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First Impressions of Seoul: Joan Trip Part II

Follow contributing editor Ed Perkins as he embarks on a round-the-world “Joan Trip.” (What’s a Joan Trip? Find out in Take That Special Trip … While You Still Can.) According to Perkins, “neither frequent-flyer miles nor people improve with age,” so he’s working off a bundle of miles seeing the world, combining places he missed over the years with some old favorites. Read the rest of Perkins’ round-the-world-trip posts.

Here’s what I’ve learned about Seoul so far—and, in truth, I’m not very far yet:

Seoul’s new airport, Incheon International Airport, is immense, rivaling Atlanta and Dulles as the biggest airports that don’t have more than one terminal. Despite the presence of automated people movers, you do a lot of walking. The customs and immigration stuff was slow—anybody know any place where they aren’t?—but checked baggage delivery is quick. The architecture made me think of Charles de Gaulle Terminal one on steroids, working hard to look futuristic, with lots of glass, stainless steel, and passenger tubes. It felt overheated during my visit—not a good choice for passengers loaded down with clothes and baggage.

Downtown access is easy. Two different rail systems use the same tracks: a deluxe nonstop that makes the trip to the main rail station in 43 minutes for about $14 or a commuter train that takes 10 minutes longer for about $4. Even the commuter train has baggage racks.

Almost everyone you encounter speaks “Globish,” at least to a degree. (That’s the subset of the English language initially formalized by businessman Jean-Paul Nerriere, a basic, superficial, and often heavily accented version of English that has become the de facto world language these days.)

Computers available to the public and those in hotel rooms often initially display Web pages in Korean. The fix is to reboot, and then you’ll likely be given the option to reboot in either Korean or English. A helpful desk clerk came up to my room to make the change, rather than just telling me what to do; this is a good example of the attitudes you find among many Koreans.

As is becoming the case everywhere, the price spread between international, standard, and budget hotels is wide. But budget hotels going for less than $100 a night are perfectly adequate in Seoul.

I’m still heavily zonked with jet lag. I’ll post more later.

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(Photo: Shutterstock/N.Sritawat)

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