I'm writing this to share my experience as an instructor who taught at the GyeongJu Sketch Festa this year. This article will cover travel tips.
First, I've got to thank Michelle and Jasmine for their hospitality and Michelle for inviting me.
GyeongJu Sketch Festa is a two-day sketching event with workshops organised by USk GyeongJu for South Korean residents. The main language for communication is Korean. This is unlike the AsiaLink Sketchwalks which are for international sketchers and the language is English. I was in GyeongJu to teach with the help of a translator.
At the time of writing, 10,000 won is around SGD 10.33 (USD 7.66).
Travel by plane
GyeongJu is a coastal city in the far southeastern corner of North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea. The city is about 2 hours away from Seoul by train and 4 hours by bus.
The two options to get to GyeongJu are
- Fly to Incheon International Airport in Seoul and transfer to KTX train (2hr) or bus (4hr)
- Fly to Gimhae International Airport in Busan and transfer to bus (1hr)
The only airline that flies non-stop to Busan from Singapore is Jeju Air.
Since my wife and I wanted to visit Seoul as well, we book our flight to Seoul. We flew with Asiana Airlines and paid SGD 873 per person. The plane ticket could cost lower if you book earlier.
Transfer by train from Seoul to GyeongJu
After landing at Incheon International Airport, you should take either the 40-min AREX Airport Express Train (9,500 won) or the 60-min All Stop Train (up to 4,500 won) to Seoul Station.
From Seoul (Seoul Station) to GyeongJu (SingYeongJu Station), we took the KTX train with a 2 hr 8 min journey time.
There are huge wayfinding signs everywhere so it is quite impossible to get lost when transferring from plane to train at the airport, and from train to train at Seoul Station.
After arriving from train (above) at Seoul Station, you should go into the big hall and that's where you have access to the ticket booth, shops, restaurants, buses, trains and tracks.
The official place to book the KTX train tickets is from Letskorail. However, I wasn't able to input my credit card details and had to buy the tickets at the ticket booth in Seoul Station. I paid 49,300 won for the Economy Class ticket and it was comfortable enough so getting First Class tickets is probably not necessary.
Since I can't book the ticket in advance, I can't talk much about booking and collecting the tickets (probably at the ticket booth too).
Anyway, you can use the Letskorail website to check the availability seats. There's a train leaving each hour from 5am to 9pm.
Transfer by bus from Seoul to GyeongJu
I did not take the bus but my friend Alvin Mark Tan did.
In this video, Alvin compares the Express Bus and KTX Train.
According to him, the bus ticket booth is just outside the Arrival Hall at Incheon International Airport. The only two timings available for the bus rides are 8:50am and 4pm. If you want to take the bus, your flight must obviously land earlier with enough time for custom clearance and a quick trip to the toilet.
The bus ticket he bought in 2022 cost 39,900 won. The trip takes slightly over 3 hours.
So here are the differences in cost and journey time:
- Incheon Airport to Seoul Station via AREX train, then KTX train to SingYeongJu Station - 2hr 48 min, 59,100 won
- Incheon Airport to Seoul Station via All Stop train, then KTX train to SingYeongJu Station - 3 hr 8 min, 54,100 won
- Incheon Airport to GyeongJu via Express Bus - 3hr+, 39,900 won won
If you want to visit Seoul, then you should go to Seoul Station. The travel time for train vs bus isn't too different except there's a cost savings of at least 14,000 won with the bus ride, but the train has toilets on board.
Most of my trip was spent in Seoul and unfortunately I didn't have much time to really explore GyeongJu except for the two days during the GyeongJu Sketch Festa.
On the first night, we had some traditional Korean food. This is some egg with plant dish which is more spicy than it looks.
And of course there are the kimchi appetizers.
This is the popular Korean dish is called Bibimbap which translates directly to mixed rice. You're supposed to mix the eggs, vegetables, meat and rice together and eat. This is quite different in Singapore where the dishes are separated even if they are all on the same plate.
Located just in front of our hotel is the Hwanglyong-Won which is, if I read correctly, used as a training centre and for conference. This is private property and is not accessible to the public.
There are many other scenic sights that I wasn't able to visit. And I really love all the architecture that I see. You can see traditional roofs used even at patrol stations and Starbucks.
As for the GyeongJu Sketch Festa, it was so much fun. I have taken some videos but unfortunately I have no photos because it's difficult to switch from taking videos and photos. Anyway, the event was packed with so many sketchers and was definitely a total success. It's great to see so many people come together to sketch and make friends.
Last thing I want to talk about is weather. According to weather reports, temperature in GyeongJu range from 15 degrees at night to 27 degrees in the afternoon, at least for late May, early June which is spring time. As someone coming from Singapore where it's always hot and humid, I found GyeongJu to be hotter than I expected, but thankfully not humid. So no sweater or jacket is needed. This applies to Seoul as well.
In the next article, I will share my workshop teaching experience at the GyeongJu Sketch Festa.