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Posts Tagged ‘train’

Let me preface this post by saying that not even the approximate 26 hours we spent in various methods of transportation en route to our final destination in Thailand could mar my feelings about this amazing, exotic, tropical and laid-back country. I loved every second of it, even — and especially, at times — the journey.

Evan and I began our adventure on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM, when we bundled up, grabbed some kimbap and chicken strips and braved the snow to hop on a three-hour bus to Seoul, from where we would depart to Thailand early Wednesday morning. Bus travel in Korea is extremely comfortable, so as soon as we hit our seats I snuggled in and tore into our food.

Evan thought it was hilarious that I ate my chicken with chopsticks, but what was I supposed to do? My hands were filthy and not acceptable vehicles to shovel food into my mouth. I’m sure the germaphobes in my family can appreciate that.

Kimbap is a Korean dish that is similar to sushi, but instead of fresh fish wrapped in the rice and seaweed, the roll is filled with egg, various vegetables (typically carrot, spinach and pickled radish) and usually ham. It is delicious and and staple in our diet. We eat it at least two or three times a week. NOM!

Thanks to family visits, my desire for a piping bowl of chili and Evan’s competitive urge to play FIFA, we got only a few hours of sleep before it was 4 AM, and time to catch a bus to the airport. Thankfully, my cousin Tim told us about a bus straight to Incheon that took an hour, which was such a relief because the subway wasn’t running yet and besides, it’s a pain to get to the airport by train.

We waited for our 9 AM flight, watching the sunrise from the gorgeous wall/windows at Seoul Incheon. It is literally the prettiest and most efficient airport I’ve ever been to.

Our first stop was in Shanghai at around 10 AM. The airport was alright, but what really made me uncomfortable was the utter curtness of the airport employees. Everyone seemed beyond annoyed, short and like I was being a total pain in the ass. Hmph.

I feared that this may have been simply the Chinese way, but that was before I had a completely different experience in Beijing. More on that later. We killed time during our 2-hour layover with spicy chicken, onion rings and Asahi (we’ve been on a chicken kick since Christmas Eve). Hee hee.

At 4 PM, we finally arrived in Bangkok! It took 30 minutes to get through security, which was a miracle since everyone and their mother from all around the world decided that was the place to be that afternoon. Before we knew it, we were in a cab to the Bangkok train station. Once at the station, we bought tickets for an overnight train/bus/ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui, where we’d be spending our time. We were sweltering when we got there (it was in the 80s) and had peeled off layers during our trip. After all, it was about 15 degrees when we left Seoul that morning!

We celebrated our arrival with Thai beer and fresh fruit. The sleeper train was amazingly space efficient. We ate more vendor food, chatted, and people watched all the backpackers interacting until a man came around to help us assemble our bunk. As soon as my bed was ready, I crawled in and passed out.

We awoke (well I awoke) at 4 AM, because our ticket said that’s when we’d be transferring to a bus. Well that was before I knew everything ran on “Thai time,” which is roughly 1-1.5 hours late. Eventually we bussed to the pier in Champong, where we boarded a ferry that would take us to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and finally Koh Samui. We caught a gorgeous sunrise at the dock :)

We got to our destination around 1 PM, and were able to relax until more travel excursions the following day. On NYE, we had joined up with Mimi and Matt and made our way to a ferry back to Koh Phangan, where we would celebrate the new year. The ferry was so rocky, the water was choppy and the boat was full of drinking 20-year-olds. You do the math. Eesh.

We took cabs (and I use that term loosely, considering it was a pickup filled with people) to and from the party once on Koh Phangan, which was uneventful until the cab we were leaving in broke down on our way home. Everyone had to get out and push, during which I (of course) ran right out of my flip flop. I had to run back and get it, while the cab started to speed away. I screamed, ran with Mimi, and we barely made it back on. I lept for it, while a guy just swooped Meems on. It was nuts! Oh and when we were ready to leave Koh Phangan, we were at the ferry station before we realized we had 2 hours to wait before the first one. FAIL.

On the island, we got around on little motorbikes. It seemed like the preferred method of transportation for everyone, and it was awesome seeing everything from place to place, and doing activities on our own time. Plus, it was much cheaper than cabbing!

At the end of our amazing vacation, Evan and I boarded our plane to fly from Koh Samui to Bangkok around 9 PM. Once in Bangkok, we hopped aboard a 1 AM flight to Beijing, switched planes with the help of very friendly Chinese locals, and landed back in Seoul at 12 PM. A much shorter ride than the way out. I would have more to say about the seamless trip, but I literally slept for the majority of it. WIN!

