Friday, December 21, 2012

End-of-Year Winter Holiday in South Korea in December 2012 ~ Section 1

Welcome to this new trip report about my recent end-of-year winter vacation in South Korea in December 2012. I believe this is the official Christmas surprise you have been anticipating since my last report detailing my post-GCE 'O' Level examination vacation in Hong Kong in November 2012However, the emotions I felt on this trip would be somewhat unbelievable. This blog report will be divided into a total of four sections.

The main focus topics for this first section will be the in-bound journey to Seoul (Incheon) and the snowy journey to the Fraser Suites Insadong in downtown Jongno-gu, Seoul. As always, the videos in this blog report may also be found on YouTube. However, kindly take note that for safety reasons, comments are prohibited at all times for my YouTube videos. Any comments found or detected on any video will be deleted automatically.

Part 1 ~ The Opening Sequences

Shortly after returning from my very enjoyable and fun-filled post-GCE 'O' Level examination shopping vacation in Hong Kong in November 2012, together with having of my post-GCE 'O' Level examination graduation dinner, I wondered on where we would be travelling to in December for the winter. I had the strong belief that it would be Japan, as it is a norm that we travel to Japan annually, and that my two core paradise countries in the world are Hong Kong and Japan.

However, much to my dismay and disappointment, I found out that it would be South Korea instead of Japan. I was strongly sure that it would be a long winter holiday in Japan with snow after my younger brother had received his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. I was literally expecting a nice and relatively long winter holiday to Japan instead of having a rather short one to South Korea. Although I was promised a long winter holiday at the end of the year, I felt that I had been deprived of the opportunity to be myself.

Nine days in South Korea would not be considered as a long winter holiday, but around nine days to 2½ weeks in Japan would be nice and sufficiently long. At the same time, I was beginning to sense a loss in my own identity. For the next few weeks, feelings of dread engulfed me as I thought of what would await me once I came to South Korea. My knowledge for South Korea seems to be limited since my last trip there in December 2009, with the first and second trips made in late 2002 and 2008 respectively.

Over the next two years, I soon had a change in tastes and preferences after discovering wintertime in Hokkaido, Japan, in December 2010 and December 2011As it is a traditional norm to travel to Japan every year, I would consider it an insult to my identity if we do not travel to Japan even for a year. I soon discovered that my family was responsible for this outrageous decision. But, the brighter side was that we were not taking the trouble to transit in Bangkok.

But, to be safe, I would rather much continue with Japan instead of trying out South Korea. Mind you, I am not that easy to be persuaded by others outside my family. I would never give up Japan for South Korea, even for just one try or for one year. There would be only two countries I would never say 'no' to, which are purely Hong Kong and Japan, and nowhere else. Over the upcoming weeks, I could not help feeling rather angry and disturbed about it.

On the morning of Thursday (20 December), I woke quite late at around ten o' clock. Since I was less than impressed about the trip, I spent the whol afternoon playing my Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets PS2 Game and surfing the Internet on my laptop. For the overnight in-bound flight to Seoul, we would be flying with Korean Air on flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon), which would be expected to depart from Singapore Changi Airport at 1.30 a.m., and arrive at Incheon International Airport at 8.35 a.m. the next morning.

This was one of the very few plus points about the trip as we were not planning to take the trouble of changing flights in another country. After having dinner, I packed up my baggage for the trip. We were finally complete with our baggage packing at ten o' clock later that night. My parents, as usual, had arranged for a MaxiCab to take us to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 10.15 p.m. later that night just a few days in advance. 

Soon enough, our pre-arranged MaxiCab to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 finally showed up at our doorstep at 10.15 p.m.. The driver, who was a Malay gentleman, offered to help us with our baggage-loading into the boot of the cab, while we boarded for the journey to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2. Once our baggage had been loaded into the boot of the MaxiCab, we left the familiar compound of our house at 10.25 p.m. for a short 25-minute night road journey to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2.

Arriving at the departure and drop-off are of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 10.50 p.m., the MaxiCab driver offered to help to unload all of our baggage, while we went to grab a few baggage trolleys. With all our baggage loaded onto the trolleys, we paid our fare and went into the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, and to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge to check in for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon), with the walk taking just five minutes.

Terminal 2 is the second airport passenger terminal at Singapore Changi Airport in operation today. Opened for service on 1 November 1990, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir, along with most Southeast Asian carriers and some foreign carriers shifted their operations to the terminal. However, with the opening of Terminal 3 on 9 January 2008, Singapore Airlines moved its long-haul operations bound for the Far East, Americas, Oceania and the European Union to Terminal 3.

