Friday, June 26, 2009


Lodging: No
Tourist Office: No
Of Interest: peach jam

Iksan is the point where the Jeolla and Janghang lines meet the Honam Line. The most interesting thing near the Iksan train station is the covered market. I went in the early evening when it radiated the color of sunset.

But what I remember most is peach jam. I have been looking for peach jam everywhere. I used to be able to find all kinds of good jam in the basement of the Galleria department store in Daejeon, but not anymore. The grocery stores have strawberry and grape which I don't like. The snooty bakery downtown has things like mangopassionfruit (alloneword). In Busan I found fig. (Note: the peach jam was gone the last time I was there.)

Iksan is about an hour and forty-five minutes from Yongsan (Seoul) and fifty minutes from Seo-Daejeon by KTX. Those times are three hours + for other trains to Yongsan and an hour+ for Daejeon. Going the other way, it takes an hour to go to Gwangju and an hour and a half to go to Mokpo by KTX. By Saemaeul or Mugungwha, it takes 75-90 minutes to Gwanju with a trip to Mokpo taking about two hours. There is also a line to Yeosu that is Saemaeul/Mugungwha only that takes two hours to get to Suncheon and two and a half to arrive in Yeosu.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Onyang-oncheon (Asan)

Lodging: Yes, walk to the left when leaving the station
Tourist Office: Yes, in the square in front of the station
Of Interest: Multiple spas based around the local hot springs, City Tour (really county tour, on weekends)
ATM: To get to the nearest station, walk straight out from the station
Computer in station: No

Oncheon is Korean for hot springs. Onyang oncheon is one of the more famous hot springs areas in Korea. It is also one of the hottest. The local hotels in the area all have hot springs in their basements. There is also a famous sauna near the train station. The train station and the hot springs are at the edges of Onyang's small downtown. There is a pedestrian area that starts one block north of the station.

The tourist office is in the plaza to the right of the train station. A tour of the Asan area leaves from this plaza on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The most significant stops are at the local folk museum and a confucian shrine which is partly dedicated to Yi Sun Shin, an admiral who is famous for repeatedly defeating the Japanese when they attempted to invade Korea between 1592 and 1598. He grew up in Asan. There are several monuments dedicated to him in the area as well as a yearly festival.

Onyang-Oncheon is on the Janghang Line that runs south from Seoul and then curves west at Cheonan to run through South Chungcheong Province to the coast then south to Gunsan, then east again to Iksan where it turns north to Daejeon (Seodaejeon Station). The line almost makes a circle around the Geum River. If you are going to Iksan or Daejeon, it is quicker to go to Cheonan-Asan (KTX) or Cheonan Stations (Saemaueul and Mugungwha) and change trains. Cheonan is fifteen minutes away, Pyeongtaek half an hour, and Suwon forty-five minutes. This trains stops at two locations within Seoul, Yeongdeungpo (an hour and fifteen minutes) and Yongsan (an hour and a half). These are most of the stops on this train. Korail assumes that people will take the metro within cities in Gyeonggi-do.

Going away from Seoul, Yesan is fifteen minutes away. From here there start to be significant differences between the time by mugungwha and samaeul as the mugunghwa stops at some of the smaller locations that are served by the metro closer to Seoul. Hongseong is half an hour by saemeul and forty-five minutes by mugunghwa. Trains to Daecheon take an hour to an hour an a half to get to that coastal town. Janghang used to be the end of the Janghang line, and it takes between an hour and a half and two hours to get there. Add fifteen minutes to that time to get to Gunsan.

Onyang-Oncheon is also on line 1 of the Seoul Metro. This line runs alongside the Janghang line from here to Yongsan Station. Sinchang, one stop away, is the end of the line and the location of Soon Chun Hyang University. (I used to work for them.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Of Interest: Freight yard, downtown Jochiwon
Lodging: motels
Tourist office: none

Jochiwon is a little town that grew up around the convergence of the rail lines connecting Seoul and the rest of the country with the lines that connect Daejeon with Chungcheongbuk-do and the mountains of Gangwon-do. It is a typical Korean small town with a lot of lodging right next to the train station. Overall it feels like an industrialized area.

You can take buses that go out into the countryside and to Gongju from the bus stop across the street from the station.

Besides being on both the Seoul-Busan and Yongsan-Gwangju/Mokpo main lines, trains from here go up into North Chungcheong Province. The three stops that serve suburban Cheongju are from ten to twenty minutes away. Jecheon, where you can change to trains Gangwon and Gyeongsang Provinces, is a little more than an hour and a half away along an attractive route near many mountains. There is good hiking from some of the stations on this route.

If you are going toward some of the more urban parts of Korea, Seoul is about an hour and a half away while you can reach Daejeon in about thirty minutes. Go to Daejeon Station to transfer to the Busan KTX and to Seodaejeon Station to transfer to the southwest KTX. Saemaeul and Mugungwha trains to southern Korea are cheaper, but they are also slower.

