October 7, 2020
Yippee! I made it to Seoul! The first leg of my air travel was a breeze. And spent in relative luxury! I’ve got three seats for myself, can stretch and spread out onboard a plane which usually takes hundreds – there are only 70 travellers and a few staff. Not very sustainable, but boy do I enjoy the space!
But let me go back to the beginning. My sweet cousin Colleen gave me a ride from my Duncan home to the ferry terminal in Nanaimo, so we got to catch up and spend a little time together. Colleen is one of these rare human beings you just have to love… a giver and carer and creative fairy spirit. I love you Colleen! Thank you for your kindness. xo
From Horseshoe Bay, I take the bus to my house in Kitsilano, have a quick catch-up with my lovely young roomies there, pick some raspberries from the ever-bearing bush (yummy), mow the lawn and rake chestnuts to get a little exercise, and finally take myself out for some Vietnamese food (one of my favourites).
The next morning, my dear friend Karen came all the way from Bowen Island to give me a ride to the airport. I admit, I feel very special. What a treat! Usually, I just take a cab, but it was so much sweeter to travel with her, grab a coffee on the way, and share some stories and wonderful hugs. Thank you, lovely spirit! I feel blessed to have you in my life.
I’ve never seen YVR (the Vancouver airport) so empty – and so stress-free! And lacking the bubbly travel excitement! Air Canada check-in has been consolidated in the domestic departure area. Even here, not many people to compete with. The check in person is very thorough in verifying my Visa for Taiwan, return dates, and of course Covid test. Apparently, the airline has been fined more than once and is upping the ante. I check my seat and she confirms that I still have a row of three seats to myself – what a treat!
I am given two thumbs up, my boarding passes, check one suitcase through to Taipei, mail a birthday card for my brother, and head to security. Again – not many people, no rush, everything has slowed down, feels more spacious – I like it! And at the same time feel for all the businesses that have very little business. Many places are closed.
When I received my boarding passes, everything in me relaxed – for a while anyways (as you’ll see further down). I get a few snacks, browse for a good book to read and end up with Paulo Coeljo’s “Hippie” – after all, deep inside still a hippie, let’s see what his story has to say 🙂
The boarding experience is super relaxed – no long lines, no competition for overhead bin space. I think I dig this way of travelling. Can we keep it please?! Yeah, the face mask thing can be a bit of a drag, but it’s really not that bad. I recommend to use the paper ones, they are just lighter and less moisture collecting than cloth masks. And I am allowed to take it off for meals etc. It’s a spacious, relaxed feeling on the plane. It’s also very quiet. Everyone pretty much has a row to themselves. Boarding procedure is completed quickly, we run through the usual announcements plus all the Covid safety reminders, and off we go… up up into the sky.
The route is via Alaska and Russia – looking at the chart I get another geography lesson, am reminded that people have put thought into distances and routes, understand the curvature of our blue planet. On board, I get a little care package of Covid related items, and soon after a lovely cold meal. Service has been majorly reduced to keep staff safe, reduce number of contacts. Everything is pre-packaged, but hey, got wine, got water, got food, I have no complaints. Let’s see what will unfold in Seoul………
Arriving in Seoul at 3:30 p.m. local time, I’m greeted with a name sign and am among a handful of travellers transferring to other flights. Manilla, Cambodia, I am the only one going to Taipei with a 19 hour layover (which was not planned but the result of two cancellations and the best we could get in the end). We have to follow a guide to take us to the Transfer Desks of our airlines on the departure floor. It’s good to walk, stretch my legs. Especially, after the guide told me that if Asiana Air does not allow me to board, I have to wait another day before I can board an Air Canada plane back to Vancouver! Not what you want to hear upon arrival! And useful information to have. At this point I want to say loud and clear to anyone considering international travel (including myself) – spend the freakin’ money and get a direct flight if you can! One of those “I wish I had“ moments…
We go through a health check, another security check, pass countless signs related to Covid measures along the way. Among them a couple of talking and rolling robots. No time to linger and take anything else in (or photos of) i.e. a small procession of traditionally dressed Koreans solemnly marching towards a gate, a couple of people carrying a small shrine, or something…?
At Asiana Air Transfer desk, I wait until everyone has been served. Got plenty of time as my flight is not leaving until the morning. The Cambodian man tells me his travel troubles having to purchase several tickets to make it all work. My guide stays with me, she wants to make sure I have all the help I need. (Thank you, thank you!) Then it’s finally my turn, and after thorough document inspection (Visa, Covid test, do the dates line up, what exactly are the rules…) I am approved and given a new boarding pass. Phew… I thank my guide and move on.
Terminal 1 at Incheon airport has a transfer hotel, rest areas, nap areas and of course lots of shopping and food, but again, it’s ghostly empty, many stores are close, most of the open stores have no customers, and store clerks look proper and properly bored. I imagine they are probably glad to still have a job. But you can only dust the shelves and rearrange wares so often – and look awake and interested…
I drop my luggage at the transfer hotel where I’m spending the night, and go for some Korean food and a beer. Wandering the airport, I meet a man from Kongo who tells me he has been living in this Terminal for the past 8 months! (Reminds me of a Tom Hanks movie). Waiting for refugee status. Waiting for support to travel on. Apparently, he was interviewed, found some sponsors and will be off next week. He wonders if I can give him food money? And I’m sorry, I would, but am not carrying any cash with me. Maybe I’ll see him again tomorrow?
At the hotel, I crash and after five hours of sleep, am sitting here now, writing and wondering what this new day will bring. Well, one thing it just brought is -finally- the email and letter from the clinic where I took the Covid test. Glad I had the Lifelabs report to show so far. And maybe the letter dated October 7 will come in handy for the final leg of this trip – entering Taiwan? Stay tuned for the next chapter 🙂