Friday, January 22, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

Recently, I was nominated for the Kreativ Blogger award by Gerardine Baugh.kreativ blogger6
Thanks Gerardine!

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Thank the person giving you the award.
2. Copy the award to your blog.
3. Place a link to their blog.
4. Write seven interesting things about yourself. (About myself? That's hard.)
5. Nominate 7 bloggers.
6. Put links to those bloggers in your blog.
7. Leave a comment letting those bloggers know about the award.

So here it goes:

1. I have lived in France, Spain, Korea, and the US.

2. I am from the plains of Colorado.

3. I prefer wildflowers to dramatic vistas.

4. Partly I like to travel by train because I get motion sick. I can read on the train.

5. I like it when people sit next to me on the bus because it is more social.

6. I don't like writing about myself.

Here are the blogs that I am nominating:

Tokyo Dreaming - Expresses the soul of Japan. I wish I could write this well.

Author Khanh Ha - Short fictional passages and musings on the creative process.

Sleepy Tako - An American living in Japan documents his local travels.

Riding in Riverside - One of the best transit blogs around.

Bill Guffey - Thumbnails of his paintings.

XX Cinema - Information about movies by women.

Neapolitan - A very interesting perspective on life.

(For more information about the Kreative Blogger award, visit the blogs of Carol J. Gavin and Fletch.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to travel on a Korail Train

You need to go to the ticket counter to buy tickets. The machines only work for people who have a Korail membership which can be a little hard to get, especially for foreigners. Most people who work the ticket counters in major cities speak English. Usually the ticket agents in very small towns are also very helpful, the medium-sized places can be the hardest places to deal with.

There is a Korea Rail Pass for sale overseas to foreigners, but unless you are traveling a lot within a short period of time, it is not a good deal. Ticket prices are so reasonable that you can travel that you can travel the whole country for less than a single Shinkansen tickets. Train tickets are also cheaper than in the US. A trip on California's Capitol Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento costs $25-30. A similar distance on the Korean train can cost as little as $7-9. And that is assuming a bad exchange rate for the Korean won. (KTX trains are more expensive, as are some trains that serve rural areas.)

(The Capitol Corridor has almost the same kind of seats as the Saemaeul trains.)

Reservations are necessary on all Korail trains. Smart cards cannot be used for payment. If the train is not crowded, lots of people change seats. Some of the ticket attendants don't like it when people do this, but most of us just ignore them.

Basic Terminology for Korean Posts

KTX - Korea Train Express, Korea's bullet train, based on TGV technology. There are three classes of service: regular, first, and movie car. Standing tickets are sold last minute if a train is sold out. KTX trains sell out during rush hour and the beginning and end of holiday periods. A snack wagon moves around the train.

Saemaeul (New World) - Conventional express trains with two classes of service: regular and first. There is a snack car serving hot and cold food with bench seating. The car has four computers with internet, a music room, and a relaxation room, all for rented at reasonable rates.

Mugungwha (Rose of Sharon)- conventional trains with two classes of service: regular and standing. I think that standing tickets can only be bought the day of travel. These trains sell out frequently, even at non-peak times. Mugungwha trains have the same snack cars as Saemaeul trains.

Place Names

"-ju" Historically a place of great scholarship. A place to look for historic buildings, museums, and traditional culture.

"-san" Mountain. If part of a city name, expect a lot steep streets. If in a name for a subway stop, good hiking is probably within walking distance.
I will add more as I think of them.

"-do" Province.

"-si" Usually translated as city, but really means a county that includes an urban area. There is no word in Korean that directly corresponds to our word "city".

"-gun" A rural county

The province and county names should be in the tags for all station posts.


"dong" east

"seo" west

"nam" south

"bok" north

"jung" center

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Of Interest: access to Chungnam Province (nothing near station)
Lodging: no
Tourist Office: no
ATM: There is an ATM in the station, but it may not take international cards. There is no bank within walking distance.

The Cheonan-Asan station was originally built solely as a KTX station. Since then, Asan Station was also built crossing under the KTX station. Asan Station currently hosts commuter trains from Seoul, line 1 of the Seoul subway, and trains of the Janghang line.

There is nothing in the area, although apartments are being built. The edge of the city of Cheonan is about thirty minutes walk away. Bus service is not very good to either Cheonan or Onyang-oncheon (the main urban area in Asan), the buses are take to long to get anywhere. It is best to change to another train. KTX ridership increased after Asan Station was built, making it possible to get here by train.

KTX trains from both lines stop here. It takes around forty minutes to get to Seoul or Yongsan Stations, twenty minutes to get to Daejeon or Seodaejeon Stations, fifty minutes to get to Dong-Daegu, and two hours and fifteen minutes to get to Busan. If you are going to the southeast, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Iksan, two and fifteen minutes to get to Gwangju, and two and a half hours to get to Mokpo. Trains along the Seoul-Busan line run frequently, but the Yongsan-Gwangju/Mokpo line only arrives about once every two hours.

