Train to Incheon Airport

Travel just got a little better for you if you fly out of Incheon International Airport and live outside of Seoul. Just recently, from most major cities in Korea, you can now take the KTX directly from your city to the airport without having to transfer at Seoul Station. 

So for those of us that will soon have two kids, plus luggage this is a bit of a gift from the gods. I’ll also take it as a formal apology for shutting down the incredibly convenient Haeundae Station this year. Traveling to Haeundae Beach will never be the same.

For now the Korail site is only showing the trains below as options for people in Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon and Busan, but a Chosun Ilbo article seems to think there are, or will be, more. All of these screen captures came from July 2, 2014 and are certainly subject to change.

Here is what you can expect in the immediate future.

DAEGU
For those of you living in Daegu, there are 6 trains from Dongdaegu that take less than 3 hours.
At 51,000 won for a standard ticket and 25,500 won for kids.

In the AM at 5:48, 7:55, 8:48. In the afternoon at 12:50, 2:59, 5:18.

GWANGJU

Unfortunately, for our friends in Gwangju there is only an evening train once a day. That takes 4 hours. Tickets are 48,600 for adult standard seating and 24,300 for children.

Only one at 6:15PM. 
DAEJEON
From Daejeon you have a few more options. 33,600 for a standard adult and 16,800 for a child. All trains taking around 2 hours.
In the AM 5:55, 6:46, 8:54, 9:47. In the afternoon 1:43, 3:53 and 6:11.
 BUSAN
From Busan expect to pay 64,700 for a standard adult, 32,300 for a child. At about 3hrs 45 minutes.

5:00, 8:00 AM and 12:00, 2:10 and 4:30 in the afternoon.

Now you have more options to get to the airport and for you train lovers, the trip just got a little more romantic. But don’t forget about the Express Buses. In most cases they leave every hour from major bus terminals and are one of the most comfortable options to and from the airport. The seats recline almost completely flat.
No doubt I’ll give these a whirl. My family is a sucker for the romantic. Nothing beats sipping a Hite in the dining car while listening to someone sing in the closet-size karaoke room watching the Korean countryside speed by at 300 km an hour. That’s the height of luxury.

7 tips for staying positive in Korea

By Whit Altizer

Expats in Korea seem to fall into one of two camps. The positive and the negative. Trust me, having been here for almost 6 years now I’ve found myself in both. But I refuse to stay negative for long. So if you are teaching, in the military stationed in Korea or a professional working here, check out these tips on how you can get the most out of your Korean experience.

1. Get involved. You don’t have to learn the language. You don’t have to eat the food. But you should try to get involved in a community. There are Korean groups, expat groups, expat and Korean groups that will welcome you. Our friends go to Korean churches, join Korean hiking groups or have formed their own expat groups. One of our friends even started his own art magazine! There are communities out there right for you. Type in your interest or hobby and “Korea” or the town you live in on Facebook. You’ll probably find someone looking for you. If you don’t, start your own. Get off the base. Get away from your comfort zone. Leave your apartment. There are plenty of things to do, but you have to go find it.

Thanks to our lovely co-teacher and her boyfriend we enjoyed several lovely outings with a Korean photography club.

2. Find positive people. This might be the most important tip. If your community isn’t positive about life in Korea, go find another one. Negative attitudes from those around you can ruin your experience. Don’t let them. It’s easy to bitch about life in Korea, but it’s a lot more fun to enjoy the eccentricities that might annoy you about life here.

Every month we organized a Korean-foreigner dinner. We met our best friends through this dinner.
Good, positive people make all the difference. Find them.They are here.

3. Travel with a smile. Traveling around Korea with an open mind and heart makes it as good a place to travel as any Asian country. It is in Korean’s DNA to share and welcome a stranger. Especially when you are doing something active like hiking or running in a marathon or even cycling Korea’s bike paths. We’ve had a meal bought for us on the spot, had a lovely evening drinking with an old Korean couple we could barely understand (and vice versa), were welcomed into a home on our bike trip for drinks and food and just last week my friend and I drank makgeolli with a hiking group. Don’t shield yourself from these interactions. Smile, say hello, be respectful and accept what comes to you. These interactions will make you fall in love with Korea.

4. Be flexible. Life in Korea can be unpredictable most of the time. A lot of that comes down to language barriers and a lot of that comes down to being on a need-to-know basis. Every place I’ve worked in Korea I’ve had days off, classes and extra hours sprung on me at the last minute. Westerners need to know things well in advance, Koreans don’t. If you go with it, you might even enjoy the spontaneity.

My running buddies and I said “yes” to an invitation from Eeodeung Running Club void of details. We ended up running a half-marathon and drinking loads of makgeolli. It was a blast.

5. Leave things at home. Between Costco and other large supermarkets, these days you can find almost everything you want from home.  Also, sites like iHerb and GMarket can get you what you want or close to it.  If you are military or a professional that can ship things over for free, be sure you know that in the big cities you can stock your apartment with second-hand goods for cheap. Cars and appliances are all made for life in Korea and yours might not be. We’ve come almost empty-handed, stocked our apartment with second-hand items and then sold them when we moved. We’ve sold almost all of our possessions every time we’ve come and gone and it can be liberating. You’ll love the feeling of a good purge.

