Transportation in South Korea

 

I love traveling by road and enjoying the beautiful scenery around me while experiencing the different kinds of public transport. When in Indonesia I have the privilege of driving my own car in other countries I depend on public transport and rental cars. Don’t afraid to get lost, you can always ask people around or you can use applications or websites to help you. My trip this time to South Korea I choose different kinds of public transport.

  1. SMRT (Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit) or for short Metro
  2. KTX (Korea Train Express) – Korail
  3. SRT (Super Rapid Train)
  4. Express Bus
  5. Public Bus

1. SMRT / Metro

Let’s begin with the metro. To get around Seoul I used the metro, it is the most efficient way. I pay for the tickets using the T-money, it is more convenient and you will get a KRW 100 discount. You just tap the card as usual in the entry and exit. Buying tickets are more difficult for me who do not read hangul. You can buy a T-money card in 7-11 or other mini-marts. The price of the card is KRW 2500, that is the plain one without any fancy picture, you can also top up in 7-11 or vending machine in all subway stations. When you leave South Korea you can refund the remaining credits in a 7-11 with a KRW 500 charge. Simple isn’t it.

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T-Money (transit smart card)

 

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Exit 8- Myeongdong Station

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Entry-Exit

There are 9 lines in Seoul metro and all are specified by numbers and colors. I don’t read Hangul (Korean character) so I memorize the color and number of the station. For instance, I want to travel from Myeongdong to Gyeongbokgung. I take the line 4 (blue) from Myeongdong (424) to Chungmoro (423), remember to take the side where the number get smaller to go to Chungmoro. There are always two sides in every line platform. After you reach Chungmoro (424) change to line 3 (orange) to Gyeongbokgung (327), it is about 5 stations after Chungmoro. From line 4 to Line 3 you have to walk a little, there always sign where to go so don’t worry. Don’t forget to take the correct metro line by looking at the number of the next stop above the subway door in the station.

You can see the subway map and train schedule plus the fare Subway guide It is very useful to plan your trip using the subway. Remember to know the name and number of the station you are going to stop.

2. KTX

KTX is a fast train. I have limited time in South Korea, and I want to visit as many places that I could. Gyeongju is located more than 400km from Seoul so to get there fast I chose to take the KTX. It took around 2-2,5 hours. Pretty fast for the distance. Next visit to Japan I should try the Shinkansen, I haven’t tried it last time I went there. I took the train from Seoul Station, I went there by metro and went up to where the KTX trains are. Travelling to Gyeongju I took the train to Busan, (without Zombies, fortunately) and stopped at Shigyeongju station. The station is quite new and situated outside of Gyeongju.  The ticket price is quite expensive, KRW 46,800 one way. When I checked, earlier trains are cheaper. You can buy the tickets online or buy it directly in the train station. At the ticket counter tell what station you are going to stop at. My destination was Shingyeongju so I took the train to Busan. The price also differ in what station you are stopping.

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Below is a KTX train ticket, it shows your destinantion (mine is Shingyeongju). The train number which is KTX 125 departure at 11.00, Car number 8 and the seats number.The other important thing is I know the platform where the train will leave. I asked the train staff before I enter the platforms and I make sure of it in the sign board. Unfortunately, again, I only can read the train number in the board. I should learn a little Hangeul or get myself a better translator using apps. I do have google translate apps  but sometimes I just don’t have the time to open it so I rely on my feeling.

KTX ticket

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When I arrived at Shiingyeongju I just got out of the train and followed the signs to exit the station. It is not a big station so everything was simple.

singyeongju-station-ktx

 

3. SRT

The SRT is also a fast train, similar to KTX , however it stops at Suseo in Gangnam and not Seoul station. It is a newer type of train, it was launched in December 2016. I got on this train from Shigyeongju, I planned to take the bus but it was late so I went back to Seoul by the fast train, it was an expensive day trip but it was worthed. I recommend you to stay a day or two in Gyeongju because there are a lot of places to see. You can read my experience in  Gyeongju here.

