Thursday, February 11, 2016

One step up SEOULcity: Work visit to Seoul: Part 2/4

*scroll for picture at the end
17th January 2016 
No not yet at Psy and big bang. Infact, I did not explore Klive(digitalization at its best) this time but the up-beat tempo was in the air.
Incheon International airport welcomes me each time with the ever-smiling staff, convenient infrastructure and huge area with white aura. Yes, very visible white aura. I felt at home, as T2 reminds me of Incheon international airport. I remember when T2 was inaugurated and we did a just-like-that round up drive there. I jumped up in my car seat and said, “Hey! it’s like SeoulCity”
So, I easily connect to the airport wi-fi and do a quick facetime back home. S.Korea is so advanced in technology that I think that the whole country is wi-fi’ed.I have always been connected. Trains, buses, shops, hotels, offices are all wired well. There is also an option for the tourists at the airport to carry the portable Oleh wi-fi egg shaped device. This is not very expensive. All one has to do is buy the device with a deposit and use it for the stay. This will come handy to use google maps to navigate. Taxi drivers, locals usually will need to know the Korean name.
I did not need a portable wi-fi device as I was mostly at the hotel (indoors) and with my Korean colleagues. Just my wi-fi enabled phone worked well.
Ah, btw! One can also get a rental phone with some cost effective call rates from the airport.
What I did at the airport is here…

  1. Collected my baggage.
  2. Short 2 mins train shuttle ride to the main part of the airport
  3. Put-on some thermal inners in the well maintained locker rooms, these are as good as a 5 star locker room arrangements
  4. Exchanged currency
  5. Took out my Hollister Parka and wore it. Has been my savior
  6. Walked out to get tickets for KAL-Limousine
Btw, I spotted quite a few Indians. I am sure it’s mostly because of LG, Samsung, Hyundai. Obviously! Eh!;)
There are 2 airports at S.Korea and I have always landed in Incheon.I think the other one is a domestic airport.Not sure though. Incheon Int. airport is at the outskirts; it takes about an hour to reach Seoul. One can hail a cab directly or opt for more convenient option like KAL-Limousine services. The information desk can guide you to the gate numbers where one can find these buses. The staff at information desk obviously can speak in English.
Tickets are available at the ticket booth outside the main entrance or with the attendants who are very helpful and try to understand English. Not very expensive, I am sure they cost lesser than travelling in a cab. My ticket costed me 16000 KWN.
KAL-Limousine is Korea tourism operated bus services. They are very well managed, economical, safe and frequent. The hotel that I was staying in was one of the stops, infact the last stop for the bus. So, all I had to do was pass on my bag to the attendant which was stowed safely and take my seat with big expansive windows. The bus information system was effective as the stops were announced clearly in 3 languages. English, Korean and Japanese. Moreover, the driver of the bus was aware of the stops. Even if you fall asleep, that's no worry. The bus stops at the designated area and the driver then helps passenger to take their luggage out. Very methodical and the right approach).You can get more information on I picked it up from my ticket. With my seat belt on, I waited eagerly to check-in to the hotel, grab a bite, put some nice winter fashion on and explore the market on what’s new!! I told you, I was fresh as a dew even after my long flight.

The first evening in Seoul
I was in hurry to be in Myeong-dong. For the memory of the endless shopping, I did on my last visit. I knew the shops like the back of my hand there. I was in hurry to be there for the street food. I was in hurry to be in that shopping district to feel the wind blow when Seoul is chilly. Shopping in Myeong-dong is an experience, which should be in your bucket-list! The neon signs boards glowing and making it lively, the women standing outside these cosmetic shops enticing you with their respective brand’s famous mask-sheets to enter their store and buy, some head-turner-portable stalls of Korean street delicacies at display. Crowded lanes in sub-zero temperature, four-storey tall stores and high-end shops. It is all there happily intermingling with each other. Not sure, if it as famous with the locals but for the tourists it is one of the must visits. Just for people watching, shopping and immersing in all the vibes.
What happened after I reached the hotel is here in bullet points… Read on to get a feel of a quick evening at Seoul’s most sought after shopping area, Myeong-dong
  • I arrived at my hotel to quickly check-in, We have usually had our conferences and office visit stays at the Grand Ambassador Hotel,Seoul. This is a Pullman associated hotel centrally located to the main attractions. All about 10-15 mins drive away. The likes of Itaewon, Myeong-dong, Namdaemum and Dongdaemun.
    • The best part about this hotel is the shuttle bus service to Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun. I have always taken that to get dropped.  But, shopping is so consuming and tiring that on my way back, sinking in to the cushy seats of a cab has been the only therapeutic option.
  • Made myself a cup of hot steaming coffee, dressed up for the evening out and took the shuttle to M-D. Oh1 before that requested the hotel guard to click a picture outside the hotel and he happily obliged.
  • As soon as I was dropped at my stop at M-D, the first whiff of those egg-pies(Gaeran Bbang) made me go weak in my knees. Hence proved! Food is what drives my travels. Well, I just dint stop at Egg-pies, I tried on more which was on offer. Like Gimbap, sausages etc.. I could not stop admiring the sturdy carts neatly stacked one after the other in a line. As if, their area was marked by a chalk on the floor. These carts were placed right in the middle of the roads making the street look like two separate tiny alleys with cosmetic shops and clothes shop on both sides.
  • That is when I started to feel the cold and 19th January (which was in 2 days) was forecasted the coldest day of Korea with minus 14. If you have read my blog on Korean chill, you will know that the actual preparations for this kind of winter was half done. I was there right infront of Uniqlo to pick up Heattech. Must check out the kind of options available. And woah! It saved me the chill. All the claims of this product is true!
  • Some more wandering the streets all covered up left me greedy for more time there but my jet lag had kicked in by then and I had a long next day. With a heavy heart, I took a cab flashed the hotel card to the driver and spoke in some sign language to reach the hotel in 15 mins.
  • Sharing some pictures which I took when I was not stuffing my hands in my parka pockets and getting them warm.