All other Singapore Airlines operations continue to operate out of Terminal 2. Etihad Airways commenced service to Singapore and Brisbane from Abu Dhabi using Terminal 2 on 27 September 2007. All Nippon Airways re-located its operations from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 on 1 October 2008. Air India, Air India Express, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air also moved to Terminal 2 from Terminal 1 on 29 March 2009.

All low-cost carriers from the Budget Terminal also shifted their operations here following the closure of the Budget Terminal on 25 September 2012. Swiss International Air Lines will resume its operations to Singapore from Zurich with a daily non-stop flight using Terminal 2 on 12 May 2013. Asiana Airlines will re-locate its operations from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 on 30 September 2013. Philippine Airlines will also re-locate its operations from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 on 28 October 2013.

The departure and drop-off point at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 late at night

The interior of the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 late at night

Bypassing an airline check-in counter on the way to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

After a short walk from the departures and drop-off area at Singapore Changi Airport of just five minutes, we finally arrived at the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge at 10.55 p.m.. Entering the check-in lounge itself, a few porters came out to assist us with our baggage. We then checked ourselves in for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon), with the entire check-in process taking just 10 minutes.

Korean Air (Hangul: 대한항공; Hanja: 大韓航空) is the flag carrier and the largest airline of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Maintaining its two largest hubs at Incheon International Airport and Gimpo International Airport, the airline is headquartered in Gonghang-dong, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, and also has a satellite campus at Incheon. The airline offers a variety of destinations in Asia, Oceania, Africa, the European Union and the Americas, using a mixed fleet of wide-body and narrow-body aircraft from Airbus and Boeing.

The airline is one of the founding members of SkyTeam, the world's third and final airline alliance formed on 22 June 2000, with Aéromexico, Air France and Delta Air Lines. Offering destinations throughout the world, Korean Air is also one of the few airlines to serve all six inhabited continents, except Antarctica. Its frequent-flyer program is SKYPASS, which can be used with other SkyTeam members, and some other non-SkyTeam members (i.e. Emirates, Iberia and Japan Airlines).

The interior of the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The Christmas Tree in the Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A magazine and drink refrigerator in the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 from the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge

The SATS Premier Check-in Lounge with an overhead television screen

After we had completed the check-in process for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon), we finally received both our boarding passes and invitation passes to sample the SATS Premier Lounge at 11.05 p.m.. The check-in agent informed us that the flight would almost be filled to the brim tonight, and that Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would depart at 1.30 a.m. from Gate No. E22.

Boarding would also commence at one o' clock, approximately ½ an hour before the scheduled departure time. With that, we went through the passport control area and decided to head to the SATS Premier Lounge to charge our electronic equipment before the flight to Seoul (Incheon). We arrived at the SATS Premier Lounge at around 11.10 p.m. and set up our baggage to charge our electronics before the long overnight flight to Seoul
(Incheon).

The departure flight information screen in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2. If only I was heading towards Tokyo instead of Seoul, I would have been much more cheery!

A lineup of duty-free shops in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The escalators towards the airline lounges in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The pink-decorated Christmas tree in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The food and beverage corner of the SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 2

The interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 2

After unpacking my electronic devices for charging in the SATS Premier Lounge, I decided to do some night plane-spotting. On the way, I stopped by at a hobby shop by the viewing mall. I then purchased a Herpa Wings commercial aviation model for S$79. 
Once I had purchased my MASKargo Airbus A330 Freighter model, I went to the observation area do my usual night plane-spotting activity. There, I spotted several aircraft being prepared for departure or arriving from various destinations.


After I spotted some aircraft, I went to change some of my Singapore dollars into Korean won at a money exchange counter located just below the airline lounge level. 
At the money exchange counter itself, I changed about S$239.80, which earned me 200,000 in return. I then went back to the SATS Premier Lounge to do a bit more work on my blog before the flight to Seoul, while my parents went to get some goodies before the vacation.

As for the new MASKargo Airbus A330 Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 model, the model details were as follows:


1) MASKargo Airbus A330-223F Herpa Scale 1:500 (519243
)

MASKargo Airbus A330-223F Herpa Scale 1:500 (519243)

A SilkAir Airbus A320-233, registered 9V-SLO, parked at Gate No. E2 after arriving from Malaysia earlier as SilkAir flight MI 339 from Kuala Lumpur

A Scoot Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-OTA, being serviced at Gate No. F31 in preparation for her long overnight journey to Japan via Taiwan as Scoot flight TZ 202 bound for Tokyo (Narita) via Taipei. This aircraft used to operate for Singapore Airlines as 9V-SQA before SQ transferred her to its new low-cost subsidiary carrier

An Airphil Express Airbus A320-214, registered RP-C8396, resting at Gate No. E1 after arriving from her regional journey from the Republic of the Philippines as Airphil Express flight 2P 737 from Clark

My boarding pass for the flight between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

