Getting connected is a blast

Okay, here I am on the other side of the world and Im fully connected. And with an amount of ease and at prices which are astounding.

First up: mobile phone

We are in a 3-like country so international roaming rates are are a fraction of what they’d be in non 3-like countries. Also, for $5 a month I have access to up to 6 email accounts on my mobile with no extra charges in 3-like countries. Amazing.

Secondly, to avoid roaming charges and to make it easier for friends in the UK to call me without spending a fortune, I bought a UK pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

A very basic one that cost GBP4.85 – about the same price as a meal at McDonalds over here. I simply topped it up with GBP10 credit and off I went. It was set up in the store so I walked out with a functioning UK mobile phone after about 10 minutes!

Next up: Broadband Internet

Sure there are heaps of internet cafes around London. We’ve already been to a terrific one near where we’re staying. But it isn’t always convenient to get to one when you suddenly decide ‘hey, I need to look up information on…..’

I have my baby eee pc here with me and wondered how pay as you go broadband internet access would work here.

Again, amazingly, I hooked up with a 3 Mobile USB modem for GBP19.95 outright price. I then chargeed it up with GBP10 credit for 1 gigabyte download limit over the next month and bob’s your uncle!

We now have internet access in our room 24/7 to use whenever we want to. As Yoda is an early riser, he can be on the net checking email etc. while I’m still fast asleep. It’s incredibly convenient.

We didn’t have so much luck with wi-fi connections either here or in Seoul so that’s what prompted me to research a better solution. And the total price here is half of what the same solution cost me in Oz.

There are times when I just love my technological life! Particularly when it takes the hassle out of keeping in touch with people when overseas.

And there’s not a day goes by that we don’t need to look something up about being in London on the net so to be able to do that without leaving our room is sensational.

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Hello Mr. Zimmer

Hello Mr. Zimmer, do you have a frame I could borrow?

Sunday night in London.

I should be out tripping the fight lantastic. But I am in my hotel room and I want to go to bed. I am tired.

Star Trek 12 – So Very Tired
kind of tired.

I’ve had a look through the free mags to see what’s on in London on a Sunday night and I kept coming back to just one conclusion: I’m going to bed!

Let’s restart the clock after a long full-night’s sleep.

Zzzzzzzzzz

48 Crash

Crash, crash, 48 crash…crash, crash…waaaaaaahhh….

Not the song.

Me.

When I first visited London I was in my early thirties. I had jetlag for a few days and then never looked back.

I am no longer in my early 30s.

Walking around London last night – Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road, Piccadilly Circus etc. – I found the crowds and noise unbearable.

Granted it was a Saturday night – party night for the masses – but my god, I’ve never seen the main tourist areas of London so packed with people. And so loud. So bloody loud.

I can only think on all my previous visits that I was so focussed on being there and doing stuff that I unconsciously filtered out the sound and darted around the crowds.

This time, the combination of being zonked from the flights and being of a certain age….well, they combined to make me want to scream ‘GET ME THE F*** OUT OF HERE!’ Very unusual for me.

Yoda felt the same. And we had more of the same today. I wouldn’t swap this holiday experience for the world but jesus, can everyone stop shouting, pushing and shoving for a minute???

Crash, crash, 48 crash….

Some of the things I used to die for are now killing me 😉

A bit of racism…welcome to London!

Overheard as we queued at passport control at Heathrow Airport:

One passport officer to another (in disparinging tone: ‘Here comes another lot of bloody Koreans! What do you call them?’

2nd passport officer: A swarm of Koreans?’

I also personally witnessed a poor Korean guy being grilled and verbally tortured by one of these passport guys. The Korean guy couldn’t speak English very well, hadn’t done anything wrong but seemed to be a fun target for UK passport control.

Yoda commented that most of the Koreans on our plane were no doubt a lot more civilised than the ÚK Government Officials’ who were making snide remarks about them.

Unfortunate to report we had some Australians in our bus on the way to Seoul Incheon Airport. One said – meaning to be funny – ‘That’s the one thing wrong with Korea – it’s full of Asians!’

The coach driver was Korean and we were praying he didn’t understand that. We were cringing in our seats.

You gotta have Seoul

As I write this I’m sitting on a plane that left Seoul, Korea about 8 hours ago heading for London, England. And there’s still over three hours to go .

Thursday night was chaotic trying to pack and do ‘last minute’ stuff. I am still not over my illness of last week so I was knackered when I got home from work. I just wanted to sleep. The only sensible thing I did on the way to work was make a packing and ‘to do’’ list – so at least I had a guide to work from. In the end I didn’t get to bed until after 11pm. I had trouble sleeping until I fell into a beautiful sleep just after 3am. Then at 4.50 the alarm goes off. That the morning went so well and we checked in with plenty of time was a miracle.

I had some last minute prescriptions made up at the airport. And cried when I paid for them. $82 when it would have cost me $53 at Chemist Warehouse. Arghhh! But this is not a trip where I can take a chance with health issues.

We had a 10 hour flight from Australia to Seoul. It felt interminable. Luckily, the service was spectacular and, as the plane was only half full, we had a row of three seats on the side to ourselves. Plus the 34” legroom (compared to 31”on that evil Australian airline) really makes a difference. We didn’t feel cramped at all and could swing our legs freely 😉

We arrived at Incheon Airport in the middle of a torrential rainstorm that was a bit freaky. With the fog and the rain there seemed to be almost zero visibility. Incheon is a 24 hour all-weather airport so the weather didn’t affect our landing.

