Just how I like it: KE 12(LAX-ICN)/KE 703(ICN-NRT)/KE 1([ICN]-NRT-LAX) and bullet trains galore!

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by bakedpatato, Aug 24, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. bakedpatato
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    bakedpatato Gold Member

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    //Note: Occasionally I'll inject some commentary into this TR. Hope you don't get too bored ;)
    So...here I am with a surprisingly rare trip report of Korean Air service.
    I took two weeks off of work to go LAX-ICN-NRT-LAX. Why? Cause I like hotel hopping and squeezing in sightseeing everywhere...I've been to Maui 3 times and I've never lounged around on the beach ;) (HNL? I hate the mob of tourists at Waikiki so I usually drive out to the North Shore and...stare at the ocean from the car!)
    Dropped off at TBIT by dad...to find the KE counter in the same place it's been since well...I'm sure you old timers know!At least I could check my bag in at the counter...not like the last time I flew out of TBIT where I had to lug my bags to the xray kiosk :mad:
    Before going to the lounge I had hit the DFS(just because!) I noticed some CZ FA's walking around and indeed when I got into the lounge...I heard the familiar *pop* noise that the QQ IM client makes!(I lived with chinese nationals last year).
    The KE lounge is nothing special, but has the standard showers/wifi/sandwiches deal going on. And, as I probably hinted at, it was very crowded until the CZ flight left. Even then, there were 2 KE flights back to back taking off...it was still hard to find tables.
    (Yes, most of the people on our flight had already got on the bus to the plane)
    While walking around, my sister let out a squeal(you know, the kind that teenage girls make)...one of her friends from school was here! She was on KE13 but me and my mom still shook our heads;youngsters these days with their FaceTwit and their Googles still can't communicate ;). After having a good jaw, I looked at my watch....10 minutes past boarding! "Perhaps I should get going, after all my plane's on a remote stand" I thought.I grabbed mom and sister and moseyed over to the elevator, but not before I grabbed a soda.
    Just as we got off the elevator, we heard a voice over the PA...yup...they were paging us :oops: Serves me right for grabbing that last ginger ale! :D
    KE 12
    Boeing 747-400. Prestige Class on the hump.
    I got to the "bus gate" to find the gate area completely deserted of pax! Thankfully, we got on the last bus.
    I am an US citizen jus soli. However, my legal name is a romanization of my Korean name with my middle name the name I am to my friends. I was curious as if the crew would address me in Korean or in English*. I will note this throughout.
    (* I am not dressed nor have my hair dyed like the average South Korean male so its plainly obvious where I'm from once you look at me. Nevermind the lack of Dr. Dre Beats ;)I'm a Ultimate Ears guy)
    After my brisk walk up the tower to the jet bridge, I was greeted with in Korean and the traditional bow from one of the FAs and told to walk up the stairs to my seat. I took a guava juice(After probing I found out they're Hawaiian Sun!) and looked around.
    When I had selected my seat a week before the seat next to me was blocked off so I was relived to find that no one was sitting next to me.
    I sat down and looked in front of me to find something...odd. An IFE screen that looked like it belonged in Y.
    Indeed, I realized that KE's 747's are equipped with KE's first AVOD system, Sky Program I...Sky Program II/Beyond/"A380 Beyond" Y screen("New Economy") is the same size as Sky Program I's J screen :rolleyes: At least I wasn't stuck with recliners/looping tape IFE in F like that one HNL-ICN I did 4 years ago...:eek:
    Everyone in the upper cabin had a seat free next to them, and I didn't see any middle seats taken downstairs in J...so LF was around the high 50% hmm?
    //MH stands for Malaysian Hospitality!
    In Flight Service
    Dinner was served an hour out of LAX. 2 choices; Bibmbab or a western choice. I chose the western choice, a chicken breast on pasta. Starter was this wonderful soup with a hint of spiciness that me nor my mother could remember what it was. And garlic bread. Not too bad!
    'Can't remember' yummy soup...