The three airlines of Singapore parked beside each other at Concourse F

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-SRF, resting at Gate No. F33 after arriving from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 185 from Ho Chi Minh City

The tarmac around Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The Cocoa Trees duty-free chocolate shop in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The Cocoa Trees as seen from the lounge floor

The food and beverage corner in the Terminal 2 SATS Premier Lounge

My newly-purchased MASKargo Airbus A330 Freighter model

The seating area of the Terminal 2 SATS Premier Lounge by the food and beverage corner

Two pieces of opera cake for myself

My recently purchased Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER Herpa aircraft model a few weeks earlier

My dad and brother resting in the lounge

Doing up a draft essay report for the winter holiday on my blogspot. Verdana is the main typeface for this report, but a second edition of this report uses Avenir

Part 2 ~ The Flight to Seoul (Incheon)

Airline: Korean Air
Flight No.: KE 642
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Seoul, Incheon International Airport (ICN / RKSI), Seoul, South Korea
Aircraft: Boeing 777-3B5
Registration No.: HL7534
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 10J
Date: Friday, 21 December 2012

After spending about 1½ hours of relaxing and having some light beverages in the SATS Premier Lounge, the clock was finally showing 12.40 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be scheduled to commence in ½ an hour's time, we packed away our belongings before leaving the SATS Premier Lounge for Gate No. E22, with the entire walk taking not more than just 10 minutes. 

Soon enough, we finally arrived at the entrance to Gate No. E22 at 12.50 a.m., which was supposedly in good time for boarding for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) to commence in 10 minutes' time. With a slightly slow security check, we were finally in the passenger waiting room at Gate No. E22 by 12.55 a.m.. However, because the aircraft had arrived from Seoul 10 minutes late at 12.10 a.m., the new scheduled departure time had been shifted to 1.40 a.m. instead.

Tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be operated using a Boeing 777-300 aircraft, registered HL7534 and powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines. HL7534 was delivered to Korean Air on 28 December 1999 as the second Boeing 777-300 and as the sixth Boeing 777 for the airline. The delivery makes the aircraft 13 years old today. I rode on this aircraft as the same flight number from Singapore and Seoul (Incheon) when we went on our traditional winter vacation to Hokkaido, Japan, in December 2011.

The Boeing 777-300 is the third marketing version of the Boeing 777 family in passenger service today. It was designed to replace the older Boeing 747-100 and Boeing 747-200. The aircraft is powered by a choice of two Rolls-Royce Trent 892, Pratt & Whitney PW4090, General Electric GE90-92B or General Electric GE90-94B engines. The first aircraft, B-HNH, was delivered to Cathay Pacific on 21 May 1998, and only 60 aircraft have been produced.


Cathay Pacific and Emirates are the largest operators of the type, each of them having a total of 12 aircraft in their fleets. Though the Boeing 777-300 does not have a direct competitor, the Airbus A340-600 has been offered to compete with the aircraft. However, due to the modern technological improvements and longer flying ranges, many airlines have opted to select the Boeing 777-300/ER over the normal Boeing 777-300
.

The Cocoa Trees as we headed down the escalator towards Gate No. E22

The departure information screen in Terminal 2 indicating that Gate No. E22 is already open

The immigrations concourse in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Passing by some duty-free shops

The concourse towards Gates No. E20 to E28 and to Terminal 1

The departure information screen at Gate No. E22, indicating that the gate is already open

Our aircraft for tonight, HL7534, being prepared at Gate No. E22 for her overnight flight back home to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

A closeup of HL7534 being serviced

The waiting room at Gate No. E22

After spending ¼ of an hour of anticipated waiting in the passenger waiting room at Gate No. E22, the first boarding calls for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) were finally made at 1.10 a.m.. The First & Prestige Class passengers, along with the special needy passengers and SKYPASS elite members, were called to board the aircraft first. Grabbing our belongings, we rolled up for the boarding process and walked across the jet bridge to Door A.

Soon enough, we were finally on board HL7534 at 1.15 a.m., which was in good time for a 1.40 a.m. departure. At the front door, two cheery flight attendants warmly welcomed us and showed us the direction to our seats into the Prestige Class cabin. The Prestige Class seats we would be using for tonight's flight to Seoul were the newer generation of lie-flat Prestige Sleeper seats. These seats are capable of reclining up 180º to allow full lie-flat rest on long-haul flights.

These seats were fitted onto most of Korean Air's long-haul aircraft, following the delivery of the airline's new Boeing 777-300/ERs in 2009. After we stowed our baggage, we settled into our seats No. 10E, 10F, 10H and 10J respectively for the long overnight flight time of 6 hours 05 minutes towards Seoul. I would be seated with my dad throughout the entire flight. As for the pre-departure beverages, I had a glass of orange juice and water, with the food menus being distributed by the flight attendants at the same time.

