Moving to South Korea, I was thrilled with the prospect of traveling around Asia. I still am. The actual travel part is wonderful. It's a dream come true. It's the planning that has me wanting to pull my hair out.
Planning a trip to a foreign country, from a foreign country is a whole new ball game.
First let's talk airfare. In America, I always took for granted the access I had to several major airports. If I couldn't get a flight out of Newark, well then I would try LaGuardia or JFK. Finding a flight really never posed a problem. In Korea -- there is one aiport providing international flights. That means flights are limited and book up fast. This is the first time I've been in a panic -- finding flight after flight booked up and feeling lucky to just get a seat.
If you need help, or want someone else to do the planning for you -- you can always call a travel agent. Well, that's in America, where travel agents all speak you language. I tried this route for my first trip abroad and was largely unsuccessful. Some agencies tried to help and connect me with English speaking agents, but then the tours they offered were only in Korean.
Well, there's always the internet, right? It provides a wealth of information, but often times the websites you need are in a foreign language. So, booking a train or bus ticket suddenly becomes a complicated affair.
Our fist trip was to Hong Kong and Macau. After the fruitless search for help from an agent, we planned this trip on our own. It was really a great location for us. First of all, once in Hong Kong you will find that English is widely spoken. Second, it's a really small area, which makes getting around on your own very easy. The public transportation is wonderful -- using the subway, buses, ferries, and jet boats, would could figure out how to island hop our way around. I ended up buying a guide book (Rough Guides are great) and used that as my research and planning tool. All went smoothly....
Our second trip will be to Japan in one week. Now, this planning process is proving to be more difficult. First of all, Japan is a much larger country, which means picking up and moving from city to city. Figuring out the transportation isn't as easy as I thought. Common problems are... I need to book a ticket and can't figure out how....or the website is in Japanese. Those two issues are usually connected! It's also a very expensive city, so if you want to figure out how to save a few dollars here and there, you need to do some research. Once again, I've got my guide book...and am slaving away on the computer!
I have one other thing working against me -- planning time. We didn't have a lot of notice about our time off, so planning a trip in 3 weeks kicks things into high gear. The good news is -- I should be really good at travel planning when I leave Korea!
More good news...I'm going to Japan! After all my griping, yes I am very excited. In Tokyo, we will be staying in a traditional ryokan. Picture Japanese housing with wooden details, tatami mats, and traditional baths. We already have our Sumo wrestling tickets! In Tokyo, there are only 3 national tournaments a year, and we are going. I'm thrilled. We'll get to go to Mt. Fuji and ride a bullet train to Osaka. I'm excited to experience Japan. But first....I've got some more details to figure out!