Everyone gathered and we checked our bicycle that is assigned to each of us. Some cyclists brought their own bicycle so they take this time to assemble theirs. We collected the mountain bicycle, label it with our name, adjust the saddle height, ride around to check the gears, etc. And remember to collect our Korean (cycling) passport ! Once you are satisfied with your bicycle, we will put it back proper and get ready to head out for dinner. Oh yes, all our meals are included and there is never 1 meal that is repetitive. Yumz !
We set off the next day around 9 am and you cannot believe the temperature remained at 2 degree Celsius on a cloudy day (no sunshine) and with gusty wind blowing all the time ! But I am glad the scenery along Han River, the cherry blossoms distracted me from the chill. Remember the Korean passport I mentioned ? Yes ! They came into use at once when you are cycling. We made checkpoint stops and collect cute ink stamps onto our passports. A way to signify our mileage clocked.
Tonight, we checked into a farm and stayed with Ajuma and her family. We all got so excited as we get to live like a local in the countryside. It was communal living for a night where there were about 8 of us sleeping together on heated floor on mattresses. All of us were quite apprehensive initially and found the floor hard but after a while, we kind of enjoyed it. It brought back great memories of girls-sleepover-night when we were young (now is aunties-sleepover) and the warm and “hard” flooring somehow did some wonders to our aching backs after a day of cycling. Dinner was BBQ tonight and some kimchi making which we can bring it home. I named ours Prosperous Kimchi because we shouted “huat ah” as we tossed the cabbage as high as we can. LOL. The farm owner built us a campfire after dinner. The fire brought great warmth to us as we stayed out in the punishing cold in the evening.
Before we set off the next morning, Ajuma taught us how to wrap gimbap which is our source of energy of the road on the 2nd day of cycling. I was praised by Ajuma that my gimbap was rolled very nicely with all the ingredients visible after it was cut. As we continued the journey today into the countryside, I am amazed by the pristine surrounding that is almost untouched by international tourism. I can’t helped but slowed down my pace to enjoy the views.
Back to our comfort tonight as we checked in to a lovely hotel. Our expectation is well managed as we have been told it is unlikely to get good hotels in the countryside. As it turned out, tonight’s stay is like luxury after the communal stay in the farm. Dinner was in a local restaurant in the town and I like to refer it to Teochew porridge (many small dishes) in Korean style. 4 of us shared like a total of 20 small plates of dishes.
As we cycled deeper into the rural, we began to see more mountains and lakes. Some challenges here and there and all of us did to the best as we could individually to overcome the odds. As the weather warms up with sunshine beaming, we were all so happy.
Another highlight of this trip is an experience stay in a Temple. It is like the communal stay in the farm but in smaller group. 3 of us will share a room. Most of the temples are nested in the mountains so you can imagine the scenic surrounding we are in. We all had vegetarian meals and gosh they are so tasty ! We followed the monks after dinner for a session of drumming and gongs for their daily blessing. Then we took a small break before heading to the hall for yoga led by one of the senior monks who is a certified yogi master. We were taught some yoga postures that will help our sore bodies after 3 days of riding.
We were blessed with the best weather today on our last day of ride. We were so accustomed to the cold and many of us were perspiring profusely and screaming hot even though the temperature is just 11 degrees Celsius. Blue skies, green lakes, brownish-green mountains greeted us as we rode in the lovely weather. My greatest achievement on this trip was a try to scale a 350 m hill over a stretch of incline over 2.8 km. I am so glad that I preserved and did it. We concluded 4 days of cycling as our board the coach heading back to Seoul.
I had many firsts on this cycling trip and I am proud of myself that I overcame them 1 by 1. First, was the weather which I reckon I could ride in such cold weather. I always thought I would never be able to do winter cycling as I would not be able to take the chill. This trip has proven myself wrong. Since I am left with not much choices, I just had to get around it to make it work. I want to enjoy the trip and not lamenting. What I found out was we don’t really need to wear a lot while cycling in the cold. I wore a long sleeve as a base layer, a jersey, a pair of full gloves and a windproof jacket – very important. I only had my cycling long tights on for bottom. I was cold by just wearing these but I reckon as I cycle, my body especially the legs get warm up, it won’t be as bad. I concluded the way to go was to continue pedaling to keep the cold away which I think I was quite right in a way or another. And yes, sunglasses and neck scarf/balaclava are important too as it helps to shield the chilly wind blowing on your eyes, ears and nose.
It came to me as a surprise that bike paths are so extensively well maintained in Korea. Despite there are certain difficulty we had to overcome on this trip, we are cycling on bike paths 98% of the time, even when we are riding in the countryside.
Although this trip is graded as beginner plus to intermediate level, every beginner cyclist is welcome if you want to push yourself further with some challenges. I guarantee you the satisfaction is indescribable when you tried and overcome it.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for a more leisure ride, we will also have something for you.
Look out for our Korea Cycling trips if you like experience it yourself. I can’t wait to go back to Korea for more, especially during Autumn where the autumn colours is another eye feast and romantic !
Cycling in Autumn Colours, 6 days from 9 to 14 November 2018.
Launching soon, Cherry Blossom Ride 2019. Send a text to +65 8714 3321 and indicate your interest.