Aboard KTX Express From Seoul to Busan And Back Again

ktx seoul to busan cover

In the ideal world, we’re efficient travel planners that we smartly booked a plane ticket from Manila to Incheon, and another one from Busan to Manila. However, in the real world we’re just a bunch of Korea fanatics who grabbed the first chance to book a flight to Seoul. It isn’t so bad though, because no matter what we booked, we’d still be boarding the Korail Express to go to Busan.

Since we had seven days in Korea, in the middle of our planning we realized that we had enough time to go to Busan. No chance to change our ticket, though, since we got it through a promo. Hence, the long planning of how to work about our schedule commenced. In the end, we decided to spend five days in Seoul and two full days in Busan. It may not be enough, but our time only allowed two days.

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To get to Busan, we decided to ride the KTX express that made the five-hour trip via bus or regular train down to a little more than two hours. Honestly, it costs quite a lot, but I promise that it’s worth every Korean Won.

Korea Rail Pass

(Main Website: Letskorail.com)

There are tons of KTX passes, and I’m honestly just as confused then as I am now about everything. But after days of research, we decided to get the Korea Rail Pass that would take us from Korea to Seoul.

The Korea Rail Pass allows foreign tourists to travel unlimited times in the Standard Seats of the KTX, KTX-Sancheon, ITX-Saemaeul, Saemaeul, Mugunghwa and Nuriro trains. Passengers can choose among the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10-day passes.

We chose the 3-day Pass since we’d be traveling to and fro Busan within two days. There were four of us, so we were entitled for the Saver Pass which can be availed by groups of 2-5 people. Now that I’m writing this post, we should have gotten the Youth Pass, which is only available for individuals age 13 to 25.

Basically, we could drop by in other provinces along the way, but we decided that we’d focus on Busan. It would be a pity to just spend an hour or two in a province.

You can learn more about it here: Korea Rail Pass.

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How to avail and use the Korea Rail Pass:

The website provided clear instructions but here’s how I did it:

1. Book from the website.

Besides your name, you’ll also be asked to provide your passport number. The same thing will be asked from the other passenger you’re booking the ticket with. I suggest that you don’t book way ahead of your travel, but instead, wait a week before your travel period to book for it. You can pay via credit card.

2. After booking, print out the voucher/e-ticket provided.

You’ll be given a voucher after booking, which needs to be exchagned before you’ll be given the pass. Take note of the date till when you can use it. It’s valid within 180 days since date of the booking.

Payment will only be credited once you exchange the e-ticket for the Pass.

3. Exchange the voucher for the passes in Seoul Station.

Upon arriving at Seoul Station (Subway Line 1 or 4, Exit 1), head to the Information Center where you have to exchange the voucher for a pass. Make sure to bring the credit card you used and your passport. This is very crucial, especially the passports, because only foreign tourists can use Korean Rail Pass. Foreigners who live in Korea can only use the Happy Rail Pass.

4. Avail your KTX express ticket with your Korea Rail Pass.

Go to the ticketing booth and present your Pass when availing the ticket to Busan. You’ll be given the next earliest time of departure. Sadly, you won’t be able to choose your seats, but you can say that you like to sit together. Don’t lose your ticket, because it’ll be checked once you’re already inside the train car.

Keep your Korea Rail Pass safe because you’ll be needing that once you’re booking your return ticket to Seoul in Busan Station.

5. Go to your platform at least five minutes early.

Because it leaves on time! Make sure to sit on your assigned seats, too. However, the Koreans who sat near us were kind enough to exchange seat numbers so we could sit together. One also explained the seat situation to the train stewardess who checked our seat numbers. So yes, all the stories you heard about Koreans being nice, they’re all true.

6. And when it’s all confusing, don’t be afraid to ask around!

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So off we go to Busan!

We didn’t arrive in Seoul Station as early as we hoped, but still, we had an early start. Since we’d be arriving in Busan around lunch and we ate breakfast early, we bought some snacks in the station and some kimbap from an ahjumma we met outside. Lunch boxes and rice rolls are sold near the platform.

We couldn’t be more excited to start our two-day Busan adventure!

ktx busan station autumn in busan

Without a doubt, the view that welcomed us in Busan was breathtaking! It was a nice preview of the awesome days ahead of us.

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On our last and second day in the home of Jung YongHwa and Reply 1997, we trooped back to Busan Station with heavy hearts. We enjoyed our stay so much that we actually regretted only staying there for two days. It’s our time to go back to Seoul and leave behind the place that nurtured some of my best memories of travel.

We arrived at around 7PM, and to our dismay, we learned that the earliest time of departure we could get was 10PM. That means we’d be arriving in Seoul past midnight! We had the option of being standing passengers at an earlier departure time, but we realized that it would be stressful since we were carrying heavy bags. While waiting, we ate our dinner in Lotteria.

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We honestly spent a lot of time waiting. Staying in Lotteria way too long was a bit embarrassing. We already stayed there for about two hours. Good thing there’s a wide waiting area near the platform, and Wi-Fi was also available. That’s what I love about Korea, you can pretty much find Wi-Fi everywhere.

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We arrived in Seoul way past midnight. By then, the subway was already closed, and that’s the only mode of transpo we knew. The line for the taxi was so long that we decided to take the bus instead. A high schooler informed us that the bus going to Hongdae already stopped its operations. Back we went to the taxi line.

The taxi driver dropped us in a street unfamiliar to us, we spent around 30 minutes trying to find our way to the hostel. With barely any soul around, we were glad to came across a Mini Stop. The kind stranger who looked like Jung YongHwa (must bet the Busan effect!) walked us back to our hostel.

And as much as loved our two days in Busan, getting lost in Seoul still made us feel glad to be back in our beds at Hongdae Housetel.

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Fall in Korea Day 1: N Seoul Tower At Night

n seoul tower south korea 3

N Seoul Tower never disappoints. Be it springsummer or fall, the place looked romantic. So on our first day in Seoul, we trooped up Namsan Park to have a grand overview of Seoul.

As much as we tried to catch the sunset, we were running quite late since we only arrived in Seoul that afternoon. We disregarded our planned itinerary and just decided to head straight to N Seoul Tower. Even at night, the red and golden leaves on the trees mesmerized us. We braved the cold and hiked up the slope leading to the tower.

Good thing the Seoul’s skyline at night was more than a nice consolation. Continue reading

Seoul Accommodation: Hongdae Family Housetel (Pencil Hotel 3)

Hostel Hongdae 16

Our stay in Seoul may have been short, but our hostel made sure we felt at home every single day.

Our hostel falls under a couple of names, which we found odd! It’s called Hongdae Family Housetel in Agoda and Hostel Hongdae in Facebook. It’s also called Pencil Hotel 3! In the grand scheme of things, the name doesn’t matter because the building was a welcoming site after every tiring day in Seoul.

It’s one of the simplest hostels I’ve stayed in, but I must say that it still has its pros. Also, among the Seoul hostels, they seem to offer the most varied breakfast, which is always a plus.

What I love most is the host’s kindnes. We did two bookings—first was for only night, then the second was for four nightssince we’d be staying in Busan for two days. Before going to Seoul, I corresponded with our host via email and they allowed us to leave our baggage in the hostel once we leave for Busan.

We were surprised when they said that we could leave our baggage and pretty much all our stuff in our room for two days and one night! Take note, we didn’t pay for that night, but they saved us the hassle of moving our things from one room to another.

So from the very bottom of our hearts, thank you very kamsa! Continue reading

Sunday Dinner at Mak Chang, Malate

makchang malate

Another Sunday, another Korean restaurant to fill our stomach!

For my sister’s last day of vacation, we went to Manila to have dinner at Hwang So Ga, a Korean buffet dinner along Adriatico.  But we arrived in Manila quite late so we went to Mak Chang instead, which is just beside the buffet restaurant.

I first read about Mak Chang in my favorite food blog, Jin Loves to Eat! Then a high school friend (hi Annie!) said that she likes Mak Chang, too. We often eat Korean in Makati but we’re too lazy to try other restaurants aside from Korean Palace or Korean Village. So this is a good change, and I personally enjoyed it.

Mak Chang is really simple inside, with little to no interior designing at all. But don’t let the hole-in-wall aura fool you, because the food really packed a punch. There are only a handful of round tables and it was full from the time we walked in till we walked out. Continue reading

The 2015 To-Do List

2015 goals

I can already imagine what my sister would think once she sees my to-do list. She’d probably say I should scrap everything on the list and prioritize on getting a better handwriting. Heh.

There are actually many things I want to try this year, such as calligraphy and lettering. But alas, handwriting is one of my weaknesses, and I should just focus on things that I know I can actually accomplish.

2015 is a year of promise, and I cannot wait to fulfill my plans one at a time. I will definitely struggle, and even for that, I cannot wait. I am often deluded into wanting too many things at once, and end up accomplishing too little. This year, I’m trying to dream less but bigger. I don’t want to feel rushed, and I have to constantly remind myself that everything will turn out fine—in its own time.

I’m pretty sure that I can accomplish most of these goals this year, if only I’ll learn to focus and to stop procrastinating. Also, to stop watching MasterChef everyday.

And it is turning out great, mostly because my vacation was extended for another week and on the brink of another more. The past week has been a great time to unwind from the chaotic holiday season and to think things through. I managed to lay out my  goals for the year and to visualize a 6-year plan.

I’m excited because this is the first time I’ve thought so far ahead. I’m just often planning what to watch during the weekend. It was almost unheard of to plan what I want to do for the next year! But 6 years? I just hope I’ll be able to pull it off. It won’t see the light of the internet, though, because it’s way too personal. I’m trying not to prove some people’s claim that my life is an open book. HEHEHE.

So here are my 2015 goals! I managed to cut it down to only nine, which is an accomplishment in itself. Continue reading

Thank You, 2014


2014 has come and gone, and I only have gratefulness in my heart. It’s not the easiest year, but it’s still one of the bests.

I started the year with more questions than answers. It was a tough start since my family was going through a difficult time after losing my grandfather before the New Year. It was followed by a series of missteps and misfortunes that trailed behind us until the end of the year.

I may be the youngest, but I’m from a family-centered clan. We bear each other’s worries, and I cannot, for the life of me, separate myself from the troubles my family is going through. Yet, I spent a hefty amount of time moping and losing more and more of my self-esteem in the process of  figuring out what’s in store for me in the future. Also, I realized that I want a life completely different from the life I’m living. Even now, I still don’t know how to get there without starving or disappointing everyone.

Thankfully, I approached the new year with higher spirits, but still terrified of the recent choices I made. The year wasn’t so bad, though. There were a lot of first times and I had more opportunity to travel more than ever.

After all the questions and worries that I go through on a daily basis, I still go to bed thankful and happy. I have so much to be grateful for that it’s impossible that life is horrible. Because really, there’s nothing more wonderful coming home to my own bed and knowing that there’s a place that will always make me feel I belong.

My heart is full of gratitude for such a wonderful 2014, and I can only pray that I still feel this way by the end of this year.
Continue reading