As much as I wanted to spend every waking moment in Seoul, I also wanted to explore other parts of Korea, too. I was torn between Jeju Island and Busan, but then Henry wisely pointed out that traveling to Busan would be easier, probably, for a bunch of dummies like us. And he promised that we could go to Jeju another time and when he was sleeping, I drained him of a small amount of his blood and snipped some of his beard hairs for my YOU PROMISED, MOTHERFUCKER potion.
That being said, Busan won out and I wasn’t mad about it. I got to make the obligatory TRAIN TO BUSAN joke on Instagram which no one got, but that’s OK!
I have to laugh a little because before we left for this trip, several of my friends were like, “Send us your itinerary!” and honestly, aside from our flights and hotel, nothing else was set in stone. Not even this overnighter to Busan! In fact, we didn’t even get our KTX tickets until the day before. We were on our way to Myeongdong, I believe, and got off at Seoul Station first in order to buy the tickets. Seoul Station is not only just a subway station, but also a large bus transfer terminal and major railway station where you can take the KTX to other cities in South Korea. It’s also SUPER EASY to get tickets (there are a ton of self-service ticketing things but we opted to just go right into the KTX office and have someone do it for us because #dumbAmericans).
In hindsight, I can’t believe how flawless this whole process was.
Thursday morning, we threw some clothes into our backpacks and set off for Seoul Station. We bought some snacks at GS25 (one of the amazing convenience stores in Korea and I miss it so much, take me back!) and then went down to our designated platform and waited for the train to arrive, at which point we boarded the train and showed our tickets to literally no one. I was a nervous wreck about this, but I guess that’s just how it is in South Korea! I was watching some broad’s vlog the other day, and she was on a train in China that’s similar to the KTX, but was joking that she had to go through all this security and show her ticket numerous times, unlike in Korea, where you just walk right on and no one bothers checking.
My banana milk (uyoo) and vacation journal which I nearly filled up by the time the trip was over! And you guys, banana milk was one of my favorite things to drink there. I thought, man, there’s no way this will live up to the hype. Especially since, while I love bananas, banana-flavored things aren’t usually my thing. I hate how synthetic it tastes! But these little jugs of banana milk blew my mind. They were sweet, not too sickeningly so, and felt like liquid silk on my tongue. Ugh, so good, and I drank them very slowly to make it last. They’re so popular that there are special straws available in all of the convenience stores, just for them!
The train ride itself was a relatively uneventful 2 and a half hours. Chooch watched YouTube videos the whole time and kept snickering to himself, which was annoying because his big head was blocking the window and I was like, “Thanks for crying over the window seat when you’re not even looking out the window, asshole!” From the glimpses I got, it was lots of countryside, low houses, and mountains.
Meanwhile, Henry befriended an older Korean businessman (I mean, older than me; he was probably the same age as Henry, lol) named Jeno who was actually born in Busan but currently lives in Seattle. He told Henry that he owns a company in Seattle and also has an office in, I believe, Daegu which is where he was taking the KTX that day. They talked for a really long time and I was so mad because of course HENRY would make a friend in Korea. I was furiously scribbling in my vacation journal the pieces of the conversation I could hear and then Henry texted me something about “don’t listen to my conversations” ugh.
I was hoping Henry would have the good sense to ask his new friend for a job (in the Daegu branch, obviously) but no, of course not.
(Although, if he insists on staying in the beverage industry, I think he should aim for a job at Binggrae and sling some banana uyoo on the daily.)
We reached Busan Station around 10:30am and Chooch was excited to mock Henry’s map-reading. Also, Chooch’s backpack is so stuffed to the gills because he insisted on bringing that damn Peachy Boy with him, which took up almost his entire backpack so Henry stuffed most of the clothes into MY backpack, which means that Chooch and I both had overstuffed backpacks.
How stuffed was Henry’s backpack, you ask? N/A. HENRY DIDN’T BRING ONE AND RELIED ON CHOOCH AND ME TO CARRY EVERYTHING!
On the train, Jeno told Henry that Busan is a friendlier city than Seoul, and right off the bat, and elder Subway worker came over to help Henry and another older man use the T-Money card refilling machine. And then he gave us explicitly instructions on how to get Gamcheon Culture Village, which was where we figured we’d start the day since we couldn’t check into the hotel until 4.
Busan’s subway stations are smaller than Seoul’s but still packed with flair! The trains are older and definitely warmer, that’s for sure. We had been spoiled by the sleek and sparkly trains in Seoul! Busan’s had its own personality though and I was happy that we could still get around pretty easily – and our T-Money card was valid in Busan so we didn’t have to buy a new one!
Anyway, we managed to take the subway to the station nearest to Gamcheon Culture Village, at which point we had to embark on our, what, 7th urban hike of the trip in order to reach the entrance of the village, and if you Google “Gamcheon Culture Village,” one of the first things you will see is “STEEP STREETS” and “COASTAL MOUNTAIN.” And what made it even more fun to trudge up that perpendicular pavement was being strapped with backpacks. Honestly, at one point I was climbing that hill bent over at a 90-degree angle and my backpack started to feel like A SADDLE.
Years from now, I imagine all of us gathered around for a Christmas picnic in the cemetery, someone bringing up “that one time we went to Korea” and Chooch is going to flip the fuck out at the memory of walking 35,000 steps uphill for the whole time.
And then Chooch and Henry fought over the map because this was one of the main themes of our Korean Odyssey. Chooch must be earning Boy Scout badges through YouTube or something because I never knew he was so good with directions and using compasses on phones to find North and you know, like basic survival skills that I never learned even after spending my entire elementary career in Girl Scouts.
The fights they had over maps and directions were hilarious, you guys. I laughed myself to pee-drops so many times, all the while thinking, “I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE LOST IN KOREA AND THIS IS SO FUNNY TO ME!”
To be fair to Henry though, we didn’t get lost at all going to the Gamcheon Culture Village; however, we did find out after the fact that there was a shuttle bus we could have taken. But hey — what’s 45 minutes out of the day?
There are worse places to be walking, that’s for sure.
The weather was perf that day. Low 60s and sunny. Our first cherry blossom sightings happened on this day, too!
This alley went straight-the-fuck-up.
Chooch and I had to take a break because being Henry’s pack-mules is hard work. Henry just kept moseying on up the street because all he was carrying was a two pound camera bag. Honestly, some parts of the sidewalk were so steep that I was afraid our backpacks were going to make us fall backward and I didn’t want to fall! I’m scared of falling! Have you ever seen me on a playground? I get stuck on things and I start crying about being afraid to jump down because I don’t want to fall and then Chooch has to be like, “You’re literally two feet from the ground, if that. You can do this.”
Anyway, Henry eventually noticed that we were missing. He turned around and saw us sitting on a bench and made the WHAT THE HELL Dad-hands-to-the-sky and then stormed back down the road to fetch us.
“IT’S SO HEAVY!” I cried, trying to shift the weight of my backpack to no avail. So Henry, ever-so-valiant, grabbed the backpack off my shoulders and thrust the camera bag at me.
WOW! WHAT A FUCKING PRINCE! Nearly an hour into this hike!
Chooch and I were cracking up so bad. Maybe it was the altitude, maybe it was the train to Busan, maybe it was just us being us, but we were so slap-happy.
We made it to the crest of the mountain at the same time a bus was dropping off a handful of tourists.
“THERE WAS A BUS?!” Chooch screeched. And so our Gamcheon Culture Village experience began! (Stay tuned for a million pictures of it, btw. Sorry, but that town is so pretty!)