South Korea is hardly a travel destination for lots of travellers. There are plenty of other countries in Asia where people prefer to travel to instead, which is understandable. Despite officially being at war with their neighbour from north of the border, I felt safe and never felt under threat at any moment even when close to the north border where beach bunkers and barb wire fences protecting beaches are a common display. South Korean soldiers are still using these bunkers keeping a close eye at sea in case Kim Jong-Un decides to send a fleet full of nuclear weapons down South.
I was highly motivated to visit South Korea because my mate Stephen has been living there for many years, teaching physical education at an english school and I wanted to visit him. He guaranteed that I would absolutely love it. And I did. That was awesome on so many levels; the east coast views, food, people and the sense of a developing asian country despite having a rich economy.
Cycling the east coast was incredible. I had no real expectations and went there with a neutral state of mind, wanting to discover something new. I was surprised at how locals were stunned on the first eye contact, maybe not used to see a foreign cyclist on the roads. They seemed shy, but after a friendly “annyeong haseyo!” (hello), they were all smile, ready to by me a beer and strike a conversation even when they couldn’t speak english very well. I had some amazing time in country side towns with locals I met in sijang (markets), offering me soju or locally brewed beers.
The food was simply incredible. Those BBQs restaurants where you sit on the floor with the table having a hole in the middle holding the barbecue itself were simply awesome. They were by far my favorite places to eat. These, and ramen kiosks in the local markets which was the first thing I was going to after a day’s ride. Gimbap (roll of rice with veggies or meat rolled into a dried seaweed sheet) and dakgalbi (stir-fried marinated chicken with cabbage, sweet potato, onions and shallots) were also amongst my favorite options. If you’ve never tried Korean food, go right to a Korean joint right now. It’ll become one of your favorite type of food, I can guarantee that.
The great outdoors is very popular for Koreans, trekking and hiking amongst the most popular weekend activity regardless the age. I came across a women into her 80s able to trek for a full day without assistance into steep terrain. That’s motivation for you. Koreans are also fashionable and when it comes to trekking, they need that latest and the greatest gear. Trekking resemble of a fashion parade in the mountains. Funny. What’s also popular in the hills is food and alcool. Many climb during morning only to settle near the top or near a scenic vintage point for an extensive and delicious lunch accompanied with soju. Or beers. Or wine. Anything with alcool really. Many are coming down with a smile on their face!
Seoul to Busan along the east coast
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