Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hanoi to Seoul, Korea

Day 28/29 - Monday/Tuesday, December 2/3
Distance -  ~2740 kms = 4 hrs (flight from Hanoi to Seoul, Korea)
Trip Odometer =  3291 kms (Total for Vietnam trip on bikes)
Route - Flight from Hanoi to Seoul on Korean Airlines
Hotel -  No Hotel - stroll around Seoul for the day during a layover
Weather -  Hanoi = beautiful and warm.  Seoul = cold, chilly 'Canada-like-weather'.

Our final day in Hanoi was spent relaxing and shopping around.  Our flight home was at 11:35pm, therefore we had the entire day to stroll around and spend the last of our hard-earned Dong.  

Shoes!  Shoes!  Shoes!  You could pick up a pair of whatever your heart desired and generally you could work them down to about $10-$15/pair.

Above:  'In my shop - you get what you pay for (4 sure)'.... hmmmmmm, oh realllly?!?!  I actually bought my Dad and Sister North Face Jackets from this shop, it was fun negotiating down the prices.

A mango-lassi.... delicious!  We spent more time at the 'City View Cafe' watching Hanoi life-go-by.

City View Cafe (above):  Our go-to-hang-out.

Above:  We noticed bird cages all over the city in front of residences and shops.  The alleys were 'alive' with beautiful bird songs and chirps...

Below:  More birds in cages along sidewalks

Below:  Another video - this time Hanoi traffic by night... shot from the City View Cafe:

As mentioned, we were able to relax for part of the afternoon at the Hanoi Charming 2 Hotel even though we had already checked-out.  They gave us a room to rest and to have showers before our evening flight from Hanoi to Seoul, Korea.

We arrived to Seoul at about 5:30am local time and didn't fly back to the USA (Pacific Northwest) until 6:30pm.  We had the full day to tour around Seoul.  From the airport we took an express train direct from the airport to Seoul Station in the heart of the city.

Seoul Station.  Most shops and businesses were closed upon our early arrival, but we did find this cafe 'Beans & Berries' open for business.  I ordered up a latte, smoothie and a couple of pastries for a grand total of $15.72.  I think this was the point when we missed Vietnam prices...

15,300.00 KRW=15.7212 CAD

Above and Below:  The new and old Seoul Station - train station

Above:  Clothing store for plump-children?  

Namdaemun - officially known as Sungnyemun - or gate of exhaulted ceremonies.  It is one of 8 gates in the Fortress Wall that surrounded the city of Seoul in the Joseon Dynasty.  The gate is located right in the heart of the city between Seoul Station and Seoul City Plaza (with the historic 24 hr Namdaemun market next to the gate)

Above - Gangnam Style Psy!  Korea's most 'recent' famous Pop-Star.  As far as I understand - Gangnam is actually a district in Seoul... I guess the song is based on this area or the 'Style' of the area perhaps.

A couple of Korean scoots.

Above:  My guess is that there isn't much 'Style' in this 'Stylish Bar'.  I don't think this would be an establishment I would want to take my mother to...

Above:  Some shopping around at the Lotte Outlet stores in Seoul - one word:  expensive!

More Seoul Station....

Around lunch - we decided to try out the Food Court in the Lotte Outlet.  It was a very interesting and unique procedure.

First - we decided on the number that we were interested in.  They had numbered sections 1-14 and under each of these numbers, there were another 8-10 odd choices.  For example, you could order a 8-2 or a 5-1 etc.  Luckily, they had english descriptions of the food-plates although they were quite vague as to exactly what you were getting.

We then paid a cashier after giving our numbered choice.  We had printed receipts that had numbers on them, each main number #1-12 would then have a booth where you would pick up your selected and paid for choice.  You knew your choice was ready when you saw the number on your ticket flashing on one of the many flat screens.  As mentioned, it was quite the process and it turned out that the food was very good.

After a good taste of Seoul, we decided to take the train back to the Incheon International Airport.  We headed back to the airport in the early afternoon as we were exhausted with the time change and the rest.

I couldn't believe the Incheon Airport, it was the nicest airport I had ever been to in my years of travel.  Turns out, for 7 years in a row (2005-2012) it was rated the best airport worldwide by Airports Council International.  I can see why it was awarded this for 7 years in a row.  The airport has a golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, ice skating rink, a casino, indoor gardens, a movie theatre and a Museum of Korean Culture.  It was amazing.

At one point, I noticed a sign that stated 'Relaxation Center' pointing up an escalator.  The sign was beside a 'First Class Lounge' sign and we both thought that they might be the same thing and that we wouldn't be allowed in with our measly regular coach-class tickets.  We headed up to the relaxation center anyway.  We then saw a sign for 'Free Showers' and thought a shower would be a perfect way to warm-up after a chilly morning in Seoul City.

A young man at a desk gave us x2 towels each and gave us separate numbered rooms to have a shower.  The individual rooms were nicely tiled with glassed in showers and rain-shower heads with all the hot water and pressure a tired traveler would want.  Perfect!  

We then made our way deeper into the 'relaxation center' and found some nice lounges to nap on.  I strolled around and also found a bank of 'free' massage chairs which I spent a good hour enjoying. They also offered banks of computers with free internet, Skype headsets and video, and free WiFi throughout the airport as well.  It was a great place to spend a few hours during our afternoon layover.  We were both very impressed.

It was a long flight back to the northern U.S. followed by a 3 hour drive back into British Columbia and finally home sweet home.  We arrived to a good dumping of snow which we were both excited about - you can take a Canadian out of Canada, but you can't take Canada out of these two Canadian Kids, especially when it comes to snow.  

Thanks for following our Vietnam Top-to-Bottom Blog.

It was an excellent adventure that I would highly recommend to anyone.  

I'll include a final Trip Summary and some final thoughts in a separate post.

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