The reasons I am writing this article are because:
- Incheon airport is darn awesome,
- I want to share the knowledge I gathered from my experience for your benefit,
- I have a mountain of laundry to do so I gotta make an excuse to avoid doing it.
I have also been told to reduce blabberingwriting about my feelings and other things no one else interested in because it is not the purpose of this blog. In my defense, nobody even read this blog so it doesn’t really matter what I write.
To respect the suggestion to keep this blog informative and practical, today I will write about Incheon Airport in Korea and its free tour. I, however, will write it in the only writing style I know; honest, full of grammar errors, decorated with irresponsible opinions (and blasphemies), filled with useful information (and useless details), and representative pictures (sort of).
So here it goes..
Last November I went to back home for two weeks, on the way back to Quebec City, I had to take a 36 hours of flight trip with 9 hours of transit time. I used to hate long hours transit, but Incheon Airport in South Korea has proven me that long transit can be fun.
Apart from being very clean, bright, and easy to go around from gate to gate, Incheon airport also provides other facilities that usually can only be found at a premium lounge; hyperfast internet collection, free massage chairs, comfort waiting zone with enough electric sockets that cater all kind of plugs and share all kind of electric currents (110V and 220V), etc.., for everyone. I wonder what their premium lounges would look like.
Right when I got out from the plane, I found this billboard with FREE word written on it. As a cheap travel floozie, the billboard caught my attention right away.
|Foto source: Sohn Ji-young/The Korea Herald|
It turned out that the billboard was advertising Incheon Free Transit tour where you can jump in a tour (or more if your travel schedule permits) and have a taste of local culture. Joining the tour was definitely the best option for me than just sit around and get bored during transit.
So I went right away to the nearest transit tour info booth and found out these following awesome fact about the tour:
- It’s totally free (apart from personal expenses you might have (food, souvenirs, etc..), duh!),
- The tour is in English so even if you don’t speak a word of Korean, you still can enjoy it,
- You don’t need a visa although the tour takes you outside the airport,
- There are plenty types of tours you can choose from depending on your travel schedule and interest,
- The tour is super easy to join, you only need to fill one form, no hassle, it is efficiently organized,
- All you got to do is show the agent your itinerary or boarding pass, then they will suggest you which tour you may take so that you can be back on time before your next flight.
The only other thing you have to do is to get some Korean money as most of the places you visit don't always take credit cards or other payment methods than cash. The tour will also inform you if there is any entrance fee to the places you will be visiting (like temples). I took 20 USD worth of Korean money and it was more than enough to get myself a good street food lunch.
Since I had 9 hours to kill, I took one of the longest tours there were; a 5 hours Seoul City Tour 2 that visits a traditional Korean village called Bukchon Hanok and a traditional street market called Gwangjang. Here, have a look of what other tours they have.
The tour started on time (yay, I love punctuality!). We had a ride in this comfort travel van for 45 minutes to our first stop, the Bukchon Hanok village. Along the way, our guide, Bella (I forgot her Korean name, sorry, I am not good with Names), explained a brief explanation about Seoul and the village we were going to visit in her cute accent.
|Our ride for the tour.|
Bukchon Hanok village was once inhabited by the nobles but after the war, the commoners start to inhabit the village as well. The buildings in this area were relatively small (according to my opinion) and the roofing are pretty short. I wonder if it is because back then the Korean were tiny (reckless assumption). Each building has this typical Korean roofing that reminded me of the ninja era and here was where my mind got mixed up with histories and cultures.
|The village is all about narrow streets|
|Ancient princesses are running lose taking selfies all over the village!|
|And they are not the only one who are fancy taking selfies in this pretty village.|
Bella gave us around 45 minutes to roam around by ourselves to take pics and visit the local shops, our meeting point was the pharmacy at the end of the street, which I had trouble to re-find it. No I wasn't lost, I was just a wee bit disoriented with the foreign look of the area.
|I was not lost, I was only having some pivotal questions about getting to back to the meeting point: Is it to the left or to the right? What about forward or backward?|
I am not a shopaholic kind of traveler, I don't really visit local shops unless they are selling their local arts and food. I am however an avid street food lover, so it was only obligatory for me to have a taste of local street delicacy.
|Best grilled octopus on a stick!|
|That funny swirly things hanging upside down are actually ice cream cones! If only the weather wasn't so cold, I would have one for myself.|
Next stop was the market, 20 minutes ride from the village and oh mah gawd it was one heck of a huge traditional market full interesting food/stuff/i-dont-what-that-were/it-looks-strange-to-me. Although this market extends its wings to every wind directions with alleys of shops, I didn't get lost at all. There were the market guide officer on each junctions to nag for direction if you ever get lost.
|Market entrance, I tried to find the flag of Indonesia, there was none, unfortunately.|
Gwangjang market is the oldest (yet still functioning) and the largest market in South Korea. This market has nearly 5000 different shops selling food, textile, handicrafts, even Korean traditional medicine ingredients. This market definitely the hotspot for the local to get their daily needs so although the market has been heavily publicized as one of the must-visit spot in South Korea, the market has still preserve its charms and style as a traditional Korean market.
We were given enough time to spend in the market and it was around mid day so I had my super lunch there; authentic Korean rice rolls (gimbap) and Korean Spicy Rice Cake (tteokboki). I have been told by the lady in our tour group that you can find cute Korean souvenirs with a very good price in this place too, she even pointed out the store where she bought a roll of beautiful Korean silk for cheap. Little that she knows, I already spent all my Korean dollar in the form of edible stuff, packed nicely inside me belly.
|Awesome lunch. Left; gimbap, Korean ice rolls, Right; tteokboki, Korean rice cake in spicy sauce.|
|Hanbok (Korean traditional costume) store.|
It took about another hour to get back to the airport and I was so pooped out, I fell asleep all the way. Once we got back to the airport, everyone headed out to their next flight while I still had about two hours before my next flight to Toronto.
The 2nd best thing (1st place was the free tour, d'uh!) about Incheon airport is; they have shower stations for transit passengers, and wait for it; it's free! What do you get at a free shower station at Incheon airport, you ask me? They give you all you need to freshen up; fresh and clean towel, amenities, hairdryer, no time-limit for using the shower, and huge and clean shower rooms with toilet inside. -mic drop-
Incheon airport is a very thoughtful airport. No doubt.
You might want to tell me to get my sh*te together and calm down, it's only a shower anyway, but seriously tho, a shower between long haul flights is a bliss.
|Look how fancy the shower station at Incheon airport is! Awesome!|
Foto source: Sohn Ji-young/The Korea Herald
There are many other awesomeness aspects of this airport to love, check it out here, but those two things I wrote in this article are the ones that made me fall in love at the first transit with this airport. From now on, if I have to take a long transit on my annual visit to Indonesia (and on any travel to Asia), I will look for the itinerary that allows me to spend my transit time in Incheon.
Have you ever been to Incheon airport, Korea?