Riding the Korail KTX Train From Seoul to Busan

Since we have an adopted child that was born in Busan, we felt it was important to take a day out of one of our trips to Seoul during the adoption process to go see his birth-city.

Wow, so glad we did! It is an amazing city and absolutely beautiful. Stunning bridges, beaches, landmarks, and views all around the coastal mega-city make it worth the effort! It’s one of the gems of South Korea and a nice change of scenery from the flashy, glitzy Seoul. Truly, you could spend a week there and we only had about 10 hours, but we made the most of it and below are some things you might need to know about getting there and getting around.

KTX train routes from Seul

KTX train routes from Seul

Of course, the most fun way to get there is by jumping on the popular bullet train from Seoul to Busan called the Korail KTX! With a top speed of about 187mph, it seems to “fly” effortlessly across the country and makes a 5-6 hour trip by car only a 2 hour journey. Plus, it is a fantastic way to see the Korean countryside as you fly pass or go through numerous cities such as Gwangmyeong, Daejeon and Daegu along the way.

Getting tickets:

The process, as a foreigner, to get tickets for the KTX can be complicated. The simple way is to pay full price and purchase them directly at Seoul Station. However, a round trip runs about $80 which for four or five people, this could be expensive. Thankfully, the Korean government created a program for foreign travelers that saves riders almost 50% off normal tickets. Though it is a process, it is well worth it. Children’s tickets are 50% off the adult price and adult prices are half of the normal ticket window prices.

Three steps:

  1. Purchase ticket vouchers online via the Korail website for foreigners (must have passport info when buying).
  2. Print vouchers and bring them to Information Desk at Seoul Station before you plan to travel along with credit card used to buy them and passports. They will give you ticket receipt.
  3. Exchange ticket receipt for actual tickets with assigned seats at KTX ticket counter at Seoul Station.

Sounds easy enough, but step one is the biggest challenge. They must be purchased on a special page of the Korail website. However, that website has issues with VPN outside of Korea. This means from the U.S. or other countries it may not be accessible and may time out without pulling up. This is what kept happening to me. So, I spent some time learning how to trick their system and changing my VPN to a Korean VPN. I ended up using a cheap website tool I felt safe with called IronSocket. I am not a computer expert by any means but this was pretty simple. Once my VPN was temporarily changed I could access the Korail website and everything went smoothly from there. You also can try a friend in another country that might can purchase them for you, or even better a contact inside Korea.

Another easy option: If all else fails, as soon as you land in Korea, go to Seoul Station (if you haven’t been there it is fantastic!) and make your way downstairs (two levels down) to the area where the Express Train that goes to the Incheon Airport departs (it is down on the backside corner of the station – meaning furthest back from the main entrance). If you take a subway train there, get off and go up into the main terminal area, walk all the way across, past food court, towards the back entrance in the far back corner. There is a large money exchange service right there just before you head down the escalators. Keep going down all the way to Express Train. Just ask if you get lost.

Downstairs, around the corner from the escalator, you will find a business center called the “Premium Travel Center“. These people are great and you can use their computer for about $5 and buy them on their system. Takes about 5 minutes per ticket keep in mind. We didn’t know this until we got there, but it is an easy solution. You just might consider doing this a few days before you intend to take the KTX, especially during peak travel seasons.

Once on the Korail website, you will have to navigate around some to find the correct area to buy the tickets, find the correct schedule, and the types of tickets to buy, but it is pretty simple. We bought a one day pass, but you can buy multiple day passes to use on the entire Korean system or one day passes for just the KTX. Lots of options. Just make sure you put in all of the information requested correctly. There is no correcting it later. I learned that the hard way when we missed a number on one of our children’s passports. Ugh…

One more thing – they will charge your card at purchase online but if you ended up not exchanging them at the Information Center or somewhere else because you decided not to go, the charges will not complete and you should be whole financially. This happened to us with the one ticket we messed up on. We had to buy another one, but the charge for the original one never completed.

After arriving at Seoul Station (be on time…they will leave without you!) and seated on the train, enjoy the silence (yes it is even more quiet than the subways! These people don’t talk!) but have fun and soak it all in. Riding the KTX and being from America where we don’t have bullet trains was certainly one of the highlights of our trips to Korea!