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin during the boarding process in Singapore

A warning sign in the lavatory that reminds passengers that smoking is forbidden in all areas of the aircraft at all times

A view of my seat, 10J, during the boarding process in Singapore

Several aircraft parked beside Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 as we await departure

My usual pre-departure glasses of water and orange juice

The flight route map indicating that we are still awaiting departure from Singapore

Two Cathay Pacific aircraft resting on the tarmac before flying back to Hong Kong the next morning

The cover page for the food and beverage menu for the flight between Singapore and Incheon

Looking through the breakfast menu for the flight between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

At around 1.35 a.m., all the aircraft doors were closed and we finally pushed back from Gate No. E22, five minutes behind schedule. As the safety briefing information video was then shown on our front video screens in both Korean and English, we commenced our taxi to our assigned runway for departure, taxiing past several aircraft parked at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 on the way.


After a relatively short 20-minute taxi to our assigned runway, the aircraft's two powerful Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines spooled to life, and we finally lifted off from Singapore Changi Airport at 1.55 a.m.. We then climbed into the pitch black night sky for a relatively long overnight flight time of 5 hours 50 minutes over the South China Sea to the modern capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea)
.

Finally pushing back from Gate No. E22

A SilkAir Airbus A319-132, registered 9V-SBD, resting at Gate No. E10

A SilkAir Airbus A320-232, registered 9V-SLH, resting at Gate No. E11

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-SRG, resting at Gate No. E12 after arriving from the popular Indonesian resort island of Bali earlier as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 947 from Denpasar (Bali). She will then be heading to Vietnam as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 176 bound for Hanoi at 9.50 a.m. the next morning

Taxiing past Terminal 2 to our assigned runway for take-off

Lining up at our assigned runway for take-off

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ A Dark Take-off from Singapore Changi Airport

Climbing into the pitch black night sky towards Seoul

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin shortly after take-off from Singapore

The seatbelt sign was turned off at 2.10 a.m., which was just 
¼ of an hour after take-off from Singapore Changi Airport. With that, I got my electronic devices out to work on my blog and listen to music during the flight. I then set up my laptop charger at the power outlet below the centre armrest, and listened to some music peacefully. However, I could think of nothing but Japan.


A few minutes later, a flight attendant came to our seats. She then asked my dad and I what we wanted for breakfast before arrival into Seoul. We both selected the mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables for our main courses. I also requested for two small plates of chicken satay and a glass of orange juice, as my dad was still full from his meal in the SATS Premier Lounge earlier.


My glass of orange juice, along with my two platters of chicken satay, were delivered to me within just five to ten minutes. Since I am quite a big fan of satay myself, I immediately tucked into my light late night in-flight snack. The chicken satay was indeed an excellent in-flight midnight snack for such a red-eye flight like this. 
After I had finished my two plates of satay, my meal plates were cleared away.

I then listened to some music and did a bit of work on this report on my blog, before visiting the lavatory. The cabin was dimmed at the same time to allow the passengers to get some sleep. I went to the lavatory and listened to some music on my laptop before editing my blog report. By this time, everyone was asleep. All, except me. I was still busy working on my blog report and surfing through my laptop before deciding to get some rest for the flight.

My usual glass of orange juice for the flight

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin during the midnight snack service

My two plates of chicken satay on my centre armrest

A view of the rear Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin from my seat in the dim version

The Row No. 10 middle seats from my seat

The flight route indication map indicating our journey over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam

Watching A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004) on my laptop

A warning sign in the lavatory that indicates the hazards and consequences of smoking on board the plane

The dimmed Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin at the front

A view of my seat, 10J, during the flight at night

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (507158)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-412 Herpa Scale 1:500 (500852) ~ New Generation

MASKargo Airbus A330-223F Herpa Scale 1:500 (519243)

The dim Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin before getting some sleep

The dark Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin during the flight over the South China Sea

Part 3 ~ The Arrival into Seoul (Incheon)


After getting about a couple of hours of lie-flat sleep, I woke up at about 6.50 a.m., in accordance with the South Korean Local Timing. The sun was already rising over the South China Sea when I awoke. By seven o' clock, most of the passengers were slowly beginning to wake up. The flight attendants sprung into action to commence the in-flight breakfast service at the same time.


A few moments later, a flight attendant came to our seats to take our orders for the in-flight breakfast service. Both my dad and I ordered the mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables. Our main breakfast meals were then brought to us ¼ of an hour later. 
I then tucked into my main breakfast course. The fritatta was quite filling and cheesy, plus the bacon and the vegetables went well with it.

Unfortunately, since my dad was still full from his supper in the SATS Premier Lounge, he only ate parts of it. After eating, he gave it to me to finish off, by which, I was stuffed. Upon finishing my main breakfast course, my breakfast tray was promptly cleared away. I then went to the lavatory and had some time for myself before the seatbelt sign was switched on in preparation for descent into Incheon International Airport.

