Our trip got off to a very early start on Thursday, December 8. Brandon came to pick us up and take us to the airport around 1am for our 6am flight. That put us at the airport at about 2am--4 hours before our flight. We didn't really need to get there that early, but that allowed Brandon to go to bed at a normal time for him rather than staying up extra late or getting up extra early. Besides, we were packed and didn't really have anything else or better to do.
Man, the airport is really dead at that time of the morning. There were a few people hanging out asleep on benches and that was about it. Everything was closed. We weren't even able to check our luggage until about 4am. Once we got to the gate, we found out that our flight was delayed due to some kind of maintenance issue. The gate attendant made a really confusing announcement that some people would be transferred to the 6:45am flight and that others with connecting flights would stay on the original flight whenever it left because they would either still make their connection or they will have already missed their connection with the 6:45. Unfortunately, we were in that latter group.
We had a 7am (Chicago time) flight from Chicago to San Francisco with another connection on to Incheon, Korea. As it turned out, the 6:45 flight arrived in Chicago at 6:53 (go, go time change!). Chances are that would have been too tight for us to make. Instead, we were rerouted on a flight from Chicago to Narita in Japan with a connection to Incheon. That would put us in Korea about 5 hours later than originally planned, but at least we wouldn't lose another whole day. They also upgraded us to Economy Plus (5 inches more leg room) "for our trouble." that ended up being a fairly nice perk.
The flight was pretty smooth and uneventful. We were on a pretty old 747 with no power outlets, Wi-Fi, or personal entertainment screens. It was kind of disappointing after the comparatively posh flights I had to Japan the last two years. Oh well. I ended up doing my usual habit of sleeping off-and-on the whole flight, so my laptop battery held up for as long as I wanted to use it on the flight (probably about 6+ hours) even while charging my phone battery. Hooray for new laptop!
We made a fairly brief stop in Japan (only a little over an hour). It was just enough to feel familiar, but not enough to really do anything. Then, it was on to Korea! The jet to Korea was a nice, newer 777 with all the amenities I had gotten used to in previous years. But it was only about 2.5 hour flight that I slept at least half of, so it hardly mattered.
Arriving in Incheon Airport a little after 9pm local time, I was struck at how modern, clean, and nice it was. We were able to make our way through Customs and get our luggage with relative ease. The only issue was that, in our re-routing, mine and Belinda's luggage had become separated and only mine arrived. We had both packed minimally in our main suitcases (far fewer clothes than days we'll be in Korea) and I even carried on a second completely empty case. However, we kind of did it backward in that all of our clothes and toiletries were in our checked bags and not our carry-ons. We were told that Belinda's suitcase would arrive the next day and we arranged for it to be delivered to us, but Belinda would be without fresh clothes and we both be without toiletries for our first day in Korea.
Once we got all that taken care of, we were able to get bus tickets from the airport to meet Jon in Songtan. This ended up being about an hour and a half ride beginning with a trip across the > 13-mile long Incheon Bridge. It's apparently not the longest bridge in the world, but it's certainly the longest I've ever been on. The bus tickets were only 13,000 won each (only about $11.50). This seemed like a pretty good deal for such a long trip.
Our destination was the second "stop" on the route, but calling it a "bus stop" is overstating it a bit. They pretty much just let us out on the side of the road in town. Not knowing anything about where I was or how to navigate Korean roads, this was not at all helpful. Fortunately, there was a taxi stand across the street, and the driver got us to Osan AB that was actually only a few block away.
We were able to meet up with Jon but found out that the base hotel was full. They gave us a sheet of nearby hotels they had agreements with, and Jon picked one that he knew the location of just about a block away from the main gate of the base. The hotel was a little seedy and had some pretty questionable decor. Visit my Facebook album for details. It may or may not have been a "love hotel." But hey, it was on a list we got from a USAF hotel and the rate was not by the hour, so who knows. :P
After we got checked in, we hit the streets to find some food. Of course at this point it was about 1 o'clock in the morning, so our choices were a bit limited. Fortunately, the 2-for-1 Chickens place that Jon liked was still open, and we indeed found out why he likes it. It basically amounts to wings in sauce in bone-in or boneless varieties, but the breading and sauces are different than what you would likely find in the States. The garlic and soy flavor, in particular, was quite tasty. After this, it was back to the room where we basically turned in for the night (after discovering porn--complete with Korean subtitles--on the hotel TV).
Day 3 of the trip, Belinda went in search of underwear (we learned that it's called innerwear here) so she could change as her luggage would not arrive until later in the day. We also transferred from Korea Hotel to Turumi Lodge on base. The room here is a lot nicer and actually less expensive. Of course I'm sure that has a lot to do with it being on a military base.
The three of us went to a churrascaria for lunch. It was quite delicious though not at all Korean. Jon raved about the pineapple. It prepared with a crust of cinnamon and sugar and then cooked churrascaria-style. I must say that it was unique in my churrascaria experience and quite fantastic.
After turning off the meat faucet, we went down the various streets near the base and looked at merchandise of all sorts. Belinda found some more things to wear that were not the things she wore on a plane for 15 hours. She also found a rather epic engrish hat that you really must visit my Facebook album to see. You won't miss it...and you'll be glad you didn't!
We also all got measured for custom tailored pea coats and suits. The pea coats were only $140 and a full-on 3-piece suit was only $230. Maybe not the pea coat, but I couldn't hope to find a suit this nice off-the-rack for this price bck home--nevermind custom tailored. We won't get them for a few days, but I have a feeling these will be my favorite garments I've ever owned. I've never had anything made just for me and it's been well over a decade since I've even had something altered to fit me (other than a rental tux here and there). Jon tells me I can get custom made shoes, too. I am intrigued.
We retired for a nap in the late afternoon/early evening. I'm going to cut this entry there. We'll see if I can actually stay with the blogging for more of this trip. :)