Ready For Contact-5 Ways To Prepare Yourself for Korea’s Dangerous Roads

By Whit Altizer

This morning, as I do every morning, I rode my bicycle to school. I was a little later than usual so I had to battle the between-classes-traffic that I usually try to avoid. Cars, bikes, buses and pedestrians all hurry to make up for lost time spent this morning drinking coffee, missing a bus or sleeping a little late.

I was going over my 9:00 class lesson plan in my head when I locked eyes with an oncoming biker riding in my lane. We looked at each other in the eye for what felt like a whole minute. Neither one of us slowing down or yielding. Then, like something off an episode of Jackass, we hit each other head-on at full speed (did I mention my brake pads need replacing?). The word that came out of my mouth right before contact? “DUUUUDDDDDEEEEE!” More in a “WTF” tone than a “you just did something awesome.” Maybe you would assume that.

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I’ve now fallen off my long-board and hit another bike head-on on the campuses I’ve worked. Check two things off the bucket list and pass me my helmet.

Bumping into people is part of life here. The amount of people here compared to the amount of space available makes Westerners like me uncomfortable, but it’s a part of life you just have to accept or go crazy. In my first few months of living here I had bumped into, been shoved by and seen more cars banged up and more people lying in the streets after collisions than I have in my whole life in America. Ever seen someone get hit by a car? I have. My wife has several times.

So you could also safely assume that it also has a reputation for some heinous driving. Google “Korean driving” and you’ll see video from people’s black boxes of cars getting in the most ridiculous wrecks. Koreans often drive too fast (bali, bali!!) or under the assumption that no one else is on the road. Which doesn’t work on roads that are choked with traffic.

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Look both ways. Then look both ways again.

When I got up after smashing into this other bike, I really didn’t know what to do. Luckily, it was just a couple of idiots on bikes and no one was hurt, but it reminded me of how ill-prepared some foreigners are for accidents in foreign countries. We have a tendency to forget that the law and the customs also apply to us, especially when we get into an accident. There are tons of resources in English to get you familiar with what to do. See links in my tips below.

Here are some things to consider before taking to the Korean streets.

  1. Be insured and be legal. If you are a driver or motorcyclist you better have a license and insurance. Though I have never had to show my license it is important that you have one. If it is a small accident you’re likely to come to terms on some settlement money(some expats call “blood money“) without police supervision. In 2007, a friend of mine t-boned a car that pulled out in front of his motorbike (a motorbike my wife was on the back of..yikes!). de200-driversThe car seemed at fault to me, but my friend had no recourse without a license or insurance. At the time at least he was like many others who decided just to gamble for a year and avoid the hassle of getting street legal. These are things we wouldn’t dream of driving without back home and shouldn’t be without in Korea. Fortunately, the man he hit didn’t come up with a giant number off the top of his head, but drove my friend with him to a shop for an estimate. The man also saved my friend from some problems with the police. However, this is something common in Korea, pay the damages, stay out of court and move on. If you are a cyclist, cycling insurance might help you with your own injuries or equipment but probably not with someone else’s.
  2. Call the cops. That is, if you are insured and legal and you feel like it will help the proceedings. The cops should help you get a fair settlement1851556_image_1, but it is common in the expat community to feel that the cops will never side with the foreigner. I am sure there have been some unfair judgments made by cops in Korea and will continue to be, but I’ve heard of more cases where cops have been fair to expats than not. Just be ready for anything. Click here for the Korean police website for foreigners. They have translators you can reach.
  3. Proceed cautiously. It’s crowded here and incidents where you think you’d be free from fault you aren’t. Take this example, where a cyclist hit a woman walking in a bike lane. The cyclist was liable for damages even though the woman was putting herself at risk by walking somewhere she shouldn’t. This happens all the time. Pedestrians walk into traffic certain you are going to stop. Old Korean ladies walk their oxcarts full of cardboard in the middle of the road. Pay attention. Be ready for someone or something to jump out in front of you. Seriously. It happens.

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    Fun while it lasted. Dumb in retrospect. Regardless, you should have your license and insurance while riding one of these guys.

