Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Travel: Around the World in a Daze – Part 2, South Korea

© 2008, 2024 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

In Part 1, I spent a week in Milan, Italy, before flying to Seoul, South Korea. (This was in September of 2008.)

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Korea We Go!

Flight LH712 to Seoul's Incheon international airport finally took off at 7:10 pm, 75 minutes late. In the twilight, we headed east and north. This was my first time in Lufthansa Business Class and on an Airbus A340. It had an unusual configuration in that there was no First Class, just 54 large Business Class mini-suites, 2-2-2 across. I was in Seat 4K, starboard side window.

Where to begin describing all the facilities I had? Everything was controlled by a hand-held electronic unit. The seat had all kinds of adjustments and a massage option. It folded nearly flat at two meters long, longer than I was tall. And once one had found exactly the right back, head, leg, and arm settings, one could save those in the chair's memory for later recall. A privacy screen could be raised between neighboring seats. The amenities bag I was provided contained thick socks, eye shades, earplugs, toothbrush and paste, moist hand wipes, lip balm and skin cream, both in hazelnut flavor, don't you know! A bottle of water was in one of the many compartments. There was a 110/220-volt power outlet for laptop computers and the like. The 12" video screen was a pleasure to look at, and the professional headset was comfortable. There was none of this waiting for movies to start; everything was "on-demand." There were 69 video programs, 10 video games, 100 CDs (including audio books) and 30 radio channels. And of course, there was worldwide satellite phone service if one just had to be in touch with one's broker, darlings! Oh, and did I mention the hot tub, ski jump, and bowling alley? Just kidding; a hot tub would slop around too much during turbulence.

Once the hot towels were handed out, menus followed. None of that small bit of folded, thin cardboard for Lufthansa. No, they had to have a 12-page booklet, in German, Korean, and English, with photos of expensive wine labels and Markus Del Monego, the first German World Champion sommelier. And then there were pictures of dead fish that had given their very lives for our upcoming feast.

For dinner, I chose the Western selection. (None of that Korean rotting cabbage for me thanks very much!) To begin, there was the smoked filet of salmon with artichokes in pine-nut vinaigrette, or the terrine of venison with apple celery salad and quince compote. (I must say that, as far as I was concerned, sadly, the deer had died in vain.) Next was a tomato and cucumber salad with yogurt herb dressing. For the main course, one could choose from the grilled breast of poularde on pumpkin stew with potatoes, or the braised halibut in tarragon stock with root vegetables. The halibut was to die for! Then came camembert, Bavarian blue cheese, and linzer torte with whipped cream or fruit salad with grapes (no doubt, handpicked by virgins on some remote South Pacific Island). Of course, one could wash all of that down with hot or cold alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks from a wide selection. And one could do all this without leaving one's seat! It was truly amazing. Having taken in food and drink continually all day, I declined the cheese, dessert, and after-dinner drinks.

I adjusted my pocket computer's time from Western Europe (GMT+1) to Korea (GMT+9), but allowing for daylight savings adjustment, I went from 8:11 pm Friday to 3:11 am Saturday, in an instant.

[Next day] At 5 am, Korean time, I put in my earplugs, got my eyeshades ready, and took a test drive of my electric-operated chair. I got it into the fully reclined position, and while it was long enough, the designers hadn't factored in my size 13 boots, which stuck upwards quite a ways. I positioned the large pillow that was provided and unwrapped my blanket. Lights out at 5:05. I drifted in and out of Neverland, regularly adjusting my position to get comfortable. Suffice it to say that five hours later, I was wide awake and feeling semi-rested. It was clear I should have experimented more with the seat positions earlier on. Oh well, next time, I'll be infinitely wiser!

So just how does one get from Frankfurt to Seoul by air when aviation fuel is so expensive? One goes northeast to Riga, Latvia; Tartu, Estonia; south of St. Petersburg, Russia; north of Moscow; clear across Russia to Novosibirsk; Ulan Bator, Mongolia; Beijing, China; south over China; and, finally, east across the Yellow Sea to Seoul. Total time: 10:30 hours. And we were scheduled to arrive only 40 minutes late.

At 10:45 am, breakfast was served. There was granola crunch cereal with honey yogurt, then ham, smoked turkey, and several cheeses; or scrambled egg with chives and fried potato wedges and peperonata. I had the cold cuts with orange and apple juice.

A Short Stop at Seoul International

We landed at 12:05 pm, at a real gate; none of this bus stuff! And, after a good hike, we lined up for the train. I was the last passenger on with the door closing on my backside. Last one on meant first one off, and soon, I was at the immigration counter. Unfortunately, I was missing a form, so I had to step out of the line, fill in a form, and get back in line. Some 45 minutes later, I was being processed, with the officer looking at the 5-year business visa I'd gotten in Washington D.C. He gave me a 3-month entry stamp.

By that time, my luggage was well and truly out, so I collected it, passed through customs, and went out into the arrivals hall. I coaxed 150,000 Korean won (about US$150) from a cash machine. I got 15 10,000 won bills. The friendly lady at the information desk directed me to bus stop 12B. A bus was waiting, so I paid my 5,000 won for a ticket, checked my luggage, and climbed aboard for the 40-minute ride to the old airport, Gimpo (GMP), from which most domestic flights now departed.

On to Jeju Island

At Gimpo, I checked in, and as it was an all-economy flight, I requested a seat with extra legroom, if possible. I was rewarded with an aisle seat that had no seat in front of it. I dropped by the Asiana Airlines Business lounge to rescue some nuts and two cold cans of absolutely fabulous mango and passion fruit juice.

Soon after 2:30 pm, I went back to security. No alarms this time, but for those of us who took off our footwear, we were given one-size-fits-all sandals (they don't really) to wear through the scanner. It was a good thing my gate was the furthest to walk, as I needed some exercise after a sedentary day and night. Some 10 minutes later, a young gate agent seemed to screech out an announcement, and everyone around me bolted for the boarding area. Apparently, my flight was ready for boarding.

Asiana Flight OZ8929 to Jeju Island (sometimes called Cheju) was uneventful and lasted about an hour. Although I was assigned a seat with reasonable legroom, I took over a whole exit row nearby and had even more space. On arrival at CJU, my luggage came out right away. I spied a vending machine with ice-cold cans of mango and passion fruit juice, so rescued three, drinking one on the spot.

Outside, the sun was streaming down, and all was right in that part of the world. I made my way across the parking lot towards Bus Stop 7. My resort hotel bus was not due for 30 minutes, so I stretched my legs for a bit. A young Chinese woman recognized me as a delegate from previous meetings of this committee, and introduced me to two of her fellow delegates. So, I slipped into work mode, and sat and talked with them throughout the 50-minute ride across the island.

At the Resort Hotel

We arrived at ShineVille Luxury Resort about 6 pm, as the sun started to set. Check-in was smooth, and I made my way to the new Building 3, 3rd floor, Room 324. My building had cavernous lobbies, lots of large paintings and sculptures, marble everywhere, and absolutely no-one in sight. It looked rather like a sanitarium for very wealthy people. You know, the sort of place one goes when one is a bit run down from too many dinner parties and polo events!

My room was huge! It had a king-size bed, side tables and lamps, a large marble-topped work bench, dressing table, TV cabinet, lounge chairs, bar, and refrigerator, and lots of storage space. The bathroom had a shower stall, oversized tub, and vanity unit. Let's just say that it was more than adequate. By the time I unpacked, got email, and showered away 20 hours of travel grime, it was 9 pm, local time.

It was time to turn out the lights, but I was darned if I could find the switches. As is often the case with new "green" hotels, on entry to one's room, one must insert the electronic room key card into a slot to activate the room lights. That way, one can't waste energy by leaving the lights on when going out. However, removing my card also switched off the power outlets, and all my devices that were charging their batteries. So, I searched "upstairs, downstairs and in her Lady's chamber," but no switches were to be found. So, I sat on the bed looking for a "how to operate my room" instruction booklet, and when I opened the drawer of my bedside table, there, lo and behold, was a console with clock radio and light switches and dimmers. Well, of course; why didn't I think to look there to begin with?

[Next day] Although I woke a few times in the night, I was pleasantly surprised to hear my alarm at 8 am, having had nearly 11 hours sleep. At check-in, I'd received breakfast coupons, so, I went over to the main building to sample the buffet. I quickly scanned the Korean offerings, recognizing very little other than the green pea soup and salads with dressing (I am not joking), and made my way to the western spread. I joined a colleague, and we chatted while eating.

