Thursday, 22 December 2016

Live-blogging | 36 Hour Journey Home

     I must be utterly mad to be attempting this. The backstory to this is that I'm going home for Christmas, and haven't been home since this time last year. Journeying from Korea to Scotland doesn't need to take this long, but when I'm relying on public transport and flights are busy around Christmas, this ended up being the case. I've got a direct flight from Incheon to London, but since I live in Busan, to make it to the airport in time, I'm taking the train up the night before and staying in the airport overnight (apparently Incheon airport is quite comfy? And cheaper than booking somewhere and taking a shuttle in the morning). Then, limited Christmas flights give me a long layover in Heathrow before I fly north to Newcastle, where my parents will pick me up and drive us home. So while the flight time is 14 hours, then 1 hour, I'm estimating 36 hours door to door. So, to alleviate my boredom and maybe provide some amusement for others, as I get increasingly tired, I'm going to update this post continually (as much as possible anyway) throughout my travels. And for the sake of consistency, I'm listening all my times in GMT, as that's what I have to adjust to - Korea is 9 hours ahead of the UK. So in KST, I leave at 19.30 on the 22nd and arrive around 7.00 on the 24th, which is 10.30 on the 22nd and 22.00 on the 23rd in GMT. Everyone got that? Good, because I don't. Ok, see you on the other side...

10.45 - And we're off. I left my apartment about 20 minutes ago, after re-checking I'd packed everything and turned off everything I should've about a dozen times... I live close to the train station so it didn't take long to get here and pick up my ticket, and now I'm just waiting to get on the train. Right now, everything is grand, and I'm excited to be going home - give it a few more hours, and I might change my tune. I also seriously underestimated how much all these Christmas presents weigh! I'll still be under the weight restriction for my flight, because I don't think I can get over 20kg in this bag (I'm using my backpacker rucksack), but my god, it's hurting my shoulders! Hopefully I'll have minimal carrying it around though...

11.20 - I'm on the train now, heading towards Seoul, where I'll have to take the subway to the airport. One thing I'm wary of on my long flight, is who I'll be seated next to, since I'll be stuck with them for 14 hours. For instance, my current travel buddy, for this 2.5 hour stretch is a middle aged Korean lady, who immediately sat down and took up as much room as possible (any chance of the middle arm rest is gone), and has been blatantly staring at my laptop screen, when she's not on her phone. Which is why I'm writing this on my phone, in case she knows English! It's not bothering me that much so far, and she's far from he worst person I've sat next to, but travel doesn't bring out the best in people, so fingers crossed for the rest of the journey...

12.05 - Oh wonderful. The man in front of me on the train is snoring VERY loudly. Thank goodness for headphones. I envy people who can sleep on transport like that - I'm hoping to snooze a little in the airport and/or on the plane (on it would be better for the jet lag adjustment...) but given my track record, I'm not optimistic. I only slept well that time I got a business class upgrade and had a chair that turned into a bed! Even overnight trains with beds, back in Vietnam and Thailand, didn't give me many hours.

Phone quality today, too awkward to get the camera out. Here's where we start, Busan Station

13.30 - Well we're nearly in Seoul now, which is my first stretch of travel complete. Three hours down, a fuckload more to go. I'm holding it together not bad so far. Bit sleepy, but that's normal for this time of night. I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get in the airport, since it's in public..? I don't feel entirely comfortable with that idea, but I'm sure there'll be plenty others doing the same. Alternatively, staying up and sleeping on the plane would be better for the time difference. I also avoided the bathroom that whole trip, since my neighbour didn't look likely to move, so fingers crossed for an aisle seat on the flight...

14.00 - Well the airport subway line must be halfway to the Earth's core. I've gone down at least half a dozen escalators and each of them is HUGE. Ah, here we go, finally on the platform. Now I think it's about an hour to the airport? I forget how far from Seoul Incheon actually is, and the last train from Busan direct to the airport was hours before I finished work. Also, most of the people on the platform don't have much luggage, so I'm curious where they're all going? The line does have other stops but surely you'd take other lines to them, airport lines are usually more expensive. Some of them might be picking people up I guess. OH MY GOD the train arrival music was glorious, what a fanfare, I wish I'd been quick enough to record it!

