Friday, January 16, 2015

three full days, then back to Seoul

I'm in Yeosu. Got here a little after 6PM thanks to the weirdest routing I've ever experienced on the Korean rail system. The problem started on the day I bought my tickets. I told the lady at Seoul Station that I wanted a KTX ticket to Daegu for a noon arrival so that I could meet my student and do lunch. I then wanted a train ticket—KTX or regular train—from Daegu down to Yeosu, departing around 3PM and arriving in Yeosu whenever. The lady looked at her schedule and said that there were no trains to Yeosu after 3PM that day—not KTX, and not regular. Confounded, I sighed and said I'd stay overnight in Daegu and take a morning train down to Yeosu the following day. The lady then routed me this way: East Daegu to Shin Tanjin, then Shin Tanjin to Yeosu. I had no idea where Shin Tanjin was (sounded as if it were somewhere in China), but I discovered that it was north of Daegu: from East Daegu Station, I had to hop on a local train headed to Seoul to arrive at Shin Tanjin, where I would then transfer to a southbound train going all the way down to land's end: Yeosu.

If you look on a map for Shin Tanjin Station (try it on Google Maps: 신탄진역), you'll see that it's not far from Daejeon, which basically means I backtracked northwest, halfway to Seoul, before turning around and heading almost due south to Yeosu. Unbelievable. I'd expect such shenanigans to occur with a French train-station employee (remind me to tell you, one day, about the time I asked a French employee at the international tickets desk for a ticket to Lausanne, Switzerland, and he hooked me up with a ticket for Lozanne, France); I've never had this sort of trouble from Koreans before; they're normally as efficient as the Swiss when it comes to trains and route-scheduling. I also still couldn't get over the idea that there were no Yeosu-bound trains at all after 3PM. That news left me flabbergasted.

So that's the real reason why it took me so damn long to reach Yeosu. I'm here now, though, which makes me as happy as the clams I'm going to be gorging myself on, starting tomorrow.

The cabbie whose car I hopped into at the station was extremely helpful; I told him, at first, to take me to the yeogwan I had stayed at last time, but he frowned at this and suggested a whole clutch of newer, better yeogwans down by the water (this is the ddang-ggeut, land's end, after all; being down by the water is what I came for). In 2013, I was away from the town's center because I needed to be close to Cheonnam University, where I was interviewing for a job. Now, I'm staying in a downtown yeogwan close to the shore, where the action is.

The cabbie gave me his business card and insisted that I register him on Kakao Talk, so I now have a personal driver if I need one. He obligingly took me to Shinhan Bank so I could transfer rent money to my "landlords" (they're yeogwan proprietors, not actual landlords), then he dropped me in a target-rich neighborhood to go find my yeogwan. Everything in the neighborhood was in the W40,000-W50,000/night range, according to him (about $36-$45); I ended up marching into the CF Motel, which turned out to be great: CF charges a flat W40,000 a night, with no markup for weekends. The room is simple but damn nice, with a huge TV that I'll never use, and free Wi-Fi, which I'm using right now.

My driver suggested a long walk to me: there's a park across the water called Dolsan Park. You have to cross over a long bridge—the Dolsan Bridge—to get there, which ought to be a windy, exciting experience. I remember crossing, in 2008, that huge bridge that takes you over the Columbia River from Washington State into Oregon (the Route 205 Jackson Memorial Bridge): that, too, was quite an experience, as the walking/biking path went right down the very center of the freeway, which can freak your shit out if you're not mentally ready to be surrounded by tons of screaming metal and rubber. Am hoping that crossing the Dolsan Bridge will prove just as stimulating.

Yeosu isn't quite the tiny hick town I took it for in 2013. It is, however, a coastal town—a beach town and all the rest. There are plenty of seafood markets and fishing-supply stores close to the water, and no shortage of seafood restaurants, a few of which I'm aiming to try during my short visit here. My other impressions of Yeosu from 2013 still hold true: it's a hell of a lot quieter and slower-paced than Seoul is, which is all for the good. But I'm no longer sure how empty the town might be in the summer; a lot of Seoulites know immediately what I'm talking about the moment I mention "Yeosu" to them, which makes me think it might actually be a fairly popular vacation destination. Then again, when I visited Cheonnam University in 2013, some of the faculty told me there was a lot of quiet beach and plenty of hiking trails for people who like to walk. So who knows? I'll find out more about Yeosu tomorrow.

Tonight, I'm just going to settle in, read and proof a friend's manuscript, and simply chill. We are now dropping into forget-your-troubles mode. I'm here for three whole days: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; I leave for Seoul on Tuesday via the morning KTX. Back in the big, neurotic city by lunch, and life will just pick up from there.



  1. You might want to check out the Korail website and buy your tickets online next time.

    I've had some bad experiences with some of the older ticket agents in the past as they are not very "e-literate" when in comes to computers and their own website. I've also had some that just seem to hate their jobs/lives and decide to dole out that hate on unsuspecting customers like one certain evil old postal clerk who makes life miserable to everyone she comes in contact with.

  2. The lady who did my ticket didn't strike me as evil or hateful, but I do have to wonder how in the world she routed me the way she did.

    Yeah, maybe I'll try online. Does that actually work if you have an alien-registration card? So many of those websites don't work for foreigners.

  3. I usually just go online to double check train times and ticket prices before I head over to the station. I also try to get in line with the younger ticket agents as they are Internet savvy, and I've had older agents try to decide where they think I need to go instead of where I want to go.



All comments are subject to approval before they are published, so they will not appear immediately. Comments should be civil, relevant, and substantive. Anonymous comments are not allowed and will be unceremoniously deleted. For more on my comments policy, please see this entry on my other blog.

AND A NEW RULE (per this post): comments critical of Trump's lying must include criticism of Biden's lying on a one-for-one basis! Failure to be balanced means your comment will not be published.