Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asiana Airlines - Destination Korea!

On April 11, Sunday, I, together with some of my team, traveled to Jeju Island in South Korea. The trek began at 1:30pm when we left NAIA for our flight to Incheon Airport (Seoul). It was Marra's birthday that same day. I was thinking of how miserable it must be to be traveling or be away from your family on your birthday. But travel we must. And travel we did.

On board Asiana Airlines, the flight took us just about 3 hrs and 30 minutes. There's really nothing much to review about the Business Class on Asiana except for the fact that I did appreciate the ground personnel who made sure that I had no one seated beside me on the plane. It would have been a lean flight had it not been for a Korean boy band that filled up the business class section and their security that filled up two rows in the economy section.

As for the food, well, when they said steak on the menu I thought it would be a small slice. It ended up to be a big slab of meat!. (Okay, so I was looking at what the other person to my left was eating). And as authentic as I wanted it to get, I obviously chose the healthier meal - Bibimbap!!! The food was served with sterlilng silver utensils (sterling silver chopsticks). The dessert tray was a mixture of wine, cheese and fruits. And it took forever for them to clear the tables.

The movie choices were good, but since the AVID started about 30 minutes into the flight, I could only watch one movie and I'm glad I chose "Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeakel". I had a good laugh. The remaining 1 hour was nap time. While the seats fold in a lie flat position, I have never understood why some airlines (like Asiana, PAL, Delta....alright MOST!!) have seats that decline to 160-170 degrees position and say it's LIE FLAT! They lie that it's flat? I have never liked "lie flat" seats because it feels like I keep wanted to slip down. Since I have a lot of readers on my blog already, maybe someone can help me out on this. Why don't the airlines just fix these seats and have them positioned in a 180 degree angle when they say LIE FLAT?

Overall, the service was good. The food was good. The seats were okay. And Asiana was on time when we landed in cold and rainy Seoul at 545pm.

Immigration was a breeze. Unlike Hong Kong or Singapore or Bangkok where the queues are a mile long, it seemed that there were very few tourists arriving at the time we arrived. Our bags immediately spewed out of the conveyer belts when we had cleared customs and we were not ready to take the more tiring route.

After getting past immigration and customs, we went to the S roaming station where I had reserved a mobile phone prior to my getting to Korea. While my iPhone works in Korea and Japan, remember, it's really not wise to be calling from Korea or Japan to the Philippines using your mobile phone. It's about P125/minute of charges (around $2.50), while renting a phone in Korea or Japan would cost you USD1.00/minute. Texting to Manila from Korea or Japan on your mobile while roaming is around P25/text message (or around $0.60). I always tell my friends and relatives that when you're abroad, find out if the country has a prepaid sim card service AND how much their charges are. If they don't, find out how to rent a mobile phone when you get there. Believe me, it's a whole lot cheaper than roaming charges!!! I see a lot of people fighting with the Globe customer service officers because of their cursed roaming idiocy. If you don't know the charges for roaming, don't use it!

It took us less than 5 minutes to get my Korean mobile phone and we were all set.

We took the elevator to the train station and for 3400won, took the efficient A-Rex to Gimpo Airport, where most of the hour on the hour domestic flights were.

The efficient train system in Seoul leaves much room for improvement on the MRT-LRT system in Manila. In 30 minutes we were at the Gimpo Airport.

But this meant that there would be more walking (with our bags in tow). And more climbing (with our bags in tow). And check-in again.

Our next flight was scheduled at 830pm (for some strange reason, our travel agency I think has never been to Jeju nor to Seoul and underestimated the efficiency of the Koreans). We arrived at the Asiana counter at Gimpo at 710pm. Enough time for the next flight right?

Wrong!!! Too much time. Check in is 30 minutes before departure.

Lo and behold, the 730pm and 750pm flight from Gimpo to Jeju was still available. I asked the ground personnel if it would be okay and could we still make the 730 connection. She looked at her watch, said yes, then printed out 3 boarding passes, took our bags and like the Amazing Race, dashed to gate 17 in 5 minutes flat. Which meant that we were the last to board. And as we had settled down on our seats, the doors were closed.

Next stop - Jeju Island!

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