Even though we’ve been in Korea for almost a decade now, it seems like every year we find something new to love about the place. We are often reminded of why we came for a year but stayed for 10.
Our recent family bike trip from Seoul to Daegu came with some new lessons and some beautiful reminders of why you should go on a bike tour and make your next destination Korea.
- Slow travel gives you a new perspective on a familiar place. Even though we’ve spent a lifetime here a bike ride through Korea makes it feel like the first time. Pulling into the small towns on a bike attract the curious townspeople to come over, ask all kinds of questions, share food, and hang out. The bike path takes you past interesting sites, through small forgotten towns, and makes you stop in places you’d never see otherwise. My favorite stop was in a town that genuinely looked like it existed in another time. We took a narrow, dark tunnel from the bike path under the train tracks and ended up in a town that felt like a dream.
- Korean people are possibly the most generous on earth. This is not an exaggeration. Every time we stopped for longer than a few minutes someone was putting food, drink, or candy in front of us. There is an unspoken rule here to share what you have, and this is certainly a practice they extend to foreigners. Even while cycling down the path, other cyclists bow their heads in greeting, shout hello in English or Korean, and offer a word or two of encouragement. I find the generosity I’ve experienced here to be one of the most endearing things about Korea.
- Kids are up for anything outdoors. Our kids might protest at first, but once we’re outside and moving they see the world as their playground. Luckily, along with the bike path, there seems to be a playground every 20km, or something that can be made into a playground. Our kids are most excited when they are camping, collecting bugs, throwing rocks, fighting with sticks, or eating dinner underneath the stars.
- Camping in Korea is easy, comfortable, and a cultural experience. Not only is the bike path safe due to it being (mostly) car-free, but Korea is camping friendly. It takes a minute to accept the fact that camping is communal in Korea – you won’t always have an isolated camping spot. But if you see it as a cultural experience you’ll be in for a treat. NOBODY car camps like Koreans. They pack meals for kings and queens and because of their generosity (See # 2) you’ll definitely get a glass of alcohol pushed on you if not a whole meal. We’ve always had great camping experiences. We’ve camped across the river from chanting monks, been serenaded by a distant karaoke room, and fallen asleep to the sounds of nature.
- Nothing beats a hot Korea meal and a cold beer after a day of riding. Hot soybean soup, rice, kimchi, and an ice-cold Hite? If I were on death row, that would be my last meal. The vegetables, the soups, the barbecues all seem to be exactly what your body is begging for after putting in some energy zapping miles.
- Korea needs to be added to your bucket list. I used to struggle to sell my friends on coming for a visit. “Maybe we should just meet in Japan,” I’d say. What Korea lacks in tourist attractions and name recognition, they make up for in the authentic cultural experience you have here. If you really dig in and go farther than Seoul, you’ll get a real authentic taste of Asia. If you choose to slow travel, taking you off Korea’s highways and byways, you will certainly fall in love with this place. I do on these trips over and over again.