This is the opening post (#1) of our Tokyo-Seoul trip, for Saturday, November 4 to Sunday November 5, 2017. We were gone for fourteen days, beginning the trip in Tokyo. After a week there, we headed to Incheon, South Korea, then the final three days would be in Seoul. This is the day where it all begins: a drive to Los Angeles International Airport, a flight and a new adventure.
I keep a master listing of the posts associated with this trip, in case you come at this sideways and are interested with our experiences.
We went to bed late Friday night, the night before our trip was to begin, after updating our passwords for our computer, then telling Son #4 where they were, sending him photos of where we keep them. Does anyone else feel like they are preparing for Armeggedon when they leave on a foreign trip? Like whatever notes or letters we write will be the last ones? Like we need to get in our final instructions and good-byes?
Then at 7 a.m. Satuday morning, a text came through on Dave’s phone that the flight had been delayed by two hours. I’d spent some time on Friday downloading the Asiana Airlines app, a truly buggy piece of software, and had only been able to get Dave checked into the flight. My check-in wouldn’t go through. Luckily one of us got the message about the delayed flight.
We decide to go to the airport anyway and see what we can do. The line at Asiana was forever long and moved exceedingly slow; the nice young man who helped us, though, got us onto the flight with Al Nippon Airlines, which was three hours late. However, it was a non-stop to Tokyo, so we wouldn’t miss our connection and it got us in much earlier than our original flight. We practically skipped over to the Al Nippon counter to get our flight voucher.
We cleared security, and entered the newly renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. It’s quite upscale now, with soothing lights and sounds and moving pictures on screens.
We take our usual requisite couple selfie, actually we end up taking several, before finding the one to post to Instagram, and go to find some lunch: pricey, but we were able to eat near large windows with comfortable seats. Usually you get one or the other, but not both. We killed some more time doing email, calling my mother and father, but then it was time to head to Gate 157. One last treat before boarding: a slice of fudgy cake at a Starbuck’s (using up a gift card from one of Dave’s students), then we waited for boarding onto NH5, our flight to Tokyo.
The flight was lightly filled, so we had an empty seat between us. Everything is already Japanese; polite, smiling, kind, and handing us everything with two hands at the same time.
Even before take-off, they bring us Japanese crackers, and a drink. After take-off, my cup of apple juice slides off the table, but the attendants were nice in helping with the clean-up, making me wonder: why do we have so many surly flight attendants on US flights? I am impressed, even with their flight safety video: spare, with a slight sense of humor, but firm in their instructions.
A meal is served right away and we go for the “Japanese” option of mackeral, rice and assorted other treasures. It wasn’t bad. Then ice cream for dessert. The trip was the best kind: uneventful, with a good array of movies for my sleepless husband. About 90 minutes before landing we were offered another meal:
I never could figure out what the “CA Recommend” sticker meant, but we both got the Westernized meals, although it was a good thing we had a description of what we were eating. We had crossed the International Date Line somewhere so instead of it being evening on Saturday, it is Sunday evening when we land. There is not the crush to get off the plane, like there is with the US domestic flights.
Entering the airport, we had to walk through a scan, checking our temperatures, and then walk over disinfecting carpets (shoes on). We pass through Immigration, retrieve our luggage, then go through Customs. We find the airport ATM and get some money, then find the tourist stand to get maps, two essentials for any visitor to a foreign country.
Before leaving home, I always assemble a book: tabs for different cities or countries, money conversion schedules, a hard copy of our travel itinerary and for this trip, some train and subway directions, like the page on the right. Because of all the time spent researching train destinations, we knew what to do (sort of): buy two Skyliner tickets, then in the adjoining machine, buy two PASMO subway cards, and put money on them.
We board the train from Terminal 1. At Terminal 2/3, the train fills up — three Australian women in front of us, chatting and relaxed the entire 45-minute trip (approximately) to Ueno Station. We get off there, with plans to change to a a train. We find our way to the Hibaya line, and the correct direction for the Hibaya line. Our stop is H9–Higashi-Ginza. Of course, sitting at home in California, all of this is meaningless to me, but now it makes somewhat sense. Using the Google little yellow walking man in Street View multiple times, I had made him walk the trek from where we would get off the train to how it looked as we would try to get above ground and to our hotel. I knew that if we took the A-1 exit and the elevator to the top, it would put us at our hotel’s front door, which it did.
But when we came up out of the underground, we saw the streets all blocked off by white-gloved policemen; I couldn’t tell what was happening. We asked an American-looking woman what it was: “Trump’s visit” she said. I joked that we came all the way to Japan to get away from him, and here he was, following us. (Jetlag lame humor) We continued talking as we waited the supposed five minutes before the motorcade was to arrive, but Dave gave up and went to the hotel to start checking us in:
A minute or two after he left, the motorcade came roaring around the corner, flags waving, the whole she-bang. The woman I was speaking to, as it turns out, was from Santa Monica, California and brought tour groups from all over the U.S. to Japan. I was suprised at this, but I would run into the idea of how close our nations were by the sheer numbers of American tourists I would see, and the amount of tour groups, too.
Since we were staying for a week, the hotel clerk gave us a nice room on the 14th floor, and then handed us a package: the wifi gadget had arrived!
Up in our room, we pulled it apart and checked that all the parts were there: wifi hotspot (black unit), battery charger and cords, pouch for carrying and a mailing pouch to mail it back when we were leaving. I’d read about them on some online blogs, and knew that it would be lovely to have one of these. We’d looked into the international plan with our telephone, but each person would incur the daily charges, whereas with this one, both of us could pair our phones with the wifi hotspot for the same price. As per our usual, we connected the other devices with the hotel’s wifi, posted on Instagram.
The room was compact, but lovely.
After exploring all sixteen square feet of the room (sort of kidding), I opened the sliding door of the toilet to be welcomed in this way (click to experience this).
And we both snickered over the wording on this bottle, found near our bathroom sink. Us? Have anxious smells? Oh, my.
Finally in our pajamas after too many hours, I wrote the daily expenses in my travel book, noting the shifting from U.S. dollars to Yen, then it was lights out.