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SRT and KTX line

4. Express Bus

I planned to visit Sokcho. I searched on the net that from Seoul I can use the express bus around 2,5 to 3 hours. There are two express-bus terminals in Seoul, Dong Seoul and Seoul express bus terminal. I have chosen the one in Gangnam Area because it was easier to get to. I arrived at around 10 in Seoul Metro station – Express Bus terminal Line 1. I was a little bit confused in getting to the terminal. After I asked around I found out the express bus to Sokcho is in another building. So, I went there. Just tell the locket  staff where you want to go then they will give you a ticket to your destination.

Ticket counter and Platform 18
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Bus ticket

Seoul to Sokcho 18,100 KRW one way. Time of departure: 11:30 and the most important is I have to go to platform 18 for the 11.30 bus. There are a lot of platforms so don’t get lost. The bus will arrive at the platform, remember  the time of your departure that is the bus you have to get on. It is about 3 hours bus ride to Sokcho, so enjoy the ride. I travelled during winter, snow is everywhere. The bus only stop at one place to rest and go to the toilet, it is about 15 minutes. I arrived at Sokcho at around 2 pm. Lunch time, there was a lot of restaurants near the station (Dongbu Express). You can stop by and eat, a lot of seafood in the menu, especially fish. Try it.

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5. ITX

ITX train or you can say it is a fast train but not as fast as KTX or SRT. Visiting Nami Island, one of the well known tourist attraction near Seoul. You can actually take the metro but I want to try the ITX. There are two ITX services available; ITX-Cheongchun (ITX-청춘) on Gyeongchun Line, and ITX-Saemaul (ITX-새마을) on Gyeongbu, Jungang, and Honam Line. Traveling to Nami Island I take the Gyeongchun Line that travels from Yongsan Station (seoul) to Chuncheon Station (Gangwondo).

I start the journey from Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역). From Myeongdong Station I went by the metro (blue line then change ti dark blue line in Dondaemun), stop at Cheongyangni Station and switched to ITX train. If you want to book the train before hand it will better so you can secure the seat number.You can read about booking online here.

itx-booking-online
You can fill up the categories, My route was from Cheongyangni to Gapyeong.
  • Travel Category: Normal Type
  • Travel Type: Direct
  • Departure Date: —–
  • Departure/Arrival: Cheongyangni – Gapyeong
  • Train: ITX-Cheongchun
  • Passengers: How many adult and/or child in your group

After you push the inquiry button you will get the schedule and you can pick the time and seat number. The fare is about 4,300 Won for a seat, but 3,600 Won if standing. If the train is not full you still can get a seat in the standing area but of course it is less comfortable.You can print the booking confirmation or email it to your smartphone, don’t forget your passport because that is your identification to collect the actual tickets at the counter.

 

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However, I bought my tickets at the moment of arriving and it is quite confusing. First, because I used the metro card I have to tap so it could read that I was off the metro and getting in somewhere else. You can do this in a machine near the entrance of the ITX train, it is called the Transit Card Reader. After that, I had to buy the tickets for the ITX in another machine. The problem began here, I do not read Hangeul and it was difficult to  change the screen into English. I asked people around, and they were all very helpful. I bought two tickets and on my way to Gapyeong station, that is the station if you want to go to Nami Island.

itx

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Train platform

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One day trip – Cirebon

 

From the past, Cirebon is known for its fish and shrimp. Even its name Cirebon confirms this, Ci means water and rebon means shrimps. Because of the port, Cirebon became a place that came to contact with people from different parts of the world. We could see how various culture merge into one in some old buildings in Cirebon. We could visit some of the famous buildings, one of them is the palace or Keraton in Indonesian. There are more than one palaces that we could see in Cirebon, some of them are still being used by the family of the king’s descendants. I only visited two palaces, Keraton Kasepuhan dan Keraton Kanoman. The first one Kasepuhan means sepuh = old, it is the older building. Keraton Kanoman means anom= young was built after the Keraton Kasepuhan.

