The bike path
The border crossing at the port of Busan was by far one of the easiest on my journey so far. Without asking I got a 3 months tourist visa and my luggage was not even checked.
What immediately irritated me when I drove on the street, was the right-hand traffic. For almost 2 years I have been cycling only in countries with left-hand traffic. Not easy to change again.
South Korea is a bit cheaper compared to Japan, so I was able to afford accommodation for the first time in 3 months. Arrived at the hostel, expected me a surprise.
David, aka Dave the beaver d-t-b.ch, had also lodged there. He is almost the same length as me on the way. From Klosters he cycled with his Solar Trike across Asia along the Silk Road.
His vehicle I found really impressive. Of course we had days of conversation about cycling and traveling. David now wants to travel to Southeast Asia. However, shipping a solar trike is a real challenge.
In addition to the endless discussions with David and Matt, another cyclist from Manchester, I also visited the city a bit. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea after the capital Seoul. The metropolis is one of the country's leading industrial cities.
During my walks, I discovered the Samgwangsa Temple. This was built in 1986 and is dedicated to the Cheontae. Cheontae is the Korean descendant of the Chinese Buddhist school Tiantai.
After a week, I had recovered well and therefore decided to continue cycling. In South Korea, there is a bicycle network almost throughout the country. At the starting points you will receive a pass and a route ticket for 4'500.- won (about 3.50.- Euro).
On the way there are red telephone booths where you can collect stamps until the Velopass is full at some point. A great system to encourage people to cycle.
The traffic here is about as pronounced as in Japan and therefore I find the solution with these bike paths enormously useful. In addition to accident prevention, cyclists can also enjoy the scenery and do not have to constantly concentrate on traffic.
My first stage was along the Nakdonggang River, which at 526 km is the longest river in South Korea. The area around the river is historically significant for Japan as well. During the Yamato period there was the state of Gaya, which exported iron to Japan.
The bike paths usually lead along the river, away from civilization. I enjoyed this to the fullest. The whole thing was a disadvantage: I had to cook myself again, since there is no shop at every corner.
The flat stretches were really great for driving and mostly everything is well signposted. However often only in Korean. Fortunately, there are a lot of cyclists on the track who speak English pretty well most of the time.
Also to find sleep places was no problem at all. There are pavilions along the way, which serve the farmers as a resting place while working in the fields. Most of the time the space below was just enough to put my tent in it.
The people here in South Korea are also very friendly. However, they do not bend so much in front of you as the Japanese do. Every day people gave me food and almost all cyclists were amazed by Dusty (my loaded bike).
With a few small gestures you usually feel very welcome and often the people motivated me here again and again. This was also sorely needed, the slopes in South Korea are not exactly funny.
Road construction is roughly comparable to Africa here. Always straight up the mountain and down again. Shit how steep it is. Often, therefore, I had to dismount and push. A little upper body training does not hurt either.
From the Nakdonggang River, we crossed the Saejae Mountain Path to the Namhangang River. From there it was not far to Seoul. A bike path is already fantastic in Asia. About 40km before the capital came another highlight:
In South Korea, you do not just build bike tunnels. No, these will soon be converted into so-called 'art tunnels'. The play of colors in the tunnels reminded me a bit of an LSD trip.
The winter slowly arrived and especially the nights were really cold (minus -5 ° C degrees). Unfortunately, I am not equipped for such cold temperatures. Originally I wanted to cycle from Seoul to the East Coast to visit Jang, my companion in Zambia.
The weather, however, thwarted my bill. In Seoul I found a nice guesthouse where I could relax for a few days and make new travel plans.
The population of Seoul is 10 million (2015). The city is the center of the metropolitan region of Sudogwon, where about 25.4 million people live. Almost four times as many as in Switzerland.
In the end, I decided to fly to Southeast Asia. Incheon Airport is located about 65km outside the city center on an island. So I first cycled the last part of the bike path along the Ara Veloweg.
The last night I spent at the airport and amazed again the next day about the smooth running of the airport.
South Korea impressed me from the first minute. Especially the bike network I found awesome. Many cyclists found this quite monotonous, which I do not think is correct. After 31 months on busy roads this was balm for my soul.
The people here are really sports enthusiasts, like to travel and try to live out their passion to the fullest. Their hospitality and interest in other cultures is remarkable.
For cyclists I can highly recommend this country. Unfortunately, because of the cold weather, I could not realize all my plans. I'll definitely go back here again. I am looking forward to it now. A big