Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 1 – Arrival

You know the drill on this one, pretty much all my first day posts for these further flung locations are about the journey there and a few hours that I actually have there before collapsing into bed. Well, this trip to South Korea is no exception as I undertake this first journey that took about 20 hours door-to-door to get from the office (after a full day of work) to the island of Jeju.

The lion’s share of the trip was the initial flight between London and Seoul. It was my first time flying with Asiana Airlines and they might have served me the best in-flight meal of my life.

It’s was my first taste of Korean food on this trip and I hope a good sign of the food to come. I mean, if this airline’s take on bibimbap could be this good, what must the real stuff taste like? After gobbling this up and watching Big Hero 6 came the time that I was going to try and get some shut-eye to help me adjust to the time difference. I think I only went off completely for about one hour and then drifted for an additional four hours.

By some miracle we actually landed 40 minutes early, which meant that the stressful interchange between airports actually became rather leisurely and enjoyable. On the Incheon aside I had some time to enjoy the architecture of the train station and some of the handprints of Korean film stars (including the stars of Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Lady Vengeance) that were on display at the airport’s cinema.

The transfer itself, by the airport train, was so painless and allowed for more time to just wander around Gimpo airport on the other side and admire the interiors which reminded me a lot of those of Taipei’s airport. This transfer also reinforced to me just how much the hub and myself are going to stick out as foreigners in Jeju. Not only do I tower over pretty much everyone but I am pretty much as white as you can get.

Still though, there is already so much a feeling of magic coming in right now. Both the hub and myself had window seats on the plane to Jeju and we were rewarded with the most amazing view of the island lit up at night as the plane descended. I would have taken a picture of this but I made the executive decision to just enjoy the moment rather than faff with a phone camera until I got a good picture form the plane with minimal reflection. It was one of those moments.

By the time we got to the hotel we were both pretty wiped, but also hungry. So, rather than just invade the nearby convenience store for a hotel room picnic, I found a place that was nearby and was meant to do really good and reasonably priced gogi-guksu – a traditional food of Jeju which is essentially a pork noodle soup. The place we went to was one called Sister Noodles and is part of the noodle culture street. Man, that broth was outstanding and I’m going to really miss these complimentary side dishes when I get back to the UK.

A few things that have struck me so far in my very limited time here. Firstly, I was more excited about this trip that even I realised. Upon boarding the plane to Seoul I was beyond giddy and that feeling just hasn’t abated. Not really an observation, but something that surprised me somewhat.

The big thing that struck me was how, having barely immersed myself in the culture really, how many Korean people I recognised on posters and on television. So far I have clocked three hosts of Infinite Challenge on different programmes, a sports star who is now a host of some form, a member of BTS who had two posters up in the concourse to celebrate his birthday and the film star hands I mentioned earlier.

Granted, because of the 1001 TV list and that I’ve seen a number of Korean films, its possible that at some point in the trip I might have recognised one person – but this many? Guess it speaks for the power of the K-wave and how being this beacon of a type of culture attracts tourists. I’m here after all and, without falling for the food or Infinite Challenge, I’m not sure if this country would be as high on my priorities.

In any event, I’m here now and I’m going to try and sleep off this jet lag so I can make the most of my first of two full days in Jeju. Please don’t rain all day.

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