The beautiful morning sunrise over the Taiwan Strait

The view of the wing during the sunrise over the Taiwan Strait

My main breakfast course: Mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables

The sun rising over the Taiwan Strait as we get closer to South Korea

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin during the in-flight breakfast service

The flight router indicating our route close to Kyushu, Japan

The flight indication map showing our cruising altitude over the island of Jeju

The front rows of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin, which comprises of 21 seats

The rear rows of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin, which comprises of 14 seats

One of the two powerful Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines cruising over South Korea

Flying over a blanket of clouds as the aircraft approaches its homeland

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Class cabin shortly before the seatbelt sign was illuminated in preparation for landing

In accordance with the South Korean Local Time, the seatbelt signs were turned on again at 8.30 a.m.,
which was approximately ¼ of an hour before descent into Incheon International Airport. Knowing that we had less than half an hour before our arrival into Seoul, we stowed away our baggage, and buckled up in preparation for the landing. As the connection announcements pointed out one of the connecting flights, I felt that I would have been much more pleased if only I was continuing on to Sapporo or Tokyo instead of terminating in Seoul.


The weather was getting more cloudy, reaching to the possibility of snow, as the aircraft began to make its final approach to Incheon International Airport. After a relatively long overnight flight duration of 5 hours 50 minutes over the South China Sea from the Republic of Singapore, we finally touched down in Incheon International Airport at 8.45 a.m., which was approximately 10 minutes behind schedule, eventually taxiing to our assigned arrival gate at the Main Terminal
.


Incheon International Airport (Hangul: 인친국체공항; Hanja: 仁川國際空港) is one of the two major international airports serving the Seoul metropolitan area. It is the main international airport serving the Seoul metropolitan area, and is the largest and busiest airport operating in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and the eighth-busiest airport in Asia and the world, in terms of number of travellers transiting through the airport.


The airport was opened for revenue passenger service on 29 March 2001 in order to relieve overcrowding at the older Gimpo International Airport (Hangul: 김포국체공항; Hanja: 金浦國際空港), which mainly caters to domestic flights and a small and limited number of international flights bound for Mainland China, Japan and Taiwan. The airport serves as the largest hub for South Korea's two largest airlines, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air, for their international operations
.

Flying through a blanket of clouds towards Incheon International Airport

Flying over a South Korean industrial island

Flying over the sea between Mainland Seoul and the city of Incheon

The powerful Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines cruising between Mainland Seoul and the city of Incheon

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Touchdown in Incheon International Airport

Several Korean Air and Asiana Airlines aircraft resting on the tarmac shortly after we touched down

The tarmac view of Incheon International Airport shortly after we touched down

A Korean Air Airbus A330-223, registered HL8212, resting on the tarmac after arriving from Kenya much earlier than us as Korean Air flight KE 960 from Nairobi. She will then head to Uzbekistan as Korean Air flight KE 941 bound for Tashkent later that afternoon

A Korean Air Boeing 777-2B5/ER, registered HL7530, resting on the tarmac after arriving from Vietnam as Korean Air flight KE 680 from Hanoi earlier that morning. She will then have a long transpacific flight to the United States as Korean Air flight KE 093 bound for Washington D.C.

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5, registered HL7491, being towed to the Main Terminal to be prepared for her long transpacific flight to the United States as Korean Air flight KE 035 bound for Atlanta

Several foreign airlines parked at Concourse A at Incheon International Airport

A Korean Air Boeing 777-3B5/ER, registered HL8216, taxiing to the Main Concourse after arriving from Malaysia as Korean Air flight KE 8672 from Kuala Lumpur

The tarmac view with two Korean Air aircraft as our aircraft taxis to the Main Terminal

A Korean Air Boeing 777-3B5, registered HL7532, being serviced at Gate No. 12 for her regional flight to Hokkaido, Japan as Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose). If only I was continuing on to Chitose instead of terminating in Incheon, I would be much happier!

A Korean Air Boeing 737-8B5, registered HL8243, almost prepared to be pushed back from Gate No. 16 for her regional flight to the People's Republic of China (Mainland China) as Korean Air flight KE 845 bound for Qingdao

After taxiing across the main airport tarmac for approximately just 10 minutes and bypassing several aircraft towards the Main Terminal, we finally docked on to our arrival gate, Gate No. 14, at 8.55 a.m., alongside a Korean Air Boeing 737-800 aircraft. As soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, we unbuckled our seatbelts and immediately removed all our hand-carry baggage from their respective storage spaces before disembarking the aircraft.