The hotel we were allotted was right in the heart of downtown Seoul. Normally you’d get something about 15 minutes away from the airport – all you’re gonna do is hit the sack so location isn’t important.

In this case we had a long, long coach ride on a rather spectacular freeway to Seoul itself. It was pissing down and there was lightning and occasional thunder – but that didn’t stop any of the drivers (including our own) from doing 100km an hour. It was very freaky.

We were soooo over it by the time we got to the hotel. We went straight up to our room and considered crashing there and then. However there were vouchers for dinner and breakfast and Yoda was hungry so we ended up pulling ourselves together and going downstairs to the restaurant.

There was a limited menu, virtually all Korean food and anyway nothing I could eat. The restaurant host eventually gave me a free beer in lieu of dinner. I wasn’t complaining!

Getting a bit of a second wind, we decided to have a little wander around the streets near our hotel. The city was buzzing – shops were open until 10pm and some a bit later. There were people everywhere. Card just drive up these small little lanes and don’t watch out for pedestrians and the pedestrians are completely blaze and often don’t move out of the way of the cars. Yoda had a rather close call at one point and we decided to be a bit more careful after that.

It was a really fascinating mix of sights and sounds. A little bit like Tokyo, Grant said. We were conscious of not straying too far from the hotel. The streets – or lanes really – are a ramshackle affair and it would have been easy to get lost. The rain had mostly stopped which was a bonus – I think we would have just stayed inside otherwise.

Lots of shoe shops everywhere – we must have been in the ‘shoe’ part of town. Lots of ‘Family Marts’ and ‘Paris Baguette’ places. And thankfully one 7-11 because the minibar in our room was virtually naked. I ummed and ahhhed about how to pay – we didn’t bring any Korean currency thinking it would have been superfluous. Won’t make that mistake again.

Most of the signage is both in Korean and English which is helpful but very few of the natives we spoke to could string more than a couple of words together in English. Given Korea’s very pro-American and consumerist slant this was a little surprising.

The girl at the 7-11 managed to gesture with some frustration that she was not sure if a credit card would work but that we should pick out what we wanted to buy and she would try the card. It worked thank god. Something like 12500 won which is about $12.50 Australian I think.

Armed with some diet coke and other goodies, we returned to the hotel. I had wanted to have a shower before bed but was too buggered. We had to be downstairs at 10.30am sharp and I just wanted to maximise the sleep time as much as possible.

The hotel wasn’t taking any chances of us being late. We’d set two alarms on our mobile phones – one for 8.50am and one for 9am. At 9am sharp the room phone rang – it was a recorded music wake-up call. Unasked for and, had we not have been just about to get up, it would have been very annoying.

The toilet in the room was one of those with a 747 control panel on the side. Talk about a washer-dry with a rinse cycle. It even had a button to blow perfume up your arse. I did not push that one! There was a sign on the toilet saying something like ‘sit back firmly and you can use the toilet tool.’ We encountered a similar model in 2005 and I can tell you, it is very disturbing for a common boy from Oz!

Our breakfast this morning included the toast that wasn’t toast – the toasting machine didn’t actually toast . I put mine through three times without any luck. We found out later that an Australian couple had turned it up to max to try and get it to work and caused smoke to come out of it.

We had some Australians in the bus both ways with us. While I am sure they were very nice people, their loud and unfunny sense of humour was grating. Lines like ‘’Geez, there’s a lot of Asians in Korea. It’s like Cabramatta.’ Given our bus driver was Korean I found this comment to be unbelievably rude. We just sat there and endured the conversation, occasionally grimacing.

With bags already checked through to LHR, we went through customs and then had a look at the shops. Korea being the home of ASUS, I thought there’d be all sorts of cheap eee-pc goodies on sale. Alas, while Incheon Airport is very well organised, the shopping is crap.

A big M, the golden arches, was a welcome discovery. We went up and had maccas and chilled out for a while. Then we went in search of internet access. The ‘free’ internet access which the hotel folder said was available everywhere in the hotel was actually a paid service. So all I managed to do was flatten the eee pc battery by 60% trying to connect to wireless networks. Until I gave up.

The internet café arrangement at Incheon has changed completely. They had a stack of Pcs and internet connection for a reasonable fee. Now, in the same location, was a place with assorted models of laptops just sitting on various tables. We thought they belonged to the people using them – but they were owned by the internet place and a sign said ‘free wi-fi.’ They just wanted you to limit it to 30 minutes to b fair to other people. We only had 30 minutes til boarding by this stage so that was fine by us.

The baby MSI-Wind 100 I wanted to use was in the middle of crashing so I sat at a Sony Vaio laptop instead and quickly checked email, updated Twitter and deleted some spam. The 30 minutes went in a flash.

Today’s flight doesn’t have the luxury of being half-empty but no matter, there’s plenty of leg room and the guy in the window seat has only wanted to get out twice. The service is terrific and it’s just the length of the flight that’s the painful thing. 11hours 20minutes. To paraphrase an old line: ’I don’t even want to do anything that feels good for 11hours and 20minutes!’’

Yoda is sitting next to me playing Reversi at the moment. He wants a beer. Outrageous. Wasn’t that thimble of white wine 6 hours ago enough alcohol for him??? Okay, well I’m having one too now. I’m easily influenced!

We’re just passing Kolpino wherever the hell that is! Can’t wait to land and get off this plane. I bet we’ll be totally buggered tonight. Still, tomorrow is another day!