Korea: Day One

I woke up around 4:30, too excited and nervous to sleep until my normal 5 am wake up time. After a quick call with my dad, breakfast, and coffee, I left the apartment with my backpacking backpack. I was planning to just walk to the station, but after feeling how heavy my backpack was, I decided to try grabbing a taxi from the taxi stand in my nigh it good for the first time. Though it was pretty early in the morning (6:20) and I wasn’t sure if they even started driving people that early, a lot of apologizing and bowing landed me a spot in a taxi.

As luck would have it, I ended up getting a ride from a taxi driver who had been more places than me.  I was a little nervous about the route I had planned, so I wasn’t super focused on what he was saying. Thankfully he seemed pretty content to carry on the conversation without any input from me.

The planned route was a train to Nobeoka, a bus to Fukuoka, a train to the airport, and then a plane to Seoul. Two minutes before I got off the train, I got a phone call. Typically I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t know, but it was early enough in the day that I figured it was probably pretty important.

Thank goodness I answered. It took me a while to understand (the woman was using incredibly polite speech and the train announcements were making it difficult to hear), but eventually I got her to state simply that “the bus can’t move.” I jumped off the train, checked with the ticket taker that I could buy tickets, then jumped back on the train a second before it pulled out.

I waited patiently until a conductor walked through then snagged him with a loud, “Sumimasen (excuse me).”  Once I explained the situation, he checked train times for me and helped me figure out the best way to get to Fukuoka. Money changed hands and I was good to go. He said (apparently obligatory when speaking with foreigners who can say so much as hello in Japanese), “You’re very good at Japanese, aren’t you,” and I was set. I was a little worried because the train was running late and I didn’t think I was going to make my transfer. I guess enough people needed to make the same transfer as me, so the other train was held at the station for an extra few minutes.

I switched from the train to the subway in Hakata station, happy for an excuse to use my IC train card, and headed to the airport. I ended up getting there too early to even check in, so I took the opportunity to change money. Finally, it was time to check in, and of course I was directed to the counter that had a trainee. Three times she said I could go and three times she had to call me back. Her English pronunciation was awful, so I tried responding in Japanese in hopes of switching her to that, but it didn’t work.

When she checked my passport, she saw that the visa there technically expired three months after I arrived in Japan. This is because the visa in my passport is more like a temporary one until my resident card kicks in.  I tried to explain, but she and her trainer ignored me and continued to discuss it amongst themselves. Finally I just loudly said, “I have a residence card. That visa doesn’t matter.”

I was once more dismissed, only to be chased after once again to ask when I was coming back to Japan. It was a really frustrating question because a) that should have been in the system since I booked both tickets with the same airline and b) couldn’t she have asked me that when I was still at the counter? Either way, I don’t think I’ll be flying with them again unless the tickets are too cheap to pass up.

Made it through immigration with minimal snags and finally was able to roam free in what is the least internationalized international terminal I have ever been in. Not only were there basically no food options, but everything was written in Japanese. Not a surprise other places but in an international terminal you would think they would at least have things also written in Chinese or Korean.

On the plane I got three seats to myself, which was nice. But I also got my first taste of not being understood, which was not so nice. We were given sandwiches on the flight and I asked the stewardess what was in them. I asked in English and Japanese, then tried English again. She had no idea what I was saying, which was super frustrating.  Other than that, it was a pleasantly uneventful flight.

I got to the airport and met up with Ellen. She brought me some water (she knows me so well) and a traditional Korean sweet, which is now one of my favorite Korean foods.

We got me the world’s cutest transportation pass and headed to the hotel. It was old and in need of some repairs, but a ton of room for the price we paid. It was also within walking distance of Seoul station, which made it easy to get around.

We dropped our things and headed out for dinner. After exploring a bit, we found  some food that Ellen insisted wasn’t spicy.


I forgot how different our definition of “not spicy” is. Still, what little I could taste of the beef soup was delicious.

Afterwards we wandered around a bit more before calling it a night.  Pictures from wandering:


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