    My only complaint was that I had to ask for a drink...after the head purser went around and asked everyone if they wanted wine(he asked me in English), no one came by to ask me if I wanted something else besides water.Slightly annoying.
    However, what I found the most egregious was the lack of dessert ;) Perhaps it was because it was a night flight(no dessert was on the menu)...but when I drove past the KE/Hanjin building in Seoul I was considering going in and asking where my dessert went :D
    After my dessert-less dinner, I grabbed my laptop and watched: "The Adventures of Neil Patrick Harris...err 'How I Met Your Mother'" after watching Thor on the IFE and grumbling after I found out I couldn't fast forward or rewind the movie(stupid Panasonic eFX)
    (I like the Rockwell Collins Airshow better than the Thales Airshow and I like the Panasonic ex2 better than the Thales unit used in KE Beyond...but Beyond is much better than efx...)

    After a nice continental breakfast we landed in ICN at 4:30am...we bought our A'REX tickets to Seoul Station and after a nice train ride waited for our KTX train to Gyangju...
    Good blueberry muffin.
    A'REX zooming out of Inchon Island.

    To be continued....
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  2. bakedpatato
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    bakedpatato Gold Member

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    I forgot:at ICN I picked up a Nexus S from Sroaming for $7 a day including unlimited data! Combined with KT olleh's superior coverage(it worked even in the subways!) this was the best $50 I spent on the trip. Average speeds were around 3mbit down/1mbit up.
    The Nexus S is SIM locked and the KT SIM provided will only work with the IMEI of the lent phone BTW.
    (Nexus S next to my T-Mobile G2x)
    Seoul Station
    Seoul Station was built in the early 20th century but was recently renovated and looks like the ultramodern trainstaions in Japan(I'll get there..) I don't have any pictures of it as I was too tired to think about it.
    I ate at a restaurant serving Korean food which was while expensive, tasty. It's right next to the McDs/Lotteria.
    KTX Seoul Station to Gyeongju(Shingyeongju Station)
    I don't sleep on international flights. It's just how I like things. So, by the time I got on the KTX at 8am, I had been up for 24 hours and all I wanted to do was sleep, which would explain my lack of pictures ;).
    One of the KTX's(Korail's implementation of the TGV) trunk routes is the Seoul-Busan route(Busan is on the other shore of South Korea) because it stops in many of the larger population centers and goes from one end of the country to the other...which explains the 2-2 seating even in second class, a footrest and free wifi!
    My mom chose to go to Gyeongju because she always liked visiting it as a kid and because of its historical importance(it was the ancient capital of the unified Koreas way back then) .
    After 3 hours on the KTX we stopped at Shingyeongju Station, which is very "shin"(new, yes, it's the same Chinese character that the Japanese use for new as well and oddly pronounced the same way as well). Unfortunately, it is very far from the city center and requires a bus ride of almost an hour to get there.
    The station has a info kiosk(more like storefront) with people telling you how to get around in the city proper, cool places, etc. I cannot vouch for their English skills as I saw no foreigners the entire time I was in that city but there were brochures in English. I would actually trust this place over the concierge at your hotel as they gave us very detailed instructions on the city bus system.
    (Say it with me Amtrak/Congress: invest in in-fra-struc-ture! This guy opened a couple of months ago! )
    Gyeongju Hilton
    Weighing in at $260 USD for one night, this Hilton was the most expensive(in terms of cash paid) hotel we stayed in, however considering it was a breakfast rate...
    We had originally reserved a non breakfast rate on my HHonors number but when the breakfast rate came up my dad umm neglected to add my number back onto the rez...meaning when we showed up and stood in the HHonors line the lady looked at us strangely....she was told no HHonors members would be showing up today!
    In addition, they had sold out the entire club floor so I couldn't get the upgrade...this was irrelevant because "the system was down" and they were unable to confirm my Gold status. However, as a goodwill gesture the check-in lady gave us an extra breakfast coupon(our rate only covered 2 people and we were a party of three) .
    (The view from my room)
    I had reason to complain later because my room, a non smoking room, smelled very strongly of cigs. After marching downstairs and politely bringing this up with the desk lady she shrugged.Obviously, I emailed Corporate. Later, just as I was leaving, I was told that my Gold confirmation went through:rolleyes:

    Otherwise the property is quite nice. You get a coupon for free admission to the next door art museum and there's a modern art museum on the premises.

