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when a man is tired of Seoul – Busan to Seoul by bike

The famous quote for London by Samuel Johnson is “why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford“. I think the equivalent for Seoul must be “when a man is tired of Seoul, he is tired of hangovers“.

when we missed our first train on Chuseok and nearly cried

However, seriously, there is a point in every expat or, even, city dweller’s time when they have just had enough of that hunk of concrete and morass of people that they normally so love. And so it was with Seoul and me. I felt the beginnings of a mini-break up coming on. So it was great that a couple of weeks ago some friends I made when living in Hong Kong flew over to Korea in order to do a 500 km (if you don’t get lost) bike ride up from Busan to Seoul.

Some haagfish down in Busan

Obviously we got extensively lost and ended up doing nearly 600 km. Still, much more importantly, it re-invigorated my relationship not only with Korea but also my curiosity about it. My desire to hunt down the esoteric and un-gochujang’d* is rejuvenated and I am still in a “wow the Korean countryside is beautiful” state of mind. Also, for a food blog, I would have to say the food outside Seoul is much better than the stuff in Seoul and now I want to find that here.

The famous raw fish market in Busan

So here are some pictures I took along the way on my iPhone. I apologise for the thigh shot above, it is a cyclist’s thing. And I cannot recommend enough exploring the Korean countryside. I am still amazed by how many Koreans are (i) surprised we made it alive; and (ii) have never visited some of the places we cycled through.

Chuseok/ Mid-Autumn festival lanterns
My bike looking pretty
We climbed this; I died
At first I thought it was a pet shop due to the cute photos; it wasn't
We also climbed this; I died again
The most beautiful part of the trip; the sun setting as we rode along an estuary for 15km
Just outside Seoul at a bike path on an old railway line

PS for those who have a slight fetish for bikes we rode a fairly interesting haul. From right to left, front to back, it is a (i) Firefly; (ii) Yamaguchi Frame Building School; (iii) Circle A; and (iv) Independent Fabrication. With the Firefly winning the ridiculous low weight award by being 6.5kg built up and steel…

The bike prOn shot

* the Korean spice that floods 99% of Korean dishes rendering subtly or complex cooking a rare thing.

10 Comments

  1. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t read this post. I just giggled at the photo up top :) classic!

  2. Looking at that it seems cyclists, like cats, have more than one life. I would’ve died more than twice just on that first climb alone. Still the food does look ace though, and it must be great to get out of the capital (never a great barometer of a country) and really explore.

  3. Tess

    Awesome- and not just for the fantastic tanlines. Feeling a little urban cabin fever now myself…

  4. sy

    Hi Tom,
    I was wondering if you can share more on your route (though I understand its a food blog ^^).. the reason for asking is I am keen to explore the countryside of Korea for my next trip to Korea. I think the love for Seoul + Jeju (which I just visited) wouldn’t last too too long TT (though I am still very much crazy over almost everything about Korea)

    I am also keen to know if a shorter cycling trip can be done, or say other alternative transport? I am not sure if I can died twice and still be alive (actually I had previous leg injuries and couldn’t do too much of strenuous exercise, though I hadn’t quite guess where the line of “too much” is)

    Thank you in advance!

    Sy from Singapore

  5. Hi Sy – I’m not sure whether you will be automatically notified if I reply so I’ll drop you an email as well.

    Basically on the route we followed a path set by a Dutch guy who has ridden every road in Korea called Jan Boonstra. He has really great detailed maps which show the path which is very picturesque. If you email him and ask for them he is very happy to share them. On that particular route, much of it is cycle paths so you couldn’t do the whole thing other than by bike… That said in Korea people use small motorbikes or mopeds on bikepaths so you could do that. Or you could drive much of it and just take diversions at places where it is only bike path.

    The main think is it is very easy as the distance is relatively short – 500km – which you can drive in roughly one day. Also accommodation is easy as there are relatively nice ‘love motels’ everywhere.

    A shorter cycling trip would be very easy. You could just, for instance, do Busan to Daegu or any other section of the trip. Shout if you have any more questions!

    Tom

  6. Sy

    Hi Tom

    Thank you! I pop over after seeing your email

    Thanks for sharing too. I want to go to the rural parts of Korea but had been undecided where in particular.. I think I will find a shorter section along the route as you suggested.

    Hope you do more fun stuff & share on your blog!

    Cheers
    SY

  7. Chris Ambridge

    Hi Everyone,

    My friends & I have recently cycled from Seoul to Busan and made a little video of our trip, this will give everyone a great idea of what it’s like

    http://vimeo.com/58534795

    Enjoy!!

    Chris

    • Thanks to TEJC for the photos ad write up.
      Chris checked your vid.
      Looked like you all had a hell of a good trip.
      Look forward to popping over and doing the ride this summer.

  8. Eric

    Hey,
    Great photos! Thanks for sharing. I’m currently spending my last few weeks in the states before making the leap to SK and I’m ecstatic to see a thriving (if small!) cycling community. I ride almost every day and can’t imagine being content without some cycling opportunities. Quick question: I’m considering having my bike sent over once I settle in, good idea or no? From what I’ve found on various forums and blogs, it can be difficult to find a decent road setup (I’ll be in Busan btw). Should I try and find something over there? Thanks for the tips!
    Eric

  9. Mikee

    Hi, I’m going to go on this trek, but from Seoul to Busan. Can you give me some information about taking your bike on the KTX or train? I noticed that you wrapped your bike. Were you able to buy it at the train station and if so, how much did it cost? Cheers!

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