Mongolia, Travel Advice

Always Pack Your Toothbrush In Your Carry-on

17 Comments 09 August 2009

Many people hate airline travel. They hate overpriced airline tickets, they hate the cramped space, the crying babies, the lost luggage, and the swine flu or myriad of other viruses you tend to catch on the plane. However airline travel is usually necessary to accomplish a vacation, so no matter how much you hate it, you have to take the bad to get to the good. However, I’m one of these freakish people that actually loves airline travel; it is full of good and bad, but it a sacrifice that I’m willing to make. When it comes to airline travel, I personally find that the bad seems to come in waves of bad luck, and then it vanishes and you have good luck for a while. My last year of airline travel has been pretty good, no major problems therefore my time was bound to come. It arrived in Korea on my way to Mongolia.

As with most travel, you tend you work your butt off up to the point of stepping on the plane. I am normally going at the speed of light leading up to trip, and once I set foot on that plane, I can relax…all I have to do is sit and do nothing; I love it.

“Hello, my name is Sherry and I love long plane trips.”
Yeah – I know this is weird.

The activity prior to leaving for Mongolia was no exception. The two nights prior I had only had about 5 hrs of sleep each night; I was tired when I stepped on the plane and promptly got out my little neck pillow, blew it up, and went to sleep. It was an overnight flight starting at 12:30AM from HCMC to Seoul. I was rudely woken up at 3 hrs later when they turned on all of the cabin lights and forced us out of our slumber in an effort to feed us breakfast.

I begrudgingly stayed awake for the rest of the flight and we arrived on time in Seoul. I had a 5 hour layover in Seoul and was honestly looking forward to being in a big international airport for a longer layover to simply look around, buy magazines, enjoy some fast food.

Yes – I know liking long flights and liking to spend time in airports may be the reason why I’m still single…it’s strange, it’s very strange.

I bought a few duty free camera supplies, ate an egg McMuffin, and utilized the free wireless. After 3 hours of enjoying myself I decided I should go and check in at the gate so I could get my boarding pass for my next flight. This meant that I had to switch to a smaller terminal, no problem. The Seoul airport is quite nice and very easy to get around, plus I was on my pre-vacation high!

My flight was at 12:30PM. I went to the transfer gate and was informed the flight was delayed and we had to come back at 1PM to check in. Ok – I can take this in stride. Two more hours pass and went back to check in. They said, no plane, come back in two more hours. Now I’m getting a bit annoyed.

Food at the airport

Food at the airport

My day is slipping by, I’m starting to get terribly tired and I’m hungry. I try to go back to the other bigger terminal to have lunch as there were some great restaurants over there and my current terminal only had fast food Asian. The security wouldn’t let me go back to Terminal 1 as I didn’t have a proper transfer. I tried to explain the situation – no luck – I was stuck with Asian fast food. On the bright side, it turned out to be pretty good.

Two hours later, I’m really tired , feeling gross, and I can feel a layer of film on my teeth reminding me that I had never been able to brush my teeth yet today and it’s now 3PM. When would I ever learn to pack my toothbrush and toothpaste in my carryon?! My red eye flight felt like 2 days ago and I was suddenly overcome with frustration. I went to the desk to check in – they said – come back 3 hours later.

That was it, my breaking point. I was doing great up until the sweaters formed on my teeth and my eyelids felt as if they were 5 lbs each. I looked at them and put forth my best plea – can you please give me a lounge pass so I can relax in a bit more comfort and take a shower? At this point I had been in the airport for about 9 hrs – I had reached my limit. They of course said no since the flight was due to a weather issue in Ulanbatar. They absolutely could not give me a pass. I begged more, tried to reason with them. They said all they could do was place a call the manager and ask. Great, call the manager I said.

The lesson here – nothing ventured, nothing gained. The manager granted me a Korean Airlines lounge pass…the gates opened, there was a bright light and angels singing…did I mention I was sleep deprived? Seriously though, it always pays to ask, the worst that can be said is “no”.

Korea Air Lounge

Korea Air Lounge

I went to the lounge and entered another world of comfortable chairs, English magazines and newspapers, a free buffet of food, free drinks plus an open bottle of wine. See….heaven. The first thing I asked about was a shower ; no problem, they gave me a key to my own little bathroom completely decked out with a plush towel, soap, shampoo, and wait one moment…what’s this? A toothbrush and toothpaste!

The shower room was brilliant – I felt a bit normal again – and my teeth didn’t feel like a woolie pullover any longer! I poured myself a glass of wine, got a plate of food and sat down to work online.

The delays continued for another couple of hours and we finally boarded the plane at 9:30 PM, 9 hrs after our original departure time. I had been in the airport for 14 hours now, I can safely say that I was pretty happy to leave and I was really happy that I had clean teeth!

just a bed...not room for anything else!

just a bed...not room for anything else!

The saga didn’t end in Seoul – but when I showed up 9 hrs late to Ulanbatar the Khongor guest house (a terrible recomendation from Lonely Planet) forgot to send the car that I had booked – so was stranded at the airport trying to fend off pushy cabbies and determine which one I could trust, how to find an ATM, and how to tell the cabbie where to go!  Not a great welcome into the country.  However the main thing is that I made it eventually; and tomorrow would be a new day!  I crashed in my little (very little) guest room and fell fast asleep after a long day of travel.

Hopefully this means that my airplane karma is back in the positive now. I’ve paid my dues, I’ve lost a whole day of my vacation – I personally think that’s enough sacrifice to the airline Gods…hopefully they think so too!

Your Comments

17 Comments so far

  1. sladescross says:

    Very entertaining!

    Lets hope you win the trip to Antartica as that should be some story to tell.

