Korea is nothing if not a country full of surprises. Delicious food. Beautiful beaches. Excellent hiking. Warm smiles. I knew nothing about this country before I came. From afar, it seemed unstable, crowded and dirty. The country I thought I’d tolerate for a year only to have an experience working abroad has become a second home.
This week, I was again pleasantly surprised by Korea. I am fortunate enough to be a part of a bike tour sponsored by the Korean Tourism Organization on behalf of BikeToursDirect
, the Chattanooga-based company that employs my wife (and me, for some part-time work), to scout out Korea’s potential for bike tourism. I’ve felt like I am seeing the country again for the first time.
The bike paths stretch all over the country. One path stretches from Incheon to Busan, over 600 km from the northwest to the southeast. They are smooth, comfortable and take you through some of the most stunning landscape in the country. Soon one path will go along the whole east coast.
Bikers carry a passport to stamp along the way in London-type phone booths. The stamps eventually earn you a star for completing a section (which we achieved and received one today!) and a medal for doing all of them.
We’ve gone from the urban sprawl and congestion of Seoul to the quaint town of Yangju. We’ve eaten Chuncheon spicy chicken and shared a pork BBQ with our gracious hosts at bikeOasis
. We’ve stayed in the Seoul Hilton, slept on the floors of a pension, bunked in a camper at a campground and today we wearily pulled into a small hotel in Chungju. While the long, hot days have been challenging, it has still managed to be comfortable.
The Koreans and representatives from other tour companies abroad on the trip have made it clear to me that there is nothing quite like making new friends while traveling. I’ve laughed and shared stories with people I first met Monday. I have also watched them fall for the charms of Korea just like I did, and have again.
Add Korea to your travel bucket list. It will surprise you over and over again.