With close to three million inhabitants, Incheon is the third most populous city in South Korea after Seoul and Busan. Once a part of the province of Gyeonggi, it is now a self-governing city and serves as the gateway to the country because the primary international airport is located there. Going to Seoul won’t take an hour since the two cities are just next to each other and their subway systems are actually linked.
The Cebu Pacific Check-in counter was not as crowded as I thought it would be. The Web Check-in counter was also entertaining passengers. Apparently you have to pay the Travel Tax first, which is usually PhP1, 620 depending on your eligibility for a discounted rate. I came back to the Cebu Pacific Check-in counter after that to claim my boarding pass and found out that I was granted a window seat. This is one of the reasons why I don’t really dig online check-in features of airlines. I don’t want to be deprived of the anticipation or frustration in getting a window or an aisle seat, or that awkward one in between for bigger planes.
The next hurdle to be crossed was the immigration counter right after I paid the 750-peso Terminal Fee. I am not even out of the country yet and I already spent more than 50 US dollars. Fvck that. After filling out the Departure Card I lined up and got called to the first counter. The woman seemed like a newbie but she already had the Look-at-me-I-am-so-serious-I-will-eat-you-alive facial expression down pat. All that’s lacking was the iconic Hatsumomo movie one-liner: “I will destroy you---r vacation” with matching stiletto stare and a bitchslap on the face. She just asked for my company ID and my purpose of travel. She asked what ACS meant. I said “Affiliated Computer Services”. I think the S actually means “Systems”. I’m not even sure of the complete name of my company. Haha. She stamped my passport and let me through. No no drama, we don’t want no drama. 45 minutes for pre-boarding and 30 for Boarding itself. 55 minutes of waiting time. I think I arrived an hour too early. Well, that beats getting left behind.
I was wondering why there were a lot of Koreans, which was a stupid observation because the plane is going to Incheon after all, duh. What I mean though is that there were a few Filipinos on the flight. You could probably count us Pinoys on board with just the fingers of both hands. Anyway, the Cebu Pacific crew had their usual game asking for the currencies of Indonesia, the UK, and Switzerland. How so annoyingly Kindergarten, but it was fun hearing Indonesian Dollars and Swiss Euros. They should throw in Zimbabwe and some unheard of territory in the Pacific next time for more thrill.
I only had 140 pesos left and being the crammer that I am I actually ate nothing before the flight. I had to prioritize hydration over hunger so I just opted for an expensive 500 ml bottle of Hidden Spring even if my stomach was already singing an ode to food. I just wouldn’t let go of my mandatory Hot Chocolate, to which I am so much addicted that my Cebu Pacific flight won’t be complete without it. Non-negotiable. My 14o pesos got reduced to two five-peso coins that happily greeted the solitary peso I had in my coin purse. I feel so freakin’ poor. Damn it. LOL.
We arrived around 15 - 20 minutes late at Incheon. It was all trains after that. After crossing the door with the flat screen TV welcoming you to Korea (with matching Korean and Philippine flags) you walk, go down the escalator, then another escalator. Walk, turn left and you will reach immigration. I was ushered to the “Korean Passports” section, which I thought was a mistake. Maybe he thought I had a Korean passport or something? No. It’s just that there weren’t too many arrivals during that time and the other immigration officers looked bored.
The Korean immigration officer just looked at me, then at my passport, then at her desktop. Stamped! No greetings. No interrogations. Just pure indifference. The weird thing is that I don’t remember having crossed any X-Ray machines on my way out. I passed by the “Nothing to declare” section just next to the baggage carousels. I exchanged USD100 at the first money changer I saw, which was at the exit after the Nothing to Declare section. She changed my USD100 to KRW103, 600. Was I ripped off? Well I had no choice. I hadn’t a single won in my pocket.
I didn’t know if I should just stay at the airport and go to Ganghwa early the next morning or just head to Seoul. I ate at McDonalds first to think it through. There was a KFC on the opposite side by the way. They charged me KRW4, 300 for 6 pieces of nuggets with fries and coke. In Philippine pesos that would be around 172. Expensive, huh! Anyway the airport feels like a mall. In fact, without the many signs telling you where to go and the planes landing and taking off you’d probably think that it was just a mall. Incheon International is very tourist friendly and it is hard to get lost.
I checked Spa on Air at the basement to see if there are free private capsules for the night. There were none. The lady told me though that I could sleep in the public areas, which is perfectly normal in spas and bathhouses in the country. I declined. I lookoed for the airport rail and hopped aboard an AREX train to Seoul. Nice train. The seats had blue foam and the train talks. The MRT at EDSA also talks, but this AREX is multilingual. It gives advice in Korean, English, Japanese, and Mandarin each time you approach the next station. There’s also an electronic marquee announcing the same in the languages mentioned. Rail maps are all over the train and there is an electronic one with red and green lights showing all the stops completed and the others yet to be reached. Again, it is very tourist friendly. I arrived at Seoul station after 53 minutes.
JUNG-GU: 00 - Looks like an Airport, Feels like a Mall