Two subway system rides, two taxi cars, a train ride, a bus ride, and much wandering later I made it from my dorm in Seoul to my hostel in Busan.
I have learned today that trips in Korea are not quite as easy as trips in the US or Japan for me, but that's probably just the language barrier, eh? My key takeaways are: when traveling in Korea, make explicit plans; when traveling in Korea, bring along someone who speaks Korea; when traveling in Korea, figure out transportation in new cities before arriving in said cities.
So Thursday night after class, Janelle and I met in our favorite cafe to go over details. She managed to reserve an e-ticket for her Korea Rail Pass, but neither of my cards would go through! I guess their website only takes certain VISA cards and American Express. MasterCard failed me for the first time ever.
After spending much time trying to buy my pass and giving up, we went on a search for accommodations. There aren't many hostels the come up in English searches here (times a Korean-speaking friend would have been helpful), but we finally found Popcorn Hotel! They had 2 beds available and we booked them as quickly as possible.
Then comes Friday morning. We met for coffee (a plain iced coffee is almost twice as expensive here as it is back home when at Starbucks...) and then headed to Seoul Station. At the station I was able to reserve a ticket and we both received our Korea Rail Passes! It was about 11:15 and we got tickets (standing...) for the 12:30 train to Busan.
While it was awesome to be on the KTX(bullet train) to get across the country, we didn't know how to reserve seats... So we had seats from Seoul to the first stop we made and then had to give them up. Deciding to be "one with the army" guys who also got standing tickets we stood for a while (and ended up sitting) in the connecting area between two cars. (Only a problem when we were in front of the doors opening at busy stops).
Finally, a little after three we made it to Busan! Now here is where the real fun begins. We didn't get good directions to our hostel so we began by finding a place outside Busan station to connect to wifi, where we figured out which train station to go to to get to our hostel. When we arrived in Haeudae Beach, we really had no idea where we were going. We took a wrong turn (because I thought I could follow my instincts like I can in Kentucky...) and ended up walking so far that we were 30 minutes away from our hostel.
We managed to get enough wifi to find the address in Korean and then hail a cab. I think that was the scariest cab ride of my life, and I'm going to blame it on the fact that the driver was a woman. She dropped us off across the street from our hostel and disappeared (thanks for the door-to-door service...).
We entered the Popcorn Hostel and were relieved to have finally found our way only to find that we had made reservations at one of their branch locations (!!!!!). The girl at the desk gave us directions to get to Songdo Beach and we headed out to catch the bus.
The bus ride was a lot longer than I had expected and I believe we went to the complete wrong side of Busan... When we got off where she told us to catch another bus, we couldn't find the stop for it. So we looked up the address to the correct hostel and found another cab.
Mr. Park drove us from the center of Amnam-dong to the beach we are staying at... But the wrong side. He was thoroughly convinced that he took us to the right spot though and it seemed to be close to our hostel so we paid him and got out.
After a seven minute walk through a mini hurricane (that came out of nowhere) we finally made it to Popcorn Hostel Songdo Beach. The guy at the desk was definitely waiting for us and gave us a discount on the room for the night.
We went up to our room, checked out our beds and then headed out for food. Having dinner at 9pm was not exactly favorable but I was just happy I had found a home for the night.
We then got to walk on the beach at night and the feel of sand between my toes made everything from the day better.
But NEXT time, I will not be traveling without someone who can speak Korean and show me around!