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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Korea 2013 - Gyeongju Chapter 1

Of Train Rides & Bouncy Beds


The original plan was to head north from Busan, up to a delightful holiday resort in Chongju, where Sue's aunt had booked one week for us to enjoy. However, as the days went by, we began to receive reports of temperatures falling below zero in Chongju and Seoul, which was our planned alternative destination. While I was comfortable driving in Jeju, I was not prepared to drive on the Korean mainland under conditions of snow and slippery roads. We therefore made a series of last minute changes to our itinerary, and landed up instead in the traditional city of Gyeongju.

We were at first hesitant about travelling on the Korean train, This was especially after our previous trip to Taiwan, where we almost missed our train a couple of times as we had to carry our numerous suitcases from one train to another. And all this in addition to getting two restless boys to sit patiently on the train. 

The KTX, Korea's high-speed rail system, was a far cry from any of the trains we had boarded in Taiwan. For starters it is very fast, and the trip from Busan to Gyeongju took only a little more than an hour. Moreover, tickets are not too pricey, and children under 4 ride free. In addition, you can easily check the train timings on the KTX website and reservations are not needed (especially for popular routes). Most importantly for us, the system is completely child-friendly, with numerous lifts to wheel your luggage and stroller from platform to train. Our kids were also comfortable in the train seats, and the journey went by relatively hassle-free (which was a relief for us after hours of pondering whether to make the trip with our two young ones).

The comfortable KTX train seats.

Daddy & Son enjoying a peaceful moment
on the train.

Upon arrival at the Gyeongju KTX station, we were given instructions to take a bus near to our Bellus Rose Pension, and to then call our pension hosts, Mr and Mrs Park, who would fetch us from an agreed location. We didn't know that the bus ride would take an hour and a half, and transporting all our luggage with two sleepy kids was indeed a challenge. But there were very kind locals on the bus who helped us to carry our things, and we managed to make it to our pickup point at the Bomun Lake Resort. When we finally arrived at our pension, it was almost mid-afternoon, but all our apprehensions melted away when we saw the lovely accommodation.

The lovely Bellus Rose Pension, a gem of
a find in traditional Gyeongju.

Our son Z loved the room. He called it the
"pink bouncy bed" and spent many precious
moments rolling around.

Room with a view. Unfortunately we arrived
in winter. In the summer you can actually use the
outdoor pool and relax with a cup of coffee there!

Our growling stomachs indicated that a meal was in order and we wasted no time in getting to a restaurant, thanks to Mrs Park, who gave us a ride to the nearby eateries.

One of our favourite dishes pajeon (spring onion pancake).

A delightful "pizza" of minced beef topped with cheese.

And the younger one is happy too!
After dinner we decided to take a walk to Bomun Lake. However temperatures suddenly dipped and we were forced to call it a night, but not before enjoying the delightful musical fountain outside the Gyeongju Botanical Gardens.


One of the most delightful musical fountains I have ever
seen. It operates for half an hour every couple of hours.

This was the highlight for our kids, who thoroughly enjoyed
themselves in song and dance!





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