Monday, November 06, 2006

Enroute to Seoul with a double lucks

After offering a simple prayer at the altar, with some apprehension I left for KLIA last night. The prayer before a long journey part was something which was ingrained into me by my parent. During the univ days, right before the start of the trips back to KL, after every semester breaks, my mom would always asked me to offer some incense and prayer at the altar, seeking blessing from the deities and ancestor. It's a practise that I think I slowly abadoned. Yet somehow, last night probably because of the apprehension (as much as I wish to deny it :P), I did it.

By 11 pm, I arrived at the desserted KLIA. Check-in was a breeze. Except for few counter which seems to be swapped with tourist, most of other counter are quite. As oppose to my few previous trip, I choose to hand carry my lugage as previous experience teach me it's not worth the time to wait for my little luggage. Though this time round, I have plenty of time to throw away as flight will touch down way before my hotel check-in time.

After check-in, did last minutes shopping for some toiletries and snacks. Just in case the weather in Seoul get very nasty, a couple chocolate energy bar could probably save my life.

Since it was still one hour away from the check-in time at the boarding gate, I played a while with my cousin's Olympus C-5050. Snapped some useless photos, and took the stupid transit train to the terminal.

As forgetful and unattentive as usual, I thought I heard the pretty lady at the check-in counter told me I was suppose to go to Gate C2. While looking for the Gate C2, I head to the wrong direction and turned back to C2 when I realise I was heading the wrong direction. Yet, in actual fact I was heading to correct direction because I remember the gate number wrongly.

Only after I felt something was amiss when I was reaching Gate C2, did I take the boarding pass out from my bag and saw Gate C12 is printed on it, which was the direction where I first headed to. I guess, this again proven that I can never goes wrong when I follow my instinct, which I did when came out from the train.

By the time I got back again to C12, it's was just about time the gate was ready to be opened for check-in. Lots of Korean senior citizen were already noisily (just stating out fact, not complaining) waiting at the entrance of the gate. I guess most of them are tourist, at least 80% of the passenger consist of this group.

I can never understand why people like to rush to the plane when call for boarding was being made. Every flights that I took, be it local or overseas flight, the moment announcement is being made lot's of people will rush to door. Instead of joining them, I waited for almost 5 mins after the crowd at the door was cleared, before I made my move. Only to discover later that the I should have waited a little bit more as the queue going into the plane was still pretty long.

When finally it my turn to get into the plane, one of the Mas stewardess (I think a korean, based on her look and later the ease in which she communicate with the mainly Korean passengers) gesture to see my boarding pass. I shown to her, and she bubbling something in Korean language to me, if not of her hand pointing to the direction to my seat, I would have told I am no Korean and understand naught what she was babbling just now. Actually I was half expected that would happen, but only did I happen sooner than I though.

It's my looks actually. With some thai blood in me, I don't have the distinct chinese look. Most part of my life, especially in Malaysia, I am neither here nor there. As far as my look is concern, I am in limbo. Chinese would say I doesn't look like chinese (most of the time I was mistaken for a malay), and yet Malay don't think I am a malay too. So I would not be surprised, if I was mistaken for a Korean too.

I head to my seat, which only until then did I discover was the best seat as I was the first row with plenty of leg room. It took me a while to look for the seat as I would not expect my seat was taken by someone else. I recheck my boarding pass and recheck the seat number when I realised the an Korean uncle was seating on my seat. I told him, that was my seat and asked to see his boarding pass. He took out his passport, which was where he seems to keep all his boarding pass.

At first glance, the seat number printed on his boarding pass was same as the on my boarding pass. So I check again, only to discover that his flight number was different. It could only mean two things. It's either he was on the wrong flight, or it was me who was on the wrong flight. But I am pretty certain I was on the same flight, as when I check again, I saw the boarding time on his boarding pass was 10 something, which was few hours ago.

Only when I pointed it out did he took out the rest of his boarding passes which he kept in his passport and realised he was refering to the wrong boarding pass, and found the correct one among them. And true enough he was sitting at the wrong seat. I don't really know if that was an honest mistake. I can't seems to care too, as long as I got back my seat. He apologised, took his luggage and left looking for his seat.

Through out my all my previous flight which I travel alone, I have never been so lucky to be seated with young lady. It was either a guy or an auntie. Luck seems to be with me last night, not only did I get the best seat, the passenger next to my seat was a young lady too. Initially, I have no idea if she is a malaysia chinese or a korean. Only after she started talking Korean with the Korean stewardess when we were offered with sandwich for supper did I manage to confirmed that she is a Korean.

As it was already way too late and seeing that she was preparing herself to sleep by curling up under the blanket, I didn't try to interupt her with her rest by striking up a conversation with her. I was just seating there happily taking my sandwich supper and reading my books. I wasn't feeling sleepy, so I kept reading even until the common light was switched off, by turning on the reading light. I wasn't sure if I would somehow distracting her sleep by turning on the reading light, as I know there are some people like my mom who is very sensitive and cannot sleep even is a slight light being turn on.

