BRAVO7E7 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 1840 posts, RR: 18 Posted (7 years 4 months 3 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 19537 times:
This is a continuation of Part One, which can be found here.
I wanted to provide a very brief overview of our visit to Seoul, without getting into great detail.
We stayed in Seoul for a total of four full days. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the rainy season, so the weather was not optimal. Our hotel was located in the COEX (Convention & Exhibition Center) area, full of shopping malls and skyscrapers, a thirty minute subway ride from downtown Seoul.
COEX Intercontinental lobby
Bulding in COEX
View from hotel room
Fortunately, Seoul has a modern and inexpensive subway system, costing only about $1USD one way. An interesting custom on the subway, at least in my view, was that they leave newspapers on the rail of the subway for other people to read. This seems like a very good concept, since most people discard their newspapers after reading them anyway. The city is extremely clean, and the people are very, very, friendly, but in a different way than many other Asians. It is hard to describe, but they are very sincere and friendly people.
The first day we woke up at around 7AM, took the subway to the city, and had breakfast at Paris Baguette, which is a very nice chain located throughout Seoul, and maybe other places as well. After having breakfast, it started to rain, yet we stayed in the area hoping that it would clear up. After waiting a few hours we decided it was best to head back to the hotel. Unfortunately, this lasted the whole day, so we did not get a whole lot of sightseeing done. I was very tired around 5PM, so decided to take a nap. Dumb enough, I only woke up at around 3AM the next morning, so was on a messed up time schedule for the first few days. When I woke up at 3AM I watched some World Cup soccer and started working on my trip report.
The second day we went to see many of the palaces, shopping areas, and other attractions that Seoul has to offer. The city is very interesting, especially industrialized and westernized compared to other Asian cities. Again, we went to bed at around 6PM, and got up at around 3AM.
Presentation in front of Dekosu
The third day we took a tour of the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), the border between North and South Korea. This was extremely interesting. We saw hundreds of South Korean soldiers sitting with guns pointed at the north, and the north doing the same exact thing to the south. We went down some tunnels which the south claims the north was building for an attack. I could write a whole report just on this tour, but don't think too many people would be interested in it. If you have any questions on it, feel free to ask, and I will do my best to answer.
Blocking the bridge
The last day we took it pretty easy. In the morning we went to Seoul Tower via the cable car, which boasted great views of the entire city. We then did some swimming at the pool, and some walking around the city. I went to bed at around 7PM, since I was still tired, and never really overcame the jetlag.
View from Seoul Tower
Overall, while I liked Seoul, it lacked culture. It was very modern and industrialized, and almost seemed like an American city, besides the language. Everything in the city was very expensive, as is evident through the recent study which showed Seoul as the second most expensive city in the world. While the people were very friendly, I was very surprised at the lack of English speaking people in the city, considering the fact that South Korea’s major trading partner is the United States, and they rely greatly on us. By the end, it was also clear to me that Seoul is not great for tourism, and much more for business, as was evident through the extreme lack of tourists. Overall, while the city was interesting, there was not all that much to do, and culture was lacking. It is certainly not a city that I have to come back to anytime soon.
The morning of 06/18:
While our flight was only at 9:30AM, we decided to leave very early, since we were still not properly adjusted to the time change. We had a wake up call for 4:30AM, and were taking the Korean Airlines airport shuttle, which cost approximately $13 per person, a steal compared to the outbound taxi. After packing up all of our things, we headed down to the lobby for checkout at 4:45AM. I made a couple of calls to the US, and at 5:10 sharp, the shuttle arrived.
Since it was a Sunday morning it was not full at all. When we boarded, it only had four other Koreans aboard. The seats were very comfortable and spacious, similar to domestic first class. After the stop at our hotel, we stopped at the Grand Intercontinental, Renaissance, and Imperial Palace hotel. A short hour after the last hotel stop we arrived at the airport, around 6:30AM.
Outside of the terminal
We then started our search for the Thai check in counter, and eventually found it at the "K" area. Unfortunately, the signs read that it would only open at 7AM, so we had 30 minutes to burn. I decided to walk around the terminal a little bit, and was amazed by the resemblance it had to Hong Kong, in the form of its design. I walked around until about ten minutes before the expected opening, at which point we got in line.
Side of terminal
The carpets were laid out for the two Royal Executive Class counters, and the agents were there. At about 6:57 all of the agents stood up, smiled, and looked forward, while an announcement came thanking everyone for flying Thai, in three different languages. It was a very cool thing to see, and a very nice touch to the experience.
