The flight over was the longest haul flight I’d ever taken. Previous to that, it had been an eight hour trip from Paris to Havana in 2008. This was an eight hour trip to Dubai, a three hour stopover, and then a further ten hours to Seoul.
The stop-over in Dubai was horrific. Let’s just leave it at that.
The first thing that I noticed when we landed in Incheon airport, I hadn’t been paying attention on the plane, was the amount of Irish priests and nuns that were queueing up in front of us to get through immigration. Surely Korea was Buddhist, no? I was confused. I was also uncomfortable. I tried very hard not to make any eye contact with the clergy. I was sure if they saw my big spud head they’d know I was Irish. I didn’t want to get in to any awkward conversations about mass.
We were staying in an apartment near Dongdaemon for our first few weeks. We carried all our impossibly awkward luggage on to the subway and set off on our two hour journey. We both fell asleep immediately on the train. Our stop was the last one, I think, so we were safe enough. The train played a little song when we reached our stop. That woke us up. I love that song. Actually, the train had a few different songs, one for transfers, one for end of the line, one for taking off. All of them were hits.
We met Kang, the apartment owner, in the train station. He very kindly offered to carry one of our bags up and down a series of extremely steep hills to our apartment. The heat was unbearable. It was in the high 30’s, Celsius, and it was close to 1 in the morning.
We thanked Kang for his help and collapsed on the bed in the apartment. There was a large Samsung air-con unit over the bed that herself figured out. We cooled off and begun to think about getting ourselves fed.
I was famished. We hadn’t eaten since the plane, a vile, cold, pasta dish. Herself said that there was a real 24 hour culture in Korea and we shouldn’t have to look too long for somewhere to eat. I had to take her word for it, I hadn’t done my research. We showered and changed and ventured out in to the sticky July Korean night.
Sticky July Korean night would be a great name for an electro band, wouldn’t it?
The biggest challenge we faced initially was not being able to use Google maps on our phones. Apparently it required a Korean ip address to gain access to Google servers in Korea. I tried using Apple maps instead to find a McDonalds, but it being Apple maps, we got lost in five minutes or so.
Herself took charge, and I was damn glad of it. We weren’t going to a McDonalds, we were getting Korean food. She chose a restaurant at random. I wasn’t convinced. It looked like a cross between a taxi office and a soup kitchen, but my God, the food was fucking delicious! I took back, silently, every ignorant assumption I’d made about the food in Korea. It cost the equivalent of four euro and was served with about five different side dishes. I’d never had kimchi before that night. It stank like farts, but tasted amazing.
Night one. Food’s good. Everything was going to be great!
Next time: Safety Dance