Monday, 8-12-2014. Day 110.
As any traveler will tell you, travel days are hard.
Today was a travel day, and these always take longer than you think they should and tend to suck the life right out of you. Our flight from Tokyo to Seoul left at 12:30 p.m. and was only 2 hours and 40 minutes. But to get to the airport on time and do all the things one needs to do when crossing international borders, we left our apartment at 8:30 a.m. No big deal there, but we wouldn't be in our hotel in Seoul until almost 6:00 p.m.
We called a taxi outside of our apartment and took a short drive to the Grand Hyatt, which is where we were able to catch the Friendly Airport Limousine (which isn't really a limo, it's a bus, but it is pretty friendly) to the Tokyo Airport. Drop off, check in, security, immigration, waiting lounge, take off—this was our 17th plane ride in 110 days and, at this point, this part had become pretty routine for us (though the security checks never seem to get any easier).
And then we were in the air, checking out the in-flight entertainment options. At one point, the flight attendants came around to tell everyone to look out the window because we were going right by Mt. Fuji. And we were. It was the first time we were able to see it.
Welcome to Korea
A short time later we landed in Seoul. It already looked cold, but the girls were excited about all the snowmen they could build (spoiler alert: there were no snowmen built because there was almost no snow in the city).
Deplane, immigration, luggage pick-up, customs clearance, local currency acquisition, taxi hailing. Our standard arrival routine went pretty smooth—until it became apparent that our taxi driver didn't know where he was going (an ongoing theme for us in much of Southeast Asia—we continue to be surprised by the number of taxi drivers who don't use any kind of GPS navigation).
So we pulled out the trusty smartphones (powered by T-Mobile Simple Choice) to help the poor guy navigate, and ... nothing. That's when we learned Google Maps doesn't work in South Korea. It was a map SNAFU in South Korea!
So we called the hostel where we were staying and one of the guys there talked him in. Even with pretty clear verbals, the taxi driver was still confused about where to go, which cost us a few extra won (the South Korean unit of money), but we eventually got where we were going, due in no small part to the gent from the hostel standing on the side of the street waving his arms.
We checked into the hostel (the Dongdaemun Hostel) which, despite our small room, was a decent enough place (although the bathroom was a little dodgy). The staff was fantastic, though, and one guy walked us over to the local bank to show us where the most reliable ATMs were, then walked us to the street where all the restaurants were and even helped us choose one and order some bulgogi.
After that, it we walked back and hunkered down into our bunk beds and drifted off to sleep.
- Hours in taxis: 2
- Hours on a bus: 1
- Hours on a plane: 2.5
- Mountains seen: 1