The three stops that


Of interest: station square, old downtown
Lodging: Hotel on station plaza
Tourist Office: Yes
Computers in the station: yes, but may be hard to find

Cheonan is a city of about 500,000 people. It is the largest city in Chungnam. It is near Gyeonggi Province on the major transportation routes connecting Seoul with the rest of the country. Trains for Chungnam Province (Janghang line) branch of from the main Seoul-Busan line here. This makes the station a little confusing. There are actually two stations in the building, the main one and the one that serves the Janghang line and the subway. So if you can't find your train, go into the hallway and look for the other station. Do not leave the station.

Like many Korean cities, Cheonan has an old and a new downtown. The new downtown is located near the bus station. The old downtown is just southeast of the train station. Explore far enough, and you will run into a traditional market.

There are large public spaces on both sides of the train station. The tourist office is located in the one that flanks the main station entrance. There are sometimes musical performances in this area. I think this is exit 1, and it exits from the east of the station.

Note: There is a store on station square that advertises international goods that it does not sell. The original store was sold and the new owners never took down the old signs.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Daejeo station (Busan)

Lodging: No
Tourist Office: No
Of Interest: Getting out of the city

My profile picture comes from Daejeo. Look closely. You can see the tracks in the background.

Daejeo is in north part of the Nakdong River delta. This area is flat and mainly farmland.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere. I like places like that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Busan Station

Lodging: Both motels and hotels. Ask the tourist office for recommendations.
Tourist Office: Yes, excellent.
Of interest: Fake Chinatown, City Tour

There are really two stations, one for the subway and one for the train. They are separated by a plaza which has frequent public events. When I was there last, floats for a Buddha's Birthday parade were being displayed in the plaza.

Busan is the main KTX station for Busan. There is an excellent tourist office here. The staff in this office know a lot about Busan. Ask them any questions that you have about Busan or the surrounding area. They have good maps of Busan and other places in Korea.

Some slower trains for Seoul leave from Busan Station, but most of Busan's intercity trains leave from Bujeon.

Across the street from both the stations is a fake Chinatown. A couple of Busan's older Chinese restaurants are here, but there are more Russians than any other nationality. It is not really that international, and it is kind of skanky at night.

The City Tour buses leave from the side of the station plaza. There are two lines during the day, one going east and one going west. You have to buy a separate ticket for each line. Tickets are 10.000 won each with a 20% discount for people arriving by KTX and for groups of 20 or more. Tours run everyday except Monday.

Busan is spread out along the coast, so these tours are a good idea for a first time visitor. There is also a night time tour that runs once each night.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dusil Station (Busan)

Lodging: No
Tourist Office: No
Of interest: Busan Ahnkook Zen Center, Busan Masjid, Turkish restaurant

Dusil subway station comes right after line 1 goes back underground heading north. The surrounding area is primarily residential with the exception of an area to the northwest.

The Busan Ahnkook Zen Center is the first building to become visible while walking away from the subway. It is a multi-story building located on the side of a hill. I first saw it the week before Buddha's birthday when it was covered with lit lanterns. Very beautiful. Inside, there are a few pieces of magnificent art. On the top floor is the largest meditation hall that I have seen since I have been in Korea. The Ahnkook Zen Center offers meditation classes to lay people. Most of these classes are in Korean. However, the Seoul Ahnkook Zen Center does offer an English language meditation class, so it is possible that something similar is offered here.

As you walk closer, the Busan masjid becomes visible. At first it looks like the zen center and mosque are the same building, but there are really across the street from each other. It was built in 1980. It is an attractive building, but not flashy.

Note: Neither of these buildings are tourist attractions. Their purpose is to serve locals practicing their religion.

There is a Turkish restaurant next to the masjid. The restaurant is a bit touristy. On the one hand, it serves hallal food and authentic Turkish dishes. On the other, this also serves a couple of non-Turkish dishes that are based on outsiders stereotypes of what middle easteners eat.

Islam was first brought to Korea by Turkish soldiers during the Korean war. Turkish restaurants are commonly found near Korean mosques.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Busan Subway

Ideally I would finish posting about the Seoul subway before moving onto other topics, but it is probably going to be another week before I go up to Seoul again. Rather than stop posting, I will continue posting about past trips. This spring I explored the Busan subway.

The Busan subway is made up of three lines. Line 1 runs from the mouth of the Nakdong River in the southeast to the Central Bus Terminal in the northwestern part of the city. It runs through central Busan. Line 2 runs from Haeundae-gu to Seobu Cross-country bus station where it heads north. Line eventually leaves the city at Geumgok to end at Yangsan City. Line 3, the shortest line of the three, starts at the relatively central Suyeong-gu and runs to Gimhae. This line stops near Gupo KTX Station.