  4. Get a black box or GoPro. Having a black box on the dash of my car or a camera mounted on my bike feels like overkill. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have either. But I should. It would be very difficult for me to use my limited Korean to explain to the cops what happened and a black box would make it infinitely easier. These things are becoming way more common and most new cars have them. Also if the kid wanted to make an issue out of our wreck this morning I could have had video evidence that he was in the wrong lane.
  5. Walk or Take Public Transportation. We relied solely on taxis, buses, subways,If I only knew this was still the beginning! our bikes and our feet before kids and it was dead easy. If you are only planning on being here for a year or two avoid the headache and walk or take public transportation. Korea has an amazing public transportation system that goes most places you need to go for cheap. Also, despite my experience today biking has always been my favorite way to travel around. But if you find yourself in a game of chicken with another bike. Move first. You might just save yourself some embarrassment and some money.

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The Line That Divides Us

By Whit Altizer

On Tuesday, the Koreas held a meeting at a infamous resort in North Korea for families separated by the Korean war. For some, this meant seeing faces and hugging people they haven’t seen in 65 years. Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters laying eyes on each other for the first time in an absurd amount of time.

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Credit: Yonhap

I don’t even know how to fully process this kind of separation. The piece by Choe Sang Hun (who, might I add, is an alumni at the school I teach at and just an overall amazing journalist that perfectly captures Korea and its culture for New York Times readers) is sad, emotional, sweet and even captures the hard-shells the older Korean generation sometimes wears; no doubt formed by the tough lives they’ve led.

In a culture that puts family first (they even write their family name first) this must be absolutely gut-wrenching for the parties involved. I could feel their pain by reading Choe’s excellent piece and watching the videos with it.. Even still, I sit millions of miles from that experience. The pain I feel certainly doesn’t touch what these people have carried for years.

Oddly, the more time I spend in South Korea the more I forget about the DMZ. Fighter jets whoosh over my office and apartment all the time and the news is filled with stories about North Korea and the fear that surrounds it. But, admittedly I’ve become desensitized to living in a country still technically at war. When I first arrived here I nearly ran for cover the first time a jet flew low overhead. Now if I am in class I pause, let it fly over and continue where I left off.

Then this piece comes out. The tears, the heartbreak, the forced separations brings the reality back. It reminds me how innocent people are victims of power and corruption. Many of these people were living quiet lives one day and then thrown into a mess not of their making the next. It also reminds me that even with these very real sad stories as cautionary tales, more will be written. That this will not be the last time something like this happens, I believe, is a real tragedy.

Who Wrote Your History Book?

By Whit Altizer

I’m finally putting my master’s degree to work this year teaching American history to international university students in Korea. I love it. I have Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, and even an American student. They are active, engaged and ask interesting questions. This class has made teaching in Korea even more of a joy.

Homework for this group can be a bit of a challenge because, even though my students are exceptionally bright, asking them to read the same amount from the same texts an American college student might read for history class is unrealistic. So, instead I draw from primary sources through data-based questions, and keep the readings from secondary sources to a minimum.

I think I am finding what works best for them. They love looking at the documents I bring to class and analyzing what they mean for the event or person we are discussing. One of the most interesting classes we’ve had so far was looking at documents and photos from the Spanish-American war. They loved looking at the dawning days of modern American imperialism expansion diplomacy.

Interestingly, Korean government has caught flak this month because of their decision to take on the task of writing history books for the public schools in the nation. The current conservative government under President Park Geun Hye has found the current choices (about 8 in total from private publishers) to be too left-leaning. Their goal is to make one government issued textbook that is “balanced.” Is that even possible?

historytextbooksTo further complicate the story, Park’s father was Korea’s longest serving president. Her father, Park Chung Hee, took control in 1961 by military coup and turned Korea from one of the poorest counties in the world to one of the biggest financial powers. Growth that is fondly referred to as “the Miracle on the Han.” Truly a miracle for a country the size of Korea that was left in absolute despair after World War II.

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The elder Park remains a complicated figure in Korean history. While on the one hand he improved the lives and filled the stomachs of most Koreans, he didn’t exactly do so in the most democratic of ways. Koreans speak of him with tones of both admiration and fear.

Hence, a source of contention is about one of the current textbooks is that the term “dictator” is used 28 times when referring to the South Korean government during military rule(the bulk of which was under Park) to only 2 times when talking about the North Korean government in the same period.

So how will the new government textbook speak of Park Chung Hee? Will it admit that his legacy is complicated? Can the Korean public trust a panel of historians overseen by Park’s daughter to write a fair and balanced book on Korean history? We’ll see.

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“Our music, art and literature have been the lush plants that our flaws as a country have fertilized.”

This got me thinking about how we learn history, how much stock we put into what we read and how I teach my international students about my country. I think what many critics of history books forget is that thoughtful individuals learn and teach from these books. As teachers we may be charged with molding the minds of our students, but we are also charged with teaching them to think and question the sources from which they learn.

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City of Seoul Korea (above 1945 and 2015)

I remember reading a book from the 1950s on Robert E. Lee that read almost like a love letter to his legacy. In its own way this book served as a learning tool. Could a white author in the 1950s feel a little too nostalgic about what Lee stood for? Perhaps. These are the kind of sources worth cross-referencing. A reminder that every source you read should be thought about in the context in which it was written. When was it written? Who published it?

Korean history teachers, I hope, have taught from the current left-leaning textbooks with the understanding that they are biased. I also hope that whatever gets issued by the government also gets taught with a similar understanding. While good history books do exist, (and maybe Park’s will be a good one) there is inevitably going to be some personal bias in them and it is up to the reader to sniff it out. It is also up to the teacher to offer some balance to those biases. There are multiple ways to discuss a historical event and in those discussions some learning takes place.

So while I was a little stunned by Park’s decision to create one government-issued textbook, something that hasn’t been done since her father was in power, it has reminded me that history class is as much about teaching students to think for themselves as it is learning facts from a book. That one must understand who the source is and the flaws that it inevitably possesses. Knowing that nothing (or nobody) is perfect might help us grapple with our own country’s history a little more thoughtfully.

I find myself both proud and frustrated by American history when I teach it. It’s complicated and I kind of love that about it. What we are supposed to do with our history it is to learn from it and be better people. Hiding our flaws might make us repeat them. Additionally, I think our flaws have made us a more interesting country. Our music, art and literature have been the lush plants that our flaws as a country have fertilized. That’s something worth remembering. And in my opinion that is why we should embrace these flaws, write about them, learn from them and never forget they are there.

A Taste of Korean Hospitality

By Whit Altizer

Biking through the Korean countryside always makes me fall more fiercely in love with this country. The masses of people, the identical apartment blocks, and the breakneck pace of the city often feels inescapable. But take a step just outside the clamor of the city and you’re hit hard with a different side of Korea. Outside the cities the faces get friendlier, the rice fields get greener and the pace of the people is similar to the slow meander of the streams and rivers that traverse the peninsula.

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It was about that pace I was pedaling my bike and two sleeping children up a steep hill when a bongo truck came puttering up behind me. It was Chuseok in Korea and we were on a family and friends bike trip to Andong. It was our last day and we were all hot and tired and feeling mildly defeated about the slow climbs in the last 30 km of our ride.

A farmer got out of the old blue truck and reached into the bed for something. Then she turned toward us with an armful of red apples. Smiling at my sleeping children, she tucked them into the trailer with my kids and disappeared over the hill like a mirage.

About 10 miles down the bike path, hot and exhausted, our caravan of parents and children pulled over in the shade for a quick break from the unrelenting sun. My friend and his daughter had seen the same farmer and also had about a half-dozen of these beautiful apples. We pulled out the apples and moaned with delight at their sweet, crisp taste.

Sharing food with strangers is very Korean. My son is learning this at his Korean school and I hope it is one thing that becomes second-nature to him. When you go somewhere with food, bring enough for others. It’s such a small gesture, but so lovely when made toward you.

So there I stood huddled in the shade, feeling incredibly grateful for the farmer that took 30 seconds out of her day to give us a small, but delicious taste of Korean hospitality. I doubt I’ll ever taste an apple that good again.

The Importance of Looking Forward

By Whit Altizer

I had the pleasure of teaching American History this semester to Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese students. Like all American history surveys, we studied from the beginning to Reconstruction in a whirlwind.

It had been a while since I really thought about American history and I had never studied it from the perspective of a foreigner. But as a professor of Asian students, I felt like I was looking at American history with fresh eyes. I would fluctuate between proud and embarrassed often within one class period.

My class was particularly intrigued with the history of slavery. They understood that America continues to deal with the sticky residue of slavery. We talked about how people actually still exist that lament the failure of the South to secede, and that black Americans still don’t have as easy of an avenue in life as I had as a white male. Even though it is a reality I have known, I still couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. “We, as a country, are still dealing with the impacts of slavery.”

My students would nod knowingly. America is a well-known contradiction to them. How can a country that is considered a world leader still struggle to have an intelligent debate and do something about climate change, guns and the usage of hurtful symbols in our history? I know things take time, but damn, isn’t all of this a no-brainer?

Living in Asia has allowed me to see America from afar, and has afforded me conversations and interactions with people from all over the world. We’re all the same wonderful and flawed people. It is universal to hold a grudge or to cling too tightly and take pride in our nation’s history. So many of us obsess over tradition and fear change. There was a time where I bought into all of that too.

But I’ve learned that clinging to the past especially when it stunts our growth is just plain wrong. It shouldn’t be tolerated even if that somehow offends those who subscribe to it. Life should be like driving a car. While it is important to glance behind you, the more important and pertinent stuff is happening in front of you. Observe, adapt, react, and if needed, don’t be afraid to change course.

Cycling from Seoul to Busan (Day 3)

By Whit Altizer

I just returned from a bike trip from Incheon to Busan last week. It was fabulous. It was easy to navigate, beautiful and a fantastic week spent in Korea with a couple of friends. Over the next week, I am going to blog about the daily logistics of my trip in hopes that you can learn a little and start planning your own adventure. I also recommend checking out BikeToursDirect for guided bike tours in Korea. 

Day 3: Angseong –> Mungyeong (104 km/64 miles)

After a long sleep, we woke up to our first blue sky of the trip. We received word that circumstances that could end our trip early had improved, so we could keep cycling. This was lucky for us because day 3 was one of the most beautiful of the entire trip. We quickly and giddily pedaled into Chungju along some lovely river path and arrived at the certification center before 9AM thrilled with the beginning of our day. From there we met up with the Saejae Bike Path and headed into some of the most rustic parts of the trail. Outside of Chungju there is still some bike path construction going on. Once through that, you cycle along beautiful, desolate roads past rice fields, up mountains and through spa towns. We felt that this section could be the best part of the journey, even with some bike malfunctions.
The path from Angseong to Chungju was surprisingly lovely.
Bike Path: For most of this stretch you are on the roads. But do not to fear. Most roads are empty and the motorists we encountered seemed very aware of cyclists. The towns you cycle through: Chungju, Suanbo, Mungyeong are all worthy towns to stop in and spend some time. You will also encounter your biggest, but most rewarding climb in Ihwaryeong (이화령) a 5km climb. The ride down was exhilarating and the ice cream at the top is well worth the effort.
What goes up, must go down. Look forward to your ride on Ihwaryeong. Beer or ice cream at the top! Screaming descent after.
Highlights: The path is fantastic(once past Chungju), the towns are friendly and there are plenty of places to stop. We spent a lot of time in Suanbo around lunchtime. I ate a delicious bowl of bibimbap, had a nice coffee at one of the resort hotels and soaked my feet in public hot spring in the town square. Need I say more?
Suanbo is a tiny spa town with a public hot spring in the middle of town. Stop here for food, coffee and a foot soak.
Sleeping: We camped along the river between the Munagyeong Buljeong Station Certification Center and Sangpung Bridge Certification Center. Our tent was just off a public golf course. The golfers seemed unfazed by our tent and even greeted us with smiles at 6:30 in the morning.
Again, camping was a breeze. Found a nice spot along the river, next to a golf course.
Quick tips:
-We had some bike issues we weren’t equipped for and found ourselves spending lots of time in Suanbo trying to find a bike mechanic. He was out of town, but the motorcycle mechanic gave us a hand. There are two tourist information booths in Suanbo that will point you in the right direction. One of the workers even helped us with translation. Try to work out issues in Chungju in case the Suanbo mechanic isn’t there. Also, there weren’t any obvious shops until we got to Gumi way down the path.

-After coming down from Ihwaryeong you’ll come into the first part of Mungyeong and there will be plenty of hotels and restaurants. If we had not planned on camping this night, this would have been a nice stop. There was also an outdoor climbing wall here.

Bigeumdo

By Whit Altizer
We’ve been going to Bigeumdo for a while now and never seem to tire of it. Surprisingly, for us, it has rarely been an easy trip there or back, but once you get to the island it all feels worth the effort. To be clear, it isn’t a place where you go for a beach scene or parties(unless you throw your own) or to meet foreigners. It’s an island that you go to for island seclusion or to peer into regular farm life on a Korean island or to see amazing sunsets.
The Heart-shape beach is a wonderful place to spend the evening.
We easily spend two days here of doing almost nothing but hanging out on the beach or taking drives around the island. It’s worth bringing a bike or a book or a group of friends to keep yourself entertained here. I can’t sit still on the beach so I’ve spent hours playing soccer with friends, going for runs or taking bike rides around the island. All of those things are perfect on Bigeumdo.
Biking on the island was a treat. Few cars, decent roads and fun climbs along the coast.

