2014 Trip to South Korea

The Honolulu to Seoul leg of this flight on Korean Airlines was wonderful; just like the good old days. We had worried that we should have paid the outrageous amount for business class. Instead, it just so happened that we had an entire plane practically to ourselves.The service in coach was complete—head phones, slippers, toothbrush, for the first meal there was an appetizer (nuts), wine/beer, three meal choices (we had a good Korean bibimbap), good fruit and  more wine. We got a hot towel (Audre loves that), the entertainment system was great and we saw a cute movie, which we recommend called “Chef.” The flight was empty and we each had an entire row of 4 seats. We both could lay stretched out on the seats and we slept some. We had a second full meal (with three choices) during the 9:45 min. flight. We arrived on time. What more could you ask of an airline? Oh yes, and our luggage arrived fast. (Through www.cheaptickets.com we bought round trip SF, Honolulu, Lihue, Honolulu, Seoul and SF tickets for about $3000 for the two of us.)

Incheon Airport was clean and efficient. We arrived at the main concourse of Incheon Airport at about 4:30 p.m., after the plane landed at 4 and we picked up our luggage. We changed money, went to the Information Desk for maps and advice and tried to get a local SIM card for Dimitri’s Samsung 4 mini. The last endeavor took an hour and led to nothing. No one could figure out what the problem was but they thought that it was a provider problem, i.e., a Verizon problem. Anyway we figured that it was difficult to understand Koreans speaking English, especially on the telephone, so we wouldn’t bother getting a local SIM card and would only use the texting and e-mail features of the smart phone when there was free wi-fi available. It turned out that it was not a Verizon problem but a problem with the people. At a shop in Itaewon, the owner slipped a pre-paid SIM card into Dimitri's phone and the SIM card worked--easy peasy.

We also bought a T-money rechargeable transportation card (KRW 6,000 each--nonrefundable/US $6) and filled it with KRW 20,000/US$20 for subway, buses and some taxis. We didn't know it at the time, but the T-money card was good all over Korea for buses and Metro/subways. It was really convenient to just add money to our cards at a convenience store. (The exchange rate was US$1 = Korean Won .00098 at the time we were in Korea on Sept. 4th.) 

While Dimitri pursued the phone issue, Audre sat in front of the “Culture Touch the Sky” stage and listened to 4 cute Korean boys sing. They had a dance routine and were generally very charming. Their group was called Dejavous.
Incheon Airport entertainment
Even when they sang a song that Audre knew, she couldn’t understand the words they were singing, she just knew the tune that they were singing. No big deal; she was entertained.

We took the KAL Limousine Bus (http://www.kallimousine.com/eng/schedule_en.asp) from door 11 at Incheon to the Ritz Carlton ($16000 x 2 = KRW32,000) and then a taxi from the Ritz Carlton to our hotel KRW6,300). In US dollars we spent approximately $32 on the bus and $6.30 on the taxi. The trip to the city from the airport took 1 and ¼ hours. The bus was very comfortable, with well-spaced wide leather seats. There were two men loading suitcases into the luggage compartments of the bus so we didn’t have to heave our suitcases around. (On this 6-month trip, we’re carrying 6 cases: 2 large Samsonite hard-sided suitcases, 2 medium soft-sided suitcases and 2 Targus computer cases.) When Audre started schlepping one of the large Samsonite suitcases from the back seat of the taxi, the driver almost had apoplexy—he rushed over to get the suitcases out. No one expects (or will take a tip). At our apartment building Mr. Kim, the doorman, helped us with our suitcases to the elevator. Wow, this was great!

The city made a good first impression. The highway from the airport was fast; it was pretty-- we were passing farmland. The highway got congested when we got into town and we crawled to the first hotel. The second hotel was the Ritz Carlton. While it was walking distance from there to our hotel, the Milatel Chereville Serviced Apartments, with all of our suitcases, we could not. The taxi had to go around and around because of no left turns and such but finally made it to our hotel at about 7:30 p.m.

We found the Milatel Chereville Serviced Apartments online through www.booking.com. (The address is 17 Gangnam-daero 61 gil, Seocho-Gu, Seocho-Gu, Seoul, 137-074, Korea, South, +8225329774, e-mail: information@mchereville.net, website: http://mchereville.net/room/room_02_e.html). BTW, the M Chereville staff answers e-mails in English!)

The total cost of our 14 night stay was KRW 1,904,000 and at .00098 exchange it came out to US$133.28 per day. Checking in was easy; the doorman, Mr. Kim, spoke English and so did the young people in the office on the 6th floor. Click here to see pictures of the "Deluxe One Bedroom".  Click here to read a description of our "Deluxe One Bedroom" apartment on the booking.com site.

We were impressed with our apartment. Because it was nearly 8:30 p.m., we quickly went out for dinner to the restaurant next door to our hotel that had been recommended by the woman at the Information Desk at Incheon Airport (Norang Jugory or Norang Jeogori,   1316-29, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu | 5F, Time Bldg., Seoul, South Korea). It was a wonderful Korean set menu restaurant where we shared one delicious meal for KRW 22,000. Don’t get the wrong first impression: Seoul is not cheap—it’s more expensive than Hawaii was (and that was gaggingly expensive)! More about that will be posted later. We had to go to bed--we were pooped.