March 8, 2011 3:40 PM   Subscribe

I have an overnight stopover at Incheon, Korea. What should I do?

My flight gets in at 5pm to Incheon airport and doesn't leave till 1pm the next day. The airline puts me up for free at a hotel near the airport.

It seems a bit rushed to get the 1 hr train into Seoul to sightsee for the evening -- I would have to get back again pretty quickly same night, to take advantage of the free hotel bed.

Assuming that's a non-starter, what fun stuff should I see/do/eat at Incheon that evening? I'm not a big fan of hanging out at the hotel bar.

Snowflake factor: gay & vegetarian friendly would be good.
posted by dontjumplarry to Travel & Transportation around Incheon, South Korea (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure why it's a nonstarter to go into Seoul-- I did it during a daytime 8 hr layover I had a couple years ago. you should check how late the train runs, but I remember it being pretty easy to use; Incheon is a big airport, yes, but Seoul is a *city*.
posted by nat at 4:26 PM on March 8, 2011

Response by poster: I was just figuring that by the time I cleared immigration, check in at hotel, shower, got to the train, and made it into Seoul, I'd barely have time for a meal before having to head straight back again.

But if Incheon is really that boring maybe I'll go....
posted by dontjumplarry at 4:44 PM on March 8, 2011

Depends where your hotel actually is. I planned on doing exactly that on a recent stopover, but the airline's hotel was about an hour's drive from the airport in a super inconvenient location. So hotel bar it was... So check if you will actually be staying in Incheon and adjust accordingly!
posted by teststrip at 5:00 PM on March 8, 2011

Not much to do in Incheon, unfortunately. Pretty bland, and Korea itself is not what I would call a gay-friendly place. Kinda backwards in that regard sadly. Getting into Seoul is easy and there would be way more to see and do there. Take any bus that goes to Gangnam and you'll find a ton of action.

And if you're looking for gay bars your best bet is the foreigner area called Itaewon. There's a street there known informally as Homo Hill for all of the bars there. Not to be confused with it's seedy sister street just one over called Hooker Hill. No explanation needed there I think.
posted by fso at 6:15 PM on March 8, 2011

Vegetarian dishes are uber-expensive here. Worst Korea (if you get the joke) is a conservative Presbytarian Christian republic. You know, extremely anti-gay.
posted by sanskrtam at 7:15 PM on March 8, 2011

Incheon airport offers a variety of transit tours for people with layovers of various lengths. These include night tours which might be a bit cheesy, but a way to see a bit of the city and get dinner.

If you have the inclination, you could try one of their tours the next morning - I've been curious about the kimchi-making tour or DMZ tour. I assume since the tours are based out of the airport they are sensitive to getting you back in time for your flight.

Just curious, which airline puts you up in a hotel, and which hotel?
posted by scrambles at 8:09 PM on March 8, 2011

For sure Korea's not "gay-friendly", but I wouldn't say it's anti-gay here; being gay is not really an "issue" here because many people are simply in denial of homosexuality's very existence. You certainly get your fair share of Christian evangelists here, but even the most extreme one don't seem to harp on The Sin Of Homosexuality anywhere near the way you might find such sentiment in the US.

Anyway, back on track: Incheon city doesn't have much worth seeing in such a limited time and is not much closer to the airport than Seoul is. The airport is on its own man-made island with gold courses, several nice hotels, and of course, the airport. There's an express train into Seoul that takes 40 minutes or so, but honestly, the best stuff to see in Seoul requires daylight. Assuming your hotel *is* on the island by the airport, you're probably better off crashing at the hotel and enjoying the amenities-- and you're far more likely to find something at the hotel that's vegetarian-friendly. Although I'm not gay, I am a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian in Korea is probably somewhat like being gay-- very few people really understand the concept.
posted by holterbarbour at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2011

The city tours that scrambles links to might be worth it. I know the day tour goes to some cool places, but I'm not sure about the night tour.

The subway back to Incheon shuts down around midnight, so after that you'd have to pay a hell of a lot for a cab to get back to your hotel.

As mentioned, the only gay friendly area in Seoul is Itaewon and by the time you get there you'd have to turn around and get back on the subway unless you could figure some other form of transportation out.

Incheon itself isn't that exciting, but there is a Chinatown that's kind of nice. There's also Wolmido, kind of a boardwalk area, but this time of year it's still pretty cold.

I can't imagine a DMZ tour being viable. The bus ride alone to the border from Seoul is about two hours each way, given the numerous checkpoints.
posted by bardic at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2011

I'd differ from some in saying that Seoul is actually more interesting at night (it's certainly prettier).

Depending on how adventurous you are, one thing you could consider is using the airport hotel as a bag drop and crashing out at a motel or jjimjilbang in central Seoul, thus saving you the travel time. You can get a room in a cheap motel for about 40k won and sleeping in a jjimjilbang is probably no more than 10k.

Homosexuality is regarded by many Koreans as just another weird thing that foreigners do. I've never heard of any violence or abuse directed at foreign gay men or women. Many behaviours that are labelled gay in the west, such as physical affection between male friends, are normal in Korea. If you're looking for a scene, homo hill in Itaewon is welcoming and the bars and clubs there have a variety of levels of cruisiness.

It's hard to get 'pure' vegetarian food in Korea, although there are many non-meat dishes, because many of them will use fish oil or a meat broth. If you can't put up with that, you should investigate one of the few specifically vegetarian restaurants.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:41 AM on March 9, 2011

Quite a few vegetarian restaurants around - google around for a few cool sites.

Incheon has Jayu Park and Korea's only real Chinatown - both are fine almost any time of year. If you're more interested in the ultra-bleeding edge, you can take Incheon's one subway line to the southern, land-based part of the city.

If you like the night life, Bucheon is closer and straight down the subway. Take a taxi from Bucheon station to Bucheon City Hall to find the hotspot there.
posted by chrisinseoul at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2011

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