6. Don’t compare it to home. Don’t come with any ideas about how you think things should be. The moment you start comparing Korea to your homeland is the moment you start feeling negative about Korea and maybe even angry with it. It isn’t and never will be your home country. It’s best to only worry about what you can control.

7. Don’t be intimidated. I think the people who don’t survive here are the ones that are intimidated by the new food and language. You can find yourself scared to try the food. Scared to leave your base or apartment. Or scared to have an interaction with a Korean. It took me about 3 months to really feel comfortable getting out. My wife and I hesitated to try a restaurant in our neighborhood because we had no idea what to expect. It also took me a few times to be open to the random conversations on the street. Koreans usually just want to practice their English for nothing in return. And of course as we’ve said time and time again, the food is amazing. Don’t let anything about Korea frighten you.

See a similar post with expat “wisdom” from way back in 2008 after only a year here.

Falling for Korea

Korea is a country full of surprises for foreigners. This is mainly because we generally know so little about the southern portion of this small peninsula. We think it’s unfriendly, unstable, dangerous, overly-crowded and oppressively industrial.

This past week I traveled by bike from Seoul to Andong over 6-days with seven bicycle tour operators from all over the world. I was there as a representative for the Chattanooga-based BikeToursDirect on a Familiarization of Korea tour sponsored by bikeOasis and the Korean Tourism Organization. It was interesting to witness the other seven discover and fall for the charms of Korea. You never expect much, but it is, like kimchi, an acquired taste. Once you fall in love, you can’t get enough. 

The first 48 hours in Korea can be a bit like a bad hallucinogenic trip. The major cities are big, crowded and smell weird. Walking around that first day your are overloaded by flashing lights, honking horns and K-pop blaring from every storefront making for one very trippy, disjointed song. This sensory overload in conjunction with profound jet-lag can make you feel like you’re about to faint right in the middle of thousands of people rushing past you like a herd of giant ants. Or like a character in the futuristic Korea depicted in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas
I watched my fellow group members experience this on our first night in Seoul just as I did in 2007. Eyes bloodshot, no sense of direction and being whisked around from one thing to the next in a taxi that is going too damn fast! I remember the feeling. Just get me to my room so I can process this.
The second day in Korea is the realization that you aren’t getting all of the comforts of home anymore. Shoulders slump when you realize you’re sleeping on the floor, Korean-style. You’re shocked by a strange side dish placed in front of you. Day two is an endless day of “but, why?” questions. 
But that’s when it happens. Something small, but magical. Maybe a small child hands you a candy, a Korean stops you on the street to chat or simply to welcome or help you. Koreans have a way of making you feel special, making you feel at home. It is their special power. By day two, if you are open to it, you’ll start to fall in love. Before you know it you’re asking for more kimchi.

Where’s the kimchi?

We are slightly head over heels for Korean food. Sometimes I wonder if our stomachs keep us coming back to this faraway country. “What’s the first thing you’re going to eat?” Lindsay asked me right as I was about to drift off the night before our flight to Korea. Instantly, I was transported to a bustling, well-lighted Korean restaurant where soju glasses clinked in the distance and carefully arranged, colorful side dishes filled the table. I could hear the samgyeopsal sizzling over the grill, feel the steam of kimchi jjigae hit my face and taste the sesame leaf and lettuce wrap full of rice and pork. “Imo,” I imagined myself yelling to get the attention of the waitress to place my order, “I’ll have it all.”

It was with nothing short of horror when I heard from a co-teacher that Daegu is notorious for its bad food. I knew that no food could top the food from my beloved province of Jeollanam-do(see my love letter here), but certainly these native Koreans couldn’t screw up their national treasure….could they?
On day two of arriving in Gyeongsan, I was served kimchi that was still frozen. Blasphemy. It is like being served frozen french fries. Desperate, we began inquiring about restaurants in the area. Suggestions came pouring in from the veterans. “Try the galbi tent restaurant across from the bakery,” “Dae Jeong, is run by four women and you get lots of banchan,” Across from the apartment on the second floor there is a good soup place.” And just like that, the delicious food materialized.
Check back for restaurant suggestions in the Daegu/Gyeongsan area as we find them. And if you are a seasoned veteran, give us a few to try. 

Everything I need…

Annyong, Lindsay here.

As Whit has said, it’s pretty surreal that we’re back. It felt strange for about a day, and then, just like no time had passed at all, we slipped back into our normal Korean routine like cold feet in warm, welcoming slippers.

Kimchi abounds (is it possible I love it even more this time around?). Air quality is hit or miss (a miss, today). My Korean language skills still leave much to be desired. I’ve already hit up Gmarket (picture Amazon Prime for Koreans) for five different pieces of furniture. Life is ticking away, yet again, in the Far East.

There were some things I thought I would miss when we left the States again. Last year, I had slipped back very easily in the comforts of wide open spaces, no rules on what you throw in your trash can, and the glorious, life-altering invention of a clothes dryer.

