Trip to Korea blog - 1

Okay, I’m home again – and as promised, here are the details of my trip.

I left home at 18:40 on October 9th and checked into Fresno Air Terminal (FAT) at 19:00 for my 20:00 flight. FAT’s security was pretty tight – I had NO idea that my dress shoes had metal shanks in them! Fresno’s security was nice enough to teach me something I didn’t know!

I originally wrote this (and the following) entries on paper. I wish I’d hauled my company’s laptop along with me – even if it DOES weigh over 10lbs all on it’s own! I regretted not taking it with me for the entire trip. I was always looking for computer access.

I flew out of FAT on some sort of dinky duel prop airplane – 25 passengers maximum I’m sure. I sat in the next to the rear seat in a plane that was jam-packed with seats. I got the isle seat, which disappointed me – I much prefer window seats! (Note to self – update my personal preferences with the travel department!) But I lucked out – my seatmate was aviophobic – he did NOT want the window seat! So I swapped with him and made us both happy. I spent the flight gazing out the window, and he spent the flight quietly reciting the rosary to himself – ending with a grateful sign of the cross when we landed. He was young – I’m thinking he was an exchange student ‘cause he came onboard with a lot of other Spanish students.

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) I boarded a HUGE jet! I know – I’m ex Air Force – you’d think I’d know more about jets huh? But I’m really fairly clueless about them. I figured it was a 747, but I didn’t know for sure until I had a chance to look it up later. I’ve ridden the 747 while in the Air Force, but never in Executive or First class.

I was seated in luxury on the upper deck, Executive class. My chair folded out all the way flat into a bed, so I was very comfortable. Travel has always lulled me to sleep – even as a kid I used to sleep on the trips from Midland to the city where I was born – Roswell. Trips from Houston to Roswell took a 14-hour drive, and I could sleep 80 percent of the way there. So as soon as we got off the ground, I was out like a light, and slept most of the way to Hong Kong.

Yea, Hong Kong. We had a business trip to South Korea, so why was I flying into Hong Kong? It was because I was taking Cathay Pacific Airlines – and all Cathay flights are routed through Hong Kong. My company uses American Airlines, and AA contracts through Cathay – It’s inexpensive, and offers extremely high quality flying.

And Cathay was high quality – high class. They ushered in the Executive class first, made sure we were comfortably seated, and then kept plying us with drinks and snacks until the plane was loaded and ready for takeoff. While in the air, any time my glass was empty, someone was there trying to fill it. When I slept – they left me alone, and when I woke they were ready to feed me or serve me anything from Coffee to hard whisky to Champaign.

I don’t know what I was expecting at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) – but all I got to see was the inside of the airport – the secured part of the airport. We never left the secure half of the terminal. Hong Kong terminal is still impressive, but very American seeming. It was absolutely huge – jam-packed with high quality stores of all sorts. It was a lot like a mega-mall, and it reminded me a lot of the malls incorporated into the big casinos in Las Vegas – like at Caesar’s Palace or The Venetian. There was a wide mix of nationalities there, so it didn’t seem particularly Asian in flavor – no more than does Los Angeles.

The difference was that signs were subtitled in Cantonese and all prices were in Hong Kong Dollars (HKD). Even at 7.8 HKD to a US dollar the prices were high. I soon figured out how expensive the air terminal was. I quickly fled to the airport lounge set aside for Executive and other VIP travelers.

That’s another nice thing about Executive class flights – you get a free pass into the air terminal lounges! In the lounge you can arrange your flight details, change seating arrangements, book new flights. The lounge area is usually comfortable, with free food, drinks, and (usually) free Internet access. The Hong Kong lounge had showers available too, so I cleaned up there – then had a half-way decent bowl of Asian noodles. (I’ve had better – but these were okay.)

The shower was necessary after such a long flight – plus Hong Kong was hot and humid. 79 degrees F at 6:30 in the morning! It was as muggy as Houston or Okinawa – easily in the 70-80% range.

I got to see Hong Kong harbor on my flight out – I had a window seat again. The water from my altitude looked beautiful, but the harbor was amazingly crowded! I could actually SEE the shipping lane by looking at where the container ships were traveling and leaving their foamy wakes.

Next to the harbor was Hong Kong city – tight bunches of skyscrapers packed onto the available flat land. Hong Kong reminded me of Korea and Okinawa – small mountains surrounded by flat lands. It is as if a giant with a bowl full of lumpy, green-colored mashed potatoes created the mountains a scoop at a time on top of his flat kitchen table. Hong Kong’s skyscrapers were nestled between these mountains – and no mountain looked higher than 3,000 feet.

I got into Korea, and arrived at my hotel at 17:40 on 11 October local Korean time. That’s a travel time of 31 hours, if you’re counting. Of course, that includes layovers in LAX and HKG. Plus an hour and a half drive from Incheon Air Port (ICN) to my hotel in Seoul. I stayed at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul.

More of my trip in my next blog installment.

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