NECESSARY INTRO: Because of the blog, I was invited to take a tour of Korea by bus. It is called the K-shuttle, and it offers tours from 2 days and 1 night up to 5 days and 4 nights, and its intent is to quickly introduce a visitor to the many cultures and histories of Korea. It is awesome in several ways, not the least being it is a “hop-on”/”hop off” service, so you can stay overnight if someplace catches your fancy, and simply catch the next tour bus the next day (NOTE: You have to tell them this, of course, because they don’t run busses on days where there are no riders^^).
A clever reader noted that I hadn’t included the cost in my previous article, so today I will talk about to cost of the bus, and tomorrow I’ll talk about the cost of the hotels.
First, here’s the map of the entire course.
And as I said last time, it might be sensible with someone with a lot of time to think about the bus rides indiividually, because you are free to get off and on them at any time.
If you only have 1,2,3,4 or 5 days, you’d certainly just stay with the tour, as it reallly covers a lot of territory, but if you had more time you could get off in various cities, and more fully explore those cities. I, particularly, love the Gyeongju/Silla are and could spend multiple days there, and cities I really hadn’t been to, like Buyeo and Yeosu, would also have been nice to visit for longer periods of time.
Anyway, to the money.
Here are the 1 and 2 day bus fares:
and the 3 and 4 day fares
And finally the 5 day fare
A Lot of mat there…but basically.. $266 fir a complete tour of Korea.
Now, amazingly, the 5-day tour only costs $549 USD which means you are spending a rather reasonable $70 USD a night on hotels. As I noted last time, you don’t HAVE to do this, as love motels can be found for as low as $30 per night (particularly if you like bargaining)) and Jimjilbang can be found for as cheaply as $10 per night.
So, all in all, I found the tour to be a pretty cost-effective way to see Korea (and some cheesy/funny Korean movies they played on the longer stretches of driving.
So… on to day two…
We awoke on Monday in Kwangju and were really lucky. Because it was Monday, the Folk Museum was closed and so instead we went to the Gwangju Massacre Memorial. Gwangju is known as the birthplace of the democratization movement in Korea, and this monument is a powerful testament to that. Also, in the last 5 years or so, the city has built an awesome museum on the site, so all the history is laid out out for you.
If you’re interested in reading about the Gwangju Massacre, or its effects, I strongly recommend Ch’oe Yun’s There A Petal Silently Falls, or Lim Chul-woo’s Straight Lines and Poison Gas – At the Hospital Wards, both of which brilliantly deal with the psychological impact of the events of the so-called 5.18 incident.
Below is a picture from the library of just some of the books that Koreans have written (fiction and non-fiction) about the massacre:
The we drove to Songgwangsa Temple, which was nice, but, you know… a temple… and as it was raining we kind of rushed through. This might be a good destination on a weekend, as its base had quite a few stores and restaurants.
Finally, we drove to Yeosu…. really beautiful but a kind of ghost-town, since it had been built for the Yeosu Expo, and now that was gone. We walked across a land-bridge to a Odong-do island, and took a walk to see the “dragon cave” which was so named because the sounds of the sea crashing in it were supposed to sound like a dragon. There is a walkway that surrounds Odong-do, and the views can be spectacular, even though it was a bit foggy and rainy while we were there (I’d take this tour in Spring or Fall, when it would be gorgeous!)
Here is the cave… the rocks were wet and quite slippery, so this is a close as I dared get (that, alone, was kind of awesome – unlike in the US, there was no fence to hold you back from your more suicidal tendencies, and some Koreans who were also visiting the cave were remarkably brave about clambering over to it):
Then it was off to the hotel and this was a totally awesome one.^^
Because we had a destination in Busan (Busan Book Alley), we had only one more day with the tour.ㅠㅠ
Another note about the super-helpfulness of the tour staff – I had neglected to charge my battery the night before, and when the driver saw me idiotically plugging in to an outlet in the lobby he came rushing out of the bus, grabbed my camera gear, and plugged it in to a secret outlet hidden down behind his seat on the bus. I LOVE that man!^^
Similarly, when the Philippine group decided, since it was snowing on the East Coast, to try to sneak in a day of skiing, the tour guide relentlessly chased down busses, hotels, and connections that could get them from the tour in the afternoon, to the slopes by the next morning, and back to Incheon by the next night.
That is awesome service.^^