A year ago I traveled with my boyfriend to Japan. Since we were very far away from home, we decided to take advantage of the situation and travel a little bit through Asia. After looking through many different options, we decided to go to the ancient and beautiful country of Cambodia.
When we booked the flight, we found out that the best fare was making a 10 hour layover at the South- Korean airport of Incheon. We thought I was going to be a total waste of time but it turned to be the best idea it ever occurred to us.
After a 2 and a half hour flight with Asiana we arrived to the Incheon Airport (ICN) in South Korea. It was a smooth flight with a tasty meal. Once we arrived we were surprised by how well-planned this airport is. No wonder why this airport is listed on the top ten World’s Best Airport for the past 5 years or more. I mean that this is a great airport because it is very logical. After you get out of the plane it is very easy to know where do you have to go next there are signs every way and the path is easy to follow. . Connection flight? This way. Final destination? This other way.
Surprise #1: The Tour.
When you take the connection flight way, you’ll be asked if it is a short or a long connection. If it is a long one like we did (I believe they require you to have at least 3 or 4 hours layover time) you will be asked if you would like to take part of the FREE Transit Tour Program. They have several tours, from 1 hour to 5 hours long. So we took the Incheon City Tour which was about 3 hour long. They take a look on your boarding pass to double-check that you will have enough time for the Tour.
Most of the tours are completely free, since the Korean government sponsors them but the one we took had a small fee of $10,000 Won (about $9- $10 USD) to cover a buffet meal and the entrance to the Changdeokgung Palace. It is ABSOLUTELY worth it! Shortly after we signed in to the tour, we gathered with the rest of the group and departed. The guide spoke all the time in english so we didn’t had any language problem.
First we stopped at the Palace. It is really interesting to find such a large and traditional piece of architecture in the middle of such a cosmopolitan city (Seoul). It was a hot and shinny day. And the people on the bus was as excited as we were. During the tour you travel by bus and must remain with the group at all times, following the guide. They will explain you everything about the ancient and violent history behind those marvelous walls. One of the most interesting stories talked about the the little animal-shaped gargoyles that stand at the ceiling of the temple. They explained to us that in old times the king (?) – I don´t remember exactly who but it was definitively one royal lad- had terrible nightmares at night. So he commanded his men to build such statues to keep the bad spirits away. Fantastic, right? I would like to get build such a thing too!
So after the palace, we headed to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park. It is a museum, park and design centre with an impressive modern architecture. Movies have been filmed here, conferences have taken place here and some other cultural activities. It was a wonderful place to spend the afternoon, it is located in downtown Seoul and the guide explained it has turned to be one of the most popular landmarks in Seoul.
Since we visited this place after meeting the old and traditional palace, it really left an impression in us. One attraction is so shiny and new and the other one so beautiful and full with history. It was fun, we took a lot of pictures.
You can check out the reference of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park on trip advisor here.
After that, we walked across the street to a shopping center. I was a cool experience since we had lunch at the top deck of the building. It was a Korean buffet, not too classy but tasty enough. I really enjoy tasting such different spicy flavors, very different from what I got used to, in Japan. After eating we had about half and hour free to shop a little bit before we headed back to the airport. We were supposed to visit somewhere else in the city but the reports stated that there would be a lot of traffic through the city and the gentle guide didn’t wanted us to arrive late to our flights, so he hurried up.
Surprise #2: Transfer Service Complex.
After we came back to the airport we could have taken a second tour but we decided to spend the rest of the time at the airport. Such a marvelous place to be!
The Incheon International Airport is well- known for its cultural events, activities for children, for its glamorous shops and most importantly the Transfer Service Complex at the 4th floor. I specially liked this place because here you can rest at comfortable relaxing chairs, take a shower, take a massage, watch movies, have a snack and of course use free wi-fi. If you want further information you can take a look at this video:
So, after this long and amazing layover at the Incheon Airport in Seoul we continue our travel down to Cambodia. It was a great experience and if I ever travel back to Asia I would definitively consider on making a layover at this pretty amazing Airport.
I leave here some pictures of this adventurous layover in Seoul. If you have ever been here and wish to share your experience with the community, don’t hesitate to write a comment!