  2. Rhona says:

    I laughed at the way you described your teeth. I am very picky about my teeth also so I can totally understand that feeling of utter disgust when the film starts. Gross.
    Thanks for the great tip on airport lounge details. I had no idea such things existed so it is something I will keep in my back pocket. As you said, the most they can say is, “no”.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I don’t think you’re too abnormal- I love long plane rides and hanging out in airports too. It’s so nice to have nothing to do but sit back and relax…

  4. Drabbles says:

    I’ve been stuck at the airport in UB for 15 hours because of “weather”. Which, trust me, is a worse airport to be stuck at than Seoul! Funny thing was, the flight in from Beijing (the one I was meant to catch out) was only 20 mins from landing at UB when they turned around and went back to Beijing cos the pilot didn’t want to land. The joys of air travel :-)

  5. Mosh says:

    My worst was a 13-hour delay in one of the Rome airports about 18 months ago. Nothing likeyou describe as all the staff buggered off around 10pm. Myself and the rest of the passengers were left int he airport with nobody to harass or query about our flight. No lounge, no food, nothing until a truck arrived at 5am and dropped about 50 bottles of water at our feet then left again.

    Worse, due to European legislation we should have been fed, escorted to a hotel, brought back the next day and so on. The airline didn’t respond to complaints and the European people in charge, when I contacted them, told me to get in contact with the airline…

    That’s my one crappy experience and other than that airports just don’t bother me. I like ones that give me free wi-fi and benches I can sleep on when I have a long transfer or have to arrive ages before my check-in. Other than that they really start to look the same after a while!

    Oh except Paro International in Butan. Google it. It’s beautiful.

  6. Mosh says:

    Oh, and do watch if you pack your toothpaste in your carry-on in Europe, the US or Oz. Unless it’s a tube under 50ml and you wrap it in a secondary zip-lock clear plastic bag then some air-nazi may assume you plan to use it in a James Bond-esque plot to blow your way onto the flight deck.

    Because obviously as long as it’s inside a zip-lock plastic bag then it can’t possibly be a disguised explosive.

  7. admin says:

    @Drabbles – OMG – I feel so bad for you. The UB airport is horrible. You may have some reprive if you understand Korean – but that was all there was on TV when I was there, no wireless, and some really sad eating places. Ugh. I hope you made it out of there. If all else fails – try to talk yourself into the MIAT lounge! :)

  8. admin says:

    @mosh – how did you ever figure out my toothpaste terror plot? Curses!

  9. Ba says:

    Wow, as expected. This was great. I just learned about the lounge pass deal. I haven’t done enough air traveling to know such thing existed. Thank you for informing your fans. Since 9/11, any liquid or paste has to be in a 4 oz. or less container and is recommended to be placed in a quart size ziploc bag, according to the US Dept. of State. I am pretty sure you already knew that.

  10. admin says:

    @Ba – you make me laugh…fans??? I have fans??? That tickles me.
    Glad you liked the post and really glad I could enlighten you on airport lounge passes. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try!
    Strangely, most of the airports that I travel in/out of they only care abt the water restriction – they could care less if you have a bottle of sunscreen with you! It spoils me and I know I will be in for a shock when I come home to visit!

  11. Rebekah says:

    Just spent 9 hours at Dubrovnik airport myself after waking up at 4am to get a 6am flight. When told “cannot” at 5 to 6 I was too tired to be angry. Had some brekkie and a coffee, paid for the internet (paying for internet in airports is so yesterday!) and went and pretended to be a homeless person in the park out the front of the terminal. Took a bit of a nap on our beach towels, woke up and played a couple of hours of Uno with my lovely travel companion on the grass, had the cheapest airport lunch ever- a repeat of breakfast, only with beer, then went window shopping at duty free (I still can’t work out why they’re selling Hello Kitty and Panama Hats made in Equador in Croatia). Not so bad- but I think without the sleep in the park it would have been a very different story!

    P.S I can pretty much guarantee Drabbles that the pilot did in fact want to land, and his (or her) day would have been just as messed up as Drabbles’ because of the return to Beijing- only Drabbles probably got to drink better coffee for the day. 😉

  12. Ba says:

    I was prepared when I left the US to go visit VN back in April. I expected security to be the same at all major international airports. I found that on the US took the liquids and gels thing seriously. They didn’t seem to care at Taipei nor Tan Son Nhat which kinda worried me.

  13. Ba says:

    And yes, I do think that you have fans, lots of them, probably by the thousands.

  14. Dave and Deb says:

    This is a great post! So well written and funny! I loved it when you said angels singing:) don’t feel bad, I love airports and long flights too! I make Dave go early for our flights so that we can hang out in the airport for a little longer. I love eating unhealthy food and having a beer before leaving. It has become a ritual. Can’t wait to hear all about your time in Mongolia.

  15. Leslie says:

    It’s good to know there are more us who love airports and long plane rides. There’s something about the energy of being in a place where everyone is off to an adventure.

    Last month I had a nine-hour layover in Seoul. Fortunately, I was free to roam about the airport, so I got a room at the Incheon Airport Transit Hotel ( Something about the basic amenities of a shower and of course, brushing my teeth, felt like luxury. It seemed like a good way to rest before the next long flight, so I could make the most of all those movie options.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your trip to Mongolia.

  16. Anil says:

    I really like sleeping in airports and long flights – it’s a good way to force yourself to disconnect.

  17. Yikes! I’ve had a flight delayed 4 hours, and that was bad enough — can’t imagine 9 hours! In addition to a toothbrush, I think it’s always wise to bring a fresh pair of underwear in your carry-on. If you get stuck in an airport for a really long time (or if your bag gets lost) you will really want that clean pair of undies!

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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