Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On My Way to Seoul!


Usually travel days are uneventful which they should be but today was different and in a very good way.

I took Uber to BWI, leaving the house at least 40 minutes before I had to. You never know what the traffic is like on the Beltway and 95 and today, I was not about to risk missing my flight. The Uber driver was at my house in less than 5 minutes and in less than 40, we were at the airport. I arrived with more than plenty of time to check in and go through security.

It was a slow walk to the gate and sat and patiently waited for the boarding announcement. As the first group of passengers began boarding, I walked over to stand and wait for my zone to be called. Then, an Asian woman approached me. She held out her boarding pass and pointed to the zone number. I was in the same zone and I told her it was not yet our turn to board. From her accent I figured was Korean but I decided to ask to be sure. She answered that she was Korean. I asked if she was flying to Seoul and she said yes. I asked if she was on the Delta flight to Seoul and she said yes again. We were both on the same two flights! At one point, she turned away and I noticed the name tag on her backpack. When she turned back, we continued to chat. She asked my name and I told her. I then asked her's. She said "Laura". I asked, "Laura?" She replied, yes. I happened to notice that the name on the tag matched the name on the boarding pass so I'm guessing what I saw was her Korean name. Rightfully, I should call her by her Korean name but she said Laura so that's what I will call her. We boarded the plane together but when we arrived in Detroit, I disembarked first but I waited for her to join me. We walked over to our next departure gate together, making a couple of stops along the way for Laura to buy gifts, duty free items and to pick up something for lunch.

As we waited for our flight to depart to Seoul, which ended up being delayed by an hour, we spent more time getting to know each other. Turns out she also lives in Silver Spring - just a short distance from where I live. Incredibly she's 60 years old, is divorced, has two daughters and two young grandchildren. She doesn't look 60 and most certainly doesn't not look old enough to have grandchildren. Up until 2 months ago, she worked as a manager at a beauty supplies company. She is happy to be retired! Although she's been living and working in the US for 17 days, her English is barely understandable. There are times when I have to fill in the blanks to understand what she's saying. Bad English aside, she is friendly and nice - it was just good fortune to meet up with her as I almost felt like she was my travel partner.

As we got more comfortable being in each other's company, she even very kindly offered to take me around Seoul and she repeated her offer several times. She really meant it so we hatched up a tentative plan for tomorrow and exchanged contact information.

The flight to Seoul was long but uneventful. When we arrived, Laura and I made our way to immigration. There, we said our goodbyes as she had to go into the line for Korean citizens and I had to stand in the foreigner line. We gave each other a hug and once again, confirmed plans for tomorrow.

I cleared immigration and customs in a breeze. Before exiting the terminal, I had a couple of things I needed to do. The first was to withdraw Korean won from the ATM machine. I then had to call my Airbnb hosts. They were suppose to send me the access code to the apartment but I had yet to receive it. I called the emergency numbers they had provided and luckily they answered. A few minutes later, I had the code. Hallelujah!! I was not about to leave the airport unless I had the code and my plan B was to find a hotel, a plan which I was hoping I would not have to put into action.

Next I had to find the airport bus stand. Our Airbnb hosts had recommended taking the bus to reach their apartment as the stop is only a block away. They had provided good instructions on which bus to take though they didn't mention anything about getting the tickets before hand. I decided to stop at the Information Desk to confirm the bus information and find out exactly where I had to buy the tickets.

I exited the airport per the instructions and found the stop for Bus #6011. The next bus was scheduled to leave in 3 minutes. Yikes!! Thankfully, the ticket stand was just nearby and I got my ticket for 10,000 won (about $9 USD).


I stood at bus stop 11B and waited for the  bus.


Thankfully, I only had to wait about 5 minutes for the bus to arrive. I boarded and took a seat.


There was a bus route posted just above me and I noticed the names of stops were in both Korean and English. Better yet, as the bus pulled away, the announcement was in Korean, English and Mandarin. No way I will miss the stop unless I fall asleep and I have much too much adrenaline in my system to fall asleep.


For the first 40 minutes or so of the ride, we were on the outskirts of the city and there were no stops. Once we entered the city, the bus began to make stops. Someone hit the buzzer for my stop so I got off with a few other people. I collected my suitcase from the luggage hold and followed the map to the apartment. Thanks to Google street view, I knew exactly what the apartment building looked like. It was easy to spot even in the dark of night.

I rode the elevator to the 8th floor and found the apartment. So happy to have made it! The only thing I had to do was enter in the access code. Hmmm.....easier said than done. I was faced with a rectangular box that had no keypad. I pressed anything that looked like a button. Nothing happened. I even tried to pull and push on the black section thinking perhaps it was a cover. Nothing happened. Hmmm....okay, what to do next? Lightbulb goes off. RTFM (read the effing manual)! I pulled out the instructions I had been given and in there was the instruction on how to activate the keypad - you just place your palm on the face of the lock. Voila! Keypad appears. I punched in the code and the door unlocked!! Yay! I am finally at my destination!

Inside the apartment, I took a few minutes to get acquainted with the space and got settled in.


Right now, I am relaxing - reclining on the bed, cup of tea on the bedside table and a Korean soap opera playing on the TV.


I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow. I'm meeting up with Laura around 11:30 and I don't want jet lag to slow me down so I'm going to go to sleep now. It's been a long day and I've fought off the exhaustion long enough.

I am thrilled to finally be in Seoul and I can't wait to start exploring the city!!

Goodnight from Seoul!