Monday, 6 April 2009

Korean Stopover

I travelled with Asiana Airlines on my recent trip to Australia. This always involves changing planes at Incheon in Korea. Sometimes this just means a few hours in the airport, but sometimes it means staying overnight in Incheon Airport Town. Asiana tickets always include the hotel and dinner and breakfast in this case, but curiously, they never advertise it or even tell you about it. Anyone who has flown with them before knows this, but I wonder how many first timers book themselves a hotel unnecessarily? Simon did, and he is an experienced, well-informed traveller.

Incheon Airport is an exemplar of how an airport should be, but almost never is. It is spacious, well designed and with many extremely useful facilities for the long-haul traveller such as showers, massage, free internet and a museum and gallery. On my way over, the museum was displaying modern but traditional style textiles, pewter and lacquer ware. Two weeks later, when I returned, the exhibition had changed to beautiful celadon glazed classical ceramics.

An immaculately worked embroidered screen in the museum

On the way back, instead of just changing planes and spending a few hours in the airport, I actually stopped overnight. This should have given me a relaxing evening, with time enough to go into Seoul, an hour and a half away. Unfortunately, industrial action at Sydney International Airport meant that my flight was delayed by 6 hours and I got to my hotel in Incheon Airport Town at 00.15 local time. To add to my not very fun time, I had just spent 10 hours on a plane suffering with a migraine. I am so glad I was clued up that Asiana would take care of my accommodation and shuttle arrangements. I didn't have to worry about my heavy suitcase, as I had checked it all the way through to London from Sydney, and I just had my hand luggage with a change of clothes and the camera. I didn't bother packing any toiletries for the overnight stay, as they are a nuisance to get through security these days, and I knew the hotel would supply the basics anyway.

The hotel was quiet and extremely comfortable and in the morning I got up at 07.00 feeling quite spritely. After having breakfast of fresh pineapple, French toast, seaweed soup and some rather peculiar coffee, I enquired at reception if there was a nice park or a beach within walking distance. There was both apparently, so as I was not due to be picked up by the airport shuttlebus until 11.30, off I trotted, camera in hand.

A typical Incheon street corner

I made it to the beach! The haze is because of dust – an illuminated motorway style warning sign told me that there was a 'Yellow Dust from China' alert.

The area around the hotel is residential, with many large apartment blocks, but also many large detached houses. Interspersed amongst the houses were the Korean equivalent of potagers.
Just like in rural France, no need to lock your bike to the pole here
A row of extremely robust exercise machines on the edge of the park. They are free and fun.


Note from Simon: No-one told Susan, but the beach she walked to was one of THE Incheon beaches - Incheon Green.


Barbara said...

Hi Simon & Susuan,
Welcome back Susuan !

I enjoyed your post about your stopver at Incheon.I enjoy discovering other people's journeys, and coming along "virtually".
I'm not in very good shape to travel at the moment, as I have had a health problem last Weds & was admitted to hospital.

I'm doing better, but I still need lots of rest.

All the best to you both.

marta said...

We also flew Asiana in February and had a long layover returning from Kota Kinabalu Malaysia to Seattle. I found out about the hotel from Flyertalk forums. They also have an option to do a day tour of Seoul. Our layover was from 6am to 6pm so I called and changed from a hotel to the tour. I talked with a couple of people on the flight over and not too many people knew of the options and had booked a room in the airport hotel instead.

The day tour was good. We went to a Buddhist temple, lunch and shopping. It was a nice way to see a bit of Seoul.

I agree Incheon is an excellent airport. It helped to make a long layover actually tolerable.

The Beaver said...

I was going to ask if Simon was a regular of FT -Flyertalk and then I saw the comment from marta.
I have learned a lot from fellow FTers over the years.

wcs said...

It all sounds very civilized.

chm said...

I can remember the luxury of the Seoul airport at the time of the Olympic Games.

Susan said...

Barbara: Hope you get well soon.

Marta: Excellent tip about swapping the hotel for the tour if you are there in the daytime.

Beaver: We haven't come across Flyertalk, but we do occasionally use similar forums for useful info. The Slow Travel instructions for catching the train from CdG are excellent, for instance. This sort of thing is fine if you've done it before, but for first timers, it can be really daunting.

WCS: Indeed. It is nice to be in an airport where you don't feel like you are being corralled.

CHM: Yes, I assumed it must have been built for the Olympics.

Simon said...

Actually Incheon was only built in 2001 for the Football World Cup.

The airport chm used would have been Gimpo, which is now used for some flights to China, Japan and domestic flights. I have been to Gimpo on a bus, but have never been inside.

Susan said...

Well...all these international sporting events look the same to me :-)

Simon said...


chm said...

Yes the airport I was in at Seoul was built for the Olympics Games of 1988. The luxury was amazing, compared to JFK airport in New York that looked as if you had landed in some poor country of Third World!s

The Beaver said...


Apart from the good info about planes/train and hotels, Flyertalk is vvv good when there is a mistake on a fare. It usually happens on New Yr's eve or when an airline is "inputting" new fares on its system. I have never had a chance to benefit from it because I can't plan ahead for leisure trips but I know some FTers who have had fabulous trips.

Susan said...

Beaver: I'm amazed the airlines honour the fares under those circumstances!

The Beaver said...

Oh Once they realised what is happening , game is over but they do honour the tickets ( no changes are allowed) purchased under those circumstances.

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