entertaining.

First happy chuckle? An arrival and departures board in Japanese. Okay. After a few moments of “how’s this gonna work?” it flipped into English.

Next, all the posters explaining (in pictures) that US beef was not welcome in Japan. Beef jerky? No. Sausage? No. Flinstone-eque meat on the bone? Nope. Leave your beef at home, folks. US beef proved to be a big issue in Seoul, too…a little perspective on that, if you’re curious.

We went into a few shops, checked out the unusual trinkets and candies, and headed into this intriguing store…half candy/cookies, half origami display.

One of dozens of scenes made entirely out of folded paper:

They start out tiny, but then it just gets trippy…there’s a tiny (but real) folded crane resting on the head of that pin. They provided a magnifying glass so you could see for yourself. I can only imagine it was made by the world’s smallest origami-folding robot, but who knows.

The candy and little rice cookies in the shop were cute and rounded and adorable. These little blue things, for example.

A mildly chocolate rice cookie/biscuit/cake thingy. Yummy.

Oxygen Lounge! I wish we could have tried this out. As it is, we only heard the pitch given to the couple sitting down. The list of oxygen flavors seemed pretty extensive…and if you’re worried about death from economy-class syndrome (see number 5 below), it might even save your life!

Back on a plane and two more hours to Seoul. When we arrived it was 7am our time, and we’d been traveling for just under 24 hours. We still had one airport, a 90-minute bus ride, and a hotel to find before sleep.

Incheon Airport! And no lost luggage! Since South Korea is the mobile phone capital of the world, it’s no surprise that there’s a 24-hour booth willing to rent you a top-notch mobile phone for just dollars a day. After chasing down a cell phone and getting through the fastest bilingual phone tutorial/contract agreement ever, we rushed outside to get a bus into Seoul (about $7 a person, rather than around $40+bridge fees for a taxi).

We thought the buses closed at 10pm, so we bought tickets for the first Insadong-bound bus we found. The driver told us there was a better route for us, and was kind enough to put us under the care of a baggage handler who watched out for us, pointed out the correct bus, explained our incorrect tickets to the new driver, and got us comfortably settled on the right route. It was the first of many, many, many helpful and kind acts from perfect strangers in Seoul.

As soon as we were settled on the bus to Seoul, the new driver asked us where we were going. We said Insadong, and he said he couldn’t drive there tonight–there were protests (that darn US beef). He seemed dismayed that he couldn’t drive us, so he went into overdrive trying to arrange a different plan for us. While swerving in and out of traffic and stopping at a dozen stops, he called our hotel, got directions, flagged down a taxi, and held up traffic while he transferred us to a taxi with hand-written directions to our hotel. We’d been awake for 26 or so hours at that point, and we were so grateful.

Around midnight Seoul time, we pulled into Hotel the Sun Bee, a pretty little building tucked in between two giant office buildings on an alley off another alley in downtown Seoul. Kinda hard to find, but sooooo worth finding. They had our reservation request (yay! my attempt at making a reservation over the phone, in Korean/English, had worked!), and we were on our way up to room 405.

We were just minutes away from sleep, but we had to investigate the room a little…it was surprisingly big for what I’d heard of Asian hotel rooms. Large bathroom (jacuzzi!), separate vanity area, computer desk, couch, and the largest big screen TV you’ve ever seen in a hotel room. It dwarfed everything.

A few little touches let us know we weren’t in Kansas anymore… the first was the room’s entryway (sorry, no pictures), with a place to leave our shoes and an energy-saving device that turned off all electricity-using devices when you removed your room key to leave. Just up the step from that room our house slippers waited for us. There was also an in-room water filter and above it a tiny little blue-lit UV glass sterilizer. [I secretly (or not so secretly anymore) covet the UV sterilizer. It’s just so darn cool-looking with its mirrors and blue lights!]

And finally, the in-room toiletries and hair products…with my personal favorite, Charming Spray. Felicite Hotel the Sunbee body splash was a close second, but nothing beats a can of Charming Spray.

With that happy little detail, we debated our Ambien dose (.5? .6? A sliver? A whole?), split one, and fell asleep on our rock-hard bed with very rounded pillows. G’night Seoul.

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~ by themagpiesnest on June 21, 2008.

3 Responses to “Day One: 24 Hours of Travel”

  1. Any suggestions for reserving at the Sunbee for Sept. and Oct.? Their Web site is entirely in Korean, and none of the online reservation sites say that rooms are available for my dates!

    • I had the same issues…I think I tried reserving through asiarooms.com or something like that. In the end I just called the hotel directly (730-3451). Do a google search for “how to call Seoul from US” or something similar, and it will give you the international, Korean, and area codes to dial if you want to call the number in Seoul. I had to call two separate nights–the first night no one spoke enough English to help me, but the second night there was a nice guy who knew enough English to take my name, the dates we wanted to stay, the type of bed (double or single, etc.), and confirm that rooms would be available and reserved. When you’re there, most of the staff knows enough English to get by very well, but on the phone it’s another matter (probably because you can’t use expressions, hand signs, etc.)…so just try a couple of times until you get someone who speaks enough English to make a reservation.

      If you stay there, print out their address from their Korean website (or the pamphlet above) and take it with you. It will be helpful to show the cab driver when you arrive in Seoul. Once you’re there they’ll have business cards with their address and a map in English/Korean, but finding it the first time is a little tricky. Also, if it helps, it’s on the same small street as the only 24-hour McDonalds in Insadong, so that might help with directions.

      Enjoy your stay!

  2. Awesome! Its genuinely remarkable article, I have got much clear idea about from this piece of writing.

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