Other subway stations close to intercity trains are at Busan and Bujeon stations on line 1, and Haeundae station on line 2. The Jungang-dong stop, one stop from Busan Station, is the closest station to the International and Coastal Ferry terminals. The City Tour buses leave from Busan Station.

The tourist offices in Busan are really good at giving visitors clear and useful information. The staff can often recommend good lodging and their tourist map shows which parts of the subway are above ground.

Line 1 runs above ground from its first to its second station then from Dongnae to Dusil. It is the only line to run entirely within the city itself. Line 2 goes above ground at Donwon, but because of walls, you can't see anything until after Geumgok. Line 3 comes above ground between Deokcheon and Gupo. (Lines 2 and 3 connect at Deokcheon.) After Gupo the line goes out on a bridge over the Nakdong River and remains elevated for the three stations remaining.

My profile picture is off the last station on the line, Daejeo. I like the countryside better than the city.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Daelim Station

Lodging: No
Tourist Office: No
Of interest: Chinese restaurants and stores

The same day that I discovered Soyosan, I discovered a real Chinatown in Seoul.

As anyone who visits Korea (or Japan for that matter) discovers, there are a couple of fake Chinatowns in Seoul and Busan. You might think that there are few Chinese people living in Korea. In fact, there is a large Chinese community in Korea. Most Chinese do not live together in one area, but are spread out through the country. One area that has many Chinese residents is an area south of Daelim Station.

Daelim Station is a transfer point between lines 2 and 7 in southwestern Seoul.

I walked out of one of the line 7 exits and started to explore. At first, I didn't see much, although the area is one of the more attractive in Seoul. Between a triangle of main streets is a maze of alleys and houses. In the middle of this labyrinth is a road that is larger than the rest that is lined with restaurants and shops with signs in Chinese.

I used to know more than 500 characters. I used to be able to read the names of at least some Chinese dishes. But not anymore. I couldn't read much, but I noticed that a few places were advertising Szechuan food. That is interesting because most Chinese residents of Korea come from north eastern China, particularly Manchuria. I also noticed a dish whose first two characters were "cow" and "sun". I would very much like to know what a cow sun is.

Perpendicular to this road is a food market with many Chinese products along with the typical Korean stuff.

With all this and finding out that part of line 2 runs above ground, I thought I was never going to come to the end of the days discoveries. Rail travel opens up whole new worlds.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dobongsan Station

Lodging: Not certain, but probably yes
Tourist Office: ?
Of interest: National Park

Coming back from Soyosan, I changed trains from line 1 to line 7. The view from the train station is beautiful, but since I didn't even have time to climb to the top of Soyosan, I obviously didn't have time to explore here. The mountains here are a little farther from the train station, but there are several to choose from. Like Soyosan, this area is a nice little break north of the city.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Soyosan Subway Station

Lodging: Yes
Tourist Office: No
Of interest: Soyo Mountain, Jajeam Mountain, Peace Museum, Wonhyo Waterfall

I like to go exploring because of the unexpected things that I see. Here I saw maple trees with pink seeds. I have only ever seen brown maple seeds.

Soyosan Station is at the northern end of line 1. San means mountain, and this station is at the foot of Soyo Mountain.

Almost everyone who gets off here is going to the mountain, so just follow the crowd. You will walk through a little town with motels and restaurants. There is a motel actually on the mountain along with several restaurants, so I recommend waiting.

There is a also a peace museum right outside the little town.

I didn't stay overnight, but I did eat. An excellent meal. The restaurant was next to the stream that comes off the mountain. They specialize in mushroom dishes. I had mountain vegetables which were really good.

One of the oldest temples in Korea is located here although the current buildings were actually built after the Korean war. The Buddhist monk Wonhyo built Jajae'am-sa in 645.

The walk from the station is not the only way up, it just one of the easiest and most convenient. You can also walk from one of the back gates of Camp Casey.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cheongnangyi Station

Lodging: New Boolim Hotel, motels
Tourist Office: No
Of interest: Near Dongdaemun

There are two Cheongnangyi Stations, one train and one subway. They are right next to each other. From here you can take a train the Chungcheon or into Ganwan-do. The subway line number one runs through here which means that you can get to downtown Seoul, Incheon, and Uijeong-bu from here.

I go to various places in Dongdaemun-gu often, and I have stayed at the New Boolim Hotel twice. I was satisfied both times, but my room was not as clean this time as the first time. I notice that the reviews on have gotten worse in the last six months.

A lot of people come to this area at night. It is particularly good place to come to eat at night. Go across the station/department store plaza and there is a street with a variety of traditional restaurants. The road is next to the Skin Food store.

Trains for Gangwan-do leave from Cheongnanyi Station.