Archive for January, 2009

Korea’s Incheon Airport rocks my little world

Posted in Travel, Writing with tags , on January 29, 2009 by ilikemountains
My bed for 5 hours

My bed for 5 hours

Despite my best intentions over a six-week trip to Thailand, I wrote very little for personal reasons since I was writing a lot for business reasons. My detailed journaling stopped after about a week and a half, and I even stopped taking a lot of photographs with my crappy, blurry, out-of-date camera. Nevertheless, I kept track of things I wanted to write about, so following is one of those topics.

We all know that air travel can be a degrading, soul-sucking experience that can turn even the best travelers (me) into enraged, tantrum-throwing toddlers (me after my seatmate not only monopolizes the armrest, but also my personal space both with his elbow and his smelly farts).

I arrived in Seoul after such a twelve-hour flight, which was preceded by a wedding in Santa Barbara and not much sleep. I miscalculated some times – as usual – and what I thought was an eight-hour layover en route to Bangkok was actually twelve. I grabbed a blanket from my flight, preparing myself to find a corner somewhere and sack out on the hard floor. But as I plodded through the airport in silent pre-dawn, I immediately noticed that this airport seemed different from the chaotic mess of many travel hubs. Sure, it was early and therefore less crowded than usual. But it was also polished and clean, with some of the spic-n-span-iest Asian restrooms I’ve been privileged enough to sample.

I wandered into a large hall and saw a sign that read “Rest and Relaxation.” That sounded exactly like what I needed, so I followed the sign and took the escalator up to a small area furnished with leather cots. A few other travelers were sleeping, so I decided to look no further and passed out for a few hours. I should’ve kept going, as leather cots weren’t the best thing yet. After I woke up, I explored the floor a little further and found a clean and bright spa, complete with a shower room, massage chairs, and salon. Further on were tables and leather lounge chairs, with nearby outlets that I used for my laptop. Free wireless meant I could entertain myself with the Internet for as long as I wanted. Leather recliners looked out over the main hall, where shops like Burberry and Coach glam it up. There’s even a transit hotel – I didn’t look into prices but I wish I would have. Twelve hours is long enough to warrant a hotel room rental, especially when I’m traveling for work.

Though the airport is a bit sterile, there were still little memory cues that reminded me I was in Asia: despite air conditioning there was a slight humidity in the air. Every now and then I’d catch a familiar savory scent from a restaurant. Little clues like that got me excited for my upcoming trip; they were small, familiar sensory hints of what was to come.

I still can’t get over the fact that Incheon caters to travelers who are in transit. I mean, it’s not such a novel idea, yet this is the first airport where I haven’t spent a long layover either crashed out on the floor or wishing I practiced yoga as I tried to mold my body around the inconveniently-protruding armrests of the dirty seats at some departure gate.  I slept and worked – comfortably – free of charge for a whole 12 hours.  Plus, as I noted on my way back from Thailand (and therefore a 6-week-deep coffee deprivation), you can buy a decent Americano. There’s not much else I can ask for of an airport.