Saturday, October 14, 2006

Seoul Train

Part five in a five part series on my visit to Seoul.

This final posting in my Seoul Series is dedicated to the transportation to and from Seoul.

My trip to Seoul utilized about every form of public transportation that exists. I used a bus to get to the Janseongpo Ferry Port. There is a port in my city of Gohyeon, but it receives the first ship of the day instead of sends. That means I would have had to wait until 10:30 to leave instead of 8:00. Then, in Janseongpo, I bought my ferry ticket and was instructed to write my name, phone number, and passport number on my ticket. I thought that was a bit odd. It wasn't as if they were going to do a security check or something--I bought the ticket ten minutes before the ship left. Then, as I went to the ship and the machine took the half of the ticket with my info on it, I realize the purpose: it was in case the ship sank.
Below is the wake from my one of the Busan-->Gohyeon ferry, the Gold Coast.

The ride was very smooth. When I landed in Busan, a cabbie immediately tried to rip me off by trying to sell me a ride to the train station--about a mile away--for W10,000 (~$10.00). Standard fare in Korea starts at W1,800. I turned him down and found a guy that was more reasonable--I was in a hurry, but not in a $10.00 hurry. I paid W20,000 for the ferry ride.

I was able arrive at the station, and catch the train ten minutes before it left. The KTX (I think it stands for Korean Train Express) is the "bullet" train of Korea. It is among the fastest in the world, was was one of the nicest trains I've been on--forget the fact that most of my train rides were in Ukraine. One very odd thing I noticed was the behavior of the younger train staff. A guy, maybe a bit older than me, would walk through the cars periodically. When he entered the car, he would bow at the waist as the automatic door closed behind him. Then, after making his way through the train, he would turn around and bow before he left. This is probably the best example of the occasional "over niceness" that I have seen in Korea. When a more senior train employee would walk through, he would do so without hesitating and certainly without bowing.

The Seoul subway line was among the easiest I've ever used. I think Washington DC's is still the easiest, but it doesn't have that many lines. Seoul has eleven lines. The trains were pretty comfortable, it was easy to find where we were going, and they ran until about 11:45pm. One comment about the Seoul subways is that this is where I was introduced to vending machine green tea latte. It was late one night, and I was advised by a fellow traveler that those green tea drinks have the most caffeine. I still don't believe him, but I tried the only one on the menu, a green tea latte. These machines are literally on every other block in Korea and every twenty yards in the subway stations. They are like the coffee/cappuccino vending machines in the states. So, I ordered my green tea latte and experienced one of the best drinks ever. Seriously. It wasn't made out of that barley water that everyone calls green tea here. It was the real stuff, with real steaming milk. Mmmm. Highly recommended.

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