Trains are my most favourite mode of transportation, better than anything else in the world. I mean, you ride a train, not drive it like a car, paddle it like a boat or sail it like ship and not fly it like a plane. Just from the wording itself you could gleam that you’re not in the proverbial wheel. The Engine master doesn’t have much control, there’s just this heavy mist of danger with every melodic push pull of the wheel over the tracks. Same as how you would ride motorcycles, which are like packets of single serving death on a really fast stick– which I really like too.
Like, take Vancouver for example, the city conveniently took out the drivers in their metro system, leaving its passengers to hurtle 90 km/hr on a glorified tin can. During the times that I rode the Skytrain I sat in front of the enclosed glass because I like to stare at the devil as I smash his face with 1.75×4 N of force. A crowded Vancouver Skytrain is likely to be filled with svelte Asians anyway, I went to the city’s Chinatown and it could’ve been any other place in East Asia, since they stopped bothering to put Transmogrified English signs in their store’s façade and that I could literally walk 10 full minutes in the downtown core without bumping into a single white person.
Perfect, it’s the most sublime prelude to my Korean Training Trip.
Although I was afflicted with the kind of abject poverty that only an oblivious ignorant horrible person who lives with undeserved privilege has, my worries about how the heck do I manage to afford a bundle of train ticket rides is greatly alleviated with the KR Pass which allows hapless tourists like me unlimited rides on all Korean Train Classes for a pre-set number of days. And Korea- hip, beautiful sweet Korea, even offers to slash up the prices even more for students.
On to extrapolating as much data about the many sub-species of Korean Trains:
Nuriro: This was the very first non- Subway Metro train I’ve had the pleasure of using my discount card on. It was not very pleasant. However, the Nuriro gives a formidable attempt at cuteness; which combines a lively colour scheme- (rivalled only by the DMZ train) and the relatively scenic route it plies from Seoul to Suwon. Although earned my irk because of its glacial pace and the fact that it lacks a dining car, a necessary addition to the full train experience.
Saemaeul: Korea is a country chock-full of impeccably mannered people, save for a few Spartan Ajummas who are occasionally seen in broad daylight when they have their off days from running the Korean Mafia. The Saemaeul- Voltes V reincarnated locomotive is expertly manned by a tall Korean man who personifies the word: Gentleman, clad in his bright-white, starched uniform with a spiffy collar, passing through the aisles of the swaying train, gently closing the doors with his palms and taking a deep bow every time. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Even if there wasn’t anyone watching his graceful exits, just me stealthily spying on him. It was surreal.
Mugunghwa: This is the *Prince* of the entire fleet of Korean trains, the sparkly superstar of them all. So maybe they’re pushing 50 but they’ve achieved immortality through liberal applications of body shimmer– or in trainspeak it would be with wide plump chairs, huge picture windows, fierce interiors– totally a Prince train from the big black wheels to the well stocked dining car bar filled with everything a traveller could ever want: Banana Milk, because honestly, wanting any other kind of beverage would be scientifically impossible.
KTX: Yes, I get what makes this class of trains special. It’s fast, familiar, and always gets you off… To Busan or almost every other part of Korea. But it’s just so unsatisfyingly small. The chairs are reminiscent of Low Cost Airline seats and I’m pretty sure that’s the part of Air Travel everyone over 5’2 hates the most.
DMZ Tourist Train: This deserves its own post, which I’d be lucky to get around on doing after a month or so, when basically all my knowledge of the matter becomes just as obsolete as Clippy, although not as nostalgic.
Airport Express Train: Well, the AREX is a grossly enlarged, hollow, aluminium, horizontal, phallic object that takes you to and from the Incheon Airport by hurtling through a deep dark underground tunnel in an expedited manner. Though it includes a momentary high note when it passes through a lovely bridge between Seoul and Incheon, it just as quickly goes back to the bleakness of the dank tunnel again. I’m not really sure I can mess up that factoid with another vague innuendo but that might only be because I didn’t try hard enough.
Korea is a statistically small country, yet it’s not the size that matters but how they utilize it. And Korea is one crafty creature, creating an extensive railway network that spans their entire archipelago. If one has enough moxie, then that person can enjoy a lot of what the country has to offer without spending a lot. And what am I but just another person with a constipated gut filled with stuff, not poop, but
The kind of Freudian frustration that can only come from a physiological manifestation of latent Anal Retentiveness can be wielded as an advantage by combing through the grainy photocopy of the KTX route map and timetable that can only be had at the Seoul Station Infodesk, which you wouldn’t even know about until you queued behind an Irate American- a peculiar creature that wields cargo pants in 2 degree weather, who complained about what one usually won’t care about. But those two life changing pieces of paper, completely made everything seem possible. Including reaching the bottom of Korea, Ttangkeut, literally named Land’s End while still possessing enough money for Chi-Maek, even if just barely.
I guess you could follow my training exercise in crazy because if you made it this far down the blog, and no doubt disappointed it didn’t come packaged with a smidgen of sense. Then I guess it’s the little-est I could do for you.
Starting from Seoul you could go to Suwon and spend a few hours of the borrowed time that you’ll never get back to try Archery and visiting a Hanok Village or eating some really good Fried Chicken. Then you can be off to Gwang-ju for some earthly mounds- actually they’re royal tombs so I didn’t make any mammary gland jokes, stopping at Dae-jeon and Seo-Daejeon to spend the night in a Jjimjilbang and finally to Busan for a taste of grounded reality– Seriously it’s the most “normal” you can get in Wild Korea.
When you’ve sunk so low that you used normal as a threshold for your sanity then it’s time to close the laptop and plot your next nefarious scheme, being in a train is like being a teeny cell traversing the capillaries of a captivating corporeal entity, (you see that, words with the same first letter, it’s a new trend in writing, better than rhyming) at the perfect speed, on the same level as the houses, no traffic and minimal carbon footprint.
There’s nothing on earth better than train travel.