21 Jul 2006
The invitation from OMNI for me to attend the 2nd International Citizens’ Reporters’ Forum in Seoul came through an email of May 23rd originating from Jean K. Min-the company’s director of communications. I was elated to attend the conference and also visit Korea for my first time. But how do I go to Korea from Cameroon? There is no Korean embassy in Cameroon, so I had to go to neighboring Nigeria for visa (see story at this link http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/articles/article/2076041/53397.htm).
OhmyNews International had made reservations with Air France so that I could fly from Cameroon to France (about 6 hours) and then from France to Korea. It was a good idea but citizens from my country need a transit visa to pass through France. By the time I finally returned from Lagos with the Korean visa, it was late for me to apply for a transit visa from the French Consulate in Douala, because the waiting time after contacting them can be up to two weeks.
Earlier, I foresaw this visa problem coming and as such I requested the conference organizers to authorize me to use an alternate route in case I could not obtain a French visa. That request was granted and I contacted Kenya airlines.
I took off from Cameroon shortly before 1 am in the morning of 9th July for Nairobi (Kenya) en route to Seoul via Bangkok (Thailand). It took us 4hours 5minutes to reach Nairobi. My next flight to Bangkok was in fourteen hours' time and I had to wait for it in the airport transit lounge as I was not allowed to get out of the Jomo Kenyatta airport because I did not have a Kenyan visa. With the waiting over, we boarded a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft that is jointly operated by Kenya Airlines and Korean Airlines for the 9 hours 35 minutes flight to Bangkok.
We arrived Bangkok mid-day on the 10th July and my next flight to Seoul was at midnight (a
long twelve hours away). I was already tired and sleepy. I looked around the transit Lounge at Bangkok and saw a notice that read ‘Day Room Services’. I made inquiries and was told that the least room will cost 44 USD for 4hours. I politely walked away to another counter with a notice ‘City Tour For Transit Passengers’. I reasoned that I could use my waiting time to make a tour of Bangkok city. I approached the young lady behind the counter and inquired if I could participate in the tour and at what price? “What passport are you holding?” She asked. “ Cameroonian passport” came my reply. “Do you have a visa for Thailand?” She inquired. “No”. I said. She shook her head and concluded; “No, you cannot go outside.” I then walked calmly to my seat for the long wait for my next flight to Seoul.
Thailand has invested enormously in the aviation industry. Thousands of Thai women are employed in its related services.
The last leg of my journey was in a B777-300 Korean Airlines jet. The population that was waiting to board the plane gave me an indication of how big the aircraft could be.
The information I gathered about the aircraft shows that it is 73.9 metres long, 18.5m high and with a wingspan of 60.9m. It was carrying 367 passengers and has a cruising speed of 905 km/hour. We were like a whole village gathered in the belly of a giant bird. When you experience it practically, you start questioning the wisdom of constructing bigger planes like the Airbus A380 that has the capacity to carry 555 passengers. (see image of clouds over Korea at this link http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/albums/album_image/2075996/1060811.htm
I arrived Incheon International airport on the 11th July at about 7 am-one day ahead of the conference date. In all, my journey to Korea took me about 18 hours in the air and 26 hours in transit on the ground. I had good reason to spend the whole day of July 11th sleeping.
Njei Moses Timah