I have a confession to make. I haven't flown since I arrived back in Japan in March 2010. That is a long time for a travel hungry person such as myself! A total of four friends of mine were on board for summer vacation in Korea, but our start points were scattered all across Japan. The first part of my journey was in the company of my good friend Marcos.
Our flight originated at Haneda International Airport, which has actually been the domestic hub for Tokyo for the past few decades. Haneda is placed pretty close in to the city, and makes for a very convenient departure point. A brand new International Terminal was completed last year to service more flights to Asia and the United States. Part of the reason for this is the convenient location, and part to relieve pressure from Narita Airport, the primary International hub. Ironically Narita was built when it was deemed to expensive and difficult to expand Haneda in the first place!
Security in Haneda was quick and easy, yet still thorough. All of the people manning the machines were polite young women, with the older more muscle-bound types standing back. It was a revelation. The customer gets a fantastic, stress-free experience, without compromising safety. I hope the US learns that lesson some day.
Our flight was quick, smooth and generally uneventful, which is exactly what you want! We flew into Gimpo International, which is Seoul's equivalent of Haneda, taking a backseat to the larger and newer Inchon Airport. I collected a new stamp for my passport, cleared customs and we met up with the third member of our Group, Peter. Our next flight was to Jeju Island, essentially the Hawaii or Okinawa of Korea, an island of beaches, volcanoes and relaxing.
It was pouring rain in Seoul, but the weather in Jeju was said to be cloudy to clear, but no precipitation. Phew. Nobody wants to see their beach holiday rained out!
The flight was short and sweet, and around half way the whole plane joined in to play the Korean version of Rock Paper Scissors. As English teachers we are well versed in the intricacies of "Janken" and we did well, but none of us won. After we endured a hair raising taxi trip to our hostel (lanes were a mere suggestion, and red lights may as well have not existed for this driver) we tucked in to our first real Korean meal. Braised fish in spicy chile ginger sauce and seafood stew. I didn't try the stew, being a bit averse to shellfish, but the fish was amazing, the soft mild meat a drastic contrast to the spicy flavors of the sauce. Already our trip was looking successful.