the riding and the ramyeon – the Han river in Seoul

Jen has started up her own company and is scheduled to have no life for a long time due to a big project so I have a bit more free time. Well infinite free time really. Currently this is no bad thing as the weather in Seoul is perfect and it lets me do my favourite sport in the world: cycling. And then replenish the calories with eating.

Han river, Seoul

I’ve always liked cycling but it was when I got to Asia that it really kicked in as it was the best way to explore cities which are vast and difficult in a way unfathomable to those of us used to G-mapping around the US or Europe. At a first glance Asian cities can seem a never ending parade of repetition. Foreign Policy Magazine even recently had an article blathering about this called “Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction“. Now they are right but only partly. You just have to put more effort in to discover the niches and neighborhoods of interest and a bike is the way to do that.

Han river, Seoul

And Seoul; Seoul got it bloody right. The Han river cuts through the heart of Seoul just like the Thames in London or the Seine in Paris. The difference is it is pedestrianised, cycle-pathyised, sports facilityised on both sides for hundreds of kms. It is a truly public space that all of us who are stuffed into small flats with no gardens can enjoy. Families do sports along it. You can picnic. Drink. Cavort. The lot. And it is a 24 hour attraction. Come rain, come typhoon, come snow and the Han river freezing over. It is without doubt the best thing about Seoul.

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The food and drink options are also various. At its most classy it is a full on picnic assembled with great love and care. Seoulist even has a helpful guide for the assemble rather than the cook picnic you can ‘source’ directly from convenience stores here. More often it is evenings attacking beers you can buy from a 7-11 dotted along the bike paths for cost price with Korean fried chicken delivered to the banks of the river by scooters. And then there is the really dirty stop gap option which is probably my favourite: Korean ramyeon.

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I need to do a whole feature about Korean ramyeon (and the ‘y’ there is on purpose) as it is something distinct and rather special. And it necessitates lots of cycling to work it off. This post is about the traveller’s in-a-pot instant friend version which is your companion along the Han river and the tech which you ‘cook’ it with. Every single convenience store along the Han river has two things without fail: (1) instant ramyeon; and (2) beer. Well and (3) hangover cures.

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So you take the pack, stick it in the aluminium foil box you get, empty the MSG and fake vegetables and chemical spice into it. The go up to the quasi vending machine/ cheap robotic demonstration model and press a button. At this stage every Korean in attendance will be watching the strange white person and often offering to help you in the cooking process. Sometimes with table delivery. Water drops in. A hot plate turns on. Bubbles commence. Wooden chopsticks stir and there you go; instant Korean ramyeon.

Han River And as a side you can always buy some hard boiled eggs or instant odeng. What could be better.

8 Comments

  1. Lo

    I one hundred percent agree with you! The Han IS the best thing about living in Seoul. I live near Ttukseom Resort Station, and my best river cycling adventure so far has been biking across town to Yeouido for brunch, river boat back to Ttukseom for patbingsu, bike to Itaewon for beer & burgers, and biking home. I love sports that go hand in hand with eating! Great post.

    • I just finished the four river ride up from Busan to Seoul which then joins the Han river and it was so good. I am getting scared of winter and not being able to visit it as much!

  2. Gotta love them Korean instant noodles. Best of the lot!

  3. Genius. Living in a china with a huge spectrum of cheap and awesome food within 10mins walk I know the satisfaction of dumping frozen pre-processed food in a pan of boiling water.

  4. lucylee

    I’m new to your blog (just discovered it today) and am LOVING it. Am a self-professed Koreanophile and a coffee addict, which was brought me to your blog.
    Knew instantly you guys know your food and drinks when I read your recommendations of places to avoid (Samwon and Namdemun). I’ll be visiting Seoul again and am looking forward to the places you’ve recommended, especially the coffee joints.
    p/s I can’t wait to visit the Han River again, sit by Banpyo bridge at night, watch the light and water show, and play with firecrackers.

    • Hey LucyLee- thanks a lot for your comment and visiting. Also glad you love the Han as it freaking owns. I don’t know whether you get an update when I comment but I hope you do as you should check out Bici bicycle as he has started up a cycling coffee pop up store along the Han which is a great idea I think. I want to get him to do cocktails!

  5. Lo

    And I thought I was cool biking to Yangpyeong, camping, and riding back over Chuseok. Hope to do the Busan trip at some point in the future!

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