Meeting Day 1

I was there as the Head-of-Delegation from a consortium to committee ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34, otherwise known as SC 34. (This committee is a sibling of the one whose meeting I chaired the previous week in Milan.) Scheduled were several 3-day Working Group meetings in parallel followed by a 1-day plenary of the whole committee.

At 9 am, my three fellow delegates and I were seated, and, at 9:15, the meeting got underway. We broke for morning and afternoon tea. For lunch, I had a meeting over just about the worst Chinese food I'd had in a long while. Although it looked attractive, frankly, it was a lukewarm gelatinous mass! In the afternoon, I was called on unexpectedly to give a presentation. With questions and answers, it took more than two hours, and went very well.

At 6:30 pm, I joined a colleague from Germany and another from Italy, and we dined on bean soup, salad, and cheesecake with blueberry sauce. It was delicious, and more than compensated for the terrible lunch. In the basement, there was a convenience store, so I picked up some juice (can you say, "mango and passion fruit?"), milk, and other essentials.

It was clear from my attempts to communicate with members of the hotel staff that very few of them understood much English. Every question I asked resulted in a smile, nodding of the head, and a reply of "Yes," which often didn't mean that. Lights out at 11 pm.

Meeting Day 2

The bedding consisted of a very nice down-filled cover and a bottom sheet. Unfortunately, the cover was so efficient it trapped every bit of body heat, resulting in an oven-like atmosphere. Now while I like my surroundings much warmer than most, it was way too much even for me. I must have perspired a liter or two during the night, waking up many times in the process. Anyway, I forced myself out of bed soon after my 7-am alarm went off, showered, and worked until an 8-am breakfast meeting.

We started the session at 9, and the ritual was much like the day before, except that I skipped lunch. We broke early, and I worked from my room until 6:15 pm, when I joined the group for a banquet. Being allergic to shellfish, I scanned all the dishes eliminating more than half of them. However, there were plenty of choices remaining, and I joined a table of delegates from Korea.

After the dinner and speeches, I moved to another table to spend time with delegates from Finland, Denmark, Ivory Coast, Germany, and the U.S. From there, we moved to a lounge off the main lobby to talk while listening to two young Ukrainian women play piano and violin. It was a very pleasant evening. I'd gotten into a Robert Ludlum spy thriller in recent days, so read a few chapters before lights-out at 11 pm.

Meeting Day 3

I was up at 7 am, against my will, but still on local time, which was amazing. The entrance hall in my room had a ceiling light that was activated by movement; it had no switch. So, when I walked into that area, voila, the light came on. Unfortunately, if I didn't move around much, such as while dressing there, the light switched off. Then when I moved, it went back on. So, dressing each morning involved a disco-light show. It was a novelty for about 10 seconds! But that wasn't the silly part. Each morning, I shaved at the sink in the bathroom just inside the doorway off that entrance, and each time I moved my right arm, the electric eye sensed movement, and the light show was repeated. Basically, it was a high-tech solution in search of a problem! I skipped breakfast and had an 8-am meeting.

The group met until 11, then adjourned until the following morning. I worked in my room until noon, at which time, I joined everyone for a salad and spaghetti lunch. I ate with the three delegates from India. After lunch, I settled into more work while most people went on a half-day bus tour of tourist spots on our side of the island. (I'd done something similar during my previous visit some years earlier.)

Around 6 pm, one of my Microsoft colleagues, Doug, and I decided to venture "off campus" for dinner. Eventually, we met an assistant manager who spoke English. I asked him to write in Korean that I was allergic to shellfish. He went one better, calling a restaurant, ordering for us, and asking them to send a car to pick us up.

We were taken to the Si-Gol Restaurant for a traditional Korean BBQ. The table was about 12" high with a gas burner set inside a large cast iron cooker. When the sloping lid was put in place, it served as the cooking surface with fat running down away from the meat. A hostess in traditional dress came and showed us how to cook the meat, onion, and potato slices. Some 16 separate small dishes of different vegetables and sauces appeared, and we were each issued a set of metal chopsticks. Doug tried a local beer while I had Coke. Surprisingly, I liked pretty much everything, and the total cost for two was only about $25.

