With the ferry passage from Vladivostok to Donghae, we did not cover a major distance, but we reached a new world: different writing, different language, different food, people everywhere, streets, bridges, apartment blocks, cafés, snack bars, toilets, neon signs, sights, music… The fingerprint device at the immigration, the checkout at the supermarket, the ATM, the traffic lights, the toilet door, the petrol station and security cameras… everything talked to us… totally crazy😊!

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Leisurely we pedaled on a bike path along the east coast north. The coast was beautiful and the many fishing villages a highlight! We were so overwhelmed and fascinated by the many impressions that we hardly got ahead.

If you follow a bike route in South Korea, you can stamp a bike passport in old phone booths (i.e. “Certification Centers”) along the way. At some “Certification Centers” there are additional stamps for the achievements “Cross-Country”, “4 Rivers” and “Grand Slam” (for all 84 stamps). The Koreans blazed past us with the latest racing bikes and matching jerseys, but stopped at every phone booth to carefully fill the pages of their bike passports😊. We also joined in the stamping fun and decorated our road map with it😉.

Before we arrived in Korea, we couldn’t imagine camping in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Once on the ground, it was almost too easy! In the evening we looked for a public toilet in a park, at a rest stop, on a parking lot or lookout point and set up our tent next to it😊. Many Koreans slept in their cars or campers similar to us, though unlike ourselves, their equipment was immaculate and included every utensil imaginable. In the mornings we were often awakened by senior citizens doing their fitness exercises in the park.
Speaking of toilets, whether at the train station, metro station, gas station, beach or bike path, the toilets were always free, clean and there to sit down! The fact that drinking water flowed from every tap and our sleeping places were usually equipped with electricity and WiFi was pure luxury😊.

The Korean perfectionism does not stop (unfortunately?) with the food: Only “premium” is good enough, the gorgeous apples are individually packaged in plastic trays and cost 4.- CHF per piece! Accordingly, we needed time to get used to the changed food supply. How should we satisfy the “small” hunger in between, if there is no bread, no pastries, waffles, salt sticks or dried fruits? We found the answer in the ubiquitous convenience stores with a large assortment of delicious rice sandwiches (onigiri), ramen soups and pre-cooked rice dishes. Because we liked the Korean food very much, we tried to eat lunch in a restaurant for about 5.- CHF (=1.25 apple😉).

Back to cycling, which, as you probably noticed, became a minor thing in Korea: In Sokcho, we left the coast and climbed up to Seoraksan National Park. Together with hordes of fit pensioners in their latest hiking gear, we completed a wonderful autumn hike over the “Dragon Ridge”. My inexperienced legs still had painful memories of the nine-hour hike with countless ascents and descents a week later…🙄
Thanks to the many hikers, we were able to practice the Korean greeting (“Annyeonghaseyoooo…”) and thanking (bowing with “Gamsamnidaaaa…”), which caused enthusiastic response😀!

We rode on small roads to Chuncheon, where a new bike route to Seoul began. With no cars and completely stress-free, we rode along the river directly into the center of Seoul, a metropolis of 10 million people.
On the way, David noticed with horror a crack on the weld seam of his rear rim! We thought the timing was ideal for this defect. In the capital of a bicycle-loving country, it would be easy to buy a replacement rim and have it spoked. We were surprised to discover that all high-quality trekking rims are made in Europe and are not available as spares in East Asia! In addition, our equipment with 26 inch wheels and rim brakes in Korea is ancient😉. The search for a rim replacement in Seoul was an elaborate frame program. Only after several unsuccessful attempts did we find a mechanic who had a Chinese product in stock. We were so happy about this solution that we gladly waited three days and paid the hefty price for the repair.

The waiting time in Seoul was anything but boring. We enjoyed the bustling markets with delicious street food and the evening view from N-Tower. Another highlight was the costume show at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, to which free admission is granted to those who appear in traditional Korean clothing (we did not😉).
Much reason to smile gave us the people with their pets. Nicely dressed dogs with blow dry hairdos, meshes in their hair and sun hats were taken out in strollers, cats were allowed to go on a motorcycle tour in a backpack featuring a viewing window.

After four days we left Seoul on the bicycle path towards Busan. Bike tunnels, lifts, footbridges, traffic circles and stamp stations made the ride enjoyable even in rainy weather. On the way, we visited Haeinsa Temple, where the world’s oldest Buddhist scripts are recorded on wooden printing tablets. A few quiet days of riding led us to the harbor city of Busan. Tomorrow we will take the ferry to Japan from here. Even though there would have been much more to see and discover in South Korea… we will return😊!