1 April 2013

Going Home - Gangnam Style, Saturday 30th

Spa On Air, Incheon, Seoul
Spa On Air, Incheon, Seoul
 Leaving the searing heat of northern Thailand, it was refreshing to arrive in Seoul, South Korea early in the morning with temperatures just slightly above freezing. I had traveled overnight in shorts and a t-shirt and headed to the 'Spa On Air" on the lower level of the airport to freshen up and change into warmer clothes.

Spa On Air, Incheon, Seoul

Spa On Air, Incheon, Seoul
The spa charges 15,000 KW ($15) to access the hot pool, cold pool, sauna, steam room, showers and change-rooms with a well stocked vanity (I only needed to purchase a razor and tooth brush). For an additional 12,000 KW you can have a single bed in your own small room to sleep and time-adjust. I opted to just shower, shave and change, to take advantage of my 12 hour layover and see some of Seoul on a 5 hour sightseeing excursion offered from the airport by OMI Travel.

Magical Mystery Tour
Cheonggyecheon Waterway
 Jeans and a sweatshirt were enough to combat the chill on this sunny, but crisp morning. The twelve of us boarded the tour bus at the main terminal that would take us and our guide to downtown Seoul. We visited the Cheonggyecheon waterway, a 5km stretch of restored river that became a shanty town after WWII and had been filled in for many years. 
Korea National Folk Museum

Korea National Folk Museum
Next was the Korea National Folk Museum and Gyeongbokgung - the royal palace built in the Joseon Dynasty (1392 - 1897)  by King Taejo. As much as 60% of it was destroyed by Japan in the early 20th century. It has been gradually restored since then.

Zodiac - Ox


 Lunch was included in the tour price of $50.00 and I had Bibimbap, a Korean dish of vegetables and rice in a bowl, in a little restaurant off Insadong, a shopping area with many antique and traditional Korean craft stores. We had about 90 minutes of free time to browse around, but I had room in my bag for nothing much more than a postcard! We headed back out to Incheon (ICN) the main airport for Seoul. The tour was very good value, I would highly recommend it and it's a great way to pass some time - many connections through Seoul seem to have a long layover in at least one of the directions. 

As I write this we are 37,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean on our 5700 mile journey to Seattle. It has been an incredible trip and I shall be home in a few hours - ready to start planning the next one!

Saying Goodbye, Friday 29th

I felt great sadness this morning walking up the driveway towards the main building for breakfast. It was another hot and beautiful morning and I did not need my sweatshirt to guard against the usual morning chill.

I went out for a walk with Jodi Thomas, she has tremendous knowledge about the elephant behaviours and interactions. 

 It was fascinating and interesting, observing the different family groups and learning their histories. It took a couple of hours and was a good excuse to put off the inevitable job of packing. A few dozen more elephant photos wouldn’t go amiss either!



After the walk with Jodi, it was lunchtime and I really did have to pack. My second bag that I bought in Chiang Mai last Sunday for 200THB came in really handy - as I seemed to have accumulated several souvenirs, almost all from Elephant Nature Park. I made a couple of trips from my room to the meeting point to drop my bags there, awaiting the driver and busload of day trippers heading back into the city. 

It was time to say goodbye to Ahn and I think he knew I was leaving. It broke my heart, I so wish I was able to take him home with me, but having one rescue dog at home already, it was just not possible. I gave Annie the rest of the biscuits I had purchased and she agreed to have special visits with him - at least he is good for 'Jammie Dogers' for the next few days.

 I didn't look back as we climbed out of the Mae Tang valley, as much as that view of the park is thrilling when you arrive, I was sad to leave. We arrived at ENP office about 5:00pm and I left my luggage there and headed out for supper - Taste From Heaven of course! I had Pad Thai with egg and a fruit lasse (140 THB). I toured the market for a while but mostly people-watched until it got dark. Patti had arranged for a Tuk-tuk to take me to the airport (100THB) and it zig-zagged around the moat of the old city and then south for the 20 minute trip to the departures terminal. I got my bags shrink-wrapped, just in case) for $4.00 a piece and sat waiting for the check-in counter to open, while sipping on a green tea blizzard from Dairy Queen.