There are three ways to get to Busan from Cheonan: the KTX train, the regular train, or the bus. Last weekend, my friend, Annie, and I chose to take the regular train that left from Cheonan station. Our tickets said that we would leave at 9:56 a.m. and would reach Busan four hours later. Great!
We headed down to the platform at about 9:45 a.m. The train rolled up shortly after that, so we got on it and took our seats. So far, so good.
Ten minutes passed. A Korean couple walked by our row, stopped, did a double take, and then turned around to face us. I was immediately hit with that one inner thought process that every expat has experienced at some point: shit wtf did I do wrong what did I misunderstand oh god oh god–
It turned out that we were on the 9:52 a.m. train, not that 9:56 a.m. train. I deduced from this that in Korea, not only do the trains arrive on time here; they arrive on time within five minutes of each other.
The two Koreans were very nice about the whole thing, bless them. We changed places. Annie and I headed out to stand in the area between the cars, feeling sheepish. Now what…?
Without the proper ticket, I began wondering about how we were going to make our way up to the roof of the train so that we could walk against the wind while following a snarky Tom Hanks counterpart. (Polar Express, anyone?)
Or maybe they would just throw us both off of the train…while smiling and waving politely at us. (There has yet to be a moment where a Korean person has been anything other than kind and polite to me, so this was the only scenario my brain could come up with.)
My thoughts were interrupted by the timely arrival of the train attendant. Between my basic Korean and his basic English, we figured out the problem. “Two stops, then get off, change train,” he told me as he scribbled our new arrival time onto a scrap of paper.
About an hour later, we arrived at that stop. We hopped off, waited less than ten minutes for the next train, double-checked our time this time, and then got on and took our seats. From there, it was a smooth ride straight to Busan.**
(This was a very anti-climatic ending, but there you have it. We didn’t necessarily have to backtrack, but I’d still classify this as an adventure, wouldn’t you?)
Thanks for reading,
*Minus the zombies. Makes for a much easier train ride.
**I can’t get over how smooth and easy the train systems are here. Way to go, Korea.