After nearly two years of planning, WTAsia 2013 was a success! Two faculty members and 10 students who have been taking a travel writing class in the Department of Communication just completed two weeks of study abroad in South Korea and Japan. Here we all are on Monday, June 3, having our last class meeting before our early morning flight out of Amarillo, Texas, on Wednesday, June 5.
Our 6 a.m. flight out of Amarillo meant that we all needed to get to the airport about 4:30 that morning. For one of our group members, it was his very first flight. It could have been better. It was cloudy and a bit bumpy, but we all pulled through just fine. It’s less than an hour flight to DFW International Airport in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Once we were in the metroplex, we settled in for some breakfast and began preparing for the longest flight of the trip. This was going to be the fifth time I’ve flown from the U.S. to Asia, and I had told my students what to expect, but there’s nothing quite like the stark reality of reading that “Flight Time” billboard for yourself.
Truthfully, we were pretty thrilled about this flight because American Airlines recently launched a new direct service from DFW to Incheon Airport near Seoul. That ended up saving us several hours of layover time on the west coast. About an hour or so after takeoff, we were pretty close to where we started our morning.
The great thing about storytelling is that you can leave out the boring parts. Half a day later, we were finally approaching our first destination: Seoul. A few of us noticed the route we took once we entered Japanese airspace. We essentially flew north-to-south across that country, then took a hard right over to the Korean peninsula. Our presumption was that we were entirely avoiding North Korean airspace.
If you haven’t made a transpacific flight, there are a couple of interesting things to consider. First of all, you’re going to pass the International Date Line at some point, and that’s when our Wednesday transitioned into Thursday in an instant. Even though we were only in the air for about 14 hours, we departed DFW about 11 a.m. Wednesday and landed at Incheon about 3 p.m. Thursday local time. If you depart while the sun is still shining, the sun will stay with you for the entire trip because both you and it are traveling in the same direction. Airlines typically dim the cabin lights and request travelers to pull down the shades to help folks who want to get a little sleep. That never helps me. I just can’t sleep on planes.
Incheon is a fabulous airport, and there’s plenty to keep you busy there. And it can meet your immediate needs, too. You can exchange cash if you have it or pull it out of an ATM if you don’t. You can rent a local phone, which was invaluable to me because my phone didn’t work there (I immediately upgraded as soon as I returned home). There are several transportation choices to get you to Seoul, too, but I’ve always preferred to use the limo bus system. There are several different routes, so you have to find the one that is going to the part of the city where you need to go. I’ve found it to be easy and cheap ($10 or less for about an hour ride), and it’s a nice way to sit and relax while taking in your new surroundings.
We finally made it to our lodgings, which we rented through Airbnb.com, and with the combination of little sleep, serious jet lag and general exhaustion, it wasn’t too long before all of us were down for the count. Next post: our first full day in Seoul.
There are plenty of snowy mountain ranges in eastern Russia.