Getting around Busan:

You will arrive a little more than 2 hours at Busan Station, which is a little smaller version of Seoul Station. Super nice, clean and modern. (There is a really neat viewing platform on the third level on the backside of the station that faces the neat suspension bridge out in the bay. It’s a great view to start the day! To find it, cross through the main terminal area and go up the escalator. There is a Lotteria right there at the top and the viewing platform is to the left.)

There are two main ways to see Busan. A self guided tour via taxi and subway trains or the Busan City Bus Tour called BUTI. We decided to take the easy, effortless route since our time was limited and took the Busan City Bus Tour. Easy to find. Just walk outside the main entrance and you will see the BUTI buses parked over on the road to the left of the main station. Make sure to pick the right tour bus (Blue or Red) and pay the driver your $10 for the ticket and you are good to go. Around $10 for the entire day!! Crazy cheap! The bus will stop at certain cites and you can get off and on as desired. Buses come to each stop every 30 minutes too.

It was fantastic!! There are two routes available. We took the RED route and loved every second of it. It will fill up an entire day easy! Cites like the Busan Harbor Bridge. We got on a open topped bus and it was a wild fun ride across the bridge and through the tunnel! Kids had a ball! The weather was so fantastic we hoped for open topped buses all day long. Other places included Art Museum, world’s largest department store – Centum City, UN Memorial, Cinema Center, Gwangan Beach area (loved this), Dongbaekseom Island, Haeundea Beach, and others. We couldn’t even get them all in much less the blue line. Give yourself about 45 minutes from where you are to get back to the station for your KTX train back to Seoul.

Overall, we are so glad we took the time to do this and we plan to spend more time down in Busan on our next trip to Korea. We love Seoul too, but Busan is a nice contrast and great way to have another neat experience of the amazing country called South Korea!

(I wrote this blog post because I found trying to get KTX tickets to be somewhat of a hassle. Korean websites either didn’t work from the U.S. or were not very user friendly. I tried communicating with them via Twitter, Facebook and submitting emails, but I either got no responses, or generic ones days later. So, I felt the need that once I figured it out I would share my findings here for others to use as a guide.)

Other helpful links:

http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Information/Trans/ktx.cfm

http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do

Brady Speers is a married father of four living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He has twin girls and two adopted sons from South Korea. Brady works as a retirement income planner, helping retirees in the Houston and Dallas markets plan out their golden years. He is also an amateur photographer and huge Dallas Cowboys fan!

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Zane is Home!

Finally, after two years, we are officially a family of six as we got home with Zane this last Saturday afternoon to a welcome party of friends and family at DFW.

Everything went so well, it was truly remarkable. Zane handled it beautifully and has made the transition so far better than we expected. We still have a long way to go and life ahead of us, but we could not be more excited. Now we can settle into our new normal.

Adoption is such a magical thing for everyone involved. It’s God’s way of taking a bad situation and pouring his grace all over it. Zane’s life is in front of him now as a Korean American. I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

For now, we get ready for the fall and the holidays we are just around the corner!

Family of Six in Six Days!

It has been a very difficult two years and finally, in a matter of a few days our adoption of Zane will be final! We take custody next week. Wow.

Adoption isn’t easy. It’s hard for everyone. But it gives everyone a life changing experience of hope and love. We are so excited to finally have this day here. It was a long, adventurous summer waiting on all of these dates of traveling. But here we are.

Now we can finally get focused back on life and our “new normal”.

God is good.

The End of an Era?

Cowboys fans hearts sank this Thursday when we saw Tony Romo go down like a folding chair. He grabbed for his back and rolled in pain. Saturday we learned that he broke a vertebre in his back and will miss 6-10 weeks this year. It will mark the 3rd year in a row he will have missed significant time. He has broken his collar bone twice, played with broken ribs, two back surgeries, sprained ankle and Im sure a few concussions.

