Does that headline take you by surprise? Maybe it should. Maybe it shouldn’t. I don’t know many people who travel by train, since we are a few years past the Industrial Revolution. I’ve been on boats, ships, subways, taxis, mopeds, planes, automobiles, bikes, motorbikes, four-wheelers, but I’ve never been on a train. Funny thing is that I’ve always wanted to be on one. On my way to Busan, I finally got the chance. And just in case you get smart, the Houston Metro Rail doesn’t count.
I arrived at Seoul Station, and just a stone’s throw away was the KTX, which is South Korea’s bullet train. I purchased my ticket and walked to the boarding area. I felt like all kinds of Humphrey Bogart, waiting for Ingrid Bergman. Not really, but still. It did feel pretty neat.
The trip would take three hours. I was able to fill out my journal on some missed chances. The journal was given to me by my good friend, Fadey. It’s a leather bound journal with my name inscribed on it. Very cool. Very sleek. Very me. Sans the cool and sleek, of course. I also got to do some reading with the book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre. That was given to me by my friend, Stephanie. What pals!
Another real positive for the train ride was a beautiful Korean girl sitting a few rows in front of me, so whenever the view outside became dismal, I could just turn to about 11 o’clock and all would be right with the world.
The train was fast. We flew through several cities, including Daejeon and Daegu, both of which played major battle roles in the Korean War. Daejeon was the place of massive war atrocities conducted by both the South and North Koreans, and Daegu was a major holding spot along the Pusan (Busan) Perimeter, which held the North at bay until UN reinforcements arrived.
We finally arrived to the Busan Station. Soon enough, I met up with Sang Lee. It was great to see her again.
THE UN WAR CEMETERY
The first place on the list for me to visit was the United Nations Memorial Cemetery of Korea, dedicated to all of those who served during the Korean War. The first thing you see when you enter the street (not even the cemetery) is a large monument symbolizing the cause of peace between countries and how by coming together—country to country—peace can be established, or at least a cease-fire.
The UN War Cemetery is a visually stunning place with beautiful flowers, perfectly groomed trees and bushes, and numerous country-centered memorials. Every country, obviously, is represented there, with some having remains of soldiers buried in their plots.
Without a doubt, this area is continuously and laboriously manicured. The respect for this cemetery can be felt immensely as it pays direct tribute to the men who gave their lives in the fight for South Korea’s freedom.
Sang Lee and I walked the entire area, taking pictures and reading the memorials erected. It was a wonderful experience and one that really brought home the appreciation this country feels and the debt it wittingly owes to those who served. A debt that can only be paid by continuing its path of freedom and democracy for its people.
Next up I will post about my visit to Busan’s fish market. If any of you have seen my video of eating raw octopus, then you’ll have an idea of what it was like.