Sunday, August 18, 2013

Riding with Style in SK

These past few weeks have kept me from writing my experiences here in SK (I've been trying to faithfully stick with my morning exercises, hanging out with friends, daily house chores and more.. which also includes reading books and studying).

Without batting an eyelash, let's talk about public (land) transportation system of this country and why it is whole lot better than in the Philippines. Here are the reasons why:

Old train model on display which is just right in front of Seoul Museum.
Getting around in the country can be done either by buses, subway system and trains. They are very reliable, dependable and run on schedule.

There are two train systems in Korea- the KTX and Korail which are managed by Korail company I guess you can say.

If you are into long distance, slow travel with a little bit of country sight seeing, then Korea Light Rail or Korail is for you.It runs on a regular speed (pretty much like our train system in the Philippines, only that SK's look absolutely much much better). I and my husband took a ride once together when we went to Gumi. The tickets can be purchased online or if you are not a tech savvy, you can simply get it from the station itself. Our tickets altogether cost about 8k (4k a piece) for a one way ride. The receipts we got (which is also true as with any other Korail passengers) bear the train number and ride schedule. The trains here are very precise so you'll need to wait at the designated platform area otherwise, you'd miss the ride and say goodbye to your won.

Korail station and a lot of walk in passengers purchasing KTX tickets

On the other hand, if you just want to cut the long hours of travel short, then you should take the KTX. Like with Korail, you can make reservations online or purchase it at the station. My husband got ours online and we boarded the train from Seoul to Chilgok.

Both KTX and Korail have information bulletin board which let you know your train number's arrival and departure. There are also plenty of benches and vendo machined installed within the station and on the platforms. There is also a number of small fast food and some classy restaurants in case you really want to have a heavy set of meal.

Here are some snippets of our KTX from Seoul to place of destination (not Busan though). 

Televisions mounted on the trains' ceilings for everyone to see.
These show the train schedule for a few minutes then switches back to some TV shows
or movies. If you are wondering whether you'd be obliged to listen to it, don't worry. Each seat is equipped with headset socket where you can plug yours in case you want to listen to the show or what not.
 We were the first passengers to board train 353 so we basically took our time to take pictures of here and there.

I demanded to sit by the window (lol). There are still no other passengers yet.

And there we were.. we decided to take our touristy shot and incidentally block the entrance way. hehe. Do you see the lady in blue uniform? That is the KTX (Korail has it too) stewardess. They assist passengers boarding the train, count the number of people inside and like in an airplane, sell food and refreshment on trolley.

 We headed back to our seats and got ourselves settled. There were few magazines at the backseat pouch right in front of me I just fiddled with it around. Few more minutes after, we felt our KTX rev up and head towards its point of destination.

The other mode of transportation are buses. They are everywhere and have designated bus stops. If you can't read Hanggul and want to ride one for your point destination, you can just go by the number. There are some stops that are shared by a number of buses. Each bus stops has its own bulletin information routes (which is written in Korean..but there are some stops though that are printed in English) and led bus stop schedules which announces their arrivals. How cool is that?

Just beside the driver's window (inside the bus) is a bus card scanner.  Passengers can opt for a convenient way of traveling by purchasing bus cards and have it scanned on that small machine. A voice prompt will let you know if your payment for the fare went through. If you missed it or don't speak Korean, you can read the balance on the small tick above the scanning machine. On the other hand, if you want to pay cash, just tell the driver your point of destination, put your money in the change box which is right in front of the entrance way and get your change. Harry yourself to any of the seats and voila, you're on a roll.

I'm not sure if you can see it, there is a lit button on the window where the two guys just across my husband's are sitting. You can press the button to let the driver know you are getting off at the next or coming station. It's a whole convenient rather than what we do in the Philippines where you tap the roof or knock the railing etc. All buses in SK are airconditioned and the coolest place to be in during summer (lol).

 The yellow cards are we use to get around here in Daegu by bus. You have to pay about 2500 won (I think) as deposit and extra cash for your bus fares. You can also use the cards supposedly to pay your taxi or KTX rides or even make a phone call using it. Quite honestly, we haven't tried that ... just yet.

In case you have to take two bus rides in order to get to your point of destination while at the same try as much to save money, just be sure you swipe the card before you get off the bus. Doing so will allow you to ride the next bus for free. You would have to do this within the limited time (more or less 15 minutes) otherwise, you would have to pay another 1100 won for the fare.

The subways i also popular among the natives and foreigners alike. Like buses and trains, they are very convenient and easy to use. They have bulletin boards which let you know which bus to take. You can also do connecting trips quite easily. The subway station is equipped with almost everything from bazaar, fast food shops, music, parlor... everything! 

This is the bus card that my husband purchased in Seoul. You can load it up and if you're done using it, return the card to any station within the city and then get your deposit back.

 If you still can't get the hang of these transportation systems, you can just might as well use taxis. Taxis in SK are classy in a sense that their very clean, drivers dressed nicely and there is a meter to guarantee the exact fare you ought to pay. The flag down rate is 2500 won (I think) and that is for good for the first 5 (10? I'll have to check that again) or so minutes. Since most Korean taxi drivers don't speak English, be sure you have printed out the address both in English and Korean as well. That will help you get a smoother and comfortable ride rather than motioning your arms and hands to driver just to spell out where you are suppose to go.

(there's always room for editing.. will update soon)

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