A Travellerspoint blog

Into the East: Land of the Morning Calm

CURRENT LOCATION: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

I've been on multiple trips in the past, both domestic and international, and you'd think I'd have learned the Golden Rule of travel: don't pack the night before you leave. Trust me, I've engrained that saying into my brain ... but somehow it just sneaks away the eve before my trips.

This trip was not the exception. I left the cold wintery weather of Chicago, IL to travel half way around the world. And now I'm sitting amidst the cold wintery weather of Seoul, South Korea. Along the way I navigated the halls of airports and attempted to interpret signs written in a completely foreign looking alphabet. In other words, I had a layover in Tokyo's Narita Airport. The flight to Tokyo itself was spent mostly sleeping and feasting on ANA's (All Nippon Airways) "J Menu" as opposed to their "Western Menu." During the flight I was also fortunate enough to have the entire row to myself as well so I spent my 12+ hour flight comfortably stretched out across four seats.

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(PHOTO: seafood in cream sauce with saffron rice and then bi bim map)

My layover in Tokyo was made even more comfortable as I had access to the United Club lounge while I was waiting for my connection. I was able to escape from the generally hectic airport terminal atmosphere to a locale that afforded a view of the jets, a comfortable chair, refreshments, snacks, and WIFI.

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How did I manage to get admission into such a ritzy place you may wonder? One word: BusinessFirst. I flew in this cabin before and knew that when it comes to international travel, one has access to the United Club as well. You can imagine the b-line I made straight for this haven as soon as I deplaned. And so I lounged about and people watched for a few hours until it was finally time to board my Seoul-bound flight. The flight to Seoul itself was short and sweet with the only strange part being that my seat faced the rear of the aircraft. This was easily the strangest experience I've ever had on board an airplane!

I arrived here at about 9:30PM, with absolutely no idea that the majority of airport services close at 10PM and that the subway system at 12AM. Yikes! Thankfully I was able to make the last of the hotel shuttles so I quickly exchanged some USD and headed into the heart of Seoul.

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Fast forward to present-time and I'm at the Intercontinental hotel and I am pleasantly surprised with the room I managed to reserved. It reminds of the room I had the last time I was in Las Vegas ... except not as big. There are a few things here I wouldn't mind incorporating into my future home.

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I'm excited to be here and to see what this city and country has to offer. I've read up on a number of things I can do while I'm here but I'll have to review that in the morning. My first course of action at this point is SLEEP!

Posted by nigetv 07:20 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

La Dolce Vita: When in Rome, Live the Life of the 3P's

Current Location: Rome, Italy


View Trip to Rome (2009) on nigetv's travel map.

I look around this city and I can truly see how someone can live the sweet life. Every corner seems to boast both culture and modernity as the various stalls dotting side streets, where merchants display goods that range from food to calendars showcasing priests (yup those actually exist), eventually give way to bus stops and train stations. In addition to this, Italians are noticeably (at least for myself) less frantic than Americans as they take time from their undoubtedly busy schedules to leisurely sip coffee in a café, take a siesta (for some at least) in the middle of the day, or even catch up with friends during a late dinner (sometimes 9pm or later).

I had the opportunity to experience a piece of this life and it wasn't hard to get used to it. I'd get up, go to class, have lunch, explore the city, and then have dinner. My friends and I even coined the term "3P's" to describe our (many) adventures that involved food ... pizza, pasta, paninis. If you've ever been to Rome, you know what I'm talking about! The streets are lined with stalls and restaurants selling the 3P's and I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to not eat one of them a few times a week.

The 3P's, though, were not the only things that we found ourselves going back to constantly. We all had a fascination with seeing the Colosseum and I think that is due to the fact that it is easily recognizable and well known as one of the symbols of Rome. It's hard to believe that a structure so gargantuan has survived for thousands of years and that, for the most part, everything is still intact. The whole is truly a testament to the accomplishments and the advancements of all not only the Romans, but all ancient civilizations as well.

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Just walking around the Colosseum can give you a feeling of what an enormous undertaking it must have been to build the structure. Imagine what it would have been like to plan on making something that had archways and seating for thousands of spectators, a large stage, and underground labyrinths that held "competitors." Now, imagine doing that without cranes, bull dozers, and any other modern-day construction equipment. Crazy huh?

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I really wish the opportunity was there to the higher levels of the Colosseum or to descend into the maze under what one was the arena's stage. How cool would that be to see the entire structure from a vantage point that no one has seen in years? Who knows, maybe the next time I visit Rome that will be possible. But until then, I'll happily appreciate one of the (new) Seven Wonders of the World.

Posted by nigetv 11:30 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Bongiorno Roma: Third Time Charm with the Eternal City

Current Location: Rome, Italy


View Trip to Rome (2009) on nigetv's travel map.

For each destination I have been to, I feel as though there has always been some kind of local story that serves either as superstition, warning ... or just that, a story. Now, even though I feel as if many stories surround the city of Rome, one in particular seems to be walking beside my own life story whether it be by pure coincidence or some kind of cosmic-karma intervention. Have you figured out what story I may be talking about?