The manager loaded us into his van, and drove us to a beach, so Doug could shoot some photos. Thinking that we'd just be a few minutes, I left my jacket in the van. However, when next we looked, the van was nowhere in sight. We just figured the driver would be back "soon." Time passed, and we walked around the village looking at the large tanks of fish in front of each restaurant, and ate ice creams. Eventually, we decided our driver wasn't coming back, so we caught a taxi and tried to find our restaurant to see if I could retrieve my coat, but the driver didn't know the place and we couldn't remember how we drove there. So, he took us back to our hotel. After trying to communicate with the staff, a bellman produced a plastic carry-bag containing my coat. Apparently, our driver had found it and brought it back. Don't you just love that when that happens! Lights out by 11 am.

Meeting Day 4

An emergency had arisen over night, so when I got my morning email, I had a medium-sized fire to fight, which I had to do in the background throughout the day while paying attention to the plenary meeting. I lunched with colleagues and took a walk down to the lava rocks along the coast.

I was very busy all afternoon interjecting at times to mention various procedural problems. We adopted all the resolutions unanimously and adjourned at 4 pm. We scheduled the next meeting of my group for February in Okinawa, Japan, and the next full plenary in Prague, Czech Republic, next March. It was a very successful week for me and my project. From there, it was back to my room to work on a second major problem.

Doug and I had a quick dinner meeting, and then I was back at my keyboard until the problem was solved at 1 am. Along the way, I phoned Geneva, Switzerland, to get some help transferring some very large files to a website. By the time I put the light out at 1:15 am, I was well and truly pooped.

Back to the Mainland

I didn't much care to hear my alarm at 7:30 am, having had less than six hours sleep. However, the shower helped to wake me, and soon after I was having my final breakfast, with a colleague. At 8:50, I was checked out and waiting for the bus. The large bus was full, mostly with Korean tourists. The 50-minute ride to the airport in Jeju City was uneventful. Although I had a nice seat with plenty of legroom, right in the back row, I was unable to sleep, until, that is, we were nearly at our destination. In all the built-up areas along the way, every 100 yards, a pair of Korean flags flew, on both sides of the road.

At CJU, one of the very pleasant representatives from Asiana Airlines checked me in. Her colleague then escorted me the 100 yards to the business lounge. I was the only customer, and I settled down to some coffee and pastries while surfing the internet looking at U.S. and Australian newspapers, with one ear on CNN International's coverage of the financial crisis back home. It was a small but comfortable lounge with basic but adequate facilities. The refrigerator was filled with all kinds of unusual drinks, such as rice milk, real soy milk (I hate that fake stuff!), and my favorite, Pocari Sweat. (Don't you just want to race out and buy and drink a can of something called sweat?)

At 11:45 am, I left the lounge and headed for security. To say that the check was cursory would be an understatement; no need to take my laptop from its bag, and no need to take off my boots containing metal bits. I beeped going through the screener, but after a quick hand scan, I was on my way.

Downstairs at Gate 8, my boarding pass was checked, and I was informed of a 10-minute delay. I tried to blend in with the other passengers waiting, but there I was, a 6'4" Caucasian surrounded by 120, 5', 13-year-old giggly, Korean schoolgirls in their navy-blue uniforms. After a while, several of them approached me, and in nervous English asked if I'd mind having my photo taken with them. I agreed, and when I stood up, they gasped at this foreign giant in their midst. We all said "cheese" as pictures were taken.

We had a short bus ride to our Boeing 737-400. After boarding, I was seated "front and center," on the aisle in the first row. I was surrounded by a group of Asiana employees headed to work on the mainland. With much bowing towards us honored guests, the flight attendants took us through the safety demonstration. Then, I felt extra special as the instructions were repeated in English for an audience of one, me.

It was another nice sunny day with a gentle breeze. Flight OZ8916 went through a little turbulence as we climbed up through the clouds, but then it was smooth sailing. The seats were quite narrow by my standards; however, the petite Koreans seemed to have plenty of room to spare. The two flight attendant passengers seated next to me took a nap and then decided to chat with me once I gave them each some candy from Milan. One gave me a nice Asiana Airline pen.

