There is something about long-distance air travel that I enjoy. I's practically axiomatic that planes are stressful, uncomfortable, and in a word, awful. My flight to Korea had all the hallmarks of such a flight- fourteen hours in the air, roughly 6,000,000,000 screaming babies, and someone in the seat behind me with some kind of epilepsy of the legs, as I deduced from the spastic and repeated drumming of knees and feet on the back of my chair, especially when I was trying to go to sleep.
And yet, the trip was thoroughly enjoyable. I had the good luck to be sitting next to a large family all heading to Korea for the same reason as I was- to visit a loved one who works there- and they made for excellent company.
On top of that, the views we saw crossing over the Arctic were completely mind-blowing. I woke up from fitful airplane-sleep to see a bright red sun rising over a desert horizon, and I looked down and saw a desolate landscape of endless ice, scored by deep canyons and cracks. It was like being on another planet. Going over Russian Siberia a few hours later offered a similar experience.
On top of that, the in-flight movie was "The Incredibles."
I arrived in South Korea at 4:30 Seoul time yesterday. To my internal clock, it was 2 in the morning, and despite that I've already had a pleasant walk around the arts district, which is full of self-consciously Western coffee shops and galleries, and through Ijtaewon, with it's packs of roving drunken GIs and it's infamour Hooker Hill.
Weird Korean fact of the day: Korea as a country does not name it's roads. One navigates entirely by landmarks. This is probably a side-effect of the Korean city planning method which seemed to consist only of taking the medieval streets of Seoul and paving over the mud and chickens with a thick layer of asphalt and calling it a day. The neighborhood we are staying in is a labyrinth of small shops, countless traditional restaurants, and cheap hotels, mixed in with mysterious, walled compounds with the roofs of pagodas peeking up.