Our trip to the middle of the world
All good things come to an end, so does our trip through South America. We spent a few days in Quito, the highest capital of the world and visited the old town. On top of that, we went up the funicular to enjoy the view over Quito from 4.200m altitude and also managed to make some great timelapse videos.
Johannes was really keen on trying Guinea pig, but no matter what people tell you, it doesn't taste like chicken! Quito is OK, but shops (in the city center) close early in the evening (pharmacies and supermarkets as well), the transportation system is not the best and the weather is rather cold, so it didn't really make us fall in love with the city. However, there is a restaurant with a rooftop terrace called vista hermosa which is definitely worth a visit! The view was just beautiful and the style of the interior as well.
Not too far away from the city there is the mitad del mundo - the middle of the world (0'0'). We decided to take the more adventurous route and found our way through the big city jungle by using local transportation.
Visiting the president's palace and seeing a familiar face
On our last day, we visited an old gothic style church and while you can see these type of churches everywhere in Europe, getting up the tower was quite unique as it all consisted of some metal ladders. A health and safety instructor in UK would have probably gone crazy:)
Later during the day we actually managed to get into the presidential palace without pre-booking. It was a Spanish tour but our lovely tour guide Gabi translated the important parts in English. Gaby studied 'engineering and eco-tourism' so the two of us had a lot to talk about from a tourism point of view. We also got informed that the president of Ecuador gets diplomatic presents very often and some of them are sold to collectors and the money is used for local projects. Whereas we admire the president's generosity to donate his presents, we didn't even know that presidents were allowed to receive diplomatic souvenirs in the first place, because of the risk of corruption and 'acting in someones favor' ( Then again, maybe the Germans see it more critical than other nations...).
Our last evening, we ended up having dinner with Jon, one of the guys we met on our boat trip through Galapagos and a funny fellow indeed. He decided to postpone his flight back to Seattle in order to 'spontaneously' fly to Peru to climb Machu Pichu:) So with great food and an even greater company, we finished our trip in South America and were ready to see Asia!
But the flight wasn't as smooth as we hoped. At least flying around the world really helps to eliminate airlines from your list. This time we flew with Iberia, with a 1hr layover in Madrid. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this is not that much time to spare, but even after having asked 3 times if we would actually be able to make it onto the connecting flight, and our luggage as well, we were guaranteed that it shouldn't be a problem. Well, turns out that we didn't make it onto our flight thanks to Iberia, and my luggage was lost thanks to Lufthansa! On top of that, Iberia had such poor customer service that they deserve an award for that (We had tickets and seats assigned and although the boarding was still ongoing, they had given the seats away to stand-by customers AND also had an attitude, just to mention a few topics). In the end, one day before our flight to Asia, the luggage thankfully arrived in Frankfurt.
A glimpse at Korea: Sightseeing and friend-a-vouz in Seoul
Our first destination in Asia was Vietnam with a layover in Seoul. Our backpacks were completely checked through so we only had to care about our hand luggage. First of all, we visited my old university and sent out postcards which we couldn't send earlier in Ecuador due to ridiculous porto of 4$ for one postcard. We also went to bukchon hanok village, the old city center with traditional housings overlooking the financial district- one of my most favorite places in this city. Afterwards, we walked through Insadong ( a shopping street with traditional handcrafts) and took the subway to Gangnam, a wealthy district of the city and also popular due to SPY's song 'Gangnam style'. This is also where we met with Jessica, a good friend of mine and again, seeing each other makes one realize how much one has actually missed the other person. After a very short meeting and a delicious Bulgogi dinner, we had to part ways again to take the last metro to the airport.
Need a place to sleep in Korea? Go to a Jimjibang, a spa + sleeping facility in one!
A Jimjibang is a traditional Korean spa and includes of sauna as well as other spa facilities. Unlike in any other country that I know, in Korea it is actually possible to sleep at the spa in sleeping rooms or in the lounges, mixed genders or separated, as you wish. some mattresses and 'pillows' are provided and the sauna is open almost 24/7, with one or two hours break at night for cleaning purposes. In addition, sleeping at a sauna is cheaper than getting a proper accommodation (with roughly 10$ depending on the sauna) so we found these arguments quite convincing. The airport itself has a spa and we decided to sleep there, giving us the opportunity to go to the sauna in the morning (or whenever one pleases) , to take shower and to be at the gate in 10 min max.
After a very hearty Korean breakfast, we boarded our plane towards Vietnam.