Destinations always come after journeys.
Traveling to Thailand: Destinations always come after journeys.
Our excitement and anxiety about traveling to a different country got the best of us, and neither of us slept much the night before our vacation to Thailand. After loosing the battle for sleep, we finished packing the morning of the ninth of February and left our apartment with our carry-on luggage (we try to avoid check luggage if possible) to Cheonan Bus Terminal.
Tickets already in hand, we boarded the 8:40 bus for Incheon International Airport in Seoul. Incheon is actually just outside of Seoul on an island, and it’s one of the best airports I’ve ever been in. It’s very large, but also architecturally and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Many big airports can be confusing, but the Koreans got this one right and built an easy-to-navigate and traveler-friendly airport.
Our boarding time wasn’t until 3:50 pm, so we found our way to Bennigans (that’s right BENNIGANS in KOREA!) for some lunch. The lack of sleep the night before and the high-carb meal put us into sleep-mode as soon as we paid our bill. Incheon airport has many areas for travelers to get away from noise and traffic and get some shuteye. We found some big beanbag looking couches, plopped down and I was unconscious immediately. Jill did the head-bobbing thing on the bus ride to Incheon, so she enjoyed her people-watching hobby while I slept.
When I awoke from my slumber, we checked in, exchanged our Korean Won for Thai Baht, and headed through security for gate 131. Another thing we love about Incheon airport are the numerous free Internet cafes (with public laptops to use) they have stationed around the terminals. We still had quite a bit of time before our departure, so we did the 21st century thing and said our online farewells.
WARNING: If you are ever traveling in Asia, avoid layovers in China. They are a pain in the ____. Per most international layovers, as long as you don’t leave the security checks, all you have to do is go to your next gate of departure. Not so in China (at least Shanghai Airport that is). In Shanghai, you have to go through security and through customs and legally enter the country as if you were departing the airport. If you’re transferring, as soon as you get through customs, they usher you into a small waiting area where a security guard checks your passports a second time, jots down some information, then finally allows you to leave. But when you’re released they don’t tell you where to go, and there weren’t any signs for us to follow to find our airline to re-check in. After wandering aimlessly (luckily we weren’t in a hurry) we finally found our airline, re-checked in, went through security and customs again and had our passports stamped a THIRD time!
Our experience gave us a small taste of what strict government control is like. And Shanghai airport isn’t one that you want to have a layover in like we did. It pales in comparison to the traveler-friendliness that Incheon delivers.
Our flight to the south of Thailand on the island of Phuket (pronounced Pooket, the ‘h’ is silent) was the longest leg of our journey. Situated just 8 degrees north of the equator, and averaging in the mid to upper 80’s (F), our five hour flight from Shanghai was well worth it. We landed at the small Phuket airport on the north end of the island around one in the morning, and the taxi driver we arranged for was right on time. He drove us along the empty streets to the southern end of the island until fifty minutes later we arrived at Southern Fried Rice Guesthouse near Kata beach, and we were warmly greeted by a middle-aged Thai woman (who we came to love, name Anunya) who had obviously just crawled out of bed. She let us in, and we asked about paying the rest of our money due (since we had only made a deposit), and she said “in the morning, okay? You come down and have breakfast and we take care of it then.”
With that we went up to room eight and were pleasantly surprised by the size, cleanliness, and amenities of our guesthouse room.
Note: I always like learning about new places, so you’ll see several highlighted words throughout these next few posts. You can click on the highlighted words if you’d like to learn more about them.
Also, if you are interested in traveling to or learning about Phuket, Thailand here are some links we used for research and highly recommend: