Friday, April 02, 2010

Travelling again

A quarter of the year has passed, and at last I'm back at Hong Kong International.  There's a certain joy to travelling through this airport, from the spectacular ease to everything.  This can leave some people confused - it seems whenever I queue up for tickets for the Airport Express, the person in front of me never believes that you can actually check in for your flight at the station, and the machine isn't just going to gobble up your ticket and leave you standing like an idiot in the middle of Hong Kong, having to pay again to get on the train.

Did we British teach the people of Hong Kong nothing while we had the lease?  Surely 150 years is long enough to inculcate confusion, disappointment and mindless adhesion to overcomplicated bureaucratic procedures in a population.

Then again, it's an easy process to leave Hong Kong.  Staying in Hong Kong can produce all sorts of frustrations - like having to book an appointment at the Immigration Authority office for a place in a line to queue up to apply for an ID card.  But that's for another day.

But unlike the horrors of humping your baggage across town in London to the Heathrow Express, or else losing an hour of your life in the humdrum space that is the Piccadilly Line, or listening to the xenophobic views of a taxi driver, getting to the airport is a piece of cake.  Although you can't eat on the train, and there's nothing I like more to celebrate going on holiday than eating some noisome fried food and honking off everyone around me.

Security processes have been upped at the airport though; they took every bag out of my bag, everything out of each bag, and then put them all through the X-ray machine again.  I wasn't even packing anything suspicious-looking like a pair of bicycle pedals this time. (Or so I thought - perhaps the combination of a camera and some noise-cancelling headphones and a GPS watch and a guidebook to Seoul do suggest something.  You can never be too careful.)

It's meant to be cold in Seoul - down to 10 degrees.  I'm hoping that they have some form of rudimentary heating devices in Korea, unlike Hong Kong, where we've only got our heads around air conditioning and not heating things up when it's freezing cold.  (Freezing cold is a mutable concept this far East - when I say it's chilly in Hong Kong, that's because it's below 20 degrees.  But it's a horrible, infesting your bones sort of chill, compared to the fresh, clean cold of the English countryside at this time of year.)

I know nothing really about Korea.  Well, apart from what I've read about them all being descended from the unlikely union of a lion and a bear.  And subsisting on a diet of barbecues.  And all doing tae-kwondo.  I figure that this combination of trivia gleaned from books and vague stereotypes picked up from the last ten years of my life will serve me well in my visit to their country.

Luckily, I've also got a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Seoul to Seoul, which I will assume to be exactly right on everything it contains, and to contain information on everything in Seoul.  If it's not in the guide, it doesn't exist, and if anything occurs to contradict the guide, it will be nothing more than a hallucination brought on by a surfeit of kimchee. What could possibly go wrong?

OK, that's probably going just a little bit too far in relying on a single source.  As back-up, I'm going to skim through A Corkscrew is Most Useful, and if there's any information from Victorian travel-writers, I'll accept that to the canon of knowledge on Korea.

But nothing else.  A man must have principles, after all.


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