On February 1, I woke up to the first of two alarms, set almost a week ago, to ensure that I would not miss the first train out of Yizhuang in my quest to get to the Beijing airport on time. Which I did, but it was not without its challenges.
Yizhuang Culture Park Station is accessed from my apartment complex by a bridge. Usually the elevator works, and I was counting on this as I had a large suitcase to get up and over. (Jay walking is deterred by a fence running between the lanes of traffic, or you can be sure I would have!)
As I was dragging the suitcase up the stairs, the first train went through – much earlier than I expected. Of course that stressed me even more as I did not want to miss the plane. But the mountain was climbed and descended…and I caught my train – gloriously empty at the tail end of the Chinese New Year Break.
There is a direct line to the airport from two different lines. I was able to connect from the #10 line, and for only 25 RMB catch a ride to the airport. (It’s about 150 RMB by cab). THe whole journey took just over an hour, so not bad after all.
Beijing airport is of course quite large. Finding the check-out counter required some help, but I found the help and the location. Even more confusing was the changing sign as several flights and airlines were using the same line-up at the same time. Immigration and security were more “hurry up and wait” scenerios, but I had forgotten to fill out an exit card – to let everyone know I was leaving. This was a new experience as well. Fortunately they didn’t send me to the back of the line and I managed to get to my gate in time for coffee and breakfast. Not being a fan of Starbucks, I was relieved to see the Costa staff ready to provide me with the sustenance for the journey!!!!!!!!
I travelled to Korea with Air China and I have to say it was a delightful journey. There was plenty of legroom so I didn’t feel cramped. The flight was also not full so we had an extra seat to spread things around.
Because it takes so long to get the luggage unloaded I didn’t rush through the process of getting through immigration on the Korea side. Still, by the time I got to the carousel, my bag was still not on the carousel. There I stood watching, waiting, wondering and getting more than a little worried by my lack of baggage. After all I had a train to catch! And then they stopped the carousel. And I still had no luggage. Panic set in. I began scrutinizing everyone (there weren’t many) but no one was walking away with my bag. I went to the lost baggage department trying to convince myself that this was okay, and I should expect it to happen at some point in life. Just not in Korea, please and thank you.
Well…my luggage had not been put on the plane. It was a security risk. Really? What could be so harmless about some teabags, books and stuff I wanted to mail home from Korea? Turns out that my back-up battery pack (fortunately not an expensive one) should NOT have been in my suitcase. I found a very nice note from the checker explaining why it was removed. But in the meantime I was in Korea and imagining that it would take hours to get my luggage. I see my trials through a very Canadian lens.
While I was busy stewing about how many hours it was going to take, my suitcase was already almost in Korea. Once they managed to calm me down (reminding me that my clock was still on Beijing time helped immensely in that regard) I sat on a bench and read until the luggage arrived. Phew. I escaped into a crowd of people waiting to meet their arrivals and I was reminded that travelling alone can be a lonely experience sometimes. I kind of wish someone was waiting for me!
Although I had planned to take the train from the airport to Chuncheon (a city in the middle of Korea) I was advised to take the bus. And while the train might have been cheaper, it also involved two transfers to get to my destination. Take the bus…you can buy tickets right at the airport and then grab a bite to eat, before travelling. The Incheon airport is quite beautiful and I was glad to sit and relax after my trials at the carousel!
The bus to Chuncheon was roomy, although it lacked a washroom. Fortunately that wasn’t a problem but it might be on any other journeys I take. From the bus terminal I grabbed a taxi (and ticked someone off because I should have waited behind him for the next cab – oops) and got to my hostel in time to go to bed. Thus ends day one of my adventures in Korea!
- Those handy battery extenders DON”T go in the luggage.
- If you are travelling outside of Seoul, take the bus if you can. It is very relaxing, especially if you are coming from Beijing.
- There is a line-up for catching a cab outside the train or bus station. Don’t get people angry with you the first day.
- Plans may need to change – and change often when you are travelling on your own. Find your place of calm in what seems to be chaos.
Stay tuned for more about Chuncheon next time!
Marcia the intrepid traveller