Tl;dr – subway, poor signage resulting in a couple of laps of the locale, rather poor customer service (and customers), fortunate bus route, hotel in the perfect spot
We had heard about lantern festivals in Korea and there was one going on in a city not far from Busan. It was in the direction of where we were heading afterwards and we figured we would stay overnight and move on the next day. It turned out afterwards we needed to head back to Busan after so we could have done it as a day trip but at that point we’d booked our hotel, so we were heading to Jinju with Bertha and Max.
We had checked out and taken them out of the hostel but only down the road to our food stops. From there we headed onwards to the subway.
We had been assured by Laura that at Sansang station it was very easy to get to the bus station. We followed the signs and came up to street level expecting to be greeted by hundreds of buses. We saw none. We walked a bit in the direction we were facing but still no buses. We turned around and saw some local buses coming from the Sasang monorail station so we thought perhaps the bus station was attached. We found a bus stop and a car park but no bus station. I knew it would have to be big as it serves all the intercity buses to all of Korea so a couple of local buses wasn’t going to cut it. We went into the monorail station to try and find more clues but our attempt was fruitless. We did however get some sweet wifi which was also difficult to get much info from. But we established it was nearer the station we had come from than the one we were in. The signage going out of the station pointed down the stairs for the bus station but neglected to mention you need to turn back on yourself at the bottom. Thankfully our wifiing had given us a heads up so we did what many others I’m sure have not and headed in the supposed direction of the bus station. We headed back the way we’d come and found a shopping centre. We walked round said shopping centre and found a small Korean sign that pointed towards the bus station (I had been practicing enough to be able to read it) and lo and behold it was pointing in the right direction!
At the bus station we found the ticket counter and while Kate waited with our bags I queued up. Having recently been in Japan where someone apologised to Kate when she walked into them, we noticed Koreans generally were less extreme with their courtesies but were a long, long way from rude. At the bus station it was a different story. The queue was more for show than to serve a purpose. If you came in from the side at the right time you went first, as long as you barged hardest. And the poor little old lady at the front, she had to barge with all her might to push past everyone to get there. Once actually at the counter I put 2 fingers up and said 2 to Jinju. She pointed at her screen for the cost, I paid, 2 tickets were deposited in front of me and as I was halfway through asking which platform she started serving the guy behind me that had shouted louder than the guy in front of him.
Once at the stop a little old lady asked if we were going to Jinju. I said yes and she seemed happy. I’m not sure if she was asking for our sake or for her own sake but I don’t think she was a local. It was us and her at the stop and when the bus turned up we were flanked from all angles and about twelfth on the bus. We showed our tickets to the driver and he pointed onto the bus. We pointed at our bags to signify we wanted them underneath and he pointed aggressively onto the bus. During this time 7 more people had barged onto the bus so the only free seats were toward the back. I managed to squeeze my bag by my feet but Bertha is a bit bigger than mine so she needed a whole seat. The bus filled up quickly and we set off once full as the stream was constant and the buses were every 10 minutes.
The bus was hot, stuffy and super old but we both managed to catch some z’s (and flies). On waking I checked where we were on the map and we were about to arrive into Jinju. I knew there were 2 bus stations in Jinju, one in the south and one in the north. The north one was much nearer the hotel but wasn’t what was written on the ticket. I was going to ask about that at the bus station but I figured for the tiny chance of an answer it would be better to avoid the shouting and bruises. It meant we would need 2 buses or a taxi but I was prepared. I followed the blue dot on Google Maps as it headed towards the south station. We came off the highway and headed north. Great! Then we turned around and went south. Rubbish. We were heading straight to the south station before we stopped about half a kilometre away. As a few people got off I saw a taxi rank and thought about getting off but thought we were better sticking it out in case we turned around. When we set off again the driver took a sharp right and then another and started to head north. We kept on heading north and crossed the river where we got our first glimpse of the dozens of floating lanterns that we’d come to see. Not long afterwards we ended up at the bus station I never thought we’d see.
I got out the trusty Google Maps once more to see how to get to our hotel. We walked out the front of the bus station, all the way to the end, around the side and there on the opposite corner of the bus station was our hotel. Not only that it was right next to the river where we would be heading for our one and only reason for suffering that journey.
14:05 walk from unknown local Korean restsurant to Haeundae Subway Station: 4 minutes
14:15 subway to Sasang Station: ₩3,000 (£2.18), 43 minutes
14:58 walk around the station and to Seobu Bus Station: 25 minutes
15:30 bus to Jinju: ₩15,400 (£11.18), 1 hour 26 minutes
16:56 walk to Goodstay Eden Motel: 2 minutes
Total time in transit: 2 hours 40 minutes
Total travel time: 2 hours 53 minutes
Total cost: £13.36 (£6.68 each)