Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nearly 10,000 miles in less than a week

Saddled with way too much luggage, I set out from Dallas to Chicago on Saturday, October 22.  

I spent a few short days back with my friends in Chicago after several horrific days of packing.  The Chicago trip was supposed to be one final goodbye to my nearest and dearest friends, however it turned out to be, hands down, the smartest thing I'd done towards moving overseas.

After days of trying to purge, condense, and plan what I would need to take with me overseas, and of course, the physical act of cramming all that into my luggage, the Chicago trip served as a much needed buffer, before jumping on a plane for across the globe.  I was able to sneak in a last haircut, pick up a few things I had forgotten or ran out of time in Texas to get, and also a few little luxuries such as a pedicure and short (very much needed) massage, and of course, just enjoy my time with friends.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my flight on Cathay Pacific left Chicago at about 3:30 pm from O'Hare on Thursday, October 27.  I left for the airport from Chicago's Gold Coast at about 11:30 am and figured I'd have a whole ton of time to kill, but better to be safe than sorry.

Suitcases ready to leave for Korea

As it turns out, I needed every last minute.  Cathay Pacific was having some computer issues, and checking in my luggage took FOREVER.  No exaggeration, really it took close to an hour.  

Once I finished with that I quickly checked the exchange rate to convert my US dollars to cash, and opted to take my chances once I got to Korea.  I noticed quite a few shops and restaurants on my way to the security line, not wanting to risk losing anymore time, I opted just to jump in line and get food on the other side of security.  I was about to eat my arm off yo, as I hadn't eaten all day (nope, not even coffee).  This turned out not to be the smartest idea, as security took about 15 minutes and there is no hot food once through security.  Thus, I stood in another long line for the one vendor that had some cold snacks and picked up a caprice salad sandwich, some beef jerky, and some Chex Mix, as well as a Pepsi and some water.  (I had been told it was wise to have some extra food on the flight, and I was taking no chances with a 15-hour flight.  Also, looking back, I should have gotten the ultra-mega-huge sized water.)  I quickly devoured half of the sandwich and the Pepsi, and started to prep myself to board.

All-in-all, I probably waited less than 45 minutes to get on the flight, and nearly missed my very important last minute call to my sister (she's awesome if you don't know her, and this nearly crushed us both), but was able to sneak that in as well.  I probably would have had longer, but Cathay Pacific boards from the back of the plane up (with the exception of first and business classes.)

Entrance to the International Terminal at O'Hare International Airport

Once on the plane, I met a very nice Chinese lady who was traveling home after visiting her son in Chicago.  She was very helpful in making sure I knew what was going on.  After we took off I ate the other half of my sandwich, which of course meant that they served dinner only moments later.  

The dinner was shrimp salad with cocktail sauce, choice of either curry chicken with veggies, beef and veggie stew, or pasta with red pepper sauce, as well as ice cream.  I got the curry chicken and it was delish.

Later, we were served another meal, which was fruit salad, and your choice of stir-fried beef with rice or pork in mushroom sauce with veggies (I got the latter) and carrot cake.  

The flight was pretty uneventful, as sitting for 15 hours frequently is, but I do say that Cathay Pacific had some good TV & movie options.  I caught up on CSI, and watched The Hangover 2 and Bad Teacher (ironic?).  Overall, I was impressed with the flight, as it was not nearly as pain staking as I thought it would be, except (well, I guess technically I'm still on the fence about) the seats.  Cathay Pacific has these (new?) seats that recline within themselves.  It prevents you from losing all your space when the person in front of you reclines, but I felt that it limited how far I myself was able to recline (and it took me a good long while to figure out how to do it).  Regardless, out of 15 hours I think I was able to sleep about 6 or so of them.  (Thank God they had a lot to watch, amirite?)  Last, one of the coolest little features I liked was the screen where you could watch where your plane was in the flight.  I liked being able to see the route we took as well as to know what it was I looking at out the window, but I'm nerdy like that.

Finally, we landed in Hong Kong.

Shockingly after eating only twice in 15 hours, ok, so I had some beef jerky too, I was yet again, starving.  So my first stop was food, after getting mildly lost in the airport for a bit.  I was somewhat overwhelmed by the options and decided on something that wouldn't upset my stomach just in case.  So I went with a pretty safe bet of pork ramen with spring rolls and dumplings.  (I really had no idea how much food I was actually ordering.)

Meal in Hong Kong, Ramen with spring rolls and dumplings.

Again, it was awesome!  I could probably eat this meal daily.  The ramen had more of a creamy texture than what we're used to with the "Top Ramen" sold in the U.S.  And the dumplings were what you'd expect from a good Chinese place.  It was the spring rolls that threw me off guard.  I thought they looked a little iffy at first, but alas depite being a texture I am not used to (and making a huge crumbly mess when you eat them), these were probably some of the best spring rolls I've had.  

Close up of the spring rolls.

And, of course, a diet Coke, or as they call it in Hong Kong, a CokeLgt, which I assume stands for Coke Light. 

Dinner order (the "Volvic" was a bottle of water)

After dinner I had about 5 hours to kill til my next flight.  I hit up the duty free store(s), and did a bit of window shopping.  I also grabbed some coffee so I wouldn't fall asleep on my layover, which was between 8 pm and 2:20 am Hong Kong time.  

Shops & food court at Hong Kong International Airport.

I got a couple of things for me, as well as a few gifts for people in Korea, and I talked myself out of this fabulous faux!  (It didn't take much to talk myself out of it once I saw the price tag.)

I really, really wanted this.  A meaner & greener faux alot.

I also spent a great portion of my time, seeking out an outlet, so I could plug in my laptop and feel connected with the world again.  However, the plugs were few and far between (and usually in use), so I just found a computer kiosk that allowed 15 minutes of usage at a time.  Most of the stores closed about 11 or 12, so it was kind of nice to just walk around for a bit after so much sitting.  

The plugs are under the overhangs at the bottom of these walls, very well hidden.

Looking toward (most of) the gates in Hong Kong.

By the time my connecting flight was ready to board I was beyond exhausted.  I flew Dragon Air for the second leg.  It was a smaller plane, but more than that I felt like a giant!  The rows were so close together.  Regardless, I feel asleep within minutes (as did my whole row) and woke up to the custom forms laying on me.  I did think that was kind of funny. 

I think we had a crazy tail wind or something, because I believe our flight landed almost an hour early, about 6 am Korean Standard Time (KST) on Saturday, October 29.  I slept the entire way. By the time I got my bags, had my visa checked, made it through customs, and exchanged my money, I was feeling back on schedule.

Still somewhat groggy and confused about what to do next, I sort of explored the non-secure part of the airport (there was not much).  Popeyes made me laugh though.  The translation/visitor services wrote out my address for my hotel in Korean for the cab driver, and gave me some helpful tips and maps, etc.  After that there was only one thing left to do...

Popeyes at Gimhae (Busan/Pusan) International Airport

So, I caught a taxi to the hotel that I'll be staying at the next few days.  It is surreal to be here at this moment.  Someone asked me earlier what impression I had of Korea thus far.  "Foreign" was all I could respond with.  

And after traveling nearly 10,000 (air) miles, losing an entire day, crossing the date line, and seeing 2 sunsets and 2 sunrises in less than a day, I can only be excited on where I get to go from here.

My first glimpse of Korea in my taxi ride to the hotel.

Hugs & Kisses,


supermandy said...

The sunrise/sunset thing sounds awesome. I'm so excitedfor you! What an adventure!

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