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Ah, the challenges of travel

Updated: Apr 8, 2018

We haven’t even left the country and the fun has already started.

The Winter Olympics which run Feb. 9th until the 25th is located in the Pyeonchang/Gangneung area of Korea, it’s approximately 2 hours from Seoul on the fast speed train. Basically, the other side of the country.

As the train was finally finished and tested back in Dec. 2017, one could purchase a 5 or 7 day rail pass which we did. It was more economical, and the quickest way to get to the events. From the train station, there is a shuttle (or so we think) which should get us into the Olympic area. This was easy enough, as we went online to purchase the passes, printed them out, all good.

In order to reserve seats, pass holders had to wait 30 days prior to your date of choice. This did not seem to be an issue and I figured we would wait until the 16th of January to select our seats, for the 17th since that would be when they go on sale since Korea is 13 hours ahead of us.

Now the fun part.

During the 14th -18th of Feb, it’s Korea’s New Year (Seoullal), and as the Korean government wanted to ensure their people could get home to see families they opened up seat reservations 10 hours before they allowed foreign travelers to book their seats to the Olympic events. You can see where this going right?

Went online and lo and behold, no seats returning from the Olympics during this time period. We have 2 events which are in the evening during the New Years’ week, and I was able to get us to the Pyeonchang area, however I couldn’t get seats to return. Adding to the fun, last train departs at 11:30pm.

Seriously, if you are going to hold Olympics one would think transportation should be a big consideration along with the lodging. You have tourists from around the world paying good money for the events, only to find many will miss a good portion of them because they have to leave early to catch the last train back to Seoul. It’s not like they didn’t know what time the events start and finish.

One also must plan on waiting for shuttles to get back to the train station which will cut into their ability to see the entire sport. We are lucky as our events should be over, or very close to it, depending on when we need to leave for the shuttle service.

If one looks at the Q&A in Korail, under the Pyeonchang rail pass section, there are some pretty nasty comments. Korail was good at answering them, but as the frustration grew, more comments and questions were added and eventually they gave up answering them.

Folks were trying to determine what to do, as they couldn’t either get to the events, or return from them. Korail kept stating standing room would be available on a first come first serve basis. If you couldn’t get on the first train, wait for the next. Sounds good if you are going, however, when it’s hourly from Pyeonchang, and the last train leaves at 11:30pm, one can only imagine the chaos of hundreds of stranded tourists. The other suggestions were to get a hotel near the events which were either sold out, 1 hour away, or very expensive or go to a 24 hours cafe and wait until the morning. When presenting this to Mark, his response was, hey we will be on Chicago time, so we should be good for the cafe. Sure dude, that’s not what I want to do, stay up, take a morning train back to Seoul to get some shut eye, and get to do this again the next evening.

I believe the pressure was on Korail, and whether it was from all the comments or newspaper stories, but they came back and stated tickets would be available again for booking from the 25-29th of January. Whether they had closed off some seating or added more trains, I have no idea.

On the 24th at exactly 7:01pm CT, I was able to secure 2 seats for the 17th and 18th return journey back to Seoul. I think they are confirmed, we will find out once we arrive in Korea. We gave ourselves and extra day to figure out the logistics before we see our first event.

The fun of travel.

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