Ok, so I still haven’t filled in the gaps from my last couple of posts. I’ll get there eventually. Maybe.
Right now, I want to write about my trip home. For my last two days in Korea, I stayed with Matthew and Priscilla, their two children, two hamsters, and Priscilla’s parents, in the biggest apartment I’ve seen in Korea. I’m sure there are larger, but not that I’ve been inside. Anyway, less than 10 minutes walk from their apartment is a collection of bus stops, including one for a bus that travels to the airport.
The bus I caught to the airport was clearly different to the standard buses. For one, it had the names of the airports it stops at written in English on the side. There were the huge luggage compartments underneath, where the driver stowed suitcases. Then there was the price. Where an average bus fare would be 1500 or 2000 Won, this fare was 8000 Won. Hardly extravagant, especially compared to public transport costs in Australia, but still higher than normal. Priscilla told me the trip would take about an hour, something I was a bit surprised about – the map at the bus terminal showed there were just 11 stops between where I was, and Incheon International Airport. She explained there was about 30 minutes between the last two stops – knowledge I was very grateful to have.
Clambering aboard, I paid my 8000 Won and settled in to a seat near the back. With the outside temperature around -1 or -2 Centigrade, the windows quickly fogged up. More and more passengers got on the bus as we travelled, and after about 30 minutes, we stopped at an airport. Fortunately I noticed a sign in English that had the name of the airport written on it. I don’t remember which airport it was, but it wasn’t Incheon International. That, combined with the unexpectedly short trip to this airport, and the majority of passengers remaining seated, was a pretty good indication I didn’t want to get out here.
Eventually I arrived at the airport, checked in, and navigated customs and baggage screening. I took a bit of a look around, and made my way to the gate in time to queue up to board the plane. In a repeat performance of my experience last year, after presenting my boarding pass and heading down the aerobridge, I had to present my checked on baggage for a cursory inspection. I’m not sure what the point of this inspection is – hand luggage had already been X-rayed as we entered the sterile section of the airport, and it wasn’t an overly thorough inspection. I wonder whether the workers there were paying more attention to passengers’ body language than what they were seeing inside the bag.
The inspection over, I headed into the plane, and took my seat. I was towards the front of economy – row 15, so I sat back and watched people pouring in, and disappearing into the depths of the aircraft behind me. Eventually, I discovered who I would be sitting next to for the next 10 hours. Two young kids, probably around 10 and 5, with the 5 year old boy sitting next to me. Wonderful. Then, to complete my nightmare, their mother disappeared towards the front of the plane. I was almost outraged, that a mother would travel business class and abandon her two children to the mercies of the strangers surrounding them in economy. Then I figured they’d probably sleep for most of the flight, something I planned to do also, so it wouldn’t matter so much.
The next 15 or 20 minutes weren’t much fun. The kids seemed to have one Nintendo DS between them for entertainment, and in between tirades of Korean, the DS was swapped between the two. Fortunately the kids got tired of this soon after take off, and the boy lay down across the two seats, with his head in his sisters lap. I was greatly relieved – the next 10 hours wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Then about 10 minutes after take off, one of the air hostesses came to chat to me. She said the mother of the two children was in business class, but wanted to know if I’d swap seats with her, so she could mind her children. I was understandably very reluctant to give up my cramped economy seat for the luxuries of business class, but soon I was on my way. What an experience business class was! Reclining seats, about as many hostesses for the 10 rows of business class as there were for the entire economy section, and a delicious four course dinner complete with tablecloth, glassware, menus, and some great wine. Later there were blankets, pillows, bottles of water, and the discovery that the reclining seat would stretch out almost flat, although still on an angle.
Business class was a great experience, one that I would almost consider paying for next time. It certainly makes the flight much more enjoyable. The perfect way to cap off a great holiday.