As soon as the announcements were done, we proceeded forward towards the agent, who took our passports. After typing for a few minutes, she handed us our boarding passes, and our invitations to the Singapore Airlines lounge, located near gate 29.
As soon as we got our boarding passes, we proceeded towards security, where we waited for no more than five minutes. Every time a person approached the agent, he bowed his head, and greeted everyone with a smile. I placed my carryon on the belt, walked through the detector with shoes and belt on, and was waned by one of the agents. My dad, who had two cigar cutters with him, was told by the agents that they could not be taken aboard, and had to stay there. He told them that the TSA and even Narita security allowed them, and they eventually gave in. After this, we proceeded to immigration, where the agent looked at our passports and let us through within seconds. We then turned left towards gate 29, where the transit hotel is located. I will be transiting through here later this summer and using the hotel, so we decided to check out the location and see how it was.
After this, we proceeded back towards the Singapore lounge, which is located near gate 41. As soon as we handed the agent our boarding passes she let us through to the second floor, where the lounge is located. The lounge was very nice and large, with great food, internet, and sitting areas. I decided to eat breakfast, so took a toast, muffin, some nuts, and a Diet Coke, since I had been up for a long time. After that, I proceeded to the computer area, which boasted at least 20 fast, flat panel computers. I then got a coffee ice cream from the vast selection, which was delicious. After talking to someone online concerning the new Asiana lounge in ICN, I decided to go check it out. At this point, it was 8:30AM, and boarding was to start in 30 minutes. This lounge was right around the corner from the Singapore lounge, just a floor up.
Not so much like HKG anymore…
Stools in the lounge
Selection of magazines
Coffee ice cream
Lounge from the escalator
Sandwiches and fruit
The lounge was located next to the Cathay Pacific and Northwest lounges, which were not too full. The Asiana lounge, which is brand new, did not have a single person in it. My only intention was to take a few pictures, and not to stay. The lounge was nice, but very small. I would not want to be in there when it is full, since there is very little space to walk around. There were a few laptops to use, internet enabled. The food selection was not bad, with cereal, pastries, muffins, and plenty more. After taking a few pictures it was 8:50AM, time to head to the gate.
Food and drinks
After thanking the agent, we headed over to gate 41, from which our flight was leaving. The gate was quite full, right next to a SQ 747 headed for Singapore. Within a few minutes, boarding started for Business Class passengers. We proceeded through the door, and down the escalator with a nice and open glass view. We turned left towards the front jet way, and boarded.
"To find fault is easy: To do better may be difficult." -Plutarch
BRAVO7E7 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 1840 posts, RR: 18 Reply 1, posted (7 years 4 months 3 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 19527 times:
June 18, 2006
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:30AM
Actual Departure Time: 9:30AM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1:05PM
Actual Arrival Time: 12:59PM
Distance in Miles: 2271
Load Factor: 30% in Business, 98% in Economy
Seats: 14 A&B (Royal Executive Class/Business)
After boarding through door 1L, we stayed on the right and proceeded to our seats in the third row. I stored my carryon in the overhead bin, took some pictures, and sat down.
The cabin, although not longhaul equipped, was very spacious and modern. As soon as we were seated and situated, the FA's came around with international newspapers, including European ones, as well as many magazines. Shortly following this, they brought around pre-departure beverages, including champagne and orange juice. I took an orange juice, and my dad took champagne. The orange juice was very good, with a stronger and more tropical taste than normal. Following that, amenity kits, decks of playing cards, headphones, and slippers were passed out, which served as a nice surprise for this relatively short flight. The kit was quite thorough, and contained everything that could be expected. Moments later hot towels were distributed, as well as menus.
The menu read as follows:
Deep-fried Prawn Cake
Salmon Snowfish Nori, Beef with Cucumber Korean Style
Mixed Green Salad with Thousand Island Dressing
Deep-fried Mixed Seafood with Oriental Sauce, Vegetables Fried Rice, Vegetables
Grilled Beef Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Chateau Potatoes, Carrot, Broccoli
Chicken Curry "Mussaman" (with Peanuts), Steaned Thai Hom Mali Rice, Pak-choy, Carrot
"Beef DDEUK KAL BI" with Bulgogi Sauce, Steamed Rice, Pak-choy with Oriental Sauce
Assorted Breads, Crackers, Butter
Cheese and Fresh Fruits Tray
Pumpkin Pie with Macademia Nut
View of the jetways from the seat
Stationary pack in the seatback pocket
Slippers, amenity kits, and headphones
Contents of the amenity kit
Shortly after this, the 1L jet way retracted, followed shortly by the 2L jet way. We pushed back punctually, and within seconds the safety video started. It was very bland, except for the end, which said that nobody should lie down on the floor. While this may not seem funny, the picture shown, as well as the way it was said gave me a good laugh. We taxied over to runway 33L, where we were number five for takeoff, after two Asiana aircraft and two Korean Air aircraft. We rocketed down the runway, and after an extensive roll, were airborne.