My view inside the airport subway line, standing for an hour

14.45 - So I had a suitcase stolen from the luggage rack of a train a few years ago, never to be seen again, and since then I've been paranoid about them. Which is why I've opted to stand next to my bag, rather than sit nearby, even though Korea is pretty safe. I have no idea how much longer it is to the airport though. I always think of subways as short rides, but they're pretty bloody long sometimes. I'm actually slumped over my bag now, using it like a pillow, because I do not care in the slightest what I look like while I'm travelling. And my belly has now decided it's food time and I don't really know what's going to be open at the airport at this time of night...

15.30 - Right, I'm at the airport and I've picked my spot. I've never been to Incheon before, so it took a little bit to find my bearings. I spotted a convenience store open in the arrivals area I wandered into, so I've got snacks and water to tide me over until morning (it's currently 00.30 KST), and then I went up to departures, where it's quieter, because there are still planes arriving now, but not departing. There's a whole heap of other people clearly doing the same as me, so I just roamed around until I found a seat next to a charging point, and grabbed the first free one I found. And thank god for decent airport wifi! I've no clue where my check-in desk is, but I've got about eight hours to figure that out...

16.15 - Oh lovely, there's a couple settled in opposite from me who've decided to try to fall asleep holding hands. They're head to head along the benches, so they're holding their hands above their heads; that cannot be comfortable! I'm still awake, evidently, and I'm still not sure I can sleep when there's people awake around me. The eyes are getting droopy though, and the contact lenses are out now. Going to try watching a film for a bit, then see if I nod off. But the first departing flights are at 7am, which means I only have 3-4 hours before this area gets busy again...

My campsite for the night - these chairs are now occupied by aforementioned couple
17.10 - Hahaha, I just saw a guy wheeling around a trolley with luggage and his (presumably) girlfriend perched on top of it. I think we all feel a bit like her when travelling, I certainly will later on. It's also damn cold in here, which doesn't bode well for getting much sleep.

20.30 - Well, I managed to kip for a little bit there, though I kept waking up because no, these chairs are not comfy. But now the airport is like, properly open and there's way more people around, so I doubt I'll be getting anymore sleep. And I can feel the grumpiness settling in - a crowded airport full of people, with about two hours of interrupted sleep? I suggest no one piss me off. I'm also currently taking up two seats, and I don't really care, but I really hope no one asks me to move. I kind of wish I hadn't sat up yet, so I still had the whole bench. And it's still bloody cold in here. It might actually be even colder now than before. My scarf had to switch from pillow to blanket, and I'm still wrapped in it. How long till check-in?

21.10 - Decided to get up and move around a bit, since I'm definitely not getting anymore sleep right now. I freshened up a bit in the bathroom, (travel toothbrush = essential) which I'll do doubt have to do a couple more times this journey, and even then I think I'll still feel pretty gross by the end. I went to look for the check-in desks, as it turns out the aisles go from A-M in here, and I was way up the other end. I've still got a couple hours until it opens for my flight, although the length of the queues is already a bit alarming (for other airlines though, I don't think the counters are open at all for mine yet). I haven't lost the plot just yet (wait until I'm sat in Heathrow for 5 hours for that...)!

21.30 - Ok, yes I'm getting grumpy now.  The guy sitting next to me is playing music out loud on his phone (at 6.30am) and honestly, could you be more inconsiderate? Also, the lack of spatial awareness here constantly annoys me, but airports have to be the worst. Can I get on the plane now please?

23.00 - Hooray, check in is now open! Waiting in line with this massive weight on my back... Queue isn't too long here thankfully, but security & immigration looks massive! I want food on the air side, and to drop off this big bag, but mostly I want out this cold! Silly doors...

