Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cycling Korea 2016: Day 4 - Seoul Searching

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Korea 2016: Day 4 - Seoul Searching
Tour of South Korea : Day 4, 7th June 2016
Cycling Distance - 16.70km.     Level: Medium (the stretch around the Bugak Skyway Park was difficult as there were steep climbs and stairs to handle).
Time : 9:10am to 8:50pm.
Total Time Taken :  11hrs 40mins (including lunch, dinner, tea, visits to several destinations, shopping, rests & photo opps).

This is page 4 of a 15-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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Route Recommendations :
1. