Wow, the United service (in economy plus) was pretty marginal on this 6.5 hour flight from SIN-NRT. I think my flight attendant was having a bad day
Skipped the lesser United Club (big lineup to get in) which is right after the international transfer security checkpoint, and went straight to the ANA (*A Gold) lounge, which is much nicer, less crowded and with better food and drink selection (although no windows). I should have done this on my way back from Seoul last fall!
I have about an hour and a half to kill in here before I need to board the next leg to SFO.
Fast internet connection in here.
I’m going to upload some photos from Singapore – I was organizing and reducing resolution on the best ones during the flight (an ongoing process – I did that on the MRT and bus yesterday too). At least until I depleted my netbook battery, that is.
Laundry is generally free at hostels in Seoul.
However, it is cold water and hung dry.
Which means it could take a long time to dry (and as eco-friendly as hung-dry is, even in the tropical sun, laundry comes out feeling much less soft).
No hard sell, even in markets (in stark contrast to Istanbul)
Also, I recently added photos to previous blog entries: metro (subway) notes and DMZ
I experienced 2 very different airport lounges in Tokyo, one in each direction, as a Star Alliance gold member).
Going east, I used the Asiana lounge, which was modern (apparently renovated after the earthquake earlier this year), and full of surprises: self-sever sake bar, cooked-to-order noodle resto, a good variety of food and drinks (alcoholic and non)
Going west, I used the United Club, which, while large, wasn’t much different than a United Club on American soil: a small selection of self-serve alcohol, limited food selection (some maki sushi, soup, cheese and crackers)
Frankly, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to go back to the Asiana lounge on my 6 hour layover coming back westbound.
One more short flight from ORD to YYZ, can’t wait to be done with flights. Until Tuesday that is
I actually met a United Global Services member (that’s United’s top elite tier that is invite-only) in NRT lounge – he was flying the same ICN-NRT-GUM-SFO flights, and then I coincidentally sat next to him on the NRT-GUM flight. He gave me some good tips regarding the perks I’ll be receiving as my elite level increases.
On my SFO-ORD leg, the lady next to me (in first class) is a 1K member, who coincidentally flew out of Istanbul on Turkish Airlines the very same morning I did two weeks ago (albeit to Toronto instead of my flight to Chicago)! It’s a small world after all…
Korea, and Seoul in particular, is one of the most wired places on earth. Or should that be most wireless places on earth?
Internet access is very fast (speedtest.net showed 30/10 Mbps down/up at my hostel, about 10 times the speed in North America).
Many cafes, restaurants and bars have free wifi (though Starbucks does not).
There is wi-fi across much of the city, though not free. I didn’t need it enough, but I think it was $2-3/day.
Around town (and especially in metro stations), they have large touch screens with area information, including google satellite map of the area. Very cool.
Surprisingly my GSM phone did roam in Seoul (and Tokyo airport), though I didn’t make calls. (Tip: if you call your phone from Skype in order to check voicemail, turn off your phone first or you may be hit with roaming fees; also, you might need to wait an hour for the phone to be unregistered from the roaming network).
“Seoul Subway” Android app by Sungpil Jang (probably an IPhone version too) – way cool, even offline. Even offline (i.e. no data plan nor wi-fi connection), it will calculate a route between 2 stations including times of the next train(s), and tell you the car and door number for quickest transfer between lines (i.e. where the stairs/hallway to the next metro line is exactly).
The Metro (subway) reminded me of the one in Taipei, i.e. efficient and easy to use:
Impressive network of 9 subway lines and 3 commuter rail lines, including one from both airports to downtown Seoul.
English language in addition to Hangul everywhere
Smart transit stored-value cards called T-Money (non-refundable W2000/$1.75 to purchase the card, then reloadable)
Short distance fares (to most tourist places) are the minimum W1000/$0.90 cash or W900/$0.80 with card
Card gives you a 10% discount over cash – simply tap the card to the reader on entrance (minimum fare is deducted, and balance shown), and again on exit (if fare is higher, additional amount is deducted; balance is shown again)
Station announcements made in Korean, English and Mandarin (sometimes also in Japanese)
The turnstile for station entrance/exit is designed for maximum efficiency: there is no blocking gate or physical turnstile, just tap the reader and walk through (I discovered what happens if you don’t pay: as I left for the airport, I pushed my luggage in first before I tapped the reader, and the gate closed and honked at me)
There are often monitors showing the time of the next train, sometimes with graphical indicators of where the train physically is, in relation to the previous 2 metro stations on the line.
Metro stations also all have numbers identifying them: a 3 digit sequential number within each line, where the first digit is the line number.
Some stations have platforms in the middle, some are split; either way, make sure you head to the correct platform by knowing either the end station or at least the next station in the direction you want to go
Sometimes the direction sign will list multiple key stations in that direction (not just the next/last station)
In the train, there is an indicator of whether the doors will open on the left or right for each station on the line map above the door, in the multi-lingual announcements and on the monitors (for trains that have that).
Lines 5678 are newer than 1234 – you see the 5678 “new metro” logo a lot
Both in trains and on platforms, a little musical ditty plays before the announcement of an arriving train or station; the music varies by line/direction and is a cute addition to the announcement.
Washrooms are clean; sometimes they are inside the station, sometimes they are outside of the paid area.
There is at least one cool Android app called “Seoul Subway” by Sungpil Jang (likely for IPhone too) with Seoul metro info that, even offline, will calculate a route between 2 stations including times of the next train(s), and tell you the car and door number for quickest transfer between lines (i.e. where the stairs/hallway to the next metro line is exactly). Wow.