This is my fourth visit to Seoul, South Korea and I have yet to leave the airport grounds. One of these days I have got to get back here to visit this city. My entire impression of this city is based soley on three things:
1. Korean Air. The airplanes are clean and the flight attendants are wonderful. They are accomadating and pleasant, and today, traveling with a 24 month old, I really saw how sweet they truly are. Plus, they play nice classical music when you are boarding and when you are waiting to de-plane, which is a soothing touch. Which is needed on these flights because for some reason no one on Asian or Russian flights listens to the pilot when he says STAY SEATED until the seat belt light is turned off. The minute the plane slows down people jump up from their seats and lunge for the overheads. There is a lot of hurry up and wait, I have noticed. Oh, and they gave Alex this cool little plush Korean Air airplane toy, which he loved!
2. The Incheon International Airport. Except for the fact that it is really really hot inside this airport, I have to say it is very nice. It is easy to navigate, the information desk people are great, and there is a ton of shopping. Plus, this is the airport where my husband spotted the putting green outside a second floor window, on a ledge overlooking the tarmac. Despite the obvious reasons why this might not be the best place to put a putting green (no way to get up there, right over where planes are waiting to take off...), still, it was way cool.
Alex and I also spent some time in the immigration office of this airport today, and everyone was so nice. The officials were unsure of what to do with us, since Alex is a Russian citizen. We Americans do not know how easy we have it when we it comes to international travel. So many other countries need visa's even for an overnight layover. I had checked the rules and contacted the South Korean Consulate for clarification, but our travel plans still threw the officers into somewhat of a very nice, very controlled tizzy. The rules state that a Russian citizen can spend up to 30 days in South Korea without a visa provided he has a ticket, already purchased, to the United States and a visa to get in to the U.S. Alex has both of those, but since we are not heading straight to America tomorrow, we have a layover in Japan, that caused major confusion. But while we waited on comfortable chairs in their nice offices the other officers made funny faces at Alex and someone even got me a glass of water. Which I really wanted but was afraid to drink, seeing as I didn't see where it came from, faucet or bottle.
When they finally cleared us the officer walked us to the baggage area, which was down the stairs, and then even loaded our very heavy suitcase onto a cart for me. My oh my, what people will do for you when you are wearing a baby! Sadly, we are hitting American immigration in L.A., which wasn't so pleasant the last time. Those immigration officers should do some customer service training with the nice people in South Korea!
3. The Hyatt Regency Hotel. This is my fourth stay at this hotel, all one nighters, and the staff here is amazing. The rooms are nice, (someday I will have to tell you abou the bathroom we had during one stay...) and the staff is almost too accomadating. At least, that is what I thought the other times I stayed here. Today, with a very heavy suitcase, a very heavy backpack, an empty carry on (purchased at the Korean airport to fix the heavy backpack problem), and a toddler, I was happy that I could hand off my luggage to the bus driver and not see it again until it found it's way to my room. Although I know I was tired, but I certainly could have pushed the elevator button myself!
The hotel restaurant staff was great, playing with Alex and helping me order for him. He had mashed potatoes and dim sum- he is already fitting in well as a member of our transcultural family!
Alex did great on his first airplane ride. In a move reminiscence of our trip home from China with Matthew Zhao he promptly spilled an entire bowl of cereal, dry, thank goodness, before we even took off. Then he sat on the floor eating it most of the trip. I know, mother of year, but the plane was that clean. Plus, it was either that or listen to him scream, which I don't think our fellow passengers would have liked. Finally he gave up on the cereal and joined me in the seats, ate two bites of his children's meal, which, frankly, looked better than mine, and managed to fall asleep right as the wheels came out to land.
I did have a very weird moment back at the airport while waiting for the hotel shuttle. I suddenly realized that I was standing outside of an airport in South Korea, alone, with a baby. Talk about things you never thought you would be doing...
So the baby is already asleep; it is 11:00 pm "on our bones", as my husband would say. He is having a hard time of it, sleeping, that is, in the little pack and play the hotel has provided. He really moves around a lot, sticking his little arms and legs out of the crib, so the webbed confinement of his current sleeping arrangements are not sitting well with him. A moment ago he sat straight up and looked at me. I stopped typing and was about to get up when he flopped back down, asleep. Poor little guy!