SQ 747 that was next to us
As we passed through 10,000 feet, the Captain turned off the seatbelt sign, and the FA's started their service. On initial climb out we experienced some pretty light bumps, but the seatbelt sign stayed off. I went to retrieve my headsets and folder from the overhead bin, and used the restroom before the service was to begin. Within minutes one of the FA's came around with a triangular napkin and some Smokeouse Almonds. I pulled out my PTV, and turned it to the airshow, in which we were climbing up to FL350. Moments later, the FA's came around with the drink trolley (a real trolley), from which I took a Diet Coke. The male FA put six ice cubes in my cup, and gave me the whole can of soda.
After this service was finished, the FA came around with the starter, which was prawn cakes. I do not really like fish, so I passed on it. As soon as the plates were cleared, the appetizers were brought around on a cart. The appetizer, which consisted of beef, snowfish, and salad, was also delicious. Moments later rolls were delivered, which were warm and flakey. The appetizer was excellent, very fresh and nicely presented. As soon as plates were cleared, the main courses were delivered on the trolley. At this point another beverage service began, including glasses of water for everyone. They were replacing the appetizers, which had been cleared a few minutes earlier. Again, the main course was excellent.
Appetizer and salad
My main course
My dad’s main course
Once the main course was cleared, the cheese and fruit trolley came around. I went with just fruit, and my dad took both fruit and cheese. The fruit, consisting of melon, pineapple, grapes, apples, and Chinese pear, was fresh. I did not really like the Chinese pear, which tasted a bit like mint.
Following this, the dessert cart came around, which included port, as well as the pumpkin pie. While I usually hate pumpkin pie, this one was very good, with a much more neutral taste.
After meal service was completed I used the restroom, which contained Thai brushes as well as toothbrushes. I walked the full length of the huge plane, and then headed back to my seat, pulled out my laptop, and worked more on my trip report for a couple of hours. Once I updated it, I headed to the galley, where the FO was standing around. This flight had three pilots because the inbound flight was a redeye, and it is Thai's policy to have three pilots on redeyes of more than five hours. I talked with him for about half an hour, and he was a very nice guy. He was 35 years old, and had been flying for 16 years, and loved it.
Business Class cabin
Economy Class cabin
After that, about an hour before landing, the flight attendants came around with towels as well as a beverage service. I took a water, followed by sandwiches. They came on a rectangular plate, and consisted of small cheese and ham finger sandwiches. They were fairly fresh, and tasted quite good. They were accompanied by more almonds. All of the windows were opened for landing, and we slowly started out descent to Bangkok.
Almonds and sandwiches
As we passed through about 20,000 feet, the seatbelt sign was turned on, and we began a choppy approach into BKK. The approach was quite hazy, but very quick. At around 12:50PM, we touched down in BKK. We stood stationary for a few minutes, and then proceeded to a remote gate, where two Thai buses were waiting for us. We pulled in right next to an extremely old looking 747-200, which was about as dirty as I have ever seen one. Unfortunately, I could not catch the registration, but bonus points to anyone who can tell me who operates it.
View during descent
Rolling off of the runway
More dirty airplane…
Once the seatbelt sign was off, I retrieved my carryon from the overhead bin, thanked the crew, and headed down the air stairs. I tried to stay in the front of the bus so that I could get out quickly, as I heard that immigration and customs takes a while. After waiting for about five minutes, the bus headed over to the terminal. We passed many aircraft, including many Thai B747-400's, as well as A340-600's. We also saw Emirates, Aeroflot, One-Two Go, and many other airlines we don't see a lot of in the United States.
After about a ten minute ride, we arrived at the terminal building, where we took the escalators up one floor. My first impression of the terminal was that it looked very old and warn down, and not at all modern. Upon reaching the upper level, we got in the foreign passport line, which was at least 30 people deep. The line for people with Thai passports was extremely short, usually with no wait at all. Even when one of those agents was free, they would not take anyone from the other line. This was not a very nice way to be welcomed to the city. After about a 30 minute wait, we had our turn. They took our pictures, and did everything else in an extremely slow fashion.
