Friday, August 12, 2011

Day One - getting there

WARNING: This post may contain incidents of extremely friendly and supportive behavior from total strangers!

Yvonne and I headed to the airport (Gimpo not Incheon, so much closer to home) on Friday morning, and boarded a Jeju Air plane to Jeju city. The flight was relatively boring, except for that bit where the waitresses-in-the-sky put on bunny ears and ran two games of rock/paper/scissors for everyone in the cabin. We had no idea what the gifts were, but by the second game Yvonne played vigorously but unsuccessfully, being knocked out in round number one.

Then it was out to hot and sweaty Jeju. We grabbed a local bus to the intercity bus terminal, and there grabbed a bus down to Siheung-ri, the bus stop from which we had been told we could find our hotel. The trip down was uneventful, except for the fact that there are two really similar busstop names and I freaked out for a moment when, 20 minutes into the ride that name came over the intercom. I raced out my map, and figured out by highway signs that there was no way we were close to our stop. So I could resume my typical near-coma state.

At this point, we began to get the notion that Jeju was very different from Seoul; in fact, much friendlier.

It became clear we were not going to make it to our hotel at the time we had agreed on. My lovely wife called the hotel and got the guy who knows absolutely no English. They confused each other for a while, during which time two young ladies got on the bus, one of whom sat next to me. I asked Yvonne for the phone and called the hotel. In my (what is more than 'broken?') Korean, I told him we were on the way, but used the wrong numbering system in talking about time. After I hung up, the woman complimented me on my Korean (in Korean, which is one of the few bits of business in Korean that I can now easily hear - it's all that follows that is gibberish to me^^). We then chatted for a bit before she opened her purse, pulled out a just-dead starfish, and offered it to me as a gift.

This was touching but bizarre. Without going into nasty detail, "starfish" is a word that some expatriates use to describe Korean women in a derogatory way when they are in, shall we say, compromising positions?

Still, she had sat down, started a conversation, and was just about to help us on the phone when the hotel guy rounded up someone with some English, who sorted things out with Yvonne.

When we finally did get to our busstop, and it turned out that all the Olle Trail busstops are announced as such in Korean, English, and Heathen Chinee, we hopped out into the middle of what looked like nowhere.

We wandered, tentatively, this way and that, but it was really in the middle of nowhere and there were no taxis (which is how the hotel had told us to get there).

So, before calling a taxi company, we talked to some people on the scene. One woman had no idea, but when we talked to two ajjumah getting into a car, they sprang into action. They called the hotel to find out where it was. We had communicated to them that the hotel said we should take a taxi, and when the first ajjumah put down the phone from talking to the hotel, she started rapidly talking to her friend in what was clearly disbelief that the hotel had guided us here.

So, she pointed to where the hotel was, and then put us both in her car and drove us there!

This meant crossing a highway, driving down a gravel road, cruising through a couple of of walled neighborhoods, and then dropping us off at the hotel, which, as a bonus had been renamed!

I simply can't imagine this happening in Seoul. Jeju is unbelievably friendly.

When we got to the hotel, the hotel guy was super sympathetic/apologetic that we had got lost, and helped us into the room. One look at Udo (the island offshore) and I began to change my plan. Udo has an "optional" Olle Trail, and I decided that would be a good way to start. So Yvonne went down to ask the hotel guy if we could get a second night.

Alas, the hotel was booked.

10 minutes later, he came up and knocked on our door.

He had begun calling other hotels in the area, and had found us lodging for the next night that was even closer to the ferry port that his hotel.

Again, an act of massive and gratuitous friendliness.

We walked into town and had some BBQ pig, then headed back to the hotel for some sleep, with the real fun beginning the next morning.

Hotel Guy

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