00.30 - Phew! Check in done, security done, immigration done, and at my gate. And there's a small child opposite me watching videos OUT LOUD on his mother's phone. Learn what headphones are please! Anyways, getting through all that was a little hectic, but not horrific. I didn't choose my seat online, but thought I'd try my luck and fortunately the nice lady at check-in gave me an aisle seat (I don't fancy being sandwiched in for 14 hours!). And I got to speed through the gigantic security line a little quicker, because I'm only travelling with a handbag, no cabin-sized suitcase. However, every person is subjected to a body check here, with the metal detector and then by hand if they want to double check. I seemed to beep a lot, but the woman didn't seem worried, so I think it was mostly zips, bra wires and such. I also had to take off my glasses for immigration, which is the first time I've ever been asked that I think! I didn't linger in the shopping area for long, especially since most of the shops were expensive, designer brands, so I just went in search of food. I had to take a shuttle to my gate, which was easy, and now I'm just chilling here for the next hour or so, until it's boarding. I'm actually quite pleased with how well I'm holding it together so far, though I've still got 20 or so hours to go...

The view of the main building, from Gate 118
01.45 - Here we go! On the plane, ready to go. I don't think I'll be able to update from the sky but I'll keep writing and publish it all when I land. I still hate flying, but it's all for a great reason! Now, what films do we have..?

03.45 - Over an hour sat on the runway before we finally took off... It's very cold around Seoul these days, so they had to de-ice the plane, but bloody hell, it took a while. The pilot said we should still arrive on time, and the flight map says 12 hours, instead of 14. I think I managed to doze off for a while as we waited, but nothing substantial. I've been browsing the film selection since take-off, but I'm quite keen for some food and drink to arrive... Also, I've wound up sat next to a couple, German I think, who've been fine so far apart from the ridiculous manspreading from the guy, who's in the middle seat. He corrects himself every so often but still...

05.10 - Aw my first film is nearly finished so I was going to try to take a nap next, but the food is coming. And I'm starving. I've also got a headache now, which could be any number of things when travelling, but I suspect caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine and alcohol supposedly make jet lag worse, so I'm trying to avoid them, but my body isn't used to going without coffee for this long! Maybe food, coffee, then try to nap?

05.30 - Why put meal choices on the menu then run out of one so fast? I wanted the braised beef & mash, I'm so sick of rice, damnit. It really wasn't that great either, the menu made it sound much better. But I was starving and it's already paid for, so may as well.

Incheon Airport runway from the plane

08.45 - The jet lag is coming. I'm so confused about what time it is (though blogging in GMT is helping). They turned down the lights after we ate, and I managed to nap for a couple of hours just now, but it was very broken sleep. The plane is nice and quiet though, and I just stretched my legs well on a bathroom trip, since I had to walk round the whole plane to get a free stall (someone was in there for way too long). I feel like a revert to a lost child when I travel like this, as the exhaustion makes me sort of wide-eyed and I just bumble from place to place, all sense of purpose gone. I'm also sat here bundled up in a blanket and scarf, adding to the effect more, because why the hell do they make planes so cold? I'm quiet awake now again too, goodness knows what state I'll be in by the time I get home tonight!

10.30 - Right, I'm getting antsy now. I want off this plane but there's still at least 4 hours to go I think, maybe a little more. I've been on here for like 7 or 8 hours, and while there's pros to taking a direct flight to the UK, which is why I took this flight, I'm now realising just how long it is. Let me off.... Or at least give me more food, it's been a while.

11.35 - I think my butt has gone numb. And my knees click every time I straighten them. Even with walking about. And I'm starving. And I have no idea what time it is or where we are, because we seem to have flown through several sunsets, it's been light and dark too many times.

12.35 - I have actually reverted to a sulky child who just wants food and to get off this damn plane. 2.5 hours left... until I remember the other 7 or so hours of a layover, another flight, and the drive home...