We then did another check on our seats to ensure that none of our belongings had been left behind on board the aircraft. As we disembarked from the aircraft, the flight attendants bade us farewell and thanked us for our patronage with Korean Air, wishing us a pleasant winter stay in South Korea at the same time. We then walked across the passageway leading to the arrivals and immigration checkpoints in the Main Terminal building.


Upon flying with each airline, the airline shall receive an airline grade, which helps me to decide whether this airline is worth flying on this particular route. To attain a passing grade, the airline must attain at least a 'D' grade or above (at least 40% in overall score report), with Grades 'A+' to 'B' denoting quality passing grades. The airline grading systems are as follows, as of 1 December 2012:

A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
D: 40% ~ 49% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
E: 20% ~ 39% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has not met the requirement for the minimum grade)

Korean Air Flight 642 Score Report


Seat: 18 / 20

Food: 15 / 20
Service: 18 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 17 / 20
Legroom space: 19 / 20
Total: 87 / 100

In summary for this flight, Korean Air scored 87% between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon), which means they earned themselves an 'A+' grade, the highest airline grade I can ever award, and a quality passing airline grade. It truly was another good flight with them, though I would have been much happier if I were to continue on to Sapporo, or any destination within Japan, owing to my ethnic identity rootedness with Japan.


Part 4 ~ The Journey to the Fraser Suites Insadong

Shortly after disembarking from Korean Air flight KE 642 from Singapore at Gate No. 14, we walked on the passageway to the arrivals and immigrations area. Along the way to the immigration checkpoints, we stopped to use the restrooms and I spotted some aircraft at the same time.
Upon arriving at the arrivals immigration checkpoints, some foreigners were already present
, who were either heading to South Korea for official business, or for skiing holidays for the winter.

The immigration process went smoothly, and we went to the baggage claiming hall to claim our check-in baggage. I also went to check which belt our check-in baggage would be arriving at. According to the baggage belt information screen, all check-in baggage from Korean Air flight KE 642 from Singapore would be arriving at Belt No. 5. With that, we grabbed a few baggage trolleys and headed to Belt No. 5 to claim our baggage once we were in the baggage claiming hall.

One more look at HL7534 before we headed to the immigrations area

The passageways to the immigrations area and the transit security check areas

A Korean Air Airbus A380-861, registered HL7613, being serviced at Gate No. 10 in preparation for her ultra-long transpacific journey to the United States as Korean Air flight KE 081 bound for New York (JFK). There is also a Korean Air Boeing 737-8B5, registered HL8240, ready to be pushed back from Gate No. 11 for her regional hop to the People's Republic of China as Korean Air flight KE 821 bound for Dalian

The area towards the quarantine and immigrations area

The baggage claim information screen indicating the arrival of our check-in baggage at Belt No. 5

The baggage claim information screen at Incheon International Airport

The baggage claiming area in Incheon International Airport

After claiming all our baggage and loading them onto the baggage trolleys, we finally went into the arrival hall of Incheon International Airport at 9.20 a.m.. A gentleman holding up our names for the Fraser Suites Insadong met up with us in the arrival hall. 
While my parents went to purchase some light beverages from a convenience store, I headed to the Baskin Robbins ice-cream parlour to purchase one scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale ice-cream in a cup.


Purchasing our light beverages, the gentleman helped us with our baggage, and escorted us outside to the main pick-up area located outside the Main Terminal buildingSnow was starting to fall once we stepped foot outside into the pick-up area outside the arrivals and meeting area in Incheon International Airport. According to my traffic researches and knowledge, South Korea is one of the many countries that drive on the right, unlike Singapore and Japan, which drive on the left.

However, given that I had not been to a right-hand traffic country for about three years, I unknowingly went to the left side of the vehicle, only to find the steering wheel. Feeling slightly embarrassef, I was left with no choice but to sit at the front on the right side. With everything loaded in, we finally departed the snowy compound of Incheon International Airport at 9.35 a.m. for a snowy road journey time of 1 hour 20 minutes towards the Fraser Suites Insadong located in downtown Jongno-gu, Seoul.

The curbside outside the arrivals area at Incheon International Airport

Snow falling in the main car parking area at Incheon International Airport

The black luxury cab that would soon take us to the Fraser Suites Insadong

Finally travelling along the Incheon-Seoul expressway towards the Fraser Suites Insadong shortly after leaving Incheon International Airport in a heavy snowfall

The KORAIL Incheon International Airport Railroad towards downtown Seoul as seen from the expressway

Crossing the lower section of the Incheon Bridge due to snow storm

Passing by Gyeyang Station on the Incheon International Airport Railroad

An Incheon International Airport Railroad commuter train bound for Incheon International Airport approaching Gyeyang Station

Travelling inside a tunnel along thIncheon-Seoul expressway

About to cross a bridge by the Han River in Seoul

Bypassing a park located beside the Han River

Stopping at a road junction by the expressway

Passing another road crossing in Seoul

Several buildings in Seoul

The first sights of downtown Seoul

A junction somewhere close by the Fraser Suites Insadong

Finally arriving at the Fraser Suites Insadong

After a snowy road trip of 1 hour 20 minutes from Incheon International Airport, we finally arrived at the Fraser Suites Insadong at 10.55 a.m.. Some hotel staff came to assist us with our baggage. Entering the hotel lobby, I noticed some changes. The main hotel lobby had recently started renovations a week before our arrival, with the renovations expected to finish
 by the end of fiscal year 2013 at latest. Once we reached the hotel, my mum informed us that check-in was not until three o' clock later that afternoon.

