Korail 24-hour "Free" Trip


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Published: September 3rd 2010
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During our first couple of days on campus we were told by Dominique about a sponsored trip to Boesong Tea Plantation and if we were interested in going we needed to speak to Rick. We spoke to Rick the very next day when we went to get our medical exams done about the Tea Plantation Trip for teachers who were interested? "How did you two find out about it?" Rick inquired "Earlier while we were walking around the campus with Dominique, she was explaining to us some of the benefits we get as teachers, like this Tea Plantation trip," Shauna kindly replied. I sat there as quiet as possible since I didn't want to destroy this opportunity, if there was one? Rick, looked at Shauna then looked at me, then back to Shauna stating he couldn't promise us anything but would let us know by Thursday evening, if we could or could not go because we didn't have our ARC cards yet. (ARC = alien registration cards)

Thankfully, by Thursday, Rick informed us that we were going on the Boesong Tea Plantation trip! As soon as we got the good news from him that we were going, Shauna and I started hearing rumors from other teachers about meeting up on campus around 8pm to reach the train station by 10pm. Shauna and I started deliberating ourselves about when we should leave campus? If we should go along with the others? Or just leave on our own? After further discussions we came to the conclusion to leave as soon as possible after we clocked out, this way we could grab dinner around the train station and peruse this portion of the city prior to meeting up with everyone at 10:30pm.

All day Friday, couldn't go any slower for all of us heading on the trip. We heard there was going to be twelve teachers in total including Rick as our chaperone because we were representing Gyeonggi English Village and must present ourselves as a distinguishable group! Either way, we were going! Shauna and I were excited because we currently lacked money from our two-week car rental and the three-week layover at the parents acreage outside of Edmonton. Therefore a practically "free trip" sponsored by the English Village was just what we needed to transistion ourselves into Korean culture!

The idea we hatched was to clock out as quickly as we could, run home, grab a shower, grab our bags and our wallets and be on the next 2200 bus, headed for Seoul. Ironically, there were others whom we ran into at the bus stop, who were also going to Seoul for various reasons; Keisha, was spending the weekend with friends, Kurt, Mike & Robyn were heading out to catch a live-band. We piled into the bus having grand conversations all around for the next 45 minutes as we barrelled into the Hapjeong area. From Hapjeong station, we were to catch the Green line (#2) to City Hall Station and transfer to the Purple line (#1) arriving at Yongsan station approximately around 7:30pm or thereabouts.

We wondered around the station upon our arrival, searching for food on the third and fourth floors. We came across a place called Beans and Waffles another called Burger n Shake. These were tempting but not what we were looking to eat. We then spotted a Japanese Izakaya, and read through their menu, even though it sounded good, we decided to seek further into the depths of the palette of this area. There was Korean BBQ, Korean Noodle shops, Korean buffets, Indian, Chinese and something that looked awful but smelled delicious! After searching for another fifteen minutes, we opted to head back to the Izakaya and feast ourselves on Japanese Cuisine! Oh this should be even more invigorating since we were in Korea trying to order Japanese food.

We sat down, looked over the menu and found two different items we were both interested in. Shauna wanted to eat Okanimiyaki which is a giant pancake grilled with potato, green onion, carrots, mushroom and broccoli topped with a bbq-sauce, mayo and fish flakes. Sometimes they will serve it with fish, shrimp or beef. Shauna tried asking for "no meat" (ay-neo go-gi) and "no fish" (ay-neo mul-go-gi). The waitress responded in broken English, "is shrimp okay?" Shauna being Shauna, agreed that shrimp would be "okay." I ordered a nine-piece set of Shashimi (raw fish on rice) plus two 550ml of Cass Beer!

Eventually our beers arrived on our table and we smiled as we cheersed each other in Korean (gum-pai), clinking glasses, drinking Korean draft beer in a Japanese restaurant in the middle of Seoul. Just after my first sip of cold beer a waiter came over to explain they didn't have any whitefish,
Outside Yongsan StationOutside Yongsan StationOutside Yongsan Station

In search of E-Mart.
which my meal came with. But they could substitute it for something else. Knowing we were in Korea and knowing the fish market was all of a handful of stops away, I agreed happily they could bring me whatever "fresh fish" they wanted to use!

Ironically, in this country, Smiling at someone means you are embarassed but I did that anyway. As we sat idly chatting about the luck we had to be on the trip, we spoke of our expectations or lack there-of, since neither of us has ever been on a group-tour before. Thankfully, this brought our expectations to nothing. Dinner arrived shortly after this conversation and when I saw it I began laughing. Not only was I now smiling ear to ear but I was full out laughing because the Korean waitress who asked Shauna if "shrimp was okay?" was now serving her the Okanimiyaki, with a pile of Fish Flakes on top!! I couldn't help myself... especially since Shauna cannot stand the taste of fish, let alone fish flakes! Next came out my dish and to my surprise in replacement for the whitefish was octupus pieces and I was delighted to have it placed in front of me!

We ate, hungrily but slowly devouring, savoring and happily filling up our drained bodies with Japanese nourishment thankfully having chosen the Izakaya! While we ate we came up with a plan to head to the basement after dinner to E-Mart, in order to grab train snacks and beverages for the eight hours of travel time in front of us. We kompai'd the remainder of our beers with forty-five minutes remaining on our "meet up" time on the second floor of Yongsan Station. Heading for the door, we grabbed our wads of cash, handed over the receipt and realized we were short cash! Shoot! Now what? "Shauna, do you think they will let us wash dishes?" I said with a hint of laughter. "You have some extra cash hidden, don't you?" She retorted. "Always do!" I replied with a smile pulling out the extra money within my messenger bag.

Paying we headed downstairs two flights of escalators sending us out into the night. It was 9:35 pm and we were striding across Floor - A, trying to figure out how to get to Floor - B3, someplace three floors below us? Not only was it three
Awaiting TicketsAwaiting TicketsAwaiting Tickets

Shauna and Green Tea Mascot
floors below where we were but it was in the orange section of the building. We were currently in the yellow section. The problem we realized after traveling a couple hundred yards in the wrong direction was we were on the wrong side of the building, traveling in the wrong direction. The map we found just shy of the carpark explained it all to us. We needed to backtrack to the escalators, then cut through the middle of the station, heading out next to the hotel and hopefully finding the escalators leading down. It was now 9:45 pm. We had 45 minutes to find the freaking E-mart, figure out where the snack aisle is, find a couple of road drinks, pay and make our way to the "children's play area" on the second floor of the train station. We knew where the train station was, even if we didn't exactly know where the exact location we were meeting was? But we just needed to solve the... " Shauna this way," pointing towards a sign that read, "Lotte Hotel."

We picked up our pace, heading in the direction of the hotel. As we went through two sets of doors looking
Still WaitingStill WaitingStill Waiting

Aaron and Green Tea Mascot
left we didn't see any escalators, to the right we saw them labeled "car park," the obvious bad choice. "Hey, let's just run straight outside, towards the street. We should be able to find our way from there since we are in the correct location," I said. "Agreed." Running down the stairs two at a time we finally reached the bottom and noticed an influx of people heading for a set of double doors. "There," Shauna pointed to the left. "Perfect."

Eventually we made it inside the basement of the building. The freaking crazy maze that lead us here. "Shauna, what time is it?" Ever lost over time without a watch, I am. Thankfully, Shauna never forgets hers. I think it must be surgically attached to her right wrist! "9:55 pm, we have to pick up the pace a bit."

Running by a few people, we finally made it down two more flights of escalators to the orange section of building. In front of us was a food court but there were people everywhere. Eating food, talking in front of the pet store, coming in and out of the cellular store, ordering food in the food court, loittering,
Approaching TrainApproaching TrainApproaching Train

Korail train from Yongsan to Yeosu
and just traveling to and from wherever. It was a schmorgasboard of people! Go figure. Quickly picking up our pace, we past the photoshop, the card shop and a book store. "Where the heck is E-Mart?" I sounded out to no one in particular!

Another five minutes down the hallways, we finally spotted a line up of cash registers and what appeared to be the front of a grocery store. We ducked into the store being greeted by the store manager (a usual practice here), looking for the snack and beverage aisles. We quickly talked over the idea of grabbing a couple of cold beers for the train trip to cheers (kompai) our trip but decided against it at the last moment. Then we found the beverages. We started looking through them; bottled water, cold coffee, cold vanilla coffee, cold mocha coffee, mixed juice, apple juice, milk, orange juice, chocolate milk, yogurt drinks and more... Shauna and I pulled two bottles each. Shauna choosing Coke and Coffee, I choosing Orange Juice and Latte Coffee. We then headed for the snack aisle. Grabbing a couple bags of chips, a bag of rice puffs squares, a box of granola bars, and
Yeosu <--- Yongsan Yeosu <--- Yongsan Yeosu <--- Yongsan

Saemaul (train car #4)
a couple of ghana bars (Korean Hershey's bar). Then we ran up front with our loot. Paying as we headed through the cashier, saying our "a-yeoung-ha-say-o's (hellos) and our, gum-sum-nee-da's (thank yous)." Shauna stating "it's just past ten, but I have to use the bathroom before we head for the train station."

Once she was in and out of the bathroom, we headed back in the direction we had come from except this time we knew where the escalators heading up where. Taking the five escalators up to the Yongsan Station floor. We headed inside, back into the mix of people, searching for the "children's play area" using my height as an advantage, I peaked over the heads scanning the area, when I noticed an overstuffed baby behind a gigantic banner. "This way Shauna." Heading to our left, we merged with the people while watching people watch us make our way through the crowded train station. Obviously, we weren't the only ones using the Korean Rail system on a Friday night? The place looked more like an airport with the amount of people and their luggage strewn across the floor. Eventually, I spotted a few other GEV (Gyeonggi English
Train SeatingTrain SeatingTrain Seating

Inside train-car number four.
Village) teachers sitting together. We rocked up saying "hello" to everyone. Rick (the chaperone) saying, "did you two have trouble finding us?" Summarizing our episode of the evening we simply stated we arrived at the station at 9pm. He was impressed with our skill of showing up early.

We immersed ourselves into conversation with Abby, David, Dominique, Juan, Monica, Nadine (Tim's mom), and Rick. As everyone talked about getting to Yongsan station, what they expected to get out of this trip and general chit chat about life, Rick asked David, "Do you know where Tom and Mark O, are? Do they have a cellphone? We need to find them as quickly as possible because I need to know the total numbers to tell the organizers. David, snapped up his phone out of his satchel, calling Mark O, on speed dial and a minute later was in a deep riveting conversation with the two about where they were? They were in the station but just having trouble finding the meet-up location. Eventually, I spotted them in the crowd, waved at them, they waved back then I let Rick know, that I spotted them in the crowd. Everyone's attention was then
3am Arrival 3am Arrival 3am Arrival

Getting off train onto platform a Suncheon Station.
drawn to a person dressed in a gigantic mascot uniform. We believed to be the "Green Tea" Mascot. And the "girls" wanted to get a picture with him.

Monica was the first person to approach the masses with her camera, Juan in tow as the designated camera-person, Shauna, Dominique and Abby followed along... because of the onslaught of 'foreigners' all at once, I meandered over to everyone helping snap pictures of the Green Tea Mascot with each teacher. As Shauna and I exchanged positions handing her my camera, I stopped short of the little green mascot bending down at the knees and grabbing a hold of the mascot as if he were my bride to be. I lifted the mascot off the ground into my arms smiling we gave the token pose for photographs; peace sign and smiling the picture was taken. Everyone around us started clapping or awwwing at the absurdity of me picking up the green mascot without knocking his gigantic head onto the floor!

Smiling myself, I set the mascot down, gave him a hug and a high five, then sauntered back over to the teachers. Rick was the first to burst into a smile of pure embarassment for me but his laughter confirmed he enjoyed the scene and wasn't disappointed with my actions. Then Rick, wandered over into the mix of people to get all of us our designated seats. It took all of eight minutes before we all grabbed our bags and headed with Rick, towards the tracks. Eventually through the crowd at the station, through a double doors, down another escalator we landed on the platform. Talking amongst ourselves, awaiting the arrival of the train we stood idly chatting with each other. Monica ran off someplace where no one could see her at this precise time Rick pulled out his camera from his satchel, asking a nearby Korean to take a photograph of all the English teachers together. Two, snaps later and thirteen cameras, we had our first of the many group shots Rick would take of the English teachers. Thankfully, I seemed to escape Rick's camera happy fingers during the group shot phases.

A train came barrelling down the tracks, Rick suspicious of our seating arrangements ran off down the platform disappearing into the crowds. Then David, Tom and Mark O, walked in the opposite direction to grab snacks and beverages from the convenience store on the platform. Coming back with their bag at the same time that Rick came running back down the platform. Everyone else was standing around, peering into the windows of the train car in front of us, trying to guess what the water stencils on the side of it meant? Confused by its appearence we felt there must be something "fishy" about this train ride. Rick then said, "Everyone choose a buddy, this will be your seat numbers on the way down and back. We are in train-car number four. Seats 17, 18 - Monica & Juan, Seats 19, 20 - David & Dominique, Seats 21, 22 - Aaron & Shauna, Seats 23, 24 - Mark O & Tom, Seats 25, 26 Abby & Nadine and I will take seat 16. Remember these are your seats on the return trip tomorrow. Okay?" In unison everyone responded. Then the doors to train-car number four magically opened. We entered the door as a group turning left into the open room. Greeting us all was a dance floor? A dance floor? Why, is there a dance floor? Then we all began to notice the strange flourescent lights Christmas like, hanging along the ceiling, within it fish net, within that small planets and moons decorating the interior of the train. At the far end were two guys huddled over a laptop with a music board and numerous cords running out of it. They were pumping out Korean-pop music, as we all reached again for our cameras. Snapping photographs and trying to decipher what this meant? We are in the disco car? No, we are going to have a Karokee singing contest? No, we are going to have a dance off? No, we are going to have a foreign teacher convention? No, we are going to simultaneously drink non-existent alcohol, while singing Karokee and dancing! Yes! That's it... this has nothing to do with a tea plantation. What is going on?

The car filled up to three-quarters full, ironically, the only Koreans on board were Rick (our chaperone), two other administration people from GEV, another escort of another group and the two DJ's at the far end of the car. One-third of the car was left empty and half of that space were the two dance floors on either end of the car. Honestly, we all had no idea,
Juan inside busJuan inside busJuan inside bus

Whose ready for the adventure?
as we sat down, awaiting whatever was going to begin in front of us for the evening. We all had thoughts of getting zero sleep, partying till the sun came up and singing Karokee songs to each other. Finally, the train began to move and we were all on our way. The twin DJ's, began speaking queitly as the tunes changed from happy go lucky music to announcements in Korean, which only five people in our car could understand. Next, another Korail representative was in the car, holding the microphone spatting out directions and information about the tour. None of us any wiser then the first speech, so we continued munching on our snacks and talking amongst ourselves. Eventually, the announcement guy walked away. Possibly after realizing only five people were captive to what his words were.

As the train speed through one station after another of the south end of Seoul, we talked on about the possibilities of this trip, when we would be arriving at Suncheon station in the southern region of South Korea. Shauna and I each pulled out a book and began reading. We were asked a couple of questions by various other people in
Guess the hour?Guess the hour?Guess the hour?

One of us is still asleep the other rearing to Gooooo!
our group and then some of them crashed out because the karokee singing competition hadn't actually commenced. Next, David, Tom and Mark O, headed for the back of the train-car near the dance floor, wondering what they were up to, I peeked past Rick and the girl he was talking to, seeing the boys pull out a couple of tall-boy Hite beer cans from a black bag! They were definitely representing the true "foreign" teacher in all of us. Toasting each other with large smiles they began to drink their Friday night and enjoy the ride to the south. Eventually, the DJ's gave up on their disco dance car idea. Packing in their equipment which was a sign to the rest of us, that getting some sleep was a good idea. Shauna and I pulled out the pillow we had stuffed into my messenger bag, sticking it between the two of us, we cuddled up and fell fast asleep.

Precisely at 3:10 am, the train came to a jittery stop at Suncheon Station... the jittering of the train awoke everyone out of their stuper. Packing up their things as an announcement came over the speakers that we had arrived,
Arrival by BusArrival by BusArrival by Bus

Just before sunrise, we arrived in Yulpo Beach at 5:45am.
someplace in the south. From this point on Rick, yawning, awoke the still sleeping teachers amongst us. We began to stretch in wonderment of where we were? People looked gooey eyed at each other, wiping with the backs of their hands or sleeves to get the sleepies out of their eyes. Grabbing our bags, the doors opened up to the platform and we all climbed out. Once everyone was off the train, we approached the train station. We were definitely in the countryside as we approached the tiny train station walking through the arrival doors, taking three steps across the main floor and out the front doors we went.

Unfolding before our eyes were people scrambling this direction and that trying to figure out which bus they belonged too? Rick, took us to the left then turned around and headed back to the right. Finally we reached a bus, three people climbed on board, when an organizer showed her early morning face, explaining to Rick in Korean that this wasn't our bus. Rick quickly gathered the three already on the bus, got them off and had us running through the buses towards another at the far end of a lineup of six buses. We reached the door and asked the driver in Korean, "is this bus number four?" "Ne (yes)" and we all began to climb on.

Shauna immediately took up her position cuddling to my arm. I snapped off a series of photographs and watched every foreigner around me silently crash back into their seats as the terms came to mind. Rick was saying somthing and it wasn't in Korean. I pulled off my Bob Marley, spilling into my ears to listen up. "Everyone please go back to sleep, we have another two hours of travel time before we reach Yulpo Beach. Take this time to sleep," Rick stated as the sounds of pillows hitting faces began all over again. The time was 3:25 in the morning. Everyone was closing down shop and heading back to sleep except for myself, the excitement inside me was growing for the adventure which I had no real idea of what was going to happen? It was all a mystery, sure I knew where we were suppose to be, and how long we were suppose to be there but we all know life does strange things when it isn't planned out personally by you because once you give control to someone else destiny always has a few more twists then you intended! With this thought in my head the lights above me were turned off, and the personal light wasn't coming on, then I slid down in my chair a few inches, leaned it back a little and closed my eyes at 3:45 in the morning...











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4th September 2010

from Kelowna
Good to hear from you guys and all the experiences-sounds fun. What is the weather like there? There is the Fall feeling in the air here but still sunny days but cooler at night. Auntie Edna
8th September 2010

Doing great!!

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