We had a 4 day weekend plus 1 other day off. So we had a day off on Thursday, then we had to go back to school on Friday (!?) then we had a 4 day weekend.
Thursday = Labor Day (but only for contract teachers – us)
Monday = Children’s Day
Tuesday = Buddha’s Birthday
Weeks ago the hotels across the country were booked solid. Everyone had at least a 4 day weekend and everyone was going to travel. Smart contract teachers took Friday off and had a 6 day “weekend”. We couldn’t do this so we resolved to have a 4 day weekend.
There was nothing open. We wanted to go to Gangwon or Busan or Jeju. Nothing. All the hotels were booked, all the flights to Jeju full. Nothing was available. So we scoured the country for any open hotels. We found one in Taean – inside some kind of beach side national park. It looked beautiful enough so we booked the hotel. But we really just settled on the area since it was open while nothing else was.
Fast forward to the night before we would’ve left, and we didn’t want to go anymore. We couldn’t book bus tickets online and it had never occurred to us to look at just how long the trip was. This country is the size of Kentucky. It’s wee. And Taean is really only 60 miles away from us. We never assumed getting there would be a problem. But for some reason, for us (in the middle of Korea) to get to the coast of Korea, it would’ve taken 5+ hours. Busses only. And that’s bullshit. We would’ve arrived at midnight or later and leaving the next day wasn’t really an option.
So what did we do? We cancelled the trip, lost a deposit on the hotel and just stayed home. Which is not like us. In Germany we would’ve jumped at a 4 day weekend. We would’ve fought to make it a 6 day weekend. In fact, we had actually planned to go to Japan for a 6 day weekend until it all fell apart. The big difference is that Germany actually had decent trains and busses. Korea does not. This country is actually very similar to America in that way – they value private vehicles. They are a tiny tiny country but everyone demands to have a car and to drive it short distances like across the street (just like Americans). We refuse to get a car. People drive like idiots. We know we would not be aggressive enough to keep up or ever get where we wanted to. Plus, since we’ve gotten here, we know of many people who have been in in car accidents (two of my co-teachers’ friends actually died in car accidents). It’s not happening.
So we’re bummed and this is not looking good for travel. We would love to explore the country until you realize that getting across it is going to take 8 or even 12 hours of bussing. Ridiculous transfers, being stranded somewhere waiting for hours for the next bus. It’s crap.
The first problem is we live as north as you can get without being outside of Daejeon. I don’t even consider where we live to be part of Daejeon as it takes about 45 minutes to get into the city. In the US you would be in a completely different city if you had to travel 45 minutes. The big problem is the traffic, I think you could probably get into Daejeon in 20 minutes with your own car. But busses stopping at every stop and then getting through all the traffic takes longer.
It’s a long 45 minutes, usually standing room only on an erratic ride. The starts and stops are so abrupt we’ve actually been on busses when people have fallen. We’ve almost fallen and been in a small bus crash before. It’s not fun. 45 minutes of this is not usually worth it. Daejeon doesn’t offer much.
But what Daejeon does have, are the only bus or train stations in the area. This means, when you want to go somewhere that is only an hour away, it is really 2 hours away for us when you calculate how long it takes us to just get to the bus or train station in the first place.
Some of you may be thinking that if we really wanted to travel, that time and suffering would be no hinderance. No. Some of these bus trips would take a full day. So a 4 day weekend just became a 2 day one, sandwiched between high stress bus rides. Travel on the weekend has now been completely eliminated. If we wanted to leave on Friday night it wouldn’t be possible. Last time we tried to get into Daejeon after work, it took almost 3 hours.
So we’ll travel when we’re really in the mood. But what we’ve learned this weekend is that Korea is nothing like Germany. I’m not sure why we were expecting it to be. Just assumed small countries had decent public transportation.
What we’ve also learned is that things that are close don’t even have bus lines for some reason. We were going to go to the next town over and it was still 2 hours of convoluted transfers.
What we need is a car and I really don’t think that’s going to happen.
Sorry if any of this sounds negative. But so far, this has been the most disappointing thing about Korea. If we had more patience, stamina or tolerance we could probably enjoy these mega bus trips to somewhere cool, someday we probably will. But for now we were happy to stay at home over the long weekend.