This is the second part in my Korean trip cycle. To read the previous parts, follow the link below:
As I mentioned in a previous post, we flew with Asiana and it was a great choice. Because it’s a Korean carrier I was a bit stressed about the food or the amount of space aboard the plane but it was way better than my British Airways experiences so far. I’m a rather tall person and I could easily stretch my legs, which is of the utmost importance if you’re forced to sit in one spot for 11 hours. The food was very tasty, you could choose either Western or Korean style meals and even though we went with the latter it was absolutely bearable for our palates; you decided on the amount of spice so if you’re not the biggest fan of hot chilli, you could still enjoy your bibimbap. The personnel were kind, helpful and constantly smiling. It was a real pleasure to fly with Asiana and I hope I will use their service again.
the bus trip
The Incheon airport is not as bad as I thought. Even though it’s quite large, it’s very easy to navigate and it’s possible to arrange everything very quickly. I don’t know if it’s normal there but the passport control didn’t take much time, same with the luggage. After maybe half an hour we were done. And remember that you need to add some time for us to organise ourselves in a strange place. We had similar experience with collecting our sim card (the most convenient way is to pre-book it online before your trip) and buying t-money card (the one which works as a wallet and you can use to pay for transportation all over the country). Because we were travelling to Daegu, we found a ticket counter and were even able to buy some food to go without any stress that we would miss our bus – and this food being gimbaps (sometimes romanized as kimbaps), something I’ve already knew I liked; obviously I was in a panic mode thinking of some Danish to buy (seemed like the safest way, but there were no pastry at all).
And the buses, which are actually called limousine buses, were so comfortable that the whole 5 hours journey, and remember it was after 11 hours flight, was quite enjoyable. It was definitely a good idea. At first I thought of renting a car. I may not be the best driver in the world, but I’m certainly the most fearless one. Or maybe the word careless should be used instead, blame it on my English; I was driving to San Francisco city centre on a regular basis, as well as passing trough curvy mountainous narrow roads of Norway; traffic jams and chaos of Middle Eastern cities are nothing to scare me either. And I’m glad that my husband said arbitrary “NO” to driving in South Korea. There are over 50 million people living in this country. It looked like every single person owns at least 3 cars and all of those cars seem to be on the roads at the same time! Not possible you say? I thought so too, but feel free to check it yourself. The highways are wide and well maintained, unfortunately packed with vehicles. On Jeju island, a small piece of land inhabited by only 600,000 citizens, the traffic is basically as dense as in London during peak hours! Or at least it feels like one. It took us almost an hour to find a parking spot in Seogwipo and it was my Korean friend who was driving, using a local navigation system and being able to discuss things with other locals.
How to move around without having a car when in Korea? Very easy, rely on taxis. The cabs are cheap and I do not mean for someone who lives in London, like me, where everything is extremely expensive. No, it is actually priced cheaper than Poland. It was more convenient for 2 of us to take a taxi, instead of waiting for a bus. My Korean friend takes a cab from home to work and back every day. It was only about 9 USD to get from our hotel in the southern part of Daegu to the airport located in the north eastern part. Just remember that the meter runs even if you don’t, so in case of peak hours you will pay more for a short distance because of traffic jams. To make it easier for you, it would be useful to download a Kakao taxi app; it shows some information in English, but because it’s mostly in Korean I would suggest you to get some help with the initial setup. And then it’s easy to order a cab through the app, you can also add your card details so you do not even need cash to pay for your ride. In many taxis, you can also pay with the t-money card mentioned above. If you’re stressed about understanding the taxi driver, do not worry. Korean authorities are aware of the problem too. And they created a special telephone service which I believe is free of charge (it definitely is for you, a tourist). It happened to us few times that someone who did not speak English, called this helpline and then we described our issue over the phone so a person on the other side whose English was always flawless could explain it in Korean. What an amazing thing! We only had one problem with Korean taxis. They are mostly LPG powered which means additional tank taking space in trunks. We had just 1 big suitcase to share thankfully, but every time we had it with us it had to ride inside the car. And the suitcase was not huge, just a regular plane checked-in size. Quite strange.
Come back in a week for the third part of the Korean trip set. I promise this will be the last one for a while so those of you who are not interested in Korea can finally read something else.