This all started for Romo in 2006 and most Cowboys fans have had a love/hate relationship with him. He’s had two strong teams, one in 2007 and another in 2014, but both fell short due to dropped passes he put right on the mark. Overall, he owns all Cowboys QB records and has been one of the most fun players to watch ever. But he hasn’t had the overall team around him, thanks to Jerry Jones, to win it all. He’s only one a few playoff games. So much talent and so little to show for it.

The team says he is going to be fine and will come back. But we all know he doesn’t have much time left. He’s fragile and he’s got a family now to think about. Luckily, we have an exciting new guy name Dak Prescott we will get to see first hand this year, but to me it’s sad to see the Romo era start coming to an end, if it isn’t already over. I like Romo. He’s a good guy and I always thought he had what it took to take the team all the way.

Who knows. Maybe will have a story book ending. My gut just tells me otherwise.

Last Summer as Family of Five Is Over

Hello. It is September in a few weeks! Football season is starting, temps are about to decline, school is back in session next week and BAM…just like that summer 2016 is over.

For us, it was our last summer as a family of five and it was a wild and crazy one at that. It was strange yet exciting all in one. No Korea Camp, no Camp Thurman for the kids, no Galveston beach trip…just other things that consumed our time and money as we pushed on down the road of the adoption of Zane. Instead our summer was a financially stressful one waiting on court dates, etc from Korea.

It was a fun summer though and we made some new memories we will all take .with us forever as a family of five. Kids made it to VBS and kids camp. They got some time at the waterpark and Six Flags thanks to some cheap season passes we bought earlier. We made a few Rangers games and celebrated Quinn turning 9 and the girls turning 11. The Locks came in town for a visit from Colorado and we spent alot of time with our families and church friends. We went to Korea to visit Zane and then we drove out to Florida for the beach wedding of Maci. That was a nice week long getaway right there as we drove through Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater (our favorite!) and then Panama City.

Now we wait for the final call to bring Zane home and get our new “normal” started. I am ready too. Summer 2016 was one of a kind…next year we hope to go back to some old traditions for the first time as a family of six!

Last Year Quinn is in Single Digits!

My little buddy is now nine years old. Nine.

Just yesterday Julie and I were bringing him back from Korea as our first son. Today he will turn nine and start the count down to double digit ages!

He is such an amazing little boy. Happy, fun, smart, super intuitive and very sweet (most of the time!). I can’t imagine our lives without him and he has blessed us all.

Now we march towards 10 and that is going to really freak us out! Happy birthday Quinn!

Summer 2016…The Last as a Family of Five

The kids are out of school and life has been nutty ever since. We are in our last few months of being a family of five!

Funds are tight this year, but the kids have come up with another Summer of Fun list that has included visits with grandparents, SixFlags, a fun visit with the Locks family in from Colorado and fun with other church friends. We have also enjoyed the pool, Hurricane Harbor, Rangers baseball and a few movies here and there too, as Finding Dori was a big hit. We will end the summer driving out to Florida for a few days to partake in Maci getting married to Daniel.

Most of the summer has been focused of course on the adoption of our 4th child and getting him home by the end of the summer if we can. All things are go and everything needed for approval has been approved. We are a matter of weeks of becoming a family of 6. Zane will be here soon.

Quinn will be 9 in a few weeks and the girls will turn 11 at the end of August…both blow my mind!

We have spent alot of time together this summer and it’s been really fun. We have some tough, different days ahead of us so we are soaking it all in!

Life is good and so is God.

Wow. Summer is Almost Here!

Excuse me! It’s May NEXT WEEK???? Really?

Unreal.

This winter and spring just flew by. We really didn’t even have a winter here in Texas. It went straight from Fall to Spring so that’s really has everyone messed up.

In the mean time, Julie and I celebrated 13 years of marriage bliss and we are getting real close, finally, to getting our son Zane home from South Korea. Adoption process is coming to a close. Updates can be found here http://luvfromasia.blogspot.com/. Girls are closing in on 11 years old and Quinn is nearing 9.

Big news this spring so far, outside of Zane, was two weeks ago Quinn ended up back at Cook Children’s for emergency surgery on his stomach! Thankfully, it all went well and he is back at home recovering. Gonna miss the rest of baseball season though and he is bummed about that. He is loving playing. Might get a few of the last games in. He did get the game ball from the team last week. His team is awesome. Such great little dudes. Remind me of Sandlot group.

