Saturday, April 25, 2009

See Visa. See Visa Run. Run Visa Run

Since my E-2 (teaching English) visa is tied directly to my employer, I need a new visa before I start at my new job. The Korean Government doesn't allow you to get a new visa in country. Instead, you need to leave the country, go to a Korean Consulate in a different country, and get the visa there. It's called a "visa run." My new employer few me to Japan and back with 11,000 Japanese yen (about $110), 39,380 Korean Won (about $30) plane tickets, a hotel reservation, and a instructions to bring back receipts: I set out on my 2 day Japanese adventure.

My first challenge is to get to the airport on time. My flight leaves at 09:30. Giving myself a 2 hour cushion, I need to be at the airport 07:30. I can catch the airport shuttle bus outside my apartment (living across the street from city hall has some advantages). I'm about a 2 hour ride away from the airport, so that means taking off at 05:30. In the morning...ugh... But to be on the safe side, I set my alarm for 04:00 and hit the hay at the abnormally early 11:00 at night.

I woke up, opened my eyes, and reached for my alarm. Just then it goes off in my hands. SWEET Who needs an alarm clock when you've got an internal clock like mine!!! I've got a lazy hour and a half to get up get ready. I admire the sunrise, start the hot water for my shower and coffee.

That's when I notice the clock of the stove.


I run and check my watch...yep I've overslept by TWO HOURS. So my for my internal alarm clock. So much for my lazy morning ritual. I grab my backpack and head downstairs.

I check the times posted for the airport shuttle bus. One bus just left and the next shuttle leaves in 45 minutes. I have 3 options: I can wait for the next shuttle, I can take the subway, or I can hail a cab. The question is am I mover or a shaker? I choose both, I shake a leg and get a move on.

I hop on the next bus to the nearest subway station. After a 20 minute bus ride, a 1:30 subway ride, and a 30 minute airport train, I'm at the airport. I've just traveled from the far east to far west side of the world's great cities in about 2 hours and for about $3.50.

Public transit rocks!

I get to the airport at about 8:30 get on the airplane at 9:10. I've learn 2 things so far.
1) I need a new alarm clock
2) A Snickers for breakfast doesn't "Really Satisfy"

The flight over to Fukuoka (the city I'm getting my Visa at). I notice a few foreigners on the shuttle to the subway way system. Before I hop on the subway, I grab a bag of peanuts. Breakfast at last!!! But sadly no receipt...

I hop on the subway with my trusty set of Visa Run instructions. I notice one of the foreigners from the airport shuttle holding the same set of South Korean consulate instructions that I have. Sweet...a partner in crime.

There are 2 ways to get to consulate. One that involves a subway stop and then walking for a mile...or...we can take an earlier stop, catch a bus, and get dropped off right in front of the consulate. We choose the option where we get dropped of right in front of the consulate (the bus option) as there there's less chance of getting lost. Right?
We hop off the subway and walk up to the terminal. My first thought is, "It's HUGE." This isn't a bus stop. It's a shopping/corporate/tourist complex/bus stop. We don't see a bus stop. We see 20 bus stops. We pick a bus stop at random and check our insturctions. This stop doesn't have any of the buses that we need. We walk 20 meters and check the next bus stop...This one has 3 of the buses that we need. We wait 10 minutes and hop on the 155 bus.

The instructions indicate that it's about a 20 minute to the Fukuoka Tower/Fukuoka Dome (whatever those are) . After 20 minutes of riding on the bus, we are at the bus station, it's the end of the line. We haven't seen anything resembling a dome or a tower. I wouldn't be surprised if we weren't in the same city anymore. We pull into the bus station and the driver indicates that this is the end of the line.


My companion walks up to the bus driver and asks him where the tower is.

He gives us a blank stare.

She decides to switch the the universal language...pointing at the map.

She whips out the map and point to the tower and dome.

His eyes light up and he begins to chuckle. He begins to speak, but then realizes we won't understand him. He chuckles again.

I think I understand.

I give him the thumps up sign and jerk it over my shoulder.

He smiles, nods, bows and we groan.

WE WENT THE WRONG WAY. At least we are at a bus station. All we need to do is wait for the next 155 bus leave.

We attempt to pay, but he refuses!!! Not only that but a minute later when we are on the 155 leaving the station, he runs up and tells the bus driver where we are going. What an awesome guy!!!

Let's see...we got the the consulate, submitted the paperwork, and walked around town. She checked into hostile and I went and found my hotel. I checked into my undersized room and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I woke up and brushed my teeth the the complimentary tooth brush. When I say tooth brush...I mean a brush so small that is only big enough for cleaning only one tooth at a time. I head down to the first floor restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. I submit my meal ticket, pour myself a cup of coffee, sit down, and wait for my meal.

The next hotel patron (a Japanese man) comes in, submits his meal ticket and gets served breakfast as soon as he sits down. As does the next Japanese guy and the one following him. Meanwhile, I've had 2 cups of coffee and no breakfast. It may not look like the most appealing breakfast in the world (seaweed, something that might have been fish at one point, etc) but what happened to that great Japanese service I experienced with my bus driver? But I'm hungry and will eat just about anything!

Just then, a waitress comes over and sets a plate down in front of me. I understand the delay now. On the plate are sausages, rolls, a banana, and an egg sunny side. A very American breakfast if I ever saw one. Made just for me.

I took some pictures of a Buddhist temple that I found picking up my visa via the "scenic route" I took.

I can't much else on my trip is worth writing home about.

Well, there is one more thing. I arrived at the Incheon airport and proceeded to look around for the signs to the train back into Seoul. While I was waiting, I got hassled by 3 taxi drivers itching for fares. Apparently, my white skin and the backpack I was wearing screamed tourist as opposed to "I live here."

P.S. Oh and I went to a parade and moved.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome story, Phil! Sounds like a fun-filled weekend. I'm glad you're in one piece and that Japan didn't kill you.