Sunday, April 25, 2010

The journey

First, I'll start off by saying that I arrived safely.

The journey was rather relaxing for me after working a long and hectic week. I managed to sleep about 8-9 hours during the 10-11 hour flight from Detroit to Tokyo. It was easy to sleep on the plane with the movement, the sound of the engines and nothing really to do but read. My journey consisted of flying from Milwaukee to Detroit (3.5-hour layover) then to Tokyo (about a 3-hour layover) and then to Incheon (Seoul).
The flight was beautiful at times. I had a window seat and was able to see some of the scenery below because I think we flew lower than normal due to turbulence.
It was amazing to fly over Alaska. We passed over snow-covered mountains that did not look like they could support life. I really felt like I was part of a Discovery Earth episode.

As we flew over the Pacific Ocean toward Japan I was hoping that we would be able to see some whales, but alas, that did not happen. I did see many little boats chugging away (fishing boats?).
It was also interesting to compare airports. Detroit's is nice and bright and easy to navigate. But Tokyo's, as you'd imagine, was the coolest. On the walls there were banners that were replicas of ancient screens. There was even a white square sofa lounge area. It's hard to describe except to say it reminded me of something from a posh New York City club. The smoker's room was the coolest I ever saw - it looked like the trendiest of nightclubs. The tourist gift shops are really nice and they had several sushi restaurants.

I was able to eat 3.5 meals on the planes. For the Detroit-Tokyo flight, my main dish consisted of chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes, shrimp, bread, brownie and salad. Not too bad! They even gave me a whole meal on the 2.5-hour flight from Japan to Korea.
Landing in Korea and getting out of the airport was really easy. No questions at customs, my luggage was some of the first off, no line at the money exchange, etc. The problem was my plane landed 15 minutes after the buses stopped. So, I hailed a cab, which cost more than I would have liked and I think the cabbie may have taken an extra 10 off of me claiming it was more expensive after midnight. Oh well, at least I arrived safely at my hotel and didn't have to spend the night at the airport.
I didn't get to shower like I wanted to when I arrived last night because I cannot figure out how to tun on the lights, TV or computer in the room. Luckily, there was a flashlight. I've tried all of the buttons to no avail. I thought even with everything being written in Korea in the room, I would have figure it out eventually. I really have no idea what I am missing. Thankfully, I brought my laptop and found a slow wireless network to connect to. Even though it is morning now, I am not getting much light into my room because it is right against another building. Also, it may be overcast today-I can't tell.
I will get the light situation figured out tonight after I have dinner with a Korean friend, Willy.
It's a really nice, clean room with everything I could need for this week and it is only costing me about $27 per night. There is a flat screen TV, computer with Internet, eating area, water cooler (hot and cold), coffee and mugs, mini fridge, a huge bath tub and lots of personal products-toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brish, lotion, perfume, hair dryer and condoms.It is in a very compact space of course. Good for a single person, but it would be more difficult for two people. There is an entry area too where you should leave your shoes.
The truth is most of these little hotels in Korea are used by couples who have no privacy at home because they live with their parents. So the hotels are often refered to as love motels.
I did feel like I was in the movie "Lost in Translation" last night as I rolled into town. There was a huge billboard on the side of the road with Pierce Brosnan advertising a casino.
The memories of what makes Korea so quirky also came back to me as I looked out the taxi's windows. There are many churches in Seoul and at night their crosses burn bright. They are these light-up crosses that appear to be red-as if they are on fire.It's really a rather eerie sight. Then as I drove into Bucheon, I could see all of the delivery food drivers on their scooters making deliveries. The streets of Bucheon (where I am staying and used to live) are hideous. They are dirty, smelly and littered. No wonder I panicked the first night I arrived here more than 3 years ago. The city looks nicer during the day, though. And Seoul proper is much nicer looking. It's enough to make a person dizzy, though, with all of the signs. There isn't an inch of space not covered along the street level. It's hard to truly capture with a camera, but I will try this week.
Today, I am off to explore Bucheon. I hope my favorite stores are still here.I may stop by my favorite mom and pop restaurant for lunch to see if they still recognize me. And my corner grocer...I wonder if he is still there? It is all very overhwelming. I would like to take the first day slow and leisurely, but with so little time and so much I need/want to do, I better keep moving.
But since Korea is the land of "morning calm" most places do not open until about 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. so I have a bit of time this morning to make instant coffee and eat granola bars.

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