So it surprised me this week when I started pulling out the wet, cold clothes from my 1950s green Samsung washing machine and started hanging them up on the lines on our 18th floor balcony. I was actually enjoying myself. There is something relaxing (even therapeutic, maybe?) about doing a task so simple. A task that helps me slow down in this busy life and think about a blouse blowing in the wind beneath the sun. It also doesn’t hurt that this is my view.



When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.’

–Dalai Lama

Third time’s a charm

One of the more surreal experiences of my life happened this week. My wife and I arrived back in Korea for a third time. In a new city. At a new school. With a two year old. All this after closing our Korean food truck business. We can’t seem to quit Korea.

Our plane circled around Daegu before we landed and I could make out the neon lights of noraebangs, see the red crosses of churches and watched car lights snake through the streets of the city. It’s strange to be back, but it weirdly feels like coming home.

Our 2-yr old boy is adjusting nicely. He was born here. Korea seems like a part of his soul. He seemed comfortable from the start and is overjoyed about the amount of public transportation we have used. His first full Korean word was “gimbap.” And he stares right back at the Koreans who stare at him.

We plan on resurrecting this once active blog. It’ll focus more on Daegu and Gyeongsan and raising our son in a foreign land. We’ll also do our best to write about living and working in South Korea in 2013. No doubt there will be some blogs about trail running in Korea and traveling in Asia. Hopefully, it will be entertaining and helpful to new or soon-to-be expats.

We’re excited to be blogging again and even more excited about the easy access to kimchi stew.

Annyong!

Home sweet home

Annyong!
Lindsay here. Sorry we’ve been slow to blog the past couple weeks. But we’ve definitely stayed busy while we made the transition to our new home.
I know a lot of you back home were worried about a pregnant chick and her baby daddy living in one of Korea’s infamous “love motels,” but we survived just fine. (Even fell a little in love with the motel proprietors and maids and left them with a huge box of fresh Korean grapes).
But now we are in our own home. And when I mean home, it’s like a real house. It’s the first time we’ve lived with so many extravagances in Korea: a bath tub! A dishwasher! An oven! Extra bedrooms and bathrooms! And the biggest thing, literally, space!!!
We really lucked out in this amazing new home. And we hope all of you back home will come to visit us some time. There is a bed waiting.

Don’t worry, Mom. I didn’t drink the wine (even though I wanted to!). It was for some guests we had over!

The view from our kitchen!!

Coming to Korea? New changes to the E2 visa process

Interested in coming to Korea?

There are some new changes taking place as soon as Sept. 1, so make sure to take notice of the new rules.

Here are the changes:

As of Sept. 1, 2010:

  •  All university degrees must be sent to Korea with an apostille. (http://apostilleinfo.com) A copy of the original degree with an apostille is also OK.
  • Transcripts are no longer needed.

As of Jan. 1, 2011:

Read more about the required documents for obtaining employment in Korea at: http://www.saykimchirecruiting.com/

Talk to Me in Korean

Lindsay and I have tried our best to get a lot more serious about learning Korean. Some days our Korean is better than others, but we try. We have taken classes at the Gwangju International Center (GIC), paid for lessons at Korean Class 101, and we have enjoyed the new blog Talk to Me in Korean. All are worthy teachers, but I have found that I keep recommending Talk to Me in Korean to anyone wanting to study the language.

Talk to Me in Korean is run by a native Gwangju-vian, Hyunwoo Sun and staffs other very helpful and very funny Korean teachers. Sun studies English, Japanese, French, Chinese and Spanish and has a real gift for teaching his mother tongue. He started out at Korean Class 101 and has since started his own company, G9Languages.
For the beginning students TTMIK breaks down all of the components of a Korean sentence while teaching you important vocabulary in an interesting way. They use video to teach vocabulary and short lessons to teach you the grammar. Not even my Korean teacher could teach me how to use object markers like they did in 20 minutes. Oftentimes I listen for good methods for teaching a foreign language because they really know what they are doing.

So, if you are looking to learn Korean then definitely check them out on ITunes or at their youtube site or at their website http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/.

안녕히 가세요!!

I am Lindsay. I am USA.

As our teacher waited patiently for a response, a one-worder, anything, Whit and I eyed our teacher with dumb stares. We had nothing. Luckily, we were joined by one more student, better than us but still not great. At least she won’t pick on the two of us the whole time, I thought.

This was not going to be pretty.

“OK, koreankoreankoreankoreankoreankoreankorean. Introduce yourself.”

Whit and my introduction sounded something like this, when translated:

I am Lindsay. I am USA. I am wife. (to him, said in English, with a point of my finger)

I realized right after my lovely introduction that I am now in fact that stupid kid in class. You know, the one you think about and shake your head in sympathy and think, ‘I bet she’s really good at math.”

We have a test tomorrow on about 20 adjectives. I have been studying with all my heart for the past 24 hours. So I thought today when my cabbie asked me 100 questions, I could throw a couple in there. But noooooo. First things first, figure out what he’s asking.

Wish us better luck in tomorrow’s class.