300 kph on KTX!

We stayed the night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel – and it was very grand! Lovely young trainees on Reception using their best manners and English, and a great shuttle service from, and back to, Incheon Airport in the morning.

(Above centre & right: the view from our hotel window looking out towards Incheon airport – to left of picture)

From the airport we caught the subway into Seoul station, already bustling with people; not sure if it was a normal weekday or if the annual trek to spend Chuseok holidays with family had begun. We had our first experience of ultra sweet food at Berries and Beans cafe, and wished we’d chosen one waffle or pastry each instead of one of each…

Soon, we were on the KTX speeding at 300 kph from Seoul to Ulsan! We were going too fast to take good photos!

Only two hours to travel the distance between Wellington and Auckland. Bliss! Although the scenery was less interesting than we’d anticipated.

From Kapiti to Eonyang

Our trip began with the flight from our hometown of Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti, to Auckland. We’d chosen to support Chathams Air who are providing flights since Air New Zealand pulled out of Kapiti and other provincial domestic services.

This meant a long wait at Auckland airport. Luckily we found the fantastically comfortable Strata Lounge, where for just under $60 each, we had comfortable seats, delicious fresh food – salads and veges to die for! – free WiFi and last-minute iPad charging, and showers if we’d needed them. Although the charge was for 3 hours we didn’t get kicked out and were able to relax there until it was time to board our 1:00 am flight to Hong Kong, en route to South Korea.

Can’t remember much about the HK stopover.

At Auckland airport there were signs around the place asking for patience while they upgrade the facilities. They need it! Without the Strata Lounge it would have been a very uncomfortable wait.

More from Incheon!

South Korea: Ulsan

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Bamboo Forest: one of my favourite places we’ve visited in South Korea. It’s part of a huge park in Ulsan. We got to the bamboo part via a gourd tunnel!

About 10 types of bamboo were labelled, and it was really peaceful to wander along the paths…

…until people began striding through on their way to work, with loud music from iPods etc, and the public address system started, with its mixture of cheesy advertising, schmaltzy 60s pop music and occasional classical tunes. 

Such contrasts in this country that seems to have “grown up” too fast; there’s a lot of glitz and a lot of dirt, strict social hierarchies and cartoonish kitsch. We learned you have to take your shoes off before going indoors because the streets and pavements are filthy and never cleaned.

 

 

 

 

 

South Korea: Chuseok

On the weekend just past, Koreans celebrated Chuseok when families get together and honour their ancestors and visit in each others’ homes: a bit like Thanksgiving plus the get-together of Xmas.

Being family, we were invited to the home of our so -in-law’s Uncle (his oldest male relative) and Aunty; they’d stayed with us when they came across to SG and LW’s wedding with SG’s parents.

SG’s father & uncles and some of his cousins were there; SG and the boys – splendid in traditional hanboks – had arrived earlier, and the others had already eaten when Warwick and I arrived with L at about 10:30 am.

We were made to sit down on the floor at the low table and eat, watched by the men at the table and probably by the women in the kitchen. We provided a great deal of amusement, and the men had Warwick drinking shots of alcohol (only 19% proof, thank goodness)!

Some good luck made me more skilful than ever before (or since) with my chopsticks, as every mouthful was tracked from bowl to mouth, and more and more food pressed on us. We managed to communicate with signs and gestures and a great deal of laughter, and finally I was allowed to sit up on the sofa before my knees and legs totally lost all feeling. Thereafter I was offered more fruit and bean paste sweets that looked like big chocolates but tasted like nothing much. Eventually I copied L, accepting everything but leaving it on the plate next to me.

Warwick continued to sit with the men, which did his hip no good, but made a great impression, with many gestures and much hilarity! We left around midday with much bowing, and kissing and hugs – most unusual in Korean society except with close family – and felt we’d provided them with a great deal of entertainment!

It was wonderful to be made to feel so welcome and included in such a special family and cultural event.

 

 

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holidays are fun, so long as…

Home again after a fortnight holidaying in the beautiful South Island. As we drove, in rental car, from Picton to Christchurch, then (after TranzAlpine train trip) from Greymouth via Haast and Wanaka to Dunedin, then Oamaru and back to Christchurch to fly home, some reflections on holidaying arose.

They begin with (1) at the bottom of the page, and end on the last day of our holiday at (6).

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Some thoughts about traveling:

(6) Before telling airport check-in staff you know you’ve exceeded your suitcase’s weight restriction, check that the $2 shop bag scale is weighing in kilograms.

NB My suitcase did NOT weigh 35kg and only had two more items in it than when we left home (and I’m probably going to wear one of them on the plane.)

(5) The towels are skinnier than they used to be. Motels must get their linen from the same supplier, because although they’re very thick and white and long, the towels are not very wide. Unless you’re quite short, if you want to wrap the towel around yourself, you’ll have to decide which half of you you’re going to wrap! (BTW, I appreciated the motels which provided make-up remover wipes and mushroom coloured face cloth!)

(4) Another motel observation: in most motels, the bed is too soft and the pillows too hard. Curious.

(3) Why do motels have a single switch for the light and fan, and why is the fan so damn loud? Especially in the middle of the night.

(2) South Island roads are great, and well signposted. You can drive for miles and miles at 100kph. You need to take the “slower around corners” warnings seriously, however. The speed limit before towns is sensibly graded down to 80 then 60 then 50 kph, rather than suddenly halved from 100 to 50.

(1) You’ll enjoy your holiday better if you don’t keep a count of roadkill.

 

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