14.00 - Oh thank god, food! I'm so ready for this. And we actually got the choices on the menu this time, so hooray for mashed potato! Yes I enjoy trying foods when travelling but oh I miss British food.

14.45 - We are descending, at last, and fucking hell, my ears have not hurt this much on a plane in a long time. We're also like an hour late so it's actually good for me that I've got a long-ish layover, since there's a lot of people on this flight missing their connections. It also ended up being 12 hours, not 14, which was certainly a relief! Oh my god, ouch ouch ouch ouch.

The plane on the runway at Heathrow

15.20 - Bit of a bumpy landing through the clouds there! There's meant to be a storm in the U.K. today so I'm not looking forward to this next flight up to Newcastle, might be a bit bumpy too. I'm so happy to off that plane and back on British soil though! Like, I cannot even begin to explain how nice it feels to be back after a whole year!

16.15 - Never in my life have I had so many security checks! Before I boarded in Korea, I was randomly selected for an extra check just before getting on the plane, then coming through Heathrow's security I beeped again, so had to go in the body scan machine. I made it through eventually, but jeez! There was a nice man at immigration though, who asked where I'd arrived from and when I said Korea, he went "Teacher?", and then said "Welcome back", which honestly made me the tiniest bit teary, as I really am so happy to be back again. It's very weird to be surrounded by Brits speaking English again though, when I'm so used to not understanding conversations going on around me!

18.00 - I'm really getting tired now. It's the middle of the night back in Korea, so I more or less haven't really slept for 2 nights now, nearly 48 hours awake, aside from those few broken hours of sleep in the airport and on the flight. They barely count though, as they were nowhere close to a full night's sleep. I'm going to have to get my parents to force me out of bed tomorrow, or I'll sleep too late and miss the plans we have! Just need to stay up a few more hours though...

Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport

18.40 - I caved. I got coffee. I've only had one this whole journey, on the flight, but I was never going to make it otherwise. And since I'm on holiday, I treated myself to a Christmassy Starbucks, a peppermint white chocolate mocha. I forgot they ask your name though, since they never do in Hong Kong or Korea, so of course it was spelt all wrong (think phonetically), which was amusing. I'm now still waiting for my gate, while praying my flight isn't delayed (a lot of others are!) and watching the many small children trying to deal with being in Heathrow airport; I relate to them a lot right now...

19.00 - And I'm at the gate, should be boarding soon. My parents are picking me up at the other end, so I'll probably finish off my last updates on this once I'm home (it's difficult to do via mobile). I am honestly very surprised at how well I'm doing, considering I've slept less than 6 hours of the last 48. I was expecting to be a zombie shuffling around getting pissed off at everything, but maybe the excitement of being home for Christmas is tempering me. I'm tired, yes, but I'm not falling asleep wherever I sit. I am a little out of it though; I just confused myself immensely by muttering something in Cantonese, which I do all the time anyway when it's a phrase I know, but for some reason I surprised myself there. I don't know. Not much longer to go now though!

21.15 - And I'm in Newcastle! It was nice to have a short flight at the end, so it was over pretty quickly, and we just have the drive home now. However after my ear got destroyed landing in Heathrow, it kept crackling and popping for the whole of this flight, which wasn't fun at all! And now I'm getting impatient because I'm so close now, but I'm currently stuck waiting for my luggage to appear...

22.30 - Home. Home at last. And I was right, that was pretty much 36 hours spot on. My parents and sister picked me up at the airport, and I may have cried a little, which is unlike me, but I was exhausted and I've been away for a year. The drive home from that airport isn't my favourite, as it's some horrible twisty roads, and I think it was worse being in the dark. I made it though, and I'm so glad to be back, even if it was a marathon effort getting here. Now, sleep.


  1. What films have you seen and what has been your sound track? Reviews please

  2. Oh, and well done, look forward to seeing you in a few days, once jet lag had worn off too!


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