At GMP, we pulled up at an actual gate, and I was first off the plane. It was a long walk to the baggage area, and the escalators were ever so happy to start moving as their electric eyes detected my approach. In minutes, the luggage arrived, and my bag was first out. I enquired as to the location of the inter-airport bus. I was directed across the street where I bought a 5,000 won ticket, the coach pulled up, we loaded and were on our way, all in five minutes. At precisely 2:08 pm, the white-gloved bus driver rose, faced us, bowed very low, and welcomed us aboard. His neat uniform came with so many stripes on his shoulder boards that I figured he was at least a Brigadier General!

We were on our way to Incheon International Airport (INC) via a busy freeway. There were quite a few rice fields then hothouses. For quite some distance we drove alongside a big canal construction project. The ride took 40 minutes, and to keep us entertained, a large flat-panel TV showed a news broadcast. Although the newsreader was serious during her presentation, I couldn't help but think she'd bought her jacket from a clown shop. Then some senior members of the U.S Senate came on to tell us what a wonderful job they'd done in getting a bill passed regarding the financial crisis, all with subtitles in Korean. We rode a long series of bridges over mud flats near small islands. The tide was out leaving an interesting landscape for miles.

Overnight at a Honeymoon Suite

At INC, I made my way to the information desk where the attendant phoned my hotel for a pickup. Apparently, the hotel car was at the airport already, so I only had to go out the nearest exit and hop in. It took 10 minutes on the freeway to get to downtown Incheon and to the hotel I'd booked via the internet. On arrival, I was ushered to the front desk where I filled in a registration form. The attendant was every so sorry that although I'd booked a deluxe room, none were available, so he'd upgrade me to the top level, which, it turned out, was called the Honeymoon Suite. However, as I discovered, no bride was provided!

Well, Room 301 was quite different from my previous digs. There were room slippers in the hallway, bathroom slippers outside the bathroom, and, yes, you guessed it, toilet slippers outside the toilet. The bed was quite large, and more than adequate, especially since I was bride-less. There was a sitting room, work desk complete with high-speed internet connection, large TV, small fridge, boiling and cold filtered water machine, and DVD and videotape player. And if one had left home without one's laptop computer, a full desktop system was provided. I connected to the outside world, immediately getting email from a variety of time zones. Then I phoned quite a few friends in Australia where it was school-holiday time and only 30–60 minutes ahead.

Soon after 5 pm, I ventured out. I stopped at the first convenience store to buy milk and juice. Just about every corner had a convenience store, which was, well, very convenient! There were many restaurants, some with outside eating areas. I finished up at one that showed pictures of their dishes with an English word or two of description. I ordered the pork and rice. It came within minutes and consisted of, yes, pork and rice, in a spicy sauce with seaweed and some chopped greenery "drizzled" on top. It was accompanied by a bowl of steaming miso (bean curd) soup and a tray of suspicious-looking vegetable matter, which I left for the waiter. Well, once I sat down and ordered, everyone wanted to dine there too, and soon the place was buzzing.

Once my food was served, I looked around for some utensils. ("Look in the bedside drawer," I hear you say, but, unfortunately, there was no such drawer.) Then I spied a metal cover over a hiding place built into the tabletop. I lifted the cover, and ... a big hairy, black rat jumped out right onto my plate. (Of course, I exaggerate; the rat was not that hairy nor really that big!) Actually, it was the cutlery drawer, and contained large metal serving spoons and flat metal chopsticks. I had to go through the whole collection before I found a right-handed pair! I took my time eating, writing in this diary, and generally listening to the chatter of the staff and patrons. The total cost of my meal was only $4.

By the time I went outside, it was dark, and there were flashing and fixed neon lights everywhere. I walked around some streets, which were crowded with restaurants, some of which were fronted by large tanks of fish, eels, and some critters that looked so odd I doubted even their mothers had loved them. A young man was walking a puppy on a leash, and my first thought was that he was headed to one of those "bring-your-own" restaurants! (Yes, Koreans eat dog meat!)