There is almost no current and tiny waves. Perfect water for our little swimmer.

So if you are looking to escape the crowds of Haeundae Beach or just the craziness of your town; take a trip to Bigeumdo this fall. You’ll be hanging with the local farmers and feel like you have your own private beach.

Quick Tips:

Getting There: Getting there should be easy, but we’ve always made it hard on ourselves. There is a cheap(less than 10,000 won) 7AM, 1PM and 3:00 ferry(2 hrs) that we always take to max out our time on the island. The next cheap one isn’t until 1. If you are flexible and don’t mind spending money(about 15-20,000 won) there is a 7:50AM, 8:10, 1 and 4 PM ferry that gets you there in half the time(50 mins) of the cheap one.

 

Timetable for the fast and more expensive ferry.

Taxis are usually waiting at the ferry terminal and there is also an infrequent bus. If you are looking for the big beach with windmills ask to go to 원평해수욕장 (Wonpyeong Beach). If you want the heartshape beach ask for 하누넘해수욕장 (Hanuneom Beach). Both are lovely.

Places to stay: We’ve camped and stayed in a minbak on Wonpyeong Beach and both have been great experiences. If you have a tent, take it. For us with small child and July weather the pension was more convenient.  Check out this link for more places. I also found a

바닷가펜션(Beach Pension) 261.0001/017.631.1258 in high season it costs about 100,000 a night and has a kitchen. Do yourself a favor and order some of the owners kimchi jjigae. Amazing.

 

These days you can rent a platform for your tent, otherwise find a dry place and camp.

 

Though I’ve never stayed here, this looked like a fun, traditional place to stay Just 100 meters from a secluded beach.


Things to do: Hire a taxi to drive you around, bring your bike, drink, lounge, play, be. We’ve done them all and they’ve been worth it. The people on Biguemdo are lovely.

Sunset on Bigeumdo is one of life’s great joys. So peaceful and beautiful.

Cycling from Seoul to Busan (Day 2)

By Whit Altizer

I just returned from a bike trip from Incheon to Busan yesterday. It was fabulous. It was easy to navigate, beautiful and a fantastic week spent in Korea with a couple of friends. Over the next week, I am going to blog about the daily logistics of my trip in hopes that you can learn a little and start planning your own adventure. I also recommend checking out BikeToursDirect for guided bike tours in Korea. 

Day 2: East Seoul –> Angseong (107 km/66 miles)

We woke up early in our tent on the edge of a soccer field while the groundskeeper worked around us. It was a beautifully, cool, gray day and we were ready to cycle. The night before had been a bit of a bummer after getting denied at full campground. We set up camp late, without water and no store in sight. We eventually found everything we needed (after cycling a bit into town) and fell into a restless sleep. The dawn of a new day felt glorious and all we had to do today was cycle.


Bike Path: We started right in between Seoul and Hanam where you start to leave the crazy streets of the city behind. The river gets wide, the path gets quiet and the coffee shops and rest stops get more infrequent (though there are still some cool cafes along the way). You go through several tunnels and stay relatively flat as you do along the Ara and in Seoul. There are some road sections on this section, but they are relatively quiet.

Highlights: Going through Hanam and Yangpyeong really are beautiful semi-urban sections along the Nakdong. You go along old railroad path, past lots of cool cafes and can even stop in at the art museum in Yangpyeong. The art tunnels along the way also lift the spirits. The lights and music and work put into these tunnels give you the feeling that Korea is really interested in keeping these trails maintained.

Sleeping: For 60,000 won we stayed in the UN Motel in Angseong, but there are other (probably cheaper) options in town. I’ve stopped for duck soup in Angseong before and had a nice meal and experience. It’s a small spa town with plenty of restaurants. We went searching for food around 8 and found most places to be closing. On this night, too, there was an absence of the Korean hospitality I’ve grown accustomed to. However, the staff at the UN made up for that the next morning when they sent us off with a complimentary coffee and a candy bar.

Quick Tips:

-If you are planning to stay on the outskirts of Seoul make sure you are stocked up on water or any camping supply you need. There is about 20km of desolate trail just outside the city before you get to Hanam. Best to stop at a shop while it’s convenient.

-After Angseong the next big city is Chungju. That was our goal that day, but 107 km was all we could manage on our second day of cycling. Chungju is a short 25km from Angseong, but was just a little too far for us that night. If you are staying in hotels, Angseong is the last easy stop until Chungju.

