In 2009 the South Korean government starts to study the revitalization of the four major rivers in the country, Han, Geum, Nakdong and Yeongsan. The main goal was to control droughts, floods and revitalize ecosystems and the water quality, it was almost 10 years of a government focused on the sustainability of the country, the project to revitalize the four rivers lasted around 4 years. Eleven species of fish were recovered.
Areas of leisure, culture and sport were created around the banks to re-approximate the river to the population. Altogether, 1,700 kilometers of bicycle paths, 65 soccer fields, 45 baseball fields and 1,500 camping areas were built.
We arrived in South Korea by ferry boat, as we were in the city of Fukuoka in Japan, this was the easiest and most convenient way to travel to South Korea. There are daily boats leaving from Fukuoka to the city of Busan.
In our opinion, the most convenient way to travel from a country to another one is by ferryboat, when we are talking about bicycles, as you usually do not have to pay by the number of luggage and it is not necessary to put the bicycle in a box or in a bag.
There is only one boat that is possible to board with the bicycle, the name of the line is Camellia Lines, the trip lasts six hours, we choose the economy class, the total value of the ticket includes the bicycle and port fees, including also the common areas of the ship, on the economy class you will have access to a shared room, where they offer a futon (Japanese mattress), pillow and sheet per person.
South Korea has one of the largest metro lines in the world, we had the opportunity to use the subway with our bicycles once, on a rainy day. The metro and bus system allows you to board your bike, but only on the weekends, on the metro, you can use the first or the last wagon of the train. The buses and subways pass become even cheaper if you purchase the boarding card, called T Money Card, where you can recharge with the amount of money needed if you do not use all money, it is possible to request a refund at the subway counters.
The South Korean visa is granted upon arrival in the country, for us Brazilians, either via airport or maritime terminal, with a duration of 90 days.
The cycle route has a total of 1,757km, there are several routes that cross the whole country, the routes pass through the country’s coast, the mountains and an Island. This was a project that aimed at the sustainability of the country in several ways, and undoubtedly was one of the reasons why we chose to travel around South Korea. We chose to travel from Busan to the capital of the country Seoul, a total of 633km.
The government has created a number of ways to encourage cycling across the country, one of which was to create an exclusive cycle passport, where you collect stamps, there are specific points to collect the stamps throughout the cycle path, and at the end you will get a certificate and you can buy a medal of honor. If you want to have the passport, you will have to pay for an admission fee, which will give you access to the passport and a map of the whole cycle path. We decided to buy the passport and it was a small souvenir from South Korea.
The cycle path was different from what we imagined, goes through different types of scenery, from a very flat road to mountains to very steep climbs, that we had to push the bike. We did the whole way in 11 days, an average of 60 to 70km a day, our pace was very slow, compared to the people we met along the way. There are people who do the same route in a week or for up to 5 days, everything will depend on you and the pace of your trip.
Hotels and hostels are a not cheap option, in another hand, it is fine to do wild camping in South Korea, you can camp anywhere, but it is all about common sense, you should set up your tent after sunset and wake up early morning, and do not forget also to carry your trash.
Throughout the cycle path, there are more than 1,500 camping areas, the campsites are well equipped with toilets and showers, places to do dishes and Wi-fi, those camping grounds are paid, during the weekends it is almost impossible to get a place, as Koreans have the culture to camp on weekends.
As mentioned above, it is possible to do wild camp in South Korea, this was our case 90% of the time. We chose to camp near to the toilets, where we could have water, it was possible to find toilets with running water along the cycle path, an average of 20 to 30km.
In South Korea there is the traditional public bath, which is known as Jimjilbang, with hot and cold pools, showers, dry and steam saunas with different temperatures, pools and showers are separated between man and woman, the lounge, sauna and common areas can be used by men and women at the same time. One of the advantages of Jimjilbang is that some of them work for 24 hours, and if you want you can sleep at the rest areas, you will find the public baths only at the large cities.
At one point of our journey around South Korea, we had the valuable suggestion that it was possible to sleep in a Buddhist temple that is on the cycle path, about 115km from the city of Busan. The name of the temple is Musima, we spent an afternoon with the monks, we ate the meals with them and they give us a room to spend the night.
In a general South Korea is not a cheap country to travel, and the food is one of the most expensive items. The first time that we went to the supermarket was a disaster, we did not know the tricks of the country, and we were quite surprised with the prices of the products, with the passing of days we find a supermarket called E-Mart is a large chain, which has the brand for their own products, called No Brand, it was the far best option to buy food. As we always prioritize to cook our own food, to lower down the cost of our trip, E-Mart has become our best friend in South Korea, the secret is to look for the vegetables and fruits in season, which always has the most affordable price, in the small towns, there are smaller grocery stores options, with the prices are a bit more expensive, but even so, it is cheaper than eating in a restaurant, for example.
One of the things you will have to keep in mind is that there are no supermarkets and convenience stores near to the cycle path, so you will have to plan to leave the cycle path if you need to go to a supermarket.
The South Korean cuisine is very rich and very spicy too, in recent years the chili pepper has been introduced into the culture, and it is possible to find chili pepper in all dishes. Because it is a small country, there is no space for raising cattle, so the value of meats in a general is very expensive. Korean people do not have the habit of eating meat every day, just because it is an expensive product, they consume many vegetables, such as the most famous one, kimchi, which is a process of fermentation with chili pepper and a lot of spices.
It is safe to drink water directly from the tap in South Korea. On the cycle pass you could find points with drinking water, where we could refill our bottles, in addition, many of the toilets had running water on that case we had to pay attention to the color of the water, and if it was smelling bad, but we drank and used the water in the toilets, without any problem.
The hottest season is from May to September, August is the hottest month of the year, it is worth mention that in the summer is also the rainy season, starting at the end of June and lasting for about a month.
The cold season stays for 3 months, from December to February, with an average temperature below 7 degrees. The coldest month is January, with a minimum of -6 degrees and 1 degree for the maximum.
As we just spend one month in South Korea we did not buy a SIM card. But it was not difficult to find open signs of Wi-fi during our journey around the cycle path. It was possible to find open Wi-fi in the city centers, supermarkets, fast food chains and eventually we found signs of some houses that had not placed a password on the router.
Telephones and links