Just when I thought I was the only foreigner in the neighborhood, I spied a Caucasian couple headed my way. They lived in San Francisco where he was the pastor of a church. They were headed to Mongolia to dedicate a new Christian church their parish had helped found. By 7:30 pm, I was back in my room, having a tall glass of whole milk while watching some world news, presented by an Australian woman. The travel was catching up with me, so I filled the bathtub and then settled into a relaxing soak until the water went cold. Then I lay back in bed and read my novel. Lights out around 10 pm.

[Next day] I woke a few times during the night, but quickly got back to sleep each time. I had left a window open to let in some fresh air. Fortunately, it wasn't too noisy out, but I had my trusty earplugs in just in case. When I finally woke up, the room was so dark I thought it was quite early. However, my window shutters did a great job in keeping out the light. It was nearly 9 am, and quite bright out. I had a long and slow breakfast in my room, using up my emergency rations, milk, and juice. I hopped in the very large shower cubicle to find a 4-foot-high machine on the wall. After some detective work, I discovered I could have the water come out the overhead outlet, the hand-held device, or the body spray via the 2x3 jets that came from the waist up. What an experience!

Another Long Travel Day

Of course, more email had found me, so I took care of some business. Then I played some music and computer games. At 11:45 am, I was in the lobby checking out. I had just enough Korean currency to pay in cash. 10 minutes later, a driver pulled up and took me to the international airport, which was on the same large island as my hotel. There, check-in went smoothly, as did security and immigration, and then I made the long walk to the train station. ICN was only six years old and was a very pleasant airport.

I rode the automatic train to Terminal A, and then settled in at Asiana's Business Lounge. As I was going to get two meals on the flight to San Francisco, I declined all the nice-looking food and drinks. Many people were watching the large TV screens on which lots of discussion was going on regarding the US Vice-Presidential debate. I found a chair in a quiet corner, and worked on this diary.

At 1:20 pm, I left the lounge and headed for Gate 123 nearby. Five minutes later, we boarded United Airlines Flight 892, non-stop to SFO. I was seated in 11A with a great view just in front of the port-side engine of the Boeing 777. Champagne and juice were served. We took off, on time, at 2:10, and flew west out over the sea and surrounding islands. Then we went north and then east, not too far from the DMZ between the two Koreas. Where the land wasn't covered with residential buildings or small patches of forests there were rice fields. Soon after, we came close to downtown Seoul, a mass of business and residential high-rise buildings. From there it was east to Tokyo and beyond.

Service-wise, first came the usual bowl of nuts and a pre-lunch drink. Then came some smoked salmon, ham and cheese, and a salad. For the main course, on offer were pan-seared filet mignon with Hollandaise roasted tomato sauce, Cheddar cheese potato pie, and carrots and zucchini sauté; orange herb-roasted breast of chicken with demi-glace, Basmati rice, green beans, and red onions; or pan-seared sea bass with Korean anchovy sauce, steamed rice and spinach. I went with the Australian beef. It was adequate. For dessert, there was a selection of international cheeses or a chocolate tart, with port wine and coffee. I had the tart with coffee, but passed on the Reserve Port. Throughout the meal, I watched a movie that required no effort. "Get Smart," a remake of the popular TV series of the same name was, as I expected, incredibly lame. Next up was "Swing Vote." From the write-up, I didn't expect much; however, Kevin Costner's speech at the end brought a tear to my eye. The premise was the US Presidential election was tied, and it was up to the vote of one working-class man, Costner.

At 7 pm, Korean time, we crossed the International Date Line, just south of the Aleutian Island chain in Alaska. I moved my clock to Pacific Daylight Time, and started the same day over again. I put my seat all the way back and slept for two hours. And although I wanted more it was not forthcoming, so I filled out some travel expense reports while listening to music. Throughout the flight across the Pacific, a variety of snacks and drinks were on offer, as were hot noodles. An hour before landing, from 35,000 feet up, I could see the day breaking. Then, breakfast was served. The choices were onion omelet with mushroom cream sauce, Canadian bacon and sautéed potatoes, or a fresh seasonal fruit plate with creamy yogurt.

