Monday, October 18, 2010

Korea - Part 1

Not having travelled extensively over my life, I've found the past 3 overseas trips have given me a different perspective on life, and an appreciation of the world we live in. Additionally it's been an eye opener to the pathetic amount I know about world history.

I've just returned from a 2 week holiday in Seoul and I thought it best to revive this blog to share some random thoughts on my trip. Unfortunately due to laziness, I haven't shared any experiences of Kyoto and Osaka which will hopefully be written before they become a faded memory.

Strangely and completely out of character, whilst waiting for my departure, I wrote some random observations about my impending trip. In hindsight I'm happy I wrote something down, and the following covers the experience just before boarding to the point of arriving at Incheon airport:

As I walk through customs with the unsavory vision of being felt up by airport staff due to meeting the criteria of a potential drug suspect; Single male, shaved head, dodgy looking and solo traveller, I once again begin to realise the enormity of the next 13 days. I've decided to embark to a country of which I have no idea of, without a plan, but willing to do a fair amount of exploration. Yes, Burke and Wills may have been trailblazers of their time, trekking into the unknown outback of Australia, but with towering skyscrapers, a foreign language and a propensity to getting lost, it feels just as daunting, although I hope my journey ends on a better note. One thing is for sure, 5th grade classrooms won't be discussing the misadventures of this stupid traveller.

Travel is unfortunately too easy for a novice such as myself. With the invention of the internet, no longer is there the need for a travel agent to plan tours, places to see or stay. Departing the country with a detailed itinerary of connections and plans is no longer necessary as confirmations are now merely a click away. Anyone with a basic grasp of a web browser and able to locate the cvv number on a credit card are able to book an unplanned adventure. This is somewhat risky for the likes of myself who have 'f*ck it' moments and find themselves booked on flights that ultimately result in some shocking planning.

I'm envious of the travellers that plan trips in meticulous detail; 2 days here, 4 days there all the while booking hotels and activities along the way. Apart from the pain of lugging bags from place to place, finding where to go and getting lost would ultimately increase my travel time by 2 fold. Which brings me back to where I am now. Sitting in the departures lounge wondering what the next 13 days have in store.

South Korea is the final destination, and, apart from a visit to the DMZ (which isn't booked) there aren't any plans of places to see or things to do. Ironically despite learning Japanese for the last 10 months after visiting the country, I'm venturing to another where I don't know the language. Yes, I have been asked if I'll be learning Korean upon my return!

Choosing seats is a minor, yet important choice when embarking on that long journey. The man in the green polo with collar up and sunglasses on his head isn't an inviting prospect given it's 23:50, freezing in planes and, well lets face it, collars up are a general statement that the wearer values 'LV' on his shirt more so than if it fits. Avoiding the middle seat is an obvious choice, however isle vs window is a slightly more difficult one. A destination with sweeping city views or cascading mountain ranges is worth the inconveniencing of fellow passengers, while the freedom to move to/from the lavatory is something that many people value most. However, if in-flight entertainment is non-existent, prepare for an endless gaze into the back of the seat, as any attempts to sleep will surely be disrupted by the passenger with the loose bladder.

I must thank Michaela and Jessica for chirping away for the majority of the flight. I've now found another group to avoid sitting near: Groups of high school excursion students. Loud talking during an overnight flight is inexcusable, particularly when those you're speaking to are sitting in different rows. Inane banter involving 'like whatever' and 'shuddup' pepper the air, drowning out the engine. Thankfully I'm able to take away the fact that I'm not actually travelling with these lunatics and quietly spare a thought for the teachers on board (briefly...)

I've never quite understood the ritual of rushing out of the plane as soon as the seatbelt sign disappears, particularly when there's luggage to collect. Invariably passengers wait at the turnstiles, with their trolleys pressed firmly edge of the conveyor belt preventing other passengers from accessing their bags. (Why do people do this???). Ironically these tend to be the same people who stand on the moving walkways - little wonder why DVT occurs.

Looking back on what was written, it's more a endless stream of words loosely resembling some thoughts, so hopefully the next post will contain some experiences from Korea!

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