    A selfie from the window in my hotel room

    Outside the hotel

    A typical frame of MyeongDong

    One of the street food carts

    The Korean pretty Collars

    I should have layered the hand gloves also 


    Happy Valentine's Day. xoxo
    Surely the skin food
    I am self-proclaimed direction dyslexic but the way from the hotel to M-D and back is what I know by-heart!
    Catch you all soon with some tid-bits from Day 2 in Seoul. This will mostly comprise of food, catching-up and the trailer to what was awaited on day after. The Magic!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Work visit to Seoul: Part 1/4

My previous post was about preparations on Korean chill. Now, I share the 5 days of my Korean travel.
These blogposts will have my take on all what I experienced. The range is from what Airline I took to what food I ate and all the magical experiences, some e-postcards too. So, hang in there and read along. Moreover, if, by chance Seoul becomes your next vacation location. You know whom to contact.
These parts will be published slowly in installments for you to read and me to re-live. 
Seoul has always excited me! This was my third trip to this wonderland and this time it was very different from the last 2 times. This time it was the winters.
Korea, alright.. I correct myself, South of Korea is known for its extreme climates. It has 4 distinct weather. Summers tend to get very hot and humid and winter winds are harsh.Spring gets colorful with cherry blossom pink and fall is feisty reds. Very striking! My Korean friend says, the best times to visit the Khimchi land is when the landscape is at its best. The spring and fall.
I visited Seoul (pronounce it like there is no ‘e’) for work. Not sure, if Seoul would have otherwise featured on my list of places to holiday in. I am happy for these trips and my initiation to Korean cosmetics, food and culture.
Flew Cathay to Seoul
16th January 2016
Most of the international airlines fly out at midnights or early mornings from Mumbai. I had booked the one at 11pm. It was my birthday on 16th, and hence celebrations poured in from a night before with family and friends around. The excitement of travelling to Seoul and my birthday together was a good concoction of a sure shot ‘high’. I felt I was on a 2 vodka cum tequilla shots the whole day ;)

At the T2 with a light bag and a cabin bag. I usually travel light one way;)
When I settled in at the lounge after all the immigration requirement and security checks (which was very quick), I realized how tired I was. My muscles ached and my eyes were heavy with all the lack of sleep. All I wanted was a good night sleep, to get into the aircraft and doze off. Well, there was a pleasant experience in store, my birthday had to be wrapped up in a different way, I say!! I was invited to the foot reflexology section of the GVK lounge. Sohum Wellness Spa has set up arrangements there and quick 15 minutes rejuvenating foot massage was on offer. I still am smiling at that experience.
This was at level 3 not far away from my gate. I had enough time and was in no energy to wander around anywhere else. The lounge is massive and the spread of food is appetizing. The number of couch is enough to seat the crowd, which is expected at the time of peak flying time. It is a perfect combination of ambience and luxury. Very impressive! It surely is a world-class-local experience.  
GVK @ T2
I opted for Cathay Pacific from Mumbai to Seoul and back.
I had an option of a direct Korean Air flight but the dates were not matching. I would have had to stay a day more if I took that direct 11 hours flight back. Well, I have mostly travelled Cathay Pacific on my work visits to APAC countries. Business class travels comes as a part of these long travels. I am a no frills traveler otherwise (I would like to believe that) but who doesn’t like fancy experiences?

Let me start with the seat! On this route, Cathay Airbus 330-300 comes with fully flatbed that can be maneuvered to individual’s preference. Very private space. I had a window seat all to myself. The control panel for the bed and lights, charging sockets were all in my reach. The food service with some Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne and the marathon of in-flight movies under a duvet was exactly what I was looking for. I know, I know! I wanted to sleep. I got carried away with all the pamper.
The cheese trolley looked enticing but I was too lazy to use my brains on decision making at that time.
The legroom on the seat cabin was more than ample. Well, I would say the same thing if I was in economy too;) with  my petite frame, I fit in comfortably anywhere. One of the positives of being a 5 footer, you see!

A quick option to know the time of port and destination

The b'day treat high in the air. Cheers!
At the Hong Kong airport
The space and the window

I love this capture
With a hop in Hong Kong airport at 6:30 ish and the next flight to Seoul in 2 hours, I arrived at the Incheon airport at 12:35 fully fresh and ready to experience my first minus 10.
I have always loved travelling business with Cathay. Their flagship lounges at Hong Kong airport is a class apart. They appear with names like The Pier, The Wing, The Bridge, The Cabin. After all, a home to Cathay Pacific!
Btw, one of the movies I watched is “Devil Wears Prada”. Still crushing on all the dresses and styles in there.
The next part to “Work visit to Seoul” blogpost will be out in 2 days… stay tuned to know what happened on day 1 at the South Korean capital