Girls finish their last weekend of soccer at Ridge Sports today. Very sad. Such a fun little team and four years has gone by incredible fast. They are hoping to play more somewhere else. They have gotten pretty good at it too!

Sports is in full gear outside of football, with the Stars in the hunt for another Stanley Cup and the Astros and Rangers getting into the baseball season.

This summer is going to be all about Zane, we hope….we are so ready to get this stage our life with him here and behind us!

 

Trump and Obama…Tales of Ignorance

We are watching 2008 and 2012 all over again. But this time the shoe is on the other foot and I just cannot believe what I am seeing.

Let’s start by being real here. Obama had zero business or real political experience. Heck, even as a senator in his home state he was absent for most votes and issues. Not to mention his radical associations, his crazy ass “pastor”, his insane chaotic family upbringing, his admissions of drug use in his own book, his wild public statements made during college, and the clear socialistic agenda he promised to bring to America if elected. Forget all of that…unless you were and are one of the most liberal people politically known to man, he should have never been elected…and he was twice. But a lot of that had to do with people being “angry” at Bush, the tiresome war, a failing economy and the fact that Obama was a great speaker and would become the first African American in the White House. Ignorance and emotion ruled the day.

And here we are again.

Trump is an ass. He has no political experience. He is self-centered, arrogant, rude, and just recently he was singing the praises of Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton, and Obamacare. The very people these “angry conservatives” are pissed off at, are the very people he has written checks to! And, what really blows my mind, is many of these people claim to be “evangelicals”. Just as I was blown away by the number of Christians that voted for Obama and his proud push to abort babies, I am shocked at Christians ignoring the truth about Trump and giving him their support. Pastor Jeffress in Dallas should be removed from the pulpit!

This is a man that as said sexual comments about his own daughter, calls women “pieces of ass” along with dog, pigs and animals, has ties to “pedophile island”, wrote checks to those pushing abortion, misquoted scripture, talked about women he would “bang”, screwed businesses out of millions by filing bankruptcy numerous times, hired illegal workers by the droves, and has been a liberal for most of his adult life.

Yet, he goes on stage, says a few neat things and all of a sudden he is the best choice for the Republican party????

Ignorance rules the American voter on both sides.

There are two fantastic conservative candidates running for office that would serve our nation with boldness, strength and honor. Both Rubio and Cruz would run circles around Trump. My personal choice is Cruz mainly because he isn’t a career politician nor is he pushed by the GOP establishment. But I could live with either. If you are a true conservative, either would likely beat Hillary, and either would help restore the destructive things we have seen Obama do.

Trump won’t beat Hillary. He will get destroyed by the media for who he really is and they are waiting to do so.

Don’t give me the bs lines about Trump being an outsider and the rest of the GOP field being “establishment” guys or career politicians. Yes, Rubio is pushed by the establishment leaders but I can live with that because he certainly is no McCain or Romney or Bush…and Cruz has done everything the Tea Party that pushed him asked him to go do. He was the only one that really stood against the establishment these last few years! And both are certainly more truly conservative than this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

You’re an idiot if you vote for Trump and that’s just the truth. We will have you to thank while we get to listen to the bitchy Hillary on our TV sets for the next four years too.

Bye Bye 2015…Bring on 2016

I have to say…2015 was an interesting year for sure. So many crazy things happened and yet it was a mixture of good and bad.

Kids started homeschooling, we continued the process of adopting Zane and now wait, we had some tough business issues to deal with and my kids all got older! Plus, we had some health issues in the family that got pretty scary.

My Baylor Bears ended a season of injuries strong but my Cowboys stunk it up with Romo out all year. The surprise was my Astros and Rangers doing so well.

Not sure what to expect in 2016 – more crazy terrorism? Hilary or Trump as President? The last year of Obama (Yes!) and who knows what will happen in sports or with the stock market.

Life is good and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next 365…yet in some ways I am glad to see 2015 be in the past.