Photos by Maria Pinto
It seems as Hell has actually frozen over. Well, maybe not quite, but after years of delays, the KTX (Korea’s high velocity “bullet” train) is finally arriving in Gyeongju. It’s official: as of November 1st the brand new Singyeongju Station (신경주역) will be fully operational, along side similar stations in Gumi, Ulsan and Yeongcheon. They are all part of Korea’s latest KTX high-speed rail line, linking Busan with Daegu and connecting with existing KTX lines up to Seoul.
This now means that it will take a mere 2 hours and 19 minutes to travel the entire length of the country. More importantly (for us locals anyhow), it will only be 2 hours from Gyeongju to downtown Seoul, cutting the time it takes by bus in half! 85 trains will run through the Singyeongju station daily (Busan: 9,700 won, Seoul: 42,600 won) and this number goes up to over 110 trains on the weekend (Busan: 10,300 won, Seoul: 45,600 won). Of course it’s expected this will bring even more tourist revenue to the area and the government has predicted that the KTX will ferry an additional 100,000 more tourist to Gyeongju each year!
I haven’t been out to the construction site in a while myself, but my friend and colleague Maria Pinto got a sneak preview tour of the new Singyeongju Station this last weekend. Luckily, she has been kind enough to share her photos and from what I can tell, the architecture of the new station looks pretty cool. It’s sweeping eaves and futuristic interior draw comparisons with the Dong-daegu Train Station and even Incheon Airport. Honestly it puts the regular Gyeongju Train Station to shame and makes both Bus Terminals look like something from the dark ages. Interestingly, workers uncovered a stone-age burial site while digging, which has been excavated and preserved under class in the actual station. Remember to look down now and then when running for your train and you might catch it.
There is of course one slight glitch with the new station: it’s not really in the most convenient location. For safety reasons, they had to lay the new track in the countryside, so the new station was built about 10 km south-west of Gyeongju City in a remote farming valley to the east of Mt. Danseoksan. This basically makes the new station a pain in the @#$% to get to. Fortunately, the city has realized this and will begin running shuttle buses from downtown Gyeongju to Singyeongju KTX Station and back, starting from 5:30am until about 11:50 pm.
Again Maria Pinto has also been kind enough to provide a transliteration of the current shuttle bus routes:
60 - Singyeongju Station – Bus Terminal – Gyeongju Train Station – Yonggang-dong, Bus Terminal – Singyeongju Station
61 - Singyeongju Station – Gwangmyeong – Bus Terminal – Yonggang Intersection – Gyeongju University – Singyeongju Station
70 - Singyeongju Station – Bus Terminal – Jungang Market – Gyeongju University – Singyeongju Station
Bomun - Singyeongju Station – Bus Terminal – Bomun Hwangsa – Bomun Danji – Gyeongju World.
My suggestion to tourists is to catch any shuttle bus into the city and hop off at the Bus Terminal. The Bus Terminal is a good place to get your bearings. Also there’s a handy tourist information center on the corner, in the plaza across from the bridge, between the Express and Intercity Bus Terminals. You can hit them up for free maps and guidebooks and they’ll answer any questions you have on where to go and what to see. Not to mention, you can rent bicycles here or find housing in one of the 20 plus hotels behind the bus stations.
View Gyeongju Train Stations in a larger map