Travels – Getting there…
When planning the trip I did not want to be rushed at any point to avoid panic and all the mental stress and hassle that comes with it.
I’m off on holiday so no stress, no rush… all cool! 🙂
Flights were planned specifically, seating in flights also (due to my need to visit the loo) and all stages of travel in between have also been planned and sorted. But that meant a lay-over of about 11 hours in Istanbul Airport. Quite a long wait but Istanbul Ataturk Airport is massive and full of eateries and cafe’s of all shapes, sizes and palates, not to mention wallets also.
So.. Travel started Monday morning – 2nd April @ 6.00am
Wake up, shower, a quick breakfast and then finalise all packing and travel documents – shut down house and wait for taxi. Flight – Turkish Airlines TK 1370 was scheduled for 10.50 am and take-off was more or less as planned. An uneventful flight during which breakfast (or maybe brunch) was served – scrambled eggs (quite good considering) with chips and salad. A lot more then I am used to for mornings so it served as my lunch also.
Ataturk Airport, large, sprawling and full of people all the time. Full as in jam packed, crowds all moving this was and that with the occasional runner trying to find (I assumed) his/her correct gate. There were close to 800 gates and some which required a walk of up to 20 minutes to reach. So strategic planning of your location closer to the time of the flight is advisable (although gate is announced well in advance to give you ample time to get there).
I had a snack and a lovely pot of Black Tea (Oolong I believe it was called) and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited… well I suppose you get the gist.. 11 hours but at least I found my way around did not have to run like those poor individuals (one who seemed rather distressed and didn’t seem to pleased with the aid the authorities were offering – hope she got herself sorted in the end).
The number and variety of people travelling through the airport was impressive and also fantastic to experience. The names of the destinations showing up on the departures screen also.
1.15am (GMT+1) was scheduled time to fly out. Gate was announced at around 11.00pm – gate no 705. Gate located – 15 minute walk to reach… and I sat down at a café which had free wifi, got myself a bottle of water and whiled the time away.
Passport control was a bit edgy – maybe the beard or something, but the chap kept thumbing through the pages and looking at me repeatedly. I stood there and smiled, what could I do otherwise? That sorted on to the plane and settle down for the next long haul flight. I was sitting next to an elderly Korean couple and we exchanged simple pleasantries but they were asleep for most of the flight. On board – Turkish Airlines again – TK 090 this time – service is fantastic with a choice of menu for lunch plus scrambled eggs (again) for breakfast. Two meals on the same flight (ehh.. Airmalta, what do you say to that?) and both meals were very good. I chose the baked pasta dish, very similar to the macaroni cheese dish we know at home. I whiled the way in between by watching a couple of films, reading a bit and catching some fitful patches of sleep. About half way through the flight I changed to Seoul time to help me get used to the shift of 8 hours.
Arrival in Seoul was shrouded in clouds but the airport was quite easy to navigate – so I passed through passport control – surprisingly easier then at the check-in desk in Ataturk Airport – and found my way to baggage control. I was a bit worried here, my luggage was last seen (by myself) at the airport in Malta when I checked in for my first flight. But there it was carried along by the conveyor belt and in good shape too.
Next was too exchange euros to Korean Won (and get used to the different currency… hmmm Eur1 = 1299.23 Korean Won) and find a Taxi to get to my accommodation – Bibimbap Guesthouse in the Jongno-Gu area of Seoul. Taxi driver, Chris Kim, was fantastic and explained aspects of the city as we drove towards my destination and even waited while I went in the side street (pedestrian street) to check if we were in the correct place. Bibimbap’s Guesthouse isn’t a large place so not known to the driver. When I couldn’t find it he called Bibimbap himself who then came out to meet me and show me the way.
We were there, but I hadn’t recognised it while looking earlier.
Settled in the guesthouse which is a Traditional Hanok style place I sorted my things out and went in search of supper (it was close to 9.00pm now – Tuesday 3rd April).
This also served as a bit of an orientation exercise as I like to walk and thus taking note of landmarks to keep track of my location is important. Supper done, some kind of fancy hot dog with delicious sauce and salads and a place called Hang Out (the waitress didn’t understand English and the menu was all in Korean so I went by pictures..) I worked my way back to the Guesthouse for my first sleep in Seoul.