A Layover in San Francisco

Some 250 miles out, we started our descent through clouds. Due to a very strong tail wind, we were an hour ahead of schedule. 125 miles out, the first sunlight hit the plane, and the eastern sky turned orange. We crossed the coast some ways north of the city, and made our way down to the eastern end of the bay, and then on into SFO. Immigration went very quickly, and the agent welcomed me back home. My luggage came soon after and I dumped my bag on the transfer belt. Over at the domestic terminal, I went back through security and to United's Red-Carpet Club. Although I had a coupon to use a shower suite, I was informed that that was outside security some distance away. So much for that perk! I hooked up to email; as always, people were waiting to hear from me about one thing or another. I made a few phone calls; had some nice, flavored coffee; and took over a long lounge seat in a quiet back room. Unfortunately, sleep eluded me.

The Final Leg, Across the Continental US

After a 3-hour layover, at 11 am, I headed for Gate 90. Soon after, we boarded a Boeing 757 for Washington Dulles International. Flight UA872 took off at 11:39 with me in First Class Seat 2D. As soon as the wheels were retracted I closed my window shades, put in my earplugs, lay back my seat, and slept for four whole hours. It was wonderful! Of course, I slept through a lunch, but, frankly, I didn't need any more food.

I woke up about 30 minutes before landing, just in time to see the last of the orange sunset behind us. We approached IAD soon after 7:30 pm, a time when things were pretty quiet at that airport. I made my way to the main terminal on the mobile lounge, and my luggage was one of the first pieces out. I was soon in a cab racing towards Reston in the cool autumn breeze, and home around 9 pm, some 22 hours after I left my hotel in Korea.

After I unpacked, I made myself a hot cup of milk Milo (a chocolate drink popular with kids of all ages in Australia), took a very hot shower, and then watched the nightly US and world news. Lights out at 10:30 pm. Asleep at 10:30:30.

[Next day] I was wide awake at 2:30 am, so fixed myself a snack and worked in my office until about 7:30 am. Then it was time to finish off this diary. My weekend schedule was wide open, so I was free to sleep as the mood struck me.

The Trip Details

Here are the stages of the round-the-world trip:

  1. Taxi from home to IAD
  2. Washington DC Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt (FRA), United Airlines, Boeing 767, 4,080 miles, 7:45 hours
  3. Frankfurt (FRA) to Milan Linate (LIN), Lufthansa, Boeing 737, 319 miles, 1:10 hours
  4. Taxi from LIN to my hotel
  5. Six nights in Milan
  6. Taxi from my hotel to LIN
  7. Milan Linate (LIN) to Frankfurt (FRA), Lufthansa, Boeing 737, 319 miles, 1:20 hours
  8. Frankfurt (FRA) to Seoul Incheon (INC) Lufthansa, Airbus A360, 5,324 miles, 10:30 hours
  9. Bus from Seoul Incheon (INC) to Seoul Gimpo (GMP)
  10. Seoul Gimpo (GMP) to Jeju/Cheju (CJU), Asiana, Airbus A320, 300 miles, 1:05 hours
  11. Hotel bus to hotel
  12. Five nights in ShiveVille Luxury Resort
  13. Hotel bus from hotel
  14. Jeju/Cheju (CJU) to Seoul Gimpo (GMP), Asiana, Boeing 737, 300 miles, 1:05 hours
  15. Bus from Seoul Gimpo (GMP) to Seoul Incheon (INC)
  16. Hotel car from ICN to my hotel
  17. One night in airport hotel
  18. Hotel car from my hotel to ICN
  19. Seoul Incheon (INC) to San Francisco (SFO), United Airlines, Boeing 777, 5,664 miles, 9:45 hours
  20. San Francisco (SFO) to Washington DC Dulles (IAD), United Airlines, Boeing 757, 2419 miles, 5:06 hours
  21. Taxi from IAD to home

In summary, over 14 days I flew eight flights with three airlines, and used six different airports in four countries. I flew in five different models of planes, had nine airline meals, flew 18,725 miles (29,860 kms) in 37:46 hours, and traveled a total of 63 hours. Of course, I crossed all 24 time zones, but remained entirely in the northern hemisphere, indeed, north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Once I was home, the good news was that I didn't have to fly anywhere for three whole weeks, after which time a 4-day trip cross-country to Los Angeles, California, will seem like a trip to the local shopping center, although it will still involve a 3-time-zone change. But then, it will be good practice for my up-coming trips to Japan in November, and Europe in December. I can hardly wait!