Sometime in May, just started my day at office, suddenly got a call from US. My manager said from the other side of the line “ Sid there is an important project coming up in South Korea and I want you to lead that effort. Pack your bags and get your visa ready, you need to attend the kick-off workshop at Seoul”
I was certainly delighted to get a challenging assignment within few months of joining new company. And more so to get exposure to new country and culture. Though the stay is for 5 days I made it clear in my mind to explore as much as possible in that short time.
Travel agency of our office guided for all procedures. They collected my passport, photos and all supporting documents ( a lot of those !) and sent to nearest South Korean Embassy , which is at Chennai. Within a week I received my passport with single entry business visa valid for 90 days. Booking of flight and hotel is a mandatory prerequisite for visa application. So by this time I was all ready to make the travel.
10th June ( Long journey starts)
Unfortunately there is no direct flight between Bangalore and Incheon ( Seoul) and one needs to have at least one stop over. While booking a flight I had in mind that layover must not be more than 4-5 hours, wandering in airport longer than this is just too boring and tiring. Plus I wanted to arrive in morning hours, so that I have rest of the day at my disposal. Out of all the option Malaysian airlines with little less than 5 hours of layover at Kuala Lumpur seemed to be most ideal.
It was a long and tiring journey and I was pretty disheartened to see drastic downfall of service quality of MA. Not many choices of food, no smiley faces, delay in service and what not. They were almost hiding alcoholic beverages and did not even offered anyone besides juices and coffee. Even if someone asked for it they only had beers and wines, you request for hard liquor and attendants would bring from some secret chamber. Its not worth asking for a refill seeing their reactions ????
Reached Seoul and completed usual immigration checks and all. Went straight to KT booth near exit gate 5 and rented portable wifi hotspot device for 6 days. Internet connection is necessary in a foreign land specially when language may be a challenge. All it took is filling up some small form, showing up passport and credit card. It costs around INR500 per day for unlimited high speed internet access and one can connect maximum up to 5 devices. I would recommend this if you don’t have international data roaming enabled in your home mobile connection.
Tips and Tricks: You can pre-book online this device before your arrival and enjoy around 30% discount on rent. And procedure is also faster. Strongly recommended.
Incheon has very good bus connectivity to most of the parts of this region and recommended mode for most of the hotel transfers.
I booked ticket from the counter and boarded bus from designated area, which is just outside airport exit gate. It was a comfortable journey of one and half hour. Roads are nice and wide and for some stretch run along beautiful Han river. Being working day encountered some traffic but nothing like Bangalore ????
Bus dropped me at Samseong Yog Metro Station and Hotel Intercontinental Coex is 10 minutes’ walk as per previous research. But google map was showing 40 minutes after changing two buses and metro ! Definitely something is wrong with navigation. I rebooted my phone and same thing, no walking directions! One guy helped me with direction and finally was able to walk down to my hotel.
Tips and Tricks: Local law of Republic of Korea prohibits foreign mapping services to offer navigation service there. So Google map will only show transit ( bus/metro) directions and no walking or driving directions. You can still use it by following that blue dot of current location, but its painful. Or you can use local navigation services if you know to read Korean.
Check-in process was quite easy and fast. Being a member of IGH I was greeted with a special box of cookies ???? .
After long flight , I was definitely tired, but more of excited to visit a new country and not in mood of wasting any time. Quickly had breakfast and shower ,then left for sightseeing.
Coex is a posh business area in Gangnam district. You see all high-rises, jazzy restaurants, huge malls and multinationals everywhere. It is perfect example of wealth and growth of South Korea. Yet just across the street from my hotel situated is Bongeunsa Temple. Built in 794 by King Wonseong , this is an iconic place for Korean Buddhism practice. There are number of temples in the huge complex and hundreds of devotees visit every day to offer prayers.