Sunday, January 24, 2016

My weekend in Bu---Jeju.

This past weekend I had planned to at last visit the city of Busan (부산).  While not as big as Seoul, I have heard that Busan is a fun place to visit and I was really excited.  Plans were made for both accommodations and some meetups and I was ready to hit the ground running.

Alas, my plans were not meant to happen.  Saturday morning, as I was ready to go, Jeju was hit (and is still being hit as I write this) with the worst snow storm that it's seen in more than (some say) 38 years.  I was told that Jeju never gets much snow and that the snow is mostly on the top of Halla.  Well, not this year.
As we waited at the bus stop at 10 Saturday morning, we were already in a winter wonderland.
The adventure began at the bus stop.  I feel like a lot of adventures begin at bus stops, and in this way, ours was no different.  I was with my friends Audrey and Jenny who were also heading to the airport.  Their flights were for Seoul while mine was for Busan.  Even though there was already a lot of snow, we were excited and optimistic.  I had heard that the snow was worse where we lived and thought that it would be okay in the city and at the airport.  My biggest concern at this point in my journey was weather or not I'd miss my flight (pun intended).  The bus had trouble getting to the city and what is normally a 40 minute bus ride to the airport ended up being 1.5 hours.

Maybe I should have missed my flight.

I raced through the airport.  It was 11:45 and my plane, scheduled for 11:30, had been pushed back to 12:10.  The lady at the desk looked at my information and quickly handed me my boarding pass saying, "학생 (haksaeg; student) run!" I made it to my gate just as they were boarding.  I really hoped that the bus ride was the worst of it.

No.

When it became clear that the flight was being delayed longer, I settled into wait.  The snow kept blowing out across the tarmac, stopping for brief periods of 20-30 mins before swooping in like a fire blanket: thick and smothering.

I'm glad I didn't work for the airport today...
It was kinda of weird seeing palm trees with snow.
In the end, I boarded a plane for a 5.5h flight from Jeju to Jeju.  Around 17h00 they told us that our flight was cancelled and we started rolling back to the airport to deplane.  My first deplaning.  ㅎㅎㅎ.  Well, since my flight was cancelled, I needed to cancel my return flight scheduled for Monday and so I then headed to the Air Busan service desk. As all flights were cancelled at this point, Audrey and Jenny were in their own lines and we agreed to meet up afterward.

By 19h15 we were finally all done.  And now came the hardest question: what next?  With the weather so bad, no taxis were heading back our way and we weren't really sure about the bus either.  That meant staying in Jeju for the night.  But how did we leave the airport and where did we go?  While we were all starving (we hadn't eaten since breakfast), all we wanted was a roof over our heads.

The line in 7/11 was so long I could only
find these at a vending machine.
Luckily, Jenny's mom has connections and after a few calls we found a place to crash.  But still: How did we get there?

Supposedly there was a shuttle bus, so we waited.  By 21h00 it was clear that it wasn't just running late and so we decided to try the taxi stand.  Unfortunately, the taxi stand was in the wind and the taxis weren't coming often enough and the cold soon chased us back to the airport.  We had tried calling a taxi earlier but the companies were so busy it was hard getting through.  (And by we, I really mean Jenny since she speaks fluent Korean).  But we were desperate enough to try again and thankfully we got lucky.

22h00 we were at last made it out of the airport and to a safe haven at 코스트웨이 (Coast Way), a pension run by Jenny's mom's friend.  She was super nice and even made us dinner for which we were so grateful!
Blurry but happy faces at surviving our day at the airport.
The worst of our adventure was over, and thankfully we were able to laugh and joke about it as we went.  We all agreed that had we been alone, we probably would have been miserable, but together we managed to stay somewhat optimistic.
Heading to the bus stop.  Jenny didn't realize I was taking a picture.  Oops.  Haha.
Simply stunning view of the sea this morning from the bus stop.  We could see the waves crashing into the shore with a chilling violence.  Still, the majesty is breathtaking.
Sunday morning, we managed to catch a bus to the terminal and then the bus back home.  While the roads were still bad and it took longer than we hoped to get back home, we made it.  By 15h30.  Just like that, our weekend was pretty much gone.

This quote was on the wall at the pension and I felt like it spoke a lot into our situation:
"Lost wealth can be regained, but lost time never."

We were able to get a refund for our flights, but our time was lost. However, I think that despite our circumstances, we were still able to laugh a lot and have fun. It certainly was an interesting adventure. 

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