I was pleasantly surprised that now Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) have implemented an automatic electronic customs (autogate) for electronic passport holders. I heard it had been operating since early 2012 but I did not notice it when I left for Amsterdam on July 2012. Your passports need to be checked in a computer by an officer ready nearby, to see whether your passport number had been registered. Mine had but The Mister’s had not. It might have to do with the phasing in process, my passport was issued in 2012 at the South Jakarta immigration office, while The Mister’s passport was issued in 2010 at the Tangerang immigration office.
We deliberately arrived at the airport quite early just in case traffic was bad and immigration queue was long. Indeed the airport was crowded as there were a lot of midnight flights from Jakarta, but we managed to pass immigration with 1.5 hours still at hand before boarding time. We then headed to Starbucks to kill time and charge our mobile phones.
We flew from Jakarta by Garuda Indonesia on 18 November 2013, at 23.30 Jakarta time. The flight was a bit quiet as there were some empty seats and we even had the whole row of 3 seats just for the two of us. The aircraft was a Boeing 737-300ER, with 3-4-3 seat configuration. The seat was quite comfortable with enough legroom, and the in-flight entertainment was quite extensive. When we got to cruising height, juice and peanuts were provided and then the lights were turned off. I watched half of Shanghai Calling and an episode of Modern Family, before drowsiness got to me and I fell asleep for about an hour and a half. The Mister slept better than me, though, as I could never sleep on a moving vehicle.
Another round of snacks and drinks were provided halfway during the flight and about an hour before landing hot meals were served. I chose to have nasi kuning with beef rendang, while The Mister had omelet and sausages.
The flight took approximately 6 hours and we finally landed at Incheon International Airport at 08.30 Seoul time.
Day 1 (part 1) Arrival at Incheon Airport and checking in to City Hostel
19 November 2013
Incheon International Airport was a huge, modern, and sophisticated airport. It was also very clean. Soekarno-Hatta Airport was a far cry. Before heading to immigration, we changed into warmer outfits in the toilets as it was 0 degree Celcius outside. Immigration was crowded but it did not take long.
We proceeded to get our luggage and by 09.30 we were already outside, greeted by the chilly wind and bright sun, waiting for Airport Limousine Bus number 6015, which would take us to the stop nearby our hostel in Seoul.
To reach Seoul city center, you can go by Airport Express Train (AREX) or Airport Limousine Bus. Both are fast and convenient, but if you have big luggages it would be more comfortable to use the shuttle bus. To travel by AREX you have to buy a T-money card (sold in convenience stores or at the ticket vending / card reload machines available in all subway stations), which is a prepaid travel card like those used in Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam and many other cities in the world. To travel by Airport Limousine Bus, you only need to pay the fare directly to the driver on the bus. We got a KRW 1,000 discount coupon printed beforehand, so we only paid KRW 9,000 each.
Our ride took about one hour and we got off at Ahnyeondong Community Center bus stop at 10.40. Our hostel, the City Hostel Korea, was less than 5 minutes walk from the stop, so it was very convenient. The hostel was located less than 10 minutes walk from Gongdeok subway station (exit 4), where it was also the interchange station for lines 5 and 6, as well as the airport railroad. City Hostel was around 10 minutes subway ride from Myeongdong and Namdaemun, and even closer to Seoul Station, Edae, Sinchon, and Hongdae. There were convenience stores, restaurants, and cafes close by. We checked in at 11 but could not get into our rooms because it was still being cleaned and check in time was at 14.00, so we decided to head out for lunch and start our itinerary, grabbing a few brochures and subway maps beforehand.
City Hostel Korea
242-45, Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu, 마포구 Seoul, South Korea
Tel. +82 2-716-4100
Next: Day 1 (part 2): Lunch at Myeongdong Gyoza, Deoksugung Palace, Gwanghwamun Square, Cheonggyecheon, dinner at Yoogane, NANTA show