Last Day in Korea and our visit to Unseo Airport Town

First, its been nearly a month since I last posted on my blog. Sorry everyone. I’ll be posting frequently from here on out as I have oodles to do over the next few weeks. However, before I launch into that, I figured I’d write a short writeup on my last day in Korea.

No Wifi leads to more errands

Nicole and I completely packed our apartments up, sold off the last of our things and ran a few last minute errands around town. We had loads of time since our last days were on Friday and we didn’t need to leave our apartments until Monday and my internet was turned off. It’s amazing how much free time I have when there’s no internet.

Nicole wanted to sell her broken laptop for parts to the Gwangju Mac PC guys downtown, unfortunately, we couldn’t get in touch with them. We ended up getting some coffee and kimbap, at two seperate restaurants. Nicole and I have yet to find a Korean establishment that offers both of these amenities.

Bus to Incheon Airport Attempt 1

After coffee and, more importantly, free wifi, Nicole and I grabbed our bags and headed to the  Usquare bus terminal. Our flight wasn’t until Tuesday morning but it was an 11am flight and the thought of waking up at 4am for a 4 hour bus followed by a day of flying sounded miserable.

We tried to buy our tickets for Incheon airport. However, the last bus to Incheon airport, from Gwangju, leaves at 2pm and it was about 3:30 at this point. We took the second best option and booked our tickets for Incheon with the intention of transferring buses to Incheon airport when we arrived.

Bus to Incheon Airport Attempt 2

Bus to Incheon
Bus to Incheon…look at that smoulder

The bus ride was typical and uneventful. Nicole and I listened to This American Life podcasts and fell asleep intermittently. We arrived at the Incheon bus terminal about 4 hours later and quickly visited the ticket booth to try and book a bus from Incheon to Incheon Airport. The lady behind the counter told us that would be impossible and we should just take the subway.

Bus to Incheon Airport Attempt 3

I left Nicole with our luggage and went in search of the subway. There’s a set of stairs that lead below the Incheon bus terminal and into a giant food court with a Johnny Rockets, a Starbucks, Lotteria, and loads of other restaurants and shops. I traveled through the vast expanse of shops and came to the subway station. After snapping a quick picture, I ascended from the subterranean labyrinth into the glowing light of Mother Gaia. There was a small Korean taxi driver waiting at the top of the stairs, contemplating life, or more likely waiting for passengers. I asked him about the cost of traveling to Incheon airport from the bus terminal and he said $40 which seemed a bit steep. I thanked him for his honest advice and returned to Nicole through a small garden beside the bus terminal.

We convened on the matter of transportation and decided the subway was the best, cheapest, course of action. The two of us loaded up our bags and hopped on the subway. 16 stops later and one transfer, we found ourselves on the train to Incheon Airport.

The Jingabong in the Airport Basement

Nicole and I had planned to stay in a Jingabong, or bathhouse, rumored to be in the basement of the Incheon Airport. Neither of us could confirm that said bathhouse existed or that it had any vacancies.

At the second to last stop, Unseo, we threw away any previous and somewhat vague plan, deciding to get off the train and pass the night. From the train window we could see neon motel signs, noribangs, and Samgyeopsal places. It looked like Pleasure Island from Pinocchio, most likely filled with bad Korean boys who would soon turn into donkeys if they ate enough samgyeopsal.

Pleasure Island

Samgyeopsal restaurant in Unseo
Samgyeopsal restaurant in Unseo

Unseo is a relatively new city, designed and built for travelers to Incheon Airport. Its filled with cheap Korean motels, western-style hotels, noribangs, and samgyeopsal places. Nicole and I booked a cheap Korean motel with a quiet TV and an uncomfortable bed for $50. We dropped our bags and grabbed some samgyeopsal, our favorite Korean meal. Basically, you gather around a small grill of questionable cleanliness to cook selected meats and veggies. It should be noted that until two months ago Nicole was a vegetarian who insisted upon only eating the scrap lettuce and garlic sides.

Japan Vacation – Returning to Korea

One Last Train Ride

Nicole and I woke early, cleaned our room, and took a train back to the Osaka airport. The ride was early and uneventful. The often crowded subway was sparsely populated with random Japanese people and the odd tourist with a suitcase making the same trip as us.

Along the route back to the airport, I saw numerous people outside exercising, playing tennis, jogging. It was refreshing to see a culture that embraced the morning. In Korea, I rarely saw anyone out and about before 10 am. The coffee shop by my house doesn’t even open until after 11. By then I don’t even need coffee.

Airport Food and Souvenirs

Duty Free Shopping
Duty Free Shopping

At the airport, Nicole and I checked in and bought Udon noodles and Takoyaki in remembrance of the great times we had in Japan. The food was considerably better than American airport food and much more reasonably priced. After our airport lunch Nicole and I perused the duty-free shops before out flight. When it was time to board, Nicole and I realized that we would not be sitting next to one another because we booked separately and checked in electronically.

Two Ships Passing in the Night

I was sitting in the back so I walked out onto the runway with the other passengers stuck in the back and Nicole boarded at the front like a normal human. In that moment I knew what it must have been like to be a third-class passenger on the Titanic. Right as I boarded though, Nicole flagged me down from the front of the plane. She had persuaded the Korean woman next to her to switch places with me and sit in the back.

In-flight Booze
In-flight Booze

I walked up to the front and sat with Nicole. Nicole regaled me with the tale of how she asked the woman and the woman said yes before realizing how far back it was and remarking in broken English “It’s so far”. I didn’t know this detail beforehand and felt a bit bad about it, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed by reading some exciting in-flight literature. Nicole and I had some Japanese money remaining that we hadn’t spent and decided to go out with a bang so we spent our remaining few dollars on Japanese in-flight booze. It was fun, we got a beer, some plum wine, and a highball (which is awful). Thoroughly sauced, we passed the rest of our flight discussing our favorite parts of our trip and planning our next adventure back in Korea.

Korea or Bust

Nicole and I landed in Korea and spent the rest of the day traveling back to Gwangju, first by light rail, then subway, then bus, then taxi. It was exhausting, but we finally made it back home.

Overall I had a great time in Japan. It was a place I’d always wanted to visit and I feel like Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto were a good way to see a wide slice of Japan. I’d love to go back someday soon, perhaps even teach there. It felt a decade ahead of Korea and the US. The food was amazing, the people were incredibly friendly, and there was so much to do all the time everywhere.