The hotel staff offered to take care of our baggage for us while we were away for lunch. While waiting for check-in, we decided to go to see some restaurants around the Myeongdong shopping district, and find a good restaurant around the area to eat at for lunch. With that, we went over to a hotel cafeteria, by the name of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaves to have some cakes and hot chocolates. In advance, we had arranged for a cab to come at 12.25 p.m. to take us to the Myeongdong shopping district.

Some leafless trees located by the entrance to the main lobby of the Fraser Suites Insadong

A Fraser Suites Limousine Bus parked by the entrance to the Fraser Suites Insadong

The main lobby of the Fraser Suites Insadong. Note that the orange wall on the right indicates the hotel lobby's renovation process

The interior of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaves at the Fraser Suites Insadong

A piece of Chocolate Mousse cake at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaves at the Fraser Suites Insadong

The roundabout entrance door at the Fraser Suites Insadong

After having some hot chocolate and light bites at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaves, we went back into the hotel lobby, with the clock already showing 12.10 p.m.. As we knew it, a black taxi arrived
¼ of an hour later on the dot to transport us to the Myeongdong shopping district. Soon enough, at exactly 12.25 p.m., we were on our way to the Myeongdong shopping district, with the journey lasting no more than 10 minutes.


Myeongdong (Hangul: 명동; Hanja: 明洞) is a popular shopping district located in Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It has been the most popular shopping district for both locals and foreign tourists in downtown Seoul for many years. About 3,300 people reside around Myeongdong today, with lots of luxury international chain stores located around the area today. The area was ranked as the eighth most expensive shopping district in the world in 2011 and 2012
.

The black taxi which would soon take us to the Myeongdong shopping district

Passing through the wet and snow streets of Insadong

After a short 10-minute taxi ride from the Fraser Suites Insadong in downtown Jongno-gu, Seoul, we finally arrived near Myeongdong subway station at 12.35 p.m.. Paying our taxi fare and having all of our belongings with us, we alighted the taxi and went out into the surroundings of the bitter cold of the Myeongdong shopping district located in downtown Jung-gu, Seoul. Despite the bitterly cold weather, there were many shoppers shopping for Christmas in Myeongdong.


We knew that we had to find a restaurant to eat at for lunch and shelter from the cold weather since we were feeling rather hungry already. With that, we walked through an underground passageway and out into the busy shopping streets of Myeongdong. There were various types of shops and restaurants in the Myeongdong shopping districts, of which and rather regrettably, none of them seemed to suit my tastes and preferences
.

Several tall buildings and shopping malls near Myeongdong

The Shinsegae Department Store building ahead of us

Some of the many shops and cafés around the Myeongdong shopping district

Some cars along the Myeongdong shopping district

After looking around the various restaurants around the Myeongdong shopping district in the bitterly cold and snowy weather, we finally managed to stumble upon a notable local Korean barbecue restaurant, known as Hwaroyeohaeng (Hangul: 
화로여행; Hanja: 火爐旅行), at 12.55 p.m.. This particular local barbecue restaurant is notable for its grilled beef large intestines (Hangul: 대창; Ha
nja: 大腸), and is frequently missed out by most Korean tour guidebooks.

The restaurant is also open daily from 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m.. This particular barbecue restaurant was very familiar to us since we had first been to this place in December 2008Entering the restaurant, the inside looked very different this time in both interior and exterior. Soon enough, a friendly waitress warmly welcomed us and showed us to our seats. She seemed to be very familiar with us since our last visit to this restaurant in December 2009.

Putting our winter jackets away in the hangers, we sat down to review the menu specialties. Plates and bowls of local appetizers were also set up at our table at the same time. Reviewing the menu, the waitress came over to take our lunch orders. We ordered several grilled meat items, including the famous beef large intestines and beef tongue. With all our orders delivered to our table, we had a huge barbecue lunch feast at Hwaroyeohaeng that afternoon, which managed to help me cheer up a bit.

