November 27, 2015 – December 2, 2015 – I’ve done some pretty crazy trips before, but this weekend trip to Asia tops it. But why not? I’m young and it was a $575 rt flight through Korean Air.
Pack only a backpack and an empty carry-on (for shopping). Fly out of SFO to Seoul (ICN) on Thanksgiving day at noon. Use this time to sleep. Arrive in Seoul and leave empty luggage at the airport’s storage facility and go into the city. Stay up all night – eat, drink, shop, hang out with friends – and catch the first morning bus (~5am?) back to ICN. Stick all my shopping in the carry-on in the storage facility, including my winter jacket. Shower at the airport – they have free, private showers, and they are nice.
It’s Saturday. Fly to Hong Kong at 8am. Again, use this time to sleep. Arrive around 11am and head straight into the city. (I only have a backpack.) Eat and site-see, but no shopping since I don’t want to carry anything. Check in at the hotel by 11pm and get a good night’s sleep.
It’s Sunday. Check out of the hotel first thing in the morning and stay out until my midnight flight back to Seoul. In the meantime, eat, site-see, and shop. Shop til you drop. At the airport, check all my shopping items (and laundry) into a parcel box and have it sent directly back to SFO. In the meantime, I’m going back to Seoul for another layover.
It’s Monday. It’s super early in the morning. Back in ICN airport now. Go to the storage facility first to grab my jacket and head back into the city until my 4pm flight back to SF.
Everything was perfect, until I tried re-entering the gates to catch my flight back to SF. I was rejected. My flight was already boarded and ready for take-off. I was an hour late! My phone did not update the time from Hong Kong to Seoul. What the?!
There was a time when I lost my passport in Japan twice. Another time when I lost my ATM card before country-hopping in SE Asia. Out of all dilemmas, this was the least of them. The simple solution: pay the fine to catch the next flight back (same flight next day) and stay an extra night. I booked a place through Airbnb using the airport’s computer lab, put my luggage with all my shopping back into storage and headed straight back into the city. Hang out with friends, eat, more shopping.
It’s Tuesday. More eating, more shopping. I was about to miss my 4pm flight again and got back to the airport by around 2:30 pm. There were was a long line for check-in, I wanted my tax refund, and I wanted to shower. I It was a rush but as long as I gave up on the shower idea and made it to my flight with a few minutes to spare.
I arrived back to SF same day, Tuesday, at 9:30 am and went straight into the office.
Highlights and notable mentions:
I am now hooked on buldak. It’s everywhere in Shinchon.
Buy ALL skincare products from Korea from now on. They cost twice as much in the states.
Osulloc 오설록 – Still one of my favorite cafes in Korea. Matcha everything.
설빙 Solbing – Still my favorite chain for Korean shaved ice (빙수).
金華冰廳 Kam Wah Cafe – The best pineapple bun with butter 菠蘿油 (with a side of iced milk tea 凍奶茶) JONASAPPROVED!
鹿鳴春京菜 Spring Deer – Peking duck (北京烤鴨) JONASAPPROVED!
嘉麟樓 Spring Moon @ Peninsula Hotel – I don’t understand the hype. I’ve had better dim sum in SF. My favorite item was their complimentary honey walnuts. The best!
天龍軒 Tin Lung Heen @ Ritz Carlton – The best meal (not to mention most expensive meal) I had this entire trip. I don’t think I can ever appreciate bbq pork (叉燒) anywhere else but here again.