On our last day in Seoul and with a flight that leaves at 9:45 p.m. my husband and I headed to Namdaemun for some final eating and shopping. I snacked on kimbap and mandoo and while shopping in the many alleys of the market. We headed back to Hongdae to get lunch and pack up before our 2 p.m. checkout. Since it was so hot, I had a refreshing cold soba for lunch. After packing up and stowing our luggage at the hotel, we walked around Hongdae and I found the tall ice cream shop! I made one last Daiso stop and even bought Korean charcoal. 😂.
We reserved a driver from International Taxi to take us back to the airport since we had 5 large pieces of luggage plus our carryons. So convenient for door-to-door service if you have a lot of luggage. If you’re traveling light, the airport train is so affordable. I think it is less than $5 per person each way and takes about the same amount of time. But since my bags were full of nori, Kochujang, coffee, and snacks we went with a driver. As we drove toward the airport, our driver showed us how close North Korea is to South Korea. From the point where we veered off the main freeway to the one that would take us to the airport, our driver mentioned that if we had stayed on that road, we would reach North Korea in about 30 minutes. I never thought about how close it is to North Korea. Traffic was light so we got to Incheon Airport easily to check in. The Hawaiian Airlines check-in opens at 5:40 p.m. and all we had to submit was our contact tracing form to the agent. Since we have Priority Pass access, we visited two of the lounges near our gate. We went to the Matina Lounge first and had a beer. Their food selection was nice and they had a nice bibimbap buffet. The lounge started getting crowded and there was even a short line at the entrance as we were leaving. Next we went to the Asiana Lounge that was larger than Matina Lounge. They had awesome massage chairs and shower rooms. Their beverage selection was wider than Matina. I loved the automated beer pouring section. Thank goodness we were able to upgrade our seats and we settled in for a long flight. Thank goodness for lie-flat seats! I’m so spoiled. I think I slept for around 5 hours! But still woke up at 4 am Korea time. 😂 It actually works out since that is 9 am Hawaii time and maybe it helped me get back to Hawaii time more quickly.
After arriving on Oahu, going through immigrations screening was pretty fast. The longest wait was waiting for our bags to arrive on Oahu so that we could take them through customs screening which was also very fast. The Hawaiian Airlines bag drop is located right outside of the customs exit and then we just walked to the interisland terminal. I got home and kept busy by unpacking and doing laundry. And playing with the dog! And checking the garden.
Here are some thoughts about the trip. We definitely had enough cash. Most places accepted credit cards. I only used cash at the markets and for subway transportation. If you take the subway, buy a reloadable transit card. It is just like the one in Japan and was so convenient and easy to just walk in and out without having to get a ticket each time. I think you have to use cash to load the card but transportation was so cheap. I think each subway ride was only around $1. We went all over and the subway was easy to learn and navigate. Food was also really reasonable!
As far as navigating, Google Maps has only limited functionality in South Korea. I had to use a combination of Google Maps, Kakao Map, and internet searching to figure out how get to where I wanted to be. For this reason alone, you will need an international plan for your cell phone. If I could read Korean, it would have been so much easier. Maybe by my next trip, I’ll be able to read. Everyone wears masks in South Korea unless you were outdoors or eating or drinking at a restaurant so we were able to avoid being infected with COVID on this adventure. I’m so happy to have had this opportunity for international travel! I have a goal to learn Korean before my next trip! Who wants to go? Living Hilo Style!