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The Trevi Fountain. According to "the story" if you throw a coin into the fountain during your visit to Rome (if you're wondering if a specific currency works best ... let me know when you figure out the answer) you will return and once again enjoy everything the Eternal City has to offer.

My first run-in with this legend was in 2006 and, by the time my study abroad program was finished, I was not too sure if I would return (although I desperately wanted to). But the charm worked for me and since my 5-week term, which lead to the discovery of the "me" who can thrive in a foreign country, I've returned to Rome ... not once, but twice!

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The city is everything that I remember from the sights, the smells, the ATAC (public transit), and the gelato. Every person seems to have the uncanny ability to find an ancient structure (whether in ruins or not) around every corner and this really only sweetens the generous deal that the city offers.

When I walk down the streets, where I'm back in my element, I remember shortcuts and always seem to find my way to where I want to go, I can't help but call the city home once again. One of my favorite things to do now is to find new paths to get to certain locations around the city by ducking into alleys going towards its general direction. Now, this may seem a bit dangerous, but in reality alleys are nothing like the ones found in the States. In Rome, allies contain life and the true heart of the city's inhabitants as they're lined with restaurants, shops, stalls, and even (for the delighted traveler) souvenir stands.

I did this once again on this trip and found new ways to get to my old (pun intended) stomping grounds. I even walked passed the bus stop that I remember waiting at whenever I would return to the JFRC, or the John Felice Rome Center from downtown (a stop that I hadn't seen in 3 years).

These seemingly random tangents off the "correct" path brought me face to face with recognizable monuments like (to name a few) the Trevi, the Four Rivers fountain by Bernini, the Pantheon, and even the vast piazza that welcomes all into St. Peter's Basilica.

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Seeing all these things lets me appreciate Rome even more as I know that she will never let me be lost in her winding streets. It really does bring light to the saying that "all roads lead to Rome," and makes me confident that even though the third time's the charm, I will return to enjoy this magnificent city in the future to come.

Posted by nigetv 15:28 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Stockholm-Skavasta Airport: Round 2 with RyanAir

Current Location: Nyöping, Sweden


View Trip to Rome (2009) on nigetv's travel map.

It's an event that I remember as if it were yesterday (except of course it happened in 2006). A naïve, first-time solo, traveler crossed the threshold into Rome's Ciampino airport to travel to Stockholm's Skavsta airport. I probably looked as green (if not more) as I imagine myself to have looked as I walked in with not one, but two, check-in bags and a backpacker's bag (you know, the ones that are for camping that can hold anything and everything) on my back.

I lined up in front of my check-in desk with every intention of making my flight to Stockholm which was due to leave within 2 hours. And so I waited and when it was finally my turn I rolled up my bags, gave my reservation number, weight my luggage ... and was told to pay €200. Now, of course, after studying abroad I didn't have this amount of Euro anymore and so I made a frantic call back home (where it was 2AM) for aid ... of the monetary kind. Despite all my effort, in the end, I wasn't able to get onto the flight and was forced to return to my school (with another student who had also missed her flight).

This is the vision of RyanAir that has remained in my mind for the last 3 years - inflexible and not helpful.

This time around, I was ready for them though and I walked straight into Skavasta without a single rolling bag but one backpacker's bag (it was even noticeably smaller than the one I had used in 2006). I walked up the counter and checked-in without a single issue. I felt like I somehow beat the airline at their own gain as, despite it being a carry-on, my bag clearly would not fit those "carry on bag" check-bins which you're supposed to put your bag in to see if it is suitable enough to remain in the cabin (I honestly doubt that people both to even check). This time, I had finally made peace with RyanAir and can now comfortably recommend it to those in my life ... with the only reminder that they should stuff all their things into a single bag because if not, then Euros will go jumping out of their pockets.

This time, I made and am once again back in Rome!

Posted by nigetv 03:16 Archived in Sweden Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Ever Two-Faced: A Day and Evening in Stockholm

Current Location: Stockholm, Sweden


View Trip to Stockholm (2009) on nigetv's travel map.

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It never ceases to amaze me how light can change one's view and general perception of city (or any location for that matter). When it's the night time things can look completely different to the point that their unrecognizable, bringing with it mystery and even forcing yourself to question your own memory of something (maybe even adding a bit of fear or excitement in what you're doing).

I prefer to see a destination in the daytime and at nighttime because of this wide variety of sensations (I easily can't even say that I've been able to pinpoint all the possible combinations) that can accompany the cover the darkness.

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Here in Stockholm I never truly got a sense that going out at night is something that someone should, if not necessarily avoid, be wary of (indeed I've felt the same about all the European cities I've visited). I feel as though a majority of people "here" (being Europe) go out in the evening and stay out whether they are having dinner or just being with friends and/or family.

Now, I'm not saying that back in the States, day after day, people just come home and stay home. I just feel as though many would prefer not to go out (or at least I don't see a large and healthy mix of different age groups) about cities, towns, or suburbs just walking out and about.

But hey, there's always the daytime right? I guess it really comes down to even split in the middle in terms of my preference in when I would like to explore a location. In stark contrast to night time, exploring during the day can be freeing since you can, practically, see everything and, because there are more people about, you can truly get a feel for the life of the city (that and stores and sites like museums are open as well).

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Posted by nigetv 03:00 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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