Travelling flying through the Covid19 2nd wave. Part 4: within Asia 2021
Updated: Feb 26
The flight from Doha Qatar to Incheon South Korea with Qatar Airways was really nice and smooth. Due to some system error my choice of vegetarian food was not registered for the flight but the amazing crew, especially the head stewardess, made sure I would have a vegetarian meal. She even came back later for a little chat offering a glass of champagne! Excellent and very friendly service.
South Korea was having its own struggle with the virus and they had just recently discovered a new variant. So things became more strict all of a sudden. If I were to enter the country I would have to quarantine for 14 days apart of the Covid19 negative test. I am permitted to transit as long as my stay was not more than 24h. In my case, my transit was 16 hours throughout the night. It was snowing a lot when I arrived and the temperature outside was around -6°C.
Actually, Incheon airport is one of my favorite airports in the world, for all kinds of reasons. It was rated as one of the world's cleanest airports. It normally serves around 70 million passengers (2019 data). But this time it was very peaceful with very few people around. Most of the shops and facilities were open, they only closed down earlier than normal. The airport is located in an artificial island, the way to go there by either train or bus is quite fascinating, one of the two roads is above the water for almost 12km!
The airport has three different areas with gates (Terminal 1, Concourse A and Terminal 2), connected by free underground metro. Upon arrival in Terminal 2, I was greeted by two little robots, one to carry your hand luggage and one to provide you information or show you around. The information one (pictured above on the right) proved to be more popular with the tourists as it had a more human form.
Although the airport was built in 2001, the Concourse was built in 2008 and Terminal 2 quite recently, in 2018. So it is the latest area in the airport, it looks very futuristic and modern, it even has real trees inside! Going around you will find many areas to charge your devices, a little fountain and a piano.
Normally I would just find a little place in the airport and crush for the night. The next day I would have my flight to Japan, I was extremely tired after all the previous flights and lay overs, so the thought of catching a cold or raising a bit of fever and then being put into some hospital quarantine with other Covid19 positive people gave me the creeps. So this was a good excuse to stay in the transit hotel which was located inside Terminal 2. It would be my first time spending the night in a hotel inside an airport so I was quite excited!
The Walkerhill Transit Hotel has facilities in both terminals in Incheon airport. The rooms in Terminal 1 look a bit more fancy for the same price but since I was flying out from Terminal 2 I stayed there. And it was great as the hotel was just next to my gate for the next day! More information about the Walkerhill Transit Hotel in Incheon airport:
There was a nice little common area with a round table, seats and plugs, plus a nice selection of books. The reception also served as a cafe, with nice small tables next to a glass wall, overlooking the airport corridor below. The service was friendly and cheerful, they even ask if you need a wake up call when you check in. Depending on your booking you can stay for 6h or 12h or 24h after your check in time (you can stay longer for a small additional charge per hour).
The prices of the cafe menu in the photos above are in Korean Won (~approx. €1 = KRW1330, US$1 = KRW1100). They also provided hot water if needed (to drink or prepare your own cup noodles etc.).
The rooms were lined up in a corridor next to the reception. I had a standard room for 12 hours. It had two really big beds (for my standards these were double beds), a little desk to work, a chair, toilet and shower. There were two small bottles of water, towels and shampoos. The desk had universal plugs and a USB outlet for charge. It had an air condition, a small air purifier unit, a TV, a hair dryer and free WiFi (with pretty good speed). Everything was very clean and the hot shower felt like heaven.
Due to the virus all restaurants in the airport closed at 19.00. I had just missed them but fortunately there was a 7-11 convenient store which was 24h. And these ones always have some nice things you can eat. Korean dry seaweed is -personally- the tastiest in all of Asia. I love kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish of salted and fermented cabbage, radish and various seasonings. Some people say it smells bad but I even like its smell! Plus it's very good for our health. Finally a little Japanese treat, inarizushi, sushi rice stuffed inside seasoned deep fried tofu pockets, one of my favorites as well. The combination of these three made the perfect dinner!
I woke up early in the morning before the sunrise to check out and have some breakfast. It had stopped snowing but the runways had still quite a lot of snow. Went to my gate, the aircraft was there but it was kinda odd, the corridor connecting to the cockpit was not connected and there was a guy checking the snow and the turbines.
While I was waiting a few more people gathered. Since this was one the only flight flying to Fukuoka in Japan it was almost full. Weird enough, at the time that we were supposed to board, there was still not much movement in the aircraft which started to worry me. Usually the pilots and crew are way ahead of everybody but that was not the case here. Sunrise came, the time that we were supposed to start boarding came, and the situation was still the same.
Suddenly one of the crew came to the crowd waiting and an announcement was made. Last minute change of gate! So everybody ran to the new gate. Another aircraft was there, this time getting properly ready for flight, the pilots in the cockpit and all the crew rushing in. We saw our bags being loaded so this was definitely a last minute change. Probably the previous aircraft was too frozen? Who knows. Eventually we had 30 minutes delay but everything else was alright.
It was my first time to fly Korean Air. I was the only westerner in this flight. Service was nice and there was even an in-flight meal, something I didn't expect since our flight was only 1h 20min., from Incheon international airport, South Korea to Fukuoka Japan. We had a smoked salmon sandwich, a bit of pineapple, a sweet potato salad and a beverage. Really good food and tasty!
Finally reached Fukuoka in Japan where everybody had to be screened and tested again for the Covid19 virus...
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