cycling across Korea day 1: Incheon & Seoul

start of the ride at Incheon Ara west sea lock

And so my journey across Korea begins. The start of the ride is in Incheon. If you search for ‘Ara West Sea Lock’ on Google Maps you can find it. There’s actually a little tourist kiosk there where you can buy a passport book. Along the route apparently there are little phone booths where you can stamp your passport. The first booth is here in Ara as well as an arch at beginning of the bicycle path that shows the mileage to Busan. 633 kilometers it says. Not too bad. I’ll just think of it as six metric centuries. So in approximately six days I hope to be in Busan.

The first stamp booth

My panniers are filled to the brim. I tend to travel pretty light nowadays, and I’m carrying even less clothes than normal. But I do still have a laptop and camera, which occupies the right side pannier. I hope I don’t crash on that side. The left side pannier is mostly clothes. I actually didn’t even bring much clothes but the pannier still won’t close. Hopefully it doesn’t rain or else all my clothes will get soaked. The top trunk is all cycling related stuff– tubes, tools, and extra cycling layers, as well as snacks and drinks.

riding along a canal

The bicycle path starts along a shipping canal that eventually connects into the Han river in Seoul. It’s pretty nice out here but there aren’t a lot of other riders out on this part of the path.

iciness

I forgot how cold the northern part of Korea is in February. There’s still ice on the ground. I wasn’t prepared for how cold it would be. I brought enough layers, I think, but I didn’t bring a balaclava, so my face is freezing. And my hands are freezing because all I brought were normal cycling gloves.

my savior

I was seriously freezing, to the point where I was having doubts about being able to make it to Busan. Thankfully not even a mile into my ride I rode past tables full of cycling gear. I slammed on my brakes and a man emerged from a tent to greet me. I told him I was cold, so he recommended a pair of gloves and a balaclava, which is the exact gear I needed. I only had 25,000 won in my wallet, thankfully he gave me the balaclava and gloves for that price. I honestly think this man was an angel sent to save my ride, because honestly I might have frozen to death before I got to Busan (or more likely quit and hopped on the KTX train).

a GS25 convenience store right on the bicycle path

There weren’t a lot of cyclists in Incheon but after about an hour of riding I made it into Seoul. Apparently bicycling along the Han river in Seoul is a popular activity even in winter. There are tons of cyclists out, tons of super high end bicycles, and tons of super hot bicycle chicks. The cycling infrastructure is amazing – I haven’t seen a single pothole on the pavement, and there’s even convenience stores on the bicycle path. There’s plenty of food and drinks in these little convenience stores, tons of lunch boxes and all sorts of instant noodles along with microwaves and hot water.

dunno what this is

The bicycle path follows along the Han river in Seoul. For the most part both sides of the river has paved bicycle paths and much of the area along the river is public space with lots of parks and interesting architecture.

the olympic bridge

There are lots of bridges. I stayed on the south side of the river for most of the day to try and avoid crossing any bridges.

pedestrian and bikes on this narrow section

But I ended up needing to cross at least one. The one I ended up crossing wasn’t ideal. The area for pedestrians and bikes was pretty narrow and with my panniers sticking out on both sides I barely fit.

today’s ride

On paper I only rode a few hours today, mostly because I had a late start because I needed to backtrack to Incheon to get to the start of the bike ride. But actually I rode almost double this amount since I started the day in the middle of Seoul. Not bad though, I made it almost all the way across Seoul today.

handicap friendly hotel room is actually good for bicycling

During my lunch break I booked a hotel in the east side of Seoul in the Cheonho district. I booked it mostly because it was cheap and it was close to the bike path. When I arrived I found out that the check-in time was 10pm because the hotel was actually a short time love hotel during the day, and the late evening when I arrived was prime time for the (how should I put this?) *ahem* post work happy hour. So that was a bit awkward, me flying solo with my bike in a lobby filled with couples booking hourly hotel stays. Thankfully the lady in the front took pity on me and let me check in early, though I still needed to wait for the room to be cleaned. She put me up in the handicap room, which actually worked out better since there was more space for my bicycle, and I’m assuming it gets less ‘happy hour’ usage.

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