Cycling from Seoul to Busan: Day 1

By Whit Altizer

I just returned from a bike trip from Incheon to Busan yesterday. It was fabulous. It was easy to navigate, beautiful and a fantastic week spent in Korea with a couple of friends. Over the next week, I am going to blog about the daily logistics of my trip in hopes that you can learn a little and start planning your own adventure. I also recommend checking out BikeToursDirect for guided bike tours in Korea. 

Day 1: Ara West Sea Lock–>East Seoul (63km/39 miles) 

The Ara Bike Path is a nice path without much to see. A flat cruiser.

Our first day began around noon after a train ride from Daegu. We didn’t have any firm plans about our days other than get as far as we could without overdoing it. We took long breaks, stopped for meals and usually had camp set up by 7PM. We ran into groups doing our trip in half the time. Cranking it out wasn’t our goal. Here are some quick facts about day 1.


Getting there: From Daegu we took the slow train (Mungunghwa-무궁화) to Seoul Station (about a 4 hour trip). From Seoul Station take the Airport Link Rail (every stop not the express) to Geomam Station (검암역). Exit Geomam Station take a left and then another left at the next light to get to the Ara Bike Path. To get to the beginning and the first certification center, take a left on the path and cycle for about 6-7 kms to the certification center at Ara West Sea Lock.

Not always recommended, but the slow train has been fine the 3 times I have taken my bike on board. Buses are always okay unless there is too much luggage underneath. This is probably never a problem unless you are going to an airport, but generally there is little luggage to compete with.


Highlights: On our first day of cycling the thing that really stood out to me was the great recreational space on the banks of the Han River in Seoul. I found this so impressive that I am planning on taking a day with my son and wife and bike down the river. It’s crowded for good reason. There are coffee shops, water parks, playgrounds, campgrounds and vendors all through Seoul. You could easily spend a fun day pedaling the banks of the Han.

Bike shops: I imagine that there are bike shops at almost any given exit from the river but we coincidentally got off at a biker’s Mecca just past Olympic Stadium in Gadonggu (강동구)  on Chunjungro (천중로) less than a kilometer off the path. There were shops that harkened Ferrari showrooms with high-end bikes majestically placed in display cases. There are also helpful mechanics if you are in need of repair for your bike. One mechanic spent about 15 minutes with my buddy’s bike, fixed it and didn’t charge him a dime. There is also a cute boutique hotel right on the corner as soon as you come out of the tunnel off the river on this street if you’re going the hotel route.

It was gray when we rode on the Han, but people were still out enjoying all of the parks along the way.

Sleeping: We alternated between camping and hotels on our trip. I thought that getting a hotel in the cities would be the way to go, but in Daegu and Busan this proved to be the biggest headache. In Seoul, we went out of our way to find a designated campground called Gangdong Greenway Family Campground. When we arrived, they were full and not willing to set us up anywhere(you’re supposed to reserve a spot online). We retreated back to the river, found a big soccer field and camped on the sideline. The next morning the groundskeeper worked around us like we weren’t even there. I recommend “backcountry” camping to campgrounds and camping on the river (look for baseball or soccer fields and camp on the sidelines) in big cities to trying to find a hotel.

Quick tips: 

  • For train travel you might get push back from ticketing about taking your bike onboard, but that only happened to us once. She also thought we wanted to board the KTX, which isn’t allowed. Eventually she relented when we booked the slow train and just asked we take our front tires off our bike. On both train rides we were able to put our bikes between trains well out of the way of anyone. The conductors onboard weren’t bothered at all by our bikes. For even less resistance take the bus. The bus drivers could careless about what goes underneath. Which also means they don’t care if your bike gets damaged. Just be sure to secure it underneath somehow. Perhaps with a lock or bungees.
  • Don’t be afraid of camping in cities. On the river, you can generally find a nice quiet place to camp. Try to be inconspicuous, even though camping is tolerated. We were never hassled. When we tried to get a hotel in the cities (Daegu and Busan) it was surprisingly a hassle.
  • Pay close attention to the route in Seoul. It wasn’t always clear to us, but there are signs indicating which way to go. Make sure you know when to cross over the river to stay on the path toward Hanam. The bike path goes on both sides of the river, but only one way gets you moving toward the Namhangang. You could be stuck doing some backtracking if you miss your crossing. Naver Maps offers great maps of the bike paths, but it requires being able to read Korea.