Keraton Kasepuhan is the biggest from all keratons in Cirebon. It is well kept and easy to visit. The palace is in a complex together with an alun-alun= a field to gather people and a mosque. It is the pattern of old Indonesian cities in Java (Keraton, Alun-alun, Mosque, and there usually a market nearby). You can see this pattern in Jogjakarta, Solo or other big cities in Java that was built during the Dutch colony. It was built in 1447 and its architecture and interior are a blend of Sundanese, Javanese, Islamic, Chinese and Dutch styles.

Keratonan Kanoman is smaller, and located near the market. It was quite difficult to find it, you need to go by becak, motorcycle or just walk around 10 minutes from Keraton Kasepuhan if it is not too hot. I went by becak to go there, but I walked back to Keraton Kasepuhan where I parked my car. At the side of the heat, it was alright. Beside looking at the old building and its beautiful architecture, you can also visit the museum a see the king’s carriage which is a remarkable work of art.

Another place that I went to is Sunyaragi cave, you can also visit this place easily. It is near a busy street. In the past it was surrounded by water, nowdays you cannot see the water anymore. The building is peculiar, strange looking man-made cave made out of corals. You have to see it to know what I mean. I read that this place was built for the king to meditate and rest. It must be a quiet place in the past, but with the busy street near by it is not a good place to meditate today.

Cirebon is also famous for its Batik, with one of the most famous motive the ‘Megamendung’. The famous batik seller in Cirebon is Trusmi, they become famous since how many years ago. You can visit their store, beside selling batik you can also learn and see how batik Cirebon is made. The batik is colorful in Cirebon and some are very affordable. I am not a big shopper so I never really have a huge budget for shopping.

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Cirebon Batik patterns

Trusmi

Trusmi Batik

 

Last but not least, don’t forget to find traditional meal around Cirebon. You can’t miss the Empal Gentong from Cirebon, people say it is very tasty. I prefer Empal Asem as it is more to my taste, I don’t like Santan= coconut milk. There are several Empal Gentong sellers in Cirebon. One of the well-known one is Empal Gentong Haji Apud. You have to come a little earlier before lunch time or way after lunch time in holiday season. It is always packed with people. It causes a traffic jam during lunch hour.

 

 

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empal gentong sign

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Cooking the empal gentong

Around the Mount Rinjani – Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep

Some of us like the mountain better than the sea. The cool weather and the air that smells of wet leaves are more appealing. Lombok has one famous mountain, Mount Rinjani. It is 3.726 m from the sea level, and known as the second highest volcano in Indonesia after Mount Kerinci in Sumatera. Indonesia is famous for the ring of fire, many active volcanoes are in Indonesia.

The highland of Rinaji was my next destination. I have the chance to see the foot of the mountain, there are a lot of waterfalls surrounding the mountain. The location is accesible by car or other mode of transportation. The journey from my hotel in Sengigi was quite smooth. I took the route Sengigi – Sonaru through the West Coast of Lombok to reach the waterfall site. The roads were in a good condition, so it does not take long to reach the destination. When you arrive at the destination there will be a sign saying “Welcome to Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfalls”. The two waterfalls are the most visited by tourist, so the accesibility is not that difficult.

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The entry sign

The waterfall located in two different place, however they have the same entry. To reach the first waterfall, Sendang Gile, you have to walk down a flight of stairs to the first waterfall. It is a long way down and the stairs are very steep. The stairs are made from concrete, they are quite slippery when rain comes, the journey down was easier than the journey upward. There are some rest stops so people can take a little break, a helpful thing for a person like me.

The second waterfall or Tiu Kelep can be reached after you walk further. It can be reached in around 10-15 minutes, it takes longer for me though. The scenery on the way to the second waterfal was beautiful, you can have the feel of walking inside a forest. The smell of wet leaves and the sound of wild animal will accompany you along the way there. It was a fun experience visiting these two waterfalls.