As soon as this was complete, we went to retrieve our checked luggage, which arrived within three minutes of us getting there. We then went to currency exchange to get some Baht, which convert at a ratio of around 38 Baht: 1 USD.
Once we had Baht, we were trying to figure out the best way to get to our hotel, the Peninsula. Since we were new to the country, we decided to take the Thai limousine service, which was 2000 Baht, or a little over $50USD. At this point it was pouring rain outside, so it probably turned out to be a great idea, although it was way overpriced.
While driving to the Peninsula, the left windshield wiper of the Mercedes broke, and it was continuously struck by the right one. After an hour ride in the heaviest rain I have ever seen, we arrived at the Peninsula, ready to see Bangkok.
View… or lack thereof, outside the car
"To find fault is easy: To do better may be difficult." -Plutarch
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 2, posted (7 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 19446 times:
I decided to walk around the terminal a little bit, and was amazed by the resemblance it had to Hong Kong, in the form of its design
Not only HKG... New airport designs nowadays seem to hum along the same cue. KLIA, HKIA, PVG and the soon-to-be-opened (I hope) BKK - Suvarnabhumi.
The orange juice was very good, with a stronger and more tropical taste ...
The juice you mentioned is squeezed from a "honey orange". It tastes sweeter than a "normal" orange which most westerners are used to. Honey orange can be found in abundance along the streets of Bangkok, freshly squeezed and chilled. I overdid my dosage of the lovely juice once when I down 2 bottles at one sitting. Yes i was that thirsty... Needless to say my mouth was numb from the acid after that!
Since we were new to the country, we decided to take the Thai limousine service, which was 2000 Baht...
Woah! I think you guys were duped! I believe a normal limo ride is set at no more than 500-800 baht! I balked at paying 1200 baht once!
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
767747 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 1842 posts, RR: 25 Reply 3, posted (7 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 19441 times:
Excellent part #2! I am very much looking forward to the next part!
Thai Airways sounds pretty good; I hope to fly them soon.
Quoting BRAVO7E7 (Thread starter): The third day we took a tour of the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), the border between North and South Korea. This was extremely interesting. We saw hundreds of South Korean soldiers sitting with guns pointed at the north, and the north doing the same exact thing to the south.
BRAVO7E7 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 1840 posts, RR: 18 Reply 4, posted (7 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 19438 times:
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 2): Woah! I think you guys were duped! I believe a normal limo ride is set at no more than 500-800 baht! I balked at paying 1200 baht once!
Yes, we were indeed. On the return, we spent only 400 Baht, or about $10 US, which is much more reasonable. Of course, when you arrive in a country for the first time and the weather is horrible, we sometimes do things we would not otherwise do.
"To find fault is easy: To do better may be difficult." -Plutarch
Alaskaqantas From New Zealand, joined Dec 2005, 901 posts, RR: 4 Reply 6, posted (7 years 4 months 3 weeks ago) and read 19130 times:
very good trip report!
loved the pictures... they captured the trip very well!
has anyone here flown on both the new and old business class seats on thai? are the new seats miles ahead? I've flown Qantas skybed which are really nice!
can't wait tell the third report!
to some people the sky is the limit, to aviation enthusiasts, its home!
VHVXB From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 5519 posts, RR: 20 Reply 10, posted (7 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 19060 times:
That was a great trip Bravo. Some great pics as well.
Quoting BRAVO7E7 (Thread starter): Fortunately, Seoul has a modern and inexpensive subway system, costing only about $1USD one way. An interesting custom on the subway, at least in my view, was that they leave newspapers on the rail of the subway for other people to read. This seems like a very good concept, since most people discard their newspapers after reading them anyway.
777fan From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 2442 posts, RR: 3 Reply 14, posted (7 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 18330 times:
Great reports! I'm a big fan of ICN and, like you, noticed several similarities to HKG. After a few trips through both, however, you come to realize that they're actually quite different with the exception of the steel and glass! I'm also a big fan of TG - their food and service is simply amazing.
ChrisH From Sweden, joined Jul 2004, 1136 posts, RR: 17 Reply 15, posted (7 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 18181 times:
Quoting SASDC8 (Reply 11): 400 bath for the drive to/from BKK sounds more like it. I normally use the taxi counters just after the baggage claim, which offers nice "limos" (Toyota Camry's) for around 500-600 bath.
best way is to go upstairs to the departure hall and catch a taxi that has just dropped someone off. You'll go straight on the meter and end up paying about 300 baht into BKK.