So when I felt a slight sleepy, I decided to turn off the reading light and tried to sleep. Only later on did I discovered that, she was pleased that I turned on the light while reading my book for that period. As according to her, she was not very comfortable with turbulent that the plane went through from time to time throughout the journey. She told me, by turning on the reading light, it give her more comfort and sense of security.

Actually, she was the one who started the conversation with me. I woke up, to find that the sky is already bright, and the stewardess busy about preparing breakfast at about 5 am. I think I only manage to sleep for less than 2 hours.

She has been staying in KL for about more than one year, and like Malaysia so much that she decided to resigned from her job, when her contract in malaysia ended recently and her employer in Korea asked her to go back. She is on her way back to Seoul for a short trip to see her parents and friends. We were chatting away after the breakfast until the flight landed.

Told her this was my first trip to Korea, and asked for her advice on how to get on in Seoul. And of course the first thing was, how do I get to my hotel from the Airport, and told her I planned to take a cab. She advised me against it, as the cab fare is very expensive, somewhere around RM200-RM300. I should take a coach instead, she told me. I happened that her apartment is somewhere nearby my hotel. So she is pretty familar with the coach that I should take. It should be easy, she said, and my hotel is the first stop from the many hotels that the coach will stop. She offered to show me where to but the ticket for the coach and where to take the coach once we landed. So a pretty relief, at least my trip to the hotel was then settled.

Her friend was suppose to pick her up at the airport, as according to her she was told the weather has drop ed tremendously today in seoul, so her friend insist that he come and pick her up. When we finnaly landed and she collected her luggages, we went out and meet her friend who was already waiting for her. After talking to her friend, she turn to me said and her friend was offering me to hitch into their car because my hotel in near to their place and on the way. I thanks them and agreed.

She continue to introduces me to stuffs in Seoul on our ride into the city. It was raining through out most part of the trip, and the weather was cold. Her friend was asking if I bring enough cloth to wear, as according to him the weather may get colder these few days. Lucky I decided to buy and brought with me a thick jacket.

She did offered to take me around one of these day if the time is right for her and for me. Again I thanked her for the hospitalities, and she told not all Korean is as hospitable as her and her friend. I am just lucky to meet her, I can't agree more with her. We parted ways after she and her friend drop me right in front of the hotel lobby.

* * *

After sleeping for almost 5 hours, replacing my sleep defisit, I woke up around 3 pm (malaysia time). Check and replied some company emails. Procastrinating if I should go out for a walk until it was 5:30 pm local time (1 hour earlier than malaysian time), opened the curtain only to discover that the sky was already dark.

Get dressed, and got to the lobby to find out how to I get to my training venue tomorrow. Got the direction, decided to walk around the hotel to see if I can get my dinner.

There seems to be a number of restaurants behind the hotel. I venture into some of the small streets which littered with small convinient store and sundryshops. There is this small shop which i saw lot's of people queueing up out side store, waiting for seat to be empty to have their meal.

Common sense tells me that this store should be offering some thing good, but I am not sure if I should take the plunge. So I walk a little bit more, in that cold weather, until I started to feel I have lost a little bit of sensation over my nose and decided that I should made up my mind and pick a place to eat, or I could be freezed to death (sorry for this little drama, it's not that bad actually :P)

I head back the small shop just now, and tried to peer inside to see what was being served. There is also another shop next door with seems popular too, abeit judging from the queue less popular that the first store. I wish not to wait anymore, so head into the second shop. Only problem now, how to I order? Observing that they only served three type of food, I tried to order in english, which they obviously doesn't understand. I end up using sign language pointing at customer at the table next to me, and sort of telling them I want exactly the same with what the table next to me is having.

He doesn't seems to be able complete get what I was trying to say, as there was three different dishes on the next table, and yet he only bring me one dish. So I point again to the next table, and then he bring me the next dish. I was some sort of rice cake, in a chili spicy gravy and the other one was something that looks like and taste like Makizushi. The portion was not too big, but still I can't finnish them all. Snap some picture with camera phone, and thought of putting it here. Only problem was, the PDA which I need to used to transfer the file to my laptop decide to be a bitch and fail to work. Bleh!

For less than 10,000 Won (1,000 Won = RM4), I've got my first dinner in Seoul and these two drinks. The drinks were bought at the 7-11 clone on my way back to hotel. One green tea, and one Seol Joong Mae (Korean ume liquor). Considering that this is the third most expensive city in the world, I think I should not be complaining too much.

Okie... I think it's time to feed the alche worms in my stomach... The Seol Joong Mae (Korean ume liquor) review will follows at a later time ;-)