Because I had to fly out of Korea at 8.00 am on the Friday morning, I decided to stay close by the airport on the Thursday night. An 8.00 am flight doesn't sound that early but, when you factor in needing to be at the airport an hour beforehand and it taking up to 80 mins to get there and all the extra you need just in case ... it works out meaning you have to get up at like 4.30 or something.
So, after some last minute futzing around shopping, I figured I'd head out to the airport and drop my bags off at the hotel and explore Incheon.
I'd sort of not really thought this plan through though. My hotel had a free shuttle bus pick up to take you to and from the airport but other than that, you were kind of stuck there.
While my hotel bed looked very welcoming, I had no wish to spend my last day in Korea lolling around a (maybe) ex-love hotel.
Weird random bunch of toiletries in my hotel room. Would you use a hotel room hair brush?
I decided to go for plan B which was to check out some of the islands near the hotel. Looked easy enough on the internet so I asked at hotel reception how to get there.
After a lot of consultation between the two guys who worked there and them checking some information out, they told me I'd just missed one ferry to the islands and the next was in an hour. It was 20 minutes to get to the ferry terminal and would be about $25-30 each way in a cab. Or they'd drive me in the hotel shuttle bus for $15.
I'm not sure if they were actually scamming me because I later saw a bus that stopped near the hotel, and there was a bus from the ferry terminal -- and even if it wasn't the same bus, chances are both connected at the airport.
But, being a gullible tourist, I coughed up the $15 - the hotel dude also wanted this in cash when I got there -- kinda dodgy, right. Normally you would just add it on to your room bill and pay at checkout.
So I had to wait around at the ferry terminal with a bunch of hardened old Korean fishermen watching my every move. Actually one of them ran after me and gave me a map of the islands.
The ferry terminal was swamped with seagulls. Really huge ones!
And, after dropping me off, the hotel dude told me when I returned I should try to ring the hotel and, if they weren't busy, they'd send the bus back to pick me up. Otherwise I could call a cab.
Okay, now I am a bit of an obsessive worrier and there were a few things here that I had to panic about.
1. I had to call the hotel and maybe a cab. My phone didn't work in Korea so that meant I'd have to ask someone at the terminal. I don't speak ANY Korean and no one at the terminal spoke English! I hadn't seen a public phone anywhere in the terminal either.
2. I was running very short on Korean cash and a $30 cab fare would take most of it.
3. The last ferry back was at 6.30 pm and, if I missed it, I'd be stuck on the island until they started running at 7.00 am the next day which would make catching my 8.00 flight VERY tricky.
There were two things I wanted to see on the islands. The first was a sculpture park and the other was the house used in the Korean drama Full House (that I'd just watched before going to Korea).
It was 4.30 by the time I got to the first island though and I figured my time was limited so I'd just get the bus to the sculpture park and cut my losses.
The ferry itself only took 10 minutes to get to the main island - and most of that was turning around so I figured if worst came to worst, I could have probably swam the distance back!
When I got off the ferry, there was a bus waiting for passengers at the other side. It took about 30 minutes to get to Modo Isand to the sculpture park but it was a very pleasant trip around the islands.
I got off at my stop and managed in mime and gestures to find out what time I had to be back at the bus stop. I had 50 minutes and a 1 km walk to the sculpture park. Not too bad.
A group of 4 old Korean ladies also got off the bus, decked out in full hiking gear and were headed to the park too. I figured I could beat them to the park and set off at a fast walk.
Was very tempted to go for a swim
The sculpture park was set on the beach and was pretty cool but I felt like some of the sculptures were just plonked down, willy-nilly, without any thought to the relationship between them. The ones right on the beach were the best.
The old ladies didn't stick around long, maybe because of this sculpture!
It was really peaceful and lovely and I wished I'd had more time to just walk around the islands rather than having to rush back to the bus stop.
When I got back to the bus stop, I thought the old ladies were talking about me. Then they called me over and offered me some of their cucumber slices they'd packed. They were really very sweet.
I was worried because I didn't have the right change for the bus and was wondering how I could communicate that. Then I met another guy who was a Canadian-Korean and his wife who were also waiting for the bus. They were really nice too and gave me the 1,000 won (about $1) I needed. Yah, I could actually get on the bus.
On the bus trip back to the terminal, I got to see the Full House house from a distance and so didn't really miss out on seeing that either.
I still had the issue of getting back to the hotel though. After the ferry trip, I headed for the main building only to realise that everything had been closed up. There was no chance of using their phone at all.
I was kinda freaking out and just following everyone else, hoping that I could find a bus or something. Most people seemed to have cars parked there though.
Then a guy in a car slowed down and asked me if I was going to the airport. I told him I was trying to get back to my hotel. His English wasn't great so I gave him the card for my hotel and asked him to ring them for me.
I'm not sure what the conversation was but he offered to drive me back. He was with his wife so I figured it'd be okay. Well until I got in the car and then realised that maybe they were both dodgy and possbily could be planning to use me for a human sacrifice or something. But, hey, I was saving $30 on the cab fare.
He seemed like a nice enough guy though and decided to take me sightseeing on the way. He showed me stuff like the massive 7 km bridge (ie. the one I'd had to travel across to get to and from the airport in the first place) and then some famous golf course. He actually made me go with him into the golf course and look around.
I'm not sure if that was an excuse to get away from his wife and give me his business card and tell me if I had free time, to contact him. Maybe that was just being friendly-like...
Anyway, I made it back to the hotel alive. Apparently there are a bunch of famous shellfish noodle places around the hotel. I went for a walk to check them out but they were all empty and I hate eating in an empty resturant so figured I'd just go back to my hotel and get room service. Yeah - the hotel had room service and a real bathroom (not one of those tiny unit bathrooms like you get in Japan).
I had a shower and relaxed but, when I rang to order dinner, the woman that answered just say "English, I don't speak" and hung up. I tried again, figuring I'd just say "number 8" and that might work. She said okay and hung up.
I waited and waited. No sign of dinner. Surely if she didn't understand, she could get one of the guys at the front desk who could speak English to call me back. But nothing.
In the end, I went down to the front desk and told them what had happened. The guy was like "what did you want to order?" That's it. No apology, nothing.
At least, around 9.30, I finally got food. Which was actually good delicious.
The next day was uneventful. Got on the plane, went back to Japan. I wanted to get a coffee from the 7-11 acorss the road while I waited for the shuttle bus but it was SHUT. How does that happen?
Also, when I was waiting to check in, there were 2 young Japanese girls in front of me. I'm not sure what was going on with them. They were dressed in very expensive clothes and had on big sunglasses (inside) but were pretty much brain-dead. There was a woman, not with them, but who kept walking over, explaining how to do pretty basic things you need to do when checking in. They didn't even realise they could go to the check in desk together and not seperately until she told them. It was incredibly weird.
It was good to get back to Japan where I have some basic understanding of what people are saying although I'm finding since I got back I have even less patience with the doziness of people here.
Shitloads more photos overHERE