In Seoul, we got tickets for the 1 PM bus to Jeonju, grabbed Dunkin Donuts and lamented that our island vacation was over. Evan: Goodbye white beaches, hello white snow. Goodbye 30 degrees celsius, hello 30 degrees farenheit. Me: Wah, waaaaaaahhh. All in all, we were really lucky that no hiccups occured on any planes, trains, buses, cabs, or motorbikes. It was a lot more travel time than the Japan trip, but ran much more smoothly.

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This will be my first of many blog posts about our amazing trip to Japan, which lasted a week and was much too short! Our trip took us on a multitude of planes, trains, one automobile and buses to get from Korea to Japan and back again.

Last Tuesday, after the school day ended, Evan and I hurried home to double-check we had packed everything for our trip to Tokyo and the Fuji Rock Music Festival, then hopped on a bus to Seoul. After arriving to the big city, we gobbled down some American-style food with cousin Tim at Butterfinger Pancakes in Gangnam (macaroni and cheese! mashed potatoes and gravy!) then hit the hay in preparation for our morning flight.

Getting to Japan was smooth sailing. We left Tim’s with 1.5 hours to spare, which turned out to be perfect timing. Security at the airport was a breeze, and by 12:15 we were in the sky, doing a crossword puzzle for the duration of our 2.5 hour flight.

We had exchanged our won for yen before leaving Jeonju, so we were prepared to travel in Tokyo.

Once we arrived to Narita, we followed our dear friend Mary’s impeccable directions, which took us on a whirlwind of trains to get to her house in the outskirts of Tokyo.

One small hiccup we encountered was on our first train, from Narita Airport into the heart of Tokyo. I, being the genius I am, threw my suitcase into a lock, swiveled around the numbers and pulled the key out — before reading the directions. I spent the next twenty minutes or so moving the numbers one at a time to unlock my bag. Thank god I finally stumbled upon the right combination! Evan was not amused, but was thrilled that I unlocked my bag and we didn’t have to stay on the train until the end of the line to have them cut it out. Yikes.

After a day of sightseeing with the Alderman family, Evan and I took a Shinkansen bullet train to Echigo Yuzawa, where we transferred to a shuttle to take us to Fuji Rock 2010. We started our day at 5:30 AM, so we slept on the train (munching on the sandwiches we had time to buy in Tokyo — food shortage crisis averted).

We suffered through a massive line for the shuttle and made it to the festival around 12. Thanks to Mary’s help, we were able to buy Shinkansen tickets a day ahead of time, so it was all smooth sailing.

Fast forward three days, to when we dragged our tired, muddy and dirty selves back to Tokyo. We woke up early Monday morning to beat the rush of festival goers to the shuttle that would take us back to the train station. After the rain stopped, we quickly wicked the water off of our tent (which stayed dry, thank goodness), packed it up and practically ran to the shuttle. From there we got tickets for another Shinkansen, took local trains around Tokyo and made it back to Mary’s by 1 PM. Pretty impressive!

After another wonderful day-and-a-half with friends, Evan and I began our most challenging travel day yet. Although our feet had been rubbed raw by running around in squishy, soaked sneakers and rubber rain boots, the kicker was about to come.

Like good travelers, Evan and I arrived back to Narita on Tuesday around 4:15 PM, with plenty of time before our 6 PM flight. When we checked in, we were informed that our plane, scheduled to land in Seoul at 8:50 PM, had been delayed an hour and forty-five minutes. Which wouldn’t be a big deal except from Seoul, it is still 3 hours to Jeonju and we had to work the next morning!

We spent our downtime at the airport reading and watching the sun set on Narita.

For some reason, United Airlines took pity on me and bumped me up to a business class seat on a very full flight home. Being the compassionate and awesome girl that I am, I traded Evan — who, at 6’2, is a good 8 inches taller than I am — for his cramped, coach-class seat. He owes me one :P

Once back to Korea, we hurried to the Airport buses only to find we missed one by FIVE MINUTES. Kill me! We didn’t panic though, and hopped a train to the Express Bus Terminal. We made it there by 12:45 — the last bus left Jeonju at 12. At that point, I had blisters all over my feet, I was sweaty and uncomfortable, and I just burst into tears. There isn’t any photographic documentation of my meltdown, but suffice to say that It. Wasn’t. Good. Luckily Evan calmed me down.

We had two options — stay in Seoul and catch a 5:30 AM train to make it to work at 9:30 AM in Jeonju — or take a cab driver’s offer to drive us home for 100,000 won. We needed to get home, so Ev forked over the money, and we tried to sleep as the cabbie flew home.

Now I’m at lunch, ready to take a cat nap because I’m running on empty from our crazy day of traveling yesterday. More details of our trip to come!

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