    (Gosh I miss home...thankfully I didn't go to this food festival or I bet I would loudly complain about how Kaula Pork is supposed to not be THAT dry ;))

    I will be brief in talking about here. Suffice to say that its worth the visit if you have an extra day in South Korea or are near Busan.The city is very touristy, but historical as well.
    _1050268.jpg (Dog playing with my sister's shoelace on our way up to a temple)

    (Little Buddhas at the temple)

    Back to the station....
    After our day in Gyeongju we got ready to go to our next location via KTX and Seoul Metro(Cheonan-Asan Station)...but first...food!The station is very new but still has a very nice restaurant on location. Self serve everything, but decent prices.
    (curry katsu and udon?very nice.)

    After a 1:30 KTX ride we arrived at Cheonan-Asan station at 10pm where we took the subway to Cheonan proper.
    My grandma's lives with her brother here, and this was our next stop(so we wouldn't get sick of staying in hotels ;)).
    It's near some historical sights and memorials(most which are in Asan) such as the Independence Hall of Korea, a memorial to the great Admiral Yi Sun-sin, a memorial to Yu Gwan-sun(a woman who died in the aftermath of the March 1st Movement at the hands of the occupying Japanese during the late 19th/early 20th century) and so forth.We visited these sights on our first day here. Around this time the 80%rh 90F weather started letting up by raining ;)
    //some more commentary.
    My parents gladly gave up their Korean citizenship. My mom realized after her first trip to ORD back in the 70s that she was raised like an American and thought like an American(rugged individualism and a "everyone can be right" attitude) ...which caused her much trouble back in Korea.
    Yu Gwan-sun was a alumnus of her all girls Catholic school*, and when she went to the memorial,I saw her eyes water...She doesn't care much for the culture but feels for the countries misfortunes and history.
    *Ewha Womans School, a school with the prestige of all the Ivies put together.
    I'll get to my dad later.
    After the rain picked up, we went home but before that we had ox tail soup.
    We picked up my dad the second day here at the bus station. He took the same flight as we did to ICN but instead of taking the A'REX to Seoul Station and then the KTX to Cheonan-Asan...he waited for the bus for 2 hours, was driven in a bus for 3 hours to a bus station on the outskirts of Asan.
    We visited my grandpa's grave(he died when my dad was in middle school) and then was dropped off at Cheonan-Asan to take the Seoul Subway 1 to Seoul.
    (We were around 1800 feet up in the middle of NOWHERE and yet I had 2-4 bars! Note that this Nexus S is a re-branded AT&T model for KT so its 3g or nothing. I noticed microcells for KT and SK's WCDMA service and for LG U+'s CDMA bands attached onto a nearby power pole, which explains the reception)
    (Chickens on our way down the mountain!See! we were really in the boonies)

    Seoul Metro and the Westin Chosun

    We were on our way to the Westin Chosun. And the Seoul Metro connects to it. So off we went from Line 1 to Subway line 2.
    For more info about the Westin,click here.
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  3. bakedpatato
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    bakedpatato Gold Member

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    Taking care of business....
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  4. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    Good report. thanks.
    bakedpatato likes this.
  5. bakedpatato
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    bakedpatato Gold Member

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    I'm only getting warmed up!
  6. Emos-closet
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    Emos-closet Silver Member

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    Your trip report is making me want to take a mother daughter trip with my Oma back to Korea. Thanks Coldplay!

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