Saemaeul and Mugungwha trains take five minutes to get to Cheonan, twenty-five minutes to get to Pyeongtaek, forty-five minutes to get to Suwon, and an hour and fifteen minutes to arrive in Yongsan. Going east, the Janghang line serves the towns of Yesan (thirty minutes), Hongseong (one hour), Daecheon (ninety minutes), Seocheon (two hours), and Gunsan (three hours).

Line 1 of the Seoul Metro continues east through Onyang-oncheon to end at Sinchang which serves SoonCheonHyang University. In the other direction, most trains go through central Seoul before ending at Cheongnyangni. The metro route follows the regular train route from Cheonan to Seoul Station, but with a lot more stops.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Of Interest: seafood market, Castle grounds, performing arts center, international center
Tourist Office: yes, inside the station
Lodging: multiple
Internet Access: in the basement of the performing arts center to the right of the station (free from 30 minutes)
Int'l ATM: in the post office in the station building

The tourists office is excellent and has lots of materials in English, including a seasonal tourist magazine. Get a map it is easy to get lost in some of the the small streets in the historic district.

Leaving the station area is easy, just walk straight from the station along the four lane boulevard. There is an international center five minutes walk from the station on the right hand side. It is open regular business hours from Monday to Friday. Another ten minutes walk will get you to a covered market that specializes in fish. This is the point that the small roads appear. You may have look at a map to find the entrance. The market is a good place to have lunch. It is very touristy so it is not cheap.

A five minutes walk through the market will take you to a side entrance of Castle Park. Kanzawa used to be basically an independent country and this was the capital. The park is the largest of its type that I have seen in Japan with remains of lots of buildings as well as lots of areas that have returned to nature. There was a rehearsal for some kind of musical while I was there which was pretty interesting. The area is very hilly; if you stand on top of one of the hills you can see almost everything. (This is another place where I would not bring any luggage.)

There is an arts and craft street across the road from the main entrance (or one of the main entrances). Right now the city is organizing a crafts festival, so this area should be pretty lively. The entrance to Kenrokuen Garden is close by also. This is one the "three most beautiful gardens" in Japan.

At this point, you are pretty far from the station. It is best to take one of the loop buses if you are going back. I think that there are four loop buses in Kanazwa. I think that there are three for locals that cost 100 yen, and one for tourists that is more expensive. Each bus is identified by a color.

Kanazawa was never fire bombed during WWII, so there are historic houses in various places in the city.

The city of Kanzawa has translated their website into English, including the information on transportation. The train section includes information on shinkansen and express trains from Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. Note that from Tokyo, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen west to Maibara or the Joetsu Shinkansen over the mountains to Echigo-yuzawa. Kanzawa is two hours from Maibara and two and a half hours from Echigo-yuzawa by express train. Other destinations reachable by regular express trains are Kyoto (two hours), Osaka (two and a half hours), and Nagoya (two and a half hours).

Local JR West trains go to Fukui (hour and a half), Toyama (forty-five minutes), and Nanao (ninety minutes). There is also a short line run by the Hokuriku Railroad that has multiple stops within the city of Kanazawa and a terminus in the city of Uchinada. The whole trip only takes seventeen minutes.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Of Interest: old Toyama, local history and folk museums, Itachi River
Lodging: multiple
Tourist Office: closed while the train station is renovated?
Int'l ATM: the main post office is just south of the station

Toyama has been an important industrial area for several hundred years. In old Toyama, visitors can see how medicines were made during Edo period. The area also contains Toyama Castle Park which is home to the local history museum and a folk museum which concentrates on the tea ceremony. (The buildings themselves are mostly not original. They are reconstructions dating from the 1950's.)

The Itachi River runs through this area as well. It takes a ten to fifteen minute walk to get to the edge of the interesting stuff which all takes a lot of walking itself. If you are not staying in Toyama overnight, put your bags in a locker at the station. You can also take the tramway to Old Toyama.

Toyama has a lot of commuter rail. Toyama City has several tramway lines, one of which serves the station, and a light rail line which passes the north entrance. The tramway company also operates a local train line that heads north to end in the northern part of Toyama Prefecture in Unazuki Onsen in Kurobe.

JR West runs local trains along the coast to Naoetsu and into to the mountains to Inotani, Toyama. (Inotani is the meeting point of JR West and JR Central lines.) Regular express trains take three and a half hours to get to Nagoya. These trains pass through Kanazawa, which gets the most frequent service from Toyama. Local trains take forty-five minutes, express trains half and hour. There are also occasional express trains to Osaka and Aomori.