Finally, my first vacation in Korea. 5 days off for Chuseok which is Korean thanksgiving. Myself and 2 of my friends/coworkers had what was originally supposed to be a 4 day bike trip around Korea. We had no plan up until the day we left. We just chose to take the subway as far south as it could go and travel from there. Our goal was simply to explore. We would explore 3 different suburbs and 2 cities including Suwon. By the 3rd day, we decided to head back home. We were exhausted and felt like we had seen enough. Also, we had nowhere else to go. We had to stay close to the subway line so we could return home. The trip was a success besides the fact that my iPhone was stolen after the first night. I had many more great photos on my iPhone but I didn’t get a chance to upload them all before it was stolen. So here are the ones I was able to recover. The photos after day 1 were all taken with my pocket camera.
This is our bike route. We took a subway early Saturday morning from Suwon to Cheonan and began our trip from there. First we biked about 18 miles to Asan and spent the night at a spa there. Day 2, we biked another 20 miles to Pyeongtaek and spent the night there. Day 3, we took the subway from Pyeongtaek to Osan (blue route) because the trip was too far. From Osan we biked back home to Suwon which was another 16 miles or so.
Day 1: The adventure begins. We get off the subway in Cheonan and hit the pedals. Up until we got off the subway, we had no idea which direction to go. We decided to go west to Cheonan, explore around on the way there, then settle down and find a place to stay once we got into the center of town.
Shadow of yours truly, ready to go.
This was towards the very beginning of our route from Cheonan to Asan. We found a nice little river that had a bike along it.
- Shot of the bike path from Cheonan to Asan. The weather was perfect.
We saw this wall of cement frogs coming out of a little fountain and we stopped to take pictures.
This was somewhere just outside of Asan. We saw a park so explored there a little bit. They had a wooden staircase and path leading up to the top of this hill where we got a good view of Asan in the distance.
Shot of myself at the top of the hill
To our surprise, we found a hiking trail that lead further up the hill. We hiked to the top and were amazed by the view. We were also very exhausted, so we took a little rest.
Sunset over the bridge to Osan. We finally made it. We had plenty of time to spare so we explored downtown Asan.
The downtown area of Asan is really nice. It is a peaceful suburb with a big central marketplace that was closing when we got there. It was Chuseok eve, so the market looked very busy. This is a back alley way that was closed down for the night.
Fish salesman at the market in Asan.
Chicken salesman at Asan market getting ready to pack in for the night.
After the market closed, we explored around the downtown area searching for a bar. After what seemed like an hour of searching, we finally found a karaoke bar that was completely empty. We would wind down there and after a couple of drinks, head to the Jimjilbang which is a Korean bath house. They are everywhere and it only costs $8 to stay for 12 hours. There is a part downstairs where they have lockers and a change of clothes for you. You can shower, go in the hot tubs or sauna and cool off in a pool. Then there is a sleeping area upstairs. That’s what you see in this next photo.
While this may look uncomfortable, Koreans actually have a very tight bond with the floor. That is why you take your shoes off inside a Korean home or anywhere that you sit on the floor. So a thin mat and a pillow is all a Korean person needs to sleep well. Also, this was also the last photo taken on my iPhone before it was stolen while I was sleeping.
Day 2: Despite the fact that I was robbed of my $700 iPhone 4s, I decided to continue on. This is the day of Chuseok (추석) which is the biggest holiday in Korea. It is their thanksgiving day. Its a bigger deal than Christmas. We woke up to a ghost town. It was so unbelievably quiet and empty. Everything was closed so we knew it would be a challenge to find food. All the roads were empty so we thought it would be a nice peaceful ride to Pyeongtaek. I had to break my “no biking on highways” rule because we couldn’t find a bike path to get to Pyeongtaek.
This tunnel came as a surprise to us but there was no way around it. So being VERY careful (Mom), we biked through.
Inside the tunnel. Notice how there are no cars. When the cars did come through, it sounded as loud as an airplane flying right over your head. We waited for the traffic to whiz by and we quickly biked through. This was the scariest part of our trip so we were both relieved and excited when we made it out the other side.
The bike ride was indeed very quiet. No cars on the roads made it easy to bike around and we didn’t have to dodge much traffic. Imagine riding your bike through town on Christmas morning. That should give you an idea what it was like.
We made it to Pyeongtaek by about 1pm so we had all day to explore around the city and see what was there. There were many hills, but again it was a ghost town because it was Chuseok afternoon. The only people outside were families who were on a walk.
We discovered a little hill that had a path leading up to it. In my experience in Korea so far, this always means there’s something worthwhile that it leads to. So we took the path up this hill. It lead to a memorial for the fallen Koreans while Korea was under Japanese rule.
Further up the hill, there was this traditional Korean pagoda. There were a couple of families celebrating Chuseok on the picnic tables below. It was such a peaceful scene.
After the sun went down, we explored more around the downtown area of Pyeongtaek. It is a really nice city that seemed to be based on clothes shopping. There were many young people and everyone started coming out as family time was over. The bars and restaurants all opened up again and were back in business like any other night. It was very interesting to see the town go from dead silent to alive and bustling at night.
Cheers! That’s a wrap on day 2. We found what we agreed to be the most amazing galbi restaurant we’ve been to and we live in Suwon which is a city famous for galbi. (Galbi 갈비 is a type of Korean short ribs beef which is marinated and cooked on the grill. It is hands down my favorite Korean food.)
After dinner, we went out to a couple more self service bars then a karaoke bar where drunk ajoshis (older Korean men) were singing traditional Korean songs on stage. We tried requesting a few songs but the MC didn’t speak a lick of English and apparently couldn’t type in English either. Afterwards, we stayed again in another jimjilbang which wasn’t nearly as nice as the last one. Our plan was to head to the subway station down the road and catch a subway to Osan and bike back to Suwon from there.
Day 3: Time to go home. None of us were sore thanks to staying in a bathhouse both nights so we were ready to hit the road. We were not done exploring. We would arrive in Osan and bike another 16-18 miles back to Suwon in a pretty roundabout way.
Construction on a massive Samsung building in Osan.
We took our time and enjoyed the laid back smooth ride back home. This is a bike path which we took for a majority of the way through Suwon.
More construction. Very common site in Korea as buildings are always going up. I liked the colors on this one.
Our last stop was another traditional Korean pagoda. It was seen on top of a little hill off our bike path so we went to check it out. We stayed for a while to rest up, relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery.
Kyle, Sam and myself at the pagoda. There was nobody else there so we asked an ajumma (older Korean woman) who apparently lived right next door to this tourist attraction to take our photo. It took about 10 minutes to try to describe to her that we weren’t trying to get inside, we just wanted our pictures in front of the doors. Finally, she took this crooked photo of us. So here we are on day 3 in Suwon only a few more miles away from home.
The weather during this whole trip couldn’t have been better. It was also nice to get away from the smoggy air of Seoul and experience some fresh clean air further south. Having my iPhone stolen was terrible and I was really bummed about it, but I didn’t want to let it get the best of me and ruin my trip. I still had a great time and was glad I got to see and experience some of the Korean countryside outside of Seoul and Suwon.