Sydney to Seoul on Asiana
With the Brazilian visa in hand, it was time to bid farewell to Australia and New Zealand and move on to the fifth continent of my trip. Unfortunately (or is it?), Star Alliance airlines do not have direct flights to South America so I had to take a little detour through the US. Furthermore, because of peak travel season, there was no availability of business class seats on flights to US, meaning I had to make another detour through Seoul. Sydney - Seoul - Los Angeles - Chicago - Sao Paolo with an overnight at Seoul, but otherwise just a few hours at each stop. Two very long days…
Getting To Sydney Airport
This time around I stayed at King Cross Backpackers (my review), just east of downtown Sydney, so it was a quick (but still expensive) journey to the airport from there. Similar to my flight to New Zealand a few weeks ago, the check-in counters for Asiana were a long haul from the train station at the opposite side of the airport. Once there, however, they already had my boarding pass ready, printed another one for my flight the next day from Seoul to LA through AND had the immigration departure form prefilled for me - that was a welcomed first.
Air New Zealand Lounge
From the check-in counters, I had to backtrack to get to immigration and security, which were fast since I had the express line pass. During security screening, the world was made a safer place by making me part with my sunscreen tube. From there, it was another long haul to get to my gate with the Air New Zealand lounge just next to it.
The lounge was pretty spacious and comfortable with plush seating as well as working tables setup, plenty of power outlets around, and an awesome view of the ramp with a bunch of international heavies parked right in front of us. On the down-side, the toilets surprised me by looking more like something of a train toilet rather something suitable for an airline lounge. The kitchen was also undergoing remodeling, so selection of breakfast food items was minimal, but the OJ was delicious. They also had plenty of power plug adapters for silly people that lost theirs and did not want to get a new one within two days of departure from Aussie land.
Asiana Boeing 777-200
Until now, the 777 was the illusive bird that I had to fly on, out of the entire line up of modern airliners (well, except for the new A380 and B787) so I was excited to finally hitch a ride on one. The business cabin had similar setup to all others I have flown on this trip with lie-flat seats. It was only about half-full with nobody sitting next to me. One thing I noticed right away were the large screens mounted in the seats in front. Unfortunately, the system feeding the screens was the worst I have to deal with so far. I was excited to see a few recently released movies mentioned in the Entertainment guide, figuring that I will be able to catch up with those on the 10 hour 20 minute flight. Turned out that was not the case. Most of them were not in the system and the rest were set up weirdly - only half of them were available on inbound flights into Seoul while the other half was shown on the outbound flights. Furthermore, it was not a truly on-demand system, but rather a few channels that kept playing the same movie over and over again.
Asiana crew seemed to be helpful, but their English proficiency was way behind any other airline I have flown. Well, maybe except for Ukrainian airlines. I had no problem understanding German, Egyptian, Thai or Filipino flight attendants. Heck, I could even catch the jist of what Aussies and Kiwis were talking about, but with Asiana I was lucky to be able to catch one out of five words they said. That turned out to be true throughout my stay in Seoul - I could see why everyone comes here to teach English - the proficiency of Koreans is far behind even their South East Asian counterparts. By no means I am complaining, heck their English is still infinitely better than my Korean, that was just one of the observations I kept making over and over again.
Catering was decent with shrimp and quinoa dinner starter being the most delicious of all the meal items. In between lunch and dinner, I got a sandwich and a fruit plate that did the trick for a bit and the dinner was pretty tasteless chicken 'stir fry' which was definitely not fried, but rather baked with some weird additions and plain rice. In-between meals, I was able to catch up on some sleep (it was weird darkening the cabin so people can sleep during the idle of the day) and blogging with a couple breaks for the movies.
Incheon Airport Arrival
We deplaned after a fairly short taxi to the gate and after a bit of walking I got to immigration. They seemed to be taking their time with everybody so even though there war only seven people in front of me, it took good 10-15 minutes to get through. Unlike Sydney, the walk through customs was a breeze and I was out out in the arrivals area. Grabbing some cash from ATM (no fees), I looked for tourist information and was disappointed to see a tiny stand with just a few maps of the city, mostly promoting a bunch of hotels. So much for the plan to read up on stuff to do on the train.