Thursday, February 19, 2015

Korea-bound :)

Finally, the lunar new year had arrived! I was very excited because we were finally flying to Korea! Matty did promise a painful week and I expected to get bruised knees, but no matter... I had enjoyed snowboarding with Biboy and Barbara in Boreal over Christmas so this week in Korea should be full of great stuff too.

Matty just arrived from Thailand the night before so I was amazed that he's up in the wee hours to pick me up in time for our AirAsia flight to Incheon (while I was not as awake; Rochie <-- crammer packer). He also came armed with The Office and Fawlty Towers on his iPad to keep us entertained during our trip. He was really prepared.

The sun was just rising in the east when our plane got ready for take off. Our snowy adventure was about to begin!!

A few hours later, we've escaped the tropical heat of Manila and I got a taste of what winter in Korea was like: it was cold outdoors! I had swapped my ballet flats for socks and winter boots while in the plane and was already wearing thermals since I left the house... but it was still cold! Rochie was definitely NOT in the tropics anymore.

After lunching in the airport, we made our way towards the bus stop to catch our ride to Pyeongchang-gun, where we were staying and where we'd be snowboarding. The tour organiser, Kieran (Ski Korea), had our tickets in storage at the departures area. Claiming them and finding the bus stop felt like a scene on the Amazing Race, except that we really weren't racing or competing... we just wanted to make sure we didn't miss the bus. However, we must have gotten lost in translation as we asked which bus we're supposed to take and missed the bus while waiting at the bus stop! For all we know, we could have been staring at the bus before it left but we totally misunderstood what the bus stop staff were saying. First blooper. Check!

Matty arranged for new bus tickets and we retreated to the warmth of the airport arrivals area. Staring at the old bus tickets, I noticed that there were discount coupons for Lotte World (a theme park?) plus Duty Free stuff (I think). Also, the bus would take us to Alpensia, the main venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics. How exciting could that be! Wow! We'd actually see it!!

Our bus left the airport at 4:30pm. We went through this highway that went over the sea. It's amazing to see islands beyond the highway... I've never seen something like this. The closest, I think, was watching the view from Lantau Island to Hong Kong island last year while in a cab. In fact, I was almost expecting to see suspension wires on bridge posts along the way, just like in Hong Kong. However, we didn't see those.

We must have hit heavy traffic because I felt it took a long while to get from the airport to the city and then to Pyeongchang. In fact, the bus driver had a pit stop at Wonju... a place where Matty and I went to search for bottled water because the air in the bus was just too dry. 

The long drive was worth it though, for me, as I first took in a glimpse of snow on the slopes of the Taebaek Mountains lit by street lamps... I could just imagine being transported back to all those winter Christmas scenes in the movies. The view might not be novel to Matty but it was just magical for me.

... Especially when we finally disembarked at a roundabout in Alpensia. Oh my gosh! There was snow everywhere! The snow was lit by the warm glow of yellow street lights, in sharp contrast to the cold. It was too cold to stay outdoors though, so I continued watching the view from a bay window at the Holiday Inn lobby while waiting for our tour guide. I was in paradise!