Monday, August 3, 2015

Houston To South Korea To Singapore And Back

Did you know that from Texas, Singapore is very very very far away?  It is literally on the other side of the world from us!  That explains why a flight from Houston to South Korea is 15 hours and then a flight from South Korea to Singapore is still 6 more hours!!  By the time it was all done we didn't know which was was up but it was all worth it.

For this post I am just going to share some of the highlights of getting to Singapore and back.

We flew Korean Air and it was pretty much the same as any other airline with a few exceptions.

First off, the flight attendants were adorable!  There were several sitting together in the airport waiting on the flight and I asked them if I could take a picture.  I was denied.  So I will just use someone else's photo while giving them full credit, of course!

The second difference was the food we were offered.  They had boring choices like beef or chicken and then they offered us bibimbap.  Ooooohhh, that sounds fun!

Having no clue what it was they handed us instructions on how to assembly the bibimbap.

Instructions for bibimbap Korean Air

Hey!  It's a rice dish!  We found out later that the word bibimbap literally mean "mixed rice".  So there you go.

Bibimbap Korean Air

The rice is in the tub on the bottom left.  The veggies and meat that you mix the rice with is in the bottom middle.  The other things are a broth soup, water, fruit, and some kind of pickled vegetable (still not clear on that one, possibly a type cucumber).

They also gave us a tube of gochujang.  

Gochujang on Korean Air

It is a Korean hot pepper sauce and it was soooo good.  So good in fact that as soon as we got home I went out and bought some for myself!  It is spicy, but delicious.  It does have something fermented in it, but still tasty!

When you are on an airplane for over 20 hours (counting both legs) they like to give you a lot of snacks.  Believe it or not this was the first time I have ever had peanuts on a plane!  American companies give out pretzels because of a potential peanut allergy, Korean Air gave out peanuts and other exotic delicacies such as the following:

Shrimp Crisp Snacks Korean Air

A crispy snack in the flavor of shrimp and they really tasted shrimpy!  At first it was like, ew, but then it grew on me.

Korean Rice Snack on Korean Air

This was a compacted version of bibimbap.  Basically, it was seasoned beef stuffed in rice. Not to shabby but not as good as the first version of bibimbap I had.

A third thing I had never encountered on any other flight were these stickers.

Stickers on Korean Air

We thought they were so wonderful that we brought some home to decorate something.  Still waiting to find that perfect spot, but it will come, it will come.

Most of the other things we encountered were pretty typical, so the next part I would like to share is about the two airports we visited (I'm not counting Houston because who would do something like that??).

It just so happened that we visited the top two airports IN THE WORLD according to several sources.  Incheon Airport is on an island just outside Seoul South Korea and it is considered the second best airport in the world.

Just the view for the plane flying in or out is beautiful!

South Korean Island from plane

But once you are inside, the thing that impressed me the most was the cultural areas they had for visitors.  There was a place to try your hand at Korean cafts,  a place to check out traditional Korean clothing, and even a place to hear traditional Korean music.

Incheon Airport Korean Cultural Music Video

And then of course, there was food.  Now, signs and menus did have English translations BUT we are not familiar with Korean food.  Mexican food, we have down (for the most part as long as it is more Tex-Mex than true Mexican food), but Asian foods, not so much. 

The description said noodles with a skewer.

Noodles with a skewer Korea Airport

The noodles I understood.  The skewer, still no clue what it was.

Then there was this:

Corn tea from Korea

The menu said corn tea.  Hey, I've never had corn tea.  I must try corn tea!

At first, it was nice.  "Oh this is so cool!  It taste like corn!"

Then after time, it was not so nice.  "Man this corn taste just will not get out of my mouth.  This aftertaste is something to be reckoned with for sure."  I ended up throwing it away half full.  I just couldn't handle it.

It is a little disappointing that we were not fully functional either time we visited the airport in Korea. The first time was after a 15 hour flight from Houston that started at 10:40 AM. The second time was after a 6 hour flight from Singapore that started at 10:30 PM.  Both times we were there in the wee hours of the morning, at least according to our bodily time clocks.

The other airport we visited was the Changi Airport in Singapore and it is considered the number one airport in the world.  We were both very impressed with it!

But before we got there we had to fill out a customs form.

Welcome to Singapore Death for Drug Customs Form

Basically it says the following, "Hey, there!  Welcome to Singapore!  Bring drugs in and we will kill you!  Enjoy your visit!"

Then the next thing to really just welcome us was this:

Squat toilet Singapore


Well, hmmm.....

Not sure how to handle that there squat toilet.  Thankfully, oh so very thankfully, there were normal toilets as well.  If you just REALLY  need to know how to use a squat toilet follow this link to a non-graphic video.

Feeling very welcomed in Singapore, we didn't stay long in the airport the first time.  We were so worn out and our heads were just fuzzy.  It was midnight there so all we wanted was our hotel.  

One the day we were leaving Singapore we had plans to really hang out at the airport for several hours.  Our flight didn't leave until 10:30 PM so we had time to kill.

Here was the plan.

Get to the airport early. Check-in so we could drop off our checked bags. Drop off our carry-on bags at a 24-hour luggage "babysitter" (because I can't think for the life of me what that is really called). Sign-up for a free tour of Singapore offered by the airport.  Watch a free movie offered by the airport.  Explore the koi pond, the butterfly garden, the cactus garden, and the sunflower garden all at the airport. 

Ok, are you starting to see why this airport is number one in the world??

Here is what happened.

We got there at a perfectly good time that morning to accomplish all our dreams of airport delights but there was one hitch.  Korean Air did not have that early of a check-in for a flight that left at 10:30 that night.  

We couldn't check in until 4 PM.  That cancelled the free tour of Singapore.  Now, of course. we had just toured Singapore for a full week and didn't NEED a free tour BUT a free tour is a free tour!

So, we left all our luggage at the luggage "babysitter", got back on the metro and headed to a nearby mall to find some cheap lunch.  Malls are the place to go in Singapore.  If you aren't into shopping there are still fabulous food courts.  The food courts are NOT like the ones in America. I will tell you more about them in a later post though.

After eating and wondering around just a little bit we headed back to the airport later that afternoon to see if we could check-in.

We were able to and then we set off to see about that free airport movie.

Hitch number two, the movies only happened at a certain time and the at the time we were there it wasn't a movie we wanted to see.  Ok, no big deal. It was time to check out the koi pond and gardens. Those I have pictures of!
Koi pond from above.  This is INSIDE the airport!
Koi Pond Changi Airport Singapore

Sunflower garden on the roof!

Sunflower Garden at Changi Airport Singapore

Sunflowers at Changi Airport Singapore

Butterfly garden in its own enclosure in the airport.

Butterfly on Pineapple at Butterfly Garden in Changi Airport Singapore

Butterfly cocoons in different stages.

Cocoons in Butterfly Garden Changi Airport Singapore

The cactus garden was closed, but that is ok, we see plenty of those in Texas.

The rest of our time in the airport has now blurred since we have returned. I think we found the resting lounge where it was dark and a TV was on.  We sat there mind-numbed staring at it for awhile. Then 10:30 PM rolled around and we boarded a plane that took us to Korea and then another that took us to Houston.  All in all a fun little 24 hour trip home.

In my next post I will tell you about our first day in Singapore and all that we experienced.  I hope you will return to read all about it.

Until then!