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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

South Korea: Bullet Train to Busan

November 13th, 2010 · No Comments

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Korea converted me to train travel. After three days in Seoul, which is in the northeast corner of South Korea, I needed to travel to Busan so I could cover the annual convention of the International Diabetes Federation’s Western Pacific Region. Busan is about 250 miles away from Seoul in the southeast corner of the country. I had assumed that i-SENS would send me by air, as we would almost always do in the U.S.

But Korea has a high-speed rail linking its two largest cities. I took the train together with Jeongkwan (Brian) Lee, of the i-SENS planning division, who manned the i-SENS booth at the show. On our ride we reached 184 mph, if not faster. People have good reason to call this high-speed transportation “bullet trains.”

Brian and the Bullet Train

Brian and the Bullet Train

You might think that by traveling at such speed the train would bounce us around a lot. In fact, most plane or auto rides are much bumpier. The train didn’t even have seat belts to strap us in. This was a very smooth ride indeed, one that permitted us unlimited opportunity to get up and move around.
Trains between Seoul and Busan run every half hour during the day. With a capacity of 935 passengers in dozens of cars, they weren’t a bit crowded. In fact, the first-class car that Brian and I took never had more than a half dozen other passengers. I especially appreciated the free wi-fi, snacks, and bottled water available in the first-class cars.

I Enjoyed the Train's Ample Leg Room

I Enjoyed the Train's Ample Leg Room

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When I wasn’t checking my email, I looked out the windows at the countryside rolling by. Small farms exist among the towns, cities, and mountains, but none of them appeared quaint or ancient. I had to remember that South Korea started fresh when the war ended in 1953.

Rice Paddies in the Fall Near a Town and Mountains

Rice Paddies in the Fall Near a Town and Mountains

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Another View of Rice Paddies

Another View of Rice Paddies

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All too soon, we arrived in metropolitan Busan with its 3.6 million inhabitants. Busan, the only city spared in the Korean War, is the country’s largest port city and the fifth largest container port in the world.

This Suspension Bridge in Busan, the Gwangan, Spans 4.6 Miles

This Suspension Bridge in Busan, the Gwangan, Spans 4.6 Miles

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The View from My Hotel Room of Korea's Most Popular Beach, Haeundae

The View from My Hotel Room of Korea's Most Popular Beach, Haeundae

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Aside from the scenery we can view from trains, they do have a few other not so minor advantages over flying. Like not having to drive miles out of town to get to the airport, not having to wait an hour or more there, and, last but not least, not having to go through security. I can’t wait until we can get bullet trains in the U.S. Then I’ll really start to travel.

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