Finally arriving at Hwaroyeohaeng Barbecue Restaurant (화로여행) as more snow falls over the Myeongdong shopping district

The area in the table where the charcoal pot and griller are placed

The interior view of Hwaroyeohaeng Barbecue Restaurant from our table during lunchtime hours

The cover page for the main menu at Hwaroyeohaeng Barbecue Restaurant in the Myeongdong shopping district

The smoke extractors at Hwaroyeohaeng Barbecue Restaurant directly above our table

The cutlery packet at Hwaroyeohaeng Barbecue Restaurant in the Myeongdong shopping district

The metal barbecue griller placed on top of the charcoal pot

Our first plate of the famous ox large intestines

Our first platter of the beef short ribs (galbi)

The famous beef large intestines and short ribs ready to be grilled on the metal barbecue griller

Some of the beef short ribs being cooked on the metal barbecue griller

Some of the beef large intestines being cooked on the metal barbecue griller

Our first platter of the beef tongue

Some of the beef intestine pieces bubbling goo-ily on the barbecue griller

Our second platter of the beef short ribs

The beef large intestines, short ribs and tongue pieces cooking over the charcoal grill

Our second plate of the famous ox large intestines on the other table

Our third plate of the famous ox large intestines

Some of the beef intestines bubbling goo-ily on the barbecue griller and two pieces of beef tongue being grilled

Several pieces of beef tongue being grilled on the charcoal griller

More of beef intestines cooking goo-ily on the barbecue griller on the other table

The last of the beef intestines being grilled goo-ily on the barbecue griller

After having a huge and sumptuous barbecue lunch feast at the Hwaroyeohaeng Barbecue Restaurant located in the Myeongdong shopping district, the clock was ultimately showing two o' clock. Knowing that we had exactly an hour left before check-in at the Fraser Suites Insadong in downtown Jongno-gu, Seoul, we paid up our lunch bill and prepared our winter jackets before leaving the restaurant and walking to a taxi stand located by the Sejong Hotel.


From the Sejong Hotel, the snow was really falling relatively heavily, and we managed to hail a taxi back to the Fraser Suites Insadong located in downtown Jongno-gu, Seoul. Soon enough, we finally departed the Sejong Hotel located just adjacent to the Myeongdong shopping district by 2.20 p.m., with the taxi ride back to the Fraser Suites Insadong located in downtown Jongno-gu, Seoul, taking not more than just 20 minutes
.

The entrance to Myeongdong Station by the Sejong Hotel

Snow falling on the busy roads near Myeongdong

A road tunnel across the other side of the road by Myeongdong

Travelling through the busy roads Seoul back towards the Fraser Suites Insadong

Stopping by at a traffic junction in downtown Seoul

Nearing the Fraser Suites Insadong

After a very quick and short 20-minute taxi ride from the lively hustle and bustle of the busy Myeongdong shopping district, we finally arrived back at the Fraser Suites Insadong at 2.40 p.m.. Once we had paid our taxi fare and had all of our belongings with us, we immediately headed to the main hotel reception counter, where we checked into the hotel for the upcoming nine-day winter vacation in South Korea.


The hotel check-in receptionist informed us that we would be assigned to Room No. 1001, which was located on the tenth floor of the hotel. They also told us not to worry, since we would later find our baggage already brought up to our suite for us. With that instant, we promtly received our room keys and took the elevator all the way up to the tenth floor, where our suite was located, arriving there by 2.50 p.m..


Upon entering our room suite, we found all our baggage brought up for us. Our suite for the holiday consisted of three bedrooms (one used as a clothing room), two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining area by the living room, and a laundry room. We then spent the remainder of the afternoon unpacking all our baggage and arranged our coming days' attires before we went to have a well-earned rest as we were already feeling tired
.

The master bedroom where my parents would be sleeping

The room in which my brother and I would be sleeping

The dining area by the kitchen

The living room in our Suite No. 1001

The bedroom by the main door, which would later be used as a clothing room

The skyline of downtown Seoul from my room

After spending the rest of the afternoon unpacking all our baggage, I went back down to the main hotel reception counter to collect some power outlets for our own personal use through the duration of the stay. We then set our electronic devices and had the time of our own lives, mostly for my younger brother and myself. Since my parents were already exhausted from the long overnight flight from Singapore, they went to have their beauty sleeps in their room. 


Having a nice and hot shower, my younger brother did his own stuff while I had an afternoon nap until about slightly past nightfall. Later that night, we had a relatively late dinner in the dining area, and planned out carefully on where we wanted to travel to for the next nine days. Given that we were to be going for a day's shopping trip at the Yeoju Premium Outlets the next morning, we went to bed just before one o' clock that night.

This now officially brings the first section of my winter holiday in South Korea in December 2012 to a close. Should you feel that you need anything from me, do feel free to drop some questions and / or comments at your own free timing. The remaining three sections of the report will be published when possible, but requires high quality photographs to make the report sound interesting.

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