Three trains to Busan

The zombies are coming! And they are us.

Yo! I never want to stay in a traditional Korean floor bed again. When I saw the complaints online I dismissed them as foreigners unused to futons. Now I admit they have a valid point.

I couldn’t find a comfortable position, no matter how I twisted and turned. And when I finally fell asleep I awoke an hour later with dead parts of my body where the hard floor had cut-off blood flow. Again and again.

I don’t need an alarm to wake me up. I’m already awake at a quarter past five. We lock up the room behind us as quietly as possible and roll our luggage along towards the main road in the pre-dawn gloom.

We’re not sure how we will get to the train station, but we head to the nearest bus stop. No times are shown and taxis race past without stopping.

Eventually a bus, without destination, stops twenty metres away. After 10 minutes it lights up with a bus number that should stop at the station and we board.

We are the first passengers. Eventually an old man boards and greets us. I don’t understand most of what he says, but I know enough to say “Hoju” (Australia) to his “Hangeul?”

There is an English screen and announcements in the bus and we arrive at Jeonju station with plenty of time to spare for our train to Busan.

Not just one train. Three. The fastest route is to take the KTX north, then change to the southern line to Busan. But all seats are booked on that and I have to resort to maps to work out an alternative.

Three Mugunghwa Expresses, the first to Suncheon, another to Samnangjin and the final train into Busan. The route pretty much follows that of the tourist S-Train (what as strain!), so I knew the scenery should be good.

An electric locomotive hauled train rolls up at the platform and we climb up on board. The carriages are older, but comfortable and with power to the seats.

Smoke and fog cloud the mountain landscape as the moon drifts downwards and the small specks of aircraft glimmer in the skies above.

An hour and a quarter later and we pull into Suncheon, a city with a substantial train station. We cross the road to get a breakfast at the Paris Baguette and are looking at some of the fresh fruit market stalls when I realise I’ve left me wallet in the patisserie.

It was there waiting for me.

The next train is only two carriages with crumbling paint jobs, plus a guards van in length and diesel locomotive hauled. It’s also packed. None of us are sitting together and neither do we.have window seats.

Thankfully, the young man next to me doesn’t mind leaving the window curtain partly open so we can enjoy the magnificent view outside of mountain ranges, rivers and cities.

There’s one dodgy gangster type who tries to intimidate people into giving up their seat for him. We try to ignore him.

Samnangjin is the quietest of the stations we stop at today and is probably my favourite. There are information signs about it’s history and a variety of eateries around it. I buy some drinks from the 7-Eleven and the older owner greets me in English.

It’s the kind of destination that I love.

Our final train ride is the shortest at 36 minutes and back in window seats. We follow a wide river for a while with lovely views out the window. Then we hit the outskirts of Busan, where the buildings are tall apartments and offices in the foreground, and older, denser houses up the steep hills.

Busan’s station building is big, modern and busy, with multiple levels of shops and restaurants. There is a lookout over the port.

Our hotel is a walk down the road. I would love to fall asleep in the bed, because I am now a zombie, a slow zombie unlike those in Train to Busan. But it’s lunch time.

Alex chooses Egg Box in the station, despite it having a branch in Sydney. I give it a go too.

B wants Korean food and orders a grilled fish set from another restaurant.

Still no sleep as we board the metro to explore Busan, catching it to Haeundae, a glitzy and buzzing beach lined with skyscrapers, statues on buoys and beautiful views of distant islands..

At the end of the beach is Mipo Port with its many seafood restaurants and the Busan Green Railway walking trail, following the old coastal route of the railway. But better than that is the Blue Line Beach Train service that still runs scenic trams, plus another which has four person monorail capsules above.

The Sky Capsule service is sold out for today and the next available Beach Train isn’t until 6.45pm. But I book it and say we might as well have a dinner here.

Dinner is a seafood treat at a open sided restaurant right by the port. We order sashimi, grilled fish and a mixed seafood hotpot with various molluscs including abalone, along with crab and vegetables. It’s cheaper than we can get in Australia and very generous.

The side dishes are interesting, including edamame beans, pickled seaweed, octopus, a cheesy sweetcorn sauce and silkworm larvae.

Yes, a bowl of insects.

I had silkworm before in China and absolutely hated it. I try one again and, it’s okay I suppose, flavoured, not as disgustingly squishy on the inside, but I’d still rather not.

After the gorgeous sunset we walk back up to the Beach Train and join the boarding queue.

All the tram seats face the coast, but I have to stand. Once boarded, the lights are switched off and we begin our leisurely journey around the coast.

Although the water is dark, the foam is white and the shops and restaurants colourfully lit in the way that I love. I certainly enjoy the ride.

It’s a bit of a walk from the Songjeong terminus to Songjeong metro station. Along the way we stop by McDonalds for a strawberry soft-serve and peach juice l, which is different from Australia.

It’s another couple of subway lines to return to Busan station, making our train tally to eight for the day.

We wander around Busan’s Chinatown and Texas Street opposite the station, both which feel a little seedy, before returning to the hotel.

I admire the way that South Korea has preserved some of its scenic old railway lines with rail bikes, trails and the Beach Train. I saw another Rail Park and an amusement park with a massive steel framed train it it on the way to Busan today.

I wish Australia followed South Korea’s example!

Filed under: