Gyeongju

I wanted to try the KTX to Busan, in a way I was inspired by the movie ‘Train to Busan’ but not the zombies, I hate zombies, I prefer something that is dead to always be dead and not walk around eating the living. I talked about the KTX in my other post. I had limited time in South Korea so I only scheduled visiting Gyeongju for a one-day trip. I studied a little bit about Gyeongju before I decided what places I could visit in a limited time. I am always interested in archaeological findings, my undergraduate is Archaeology so it is a habit of knowing more about culture and ancient findings. I visited a lot of temples in Java during some of my road trips and found them fascinating.

BULGUKSA TEMPLE

Let’s go back to Gyeongju. The cold weather limited my visit to a couple of places, Bulguksa is one of what I want to see. It is considered to be one of the oldest temples of the world, in 1995 it is a World Cultural Asset by UNESCO.

From the page of Official Korea Tourism Organization I found that:

“Bulguksa Temple was built in 528 during the Silla Kingdom, in the 15th year of King Beop-Heung’s reign (514-540). The temple was originally called ‘Hwaeom Bulguksa Temple’ or ‘Beopryusa Temple’ and was rebuilt by Kim Dae-Seong (700-774), who started rebuilding the temple in 751 during the reign of King Gyeong-Deok (r. 742-765) and completed it in 774 during the reign of King Hye-Gong (r. 765-780). Upon completion, the temple’s name was changed to Bulguksa.”

In a very cold weather, I took the time to go around Bulguksa. I like cold but this was too cold for my second day in South Korea. In spite of this, the dry climate is an advantage for me, I am allergic to humidity. Can you imagine? I live in a tropical country with a high humidity. Thank God there are things called air conditioner and humidifier. If I travel to the countryside of Indonesia I get fresher air and I survive better. My impression of Bulguksa was…. It is a huge temple made out of wood with magnificent carving and decoration. As most East Asian temples that I know it is colorful, bright colors are a must. The roof is full of ornaments and of course dragons are present as one of the ornaments, the symbol of a dragon as an important mythical being is always present in East Asia important buildings. Dragon is the symbol of power, strength, and good luck. I always like looking at dragon figure in East Asia setting not because it is a powerful being that controls everything and it brings good luck, I simply like the shape.

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Looking at the map of Bulguksa it is divided into some parts. I have the privilege to see some, the cold weather slowed down my pace in getting to places. According to the map, there are 3 main places to see plus a beautiful garden. The pond was frozen at the time I visited, but I can imagine how beautiful it is during the summer. The library was closed for renovation so I could not see it. The main temple is the one in the middle. It is divided into some building with the Buddha statue in the biggest building. The main material is wood, differ than Indonesian old Buddhist temple that is made from stone. Maybe there were some made of wood but they did not survive the humidity, the dry climate made the wood preserved better. The back of the temple is the monastery.

There are two pagodas in Bulguksa. I was looking for the pagoda, I imagine a big pagoda, and I found it the middle of the temple far from ‘the big’ that I imagined. I watched too many movies. The feeling I got when I visited temples is the calm energy from the surroundings, maybe this is the reason they built a temple in a certain location. It was chosen because of the calm and serenity feel of the surroundings.

BUNHWANGSA TEMPLE

We decided to go to other places in we continued the journey and decided to go to Bunhwangsa temple. I took the number 700 bus from Bulguksa Temple. The temple gate is across the road, just walk across and you will find it.

Bunhwangsa stone pagoda. An old temple reminded me of temples in Java. I visited a lot of temples in Java everytime I went on a road trip, as my subject in university is archaeology.

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ANAPJI POND

I arrived at this place a little bit late, because I walked from Bunhwangsa and got lost. It was already dark. However, the darkness made the place more appealing to the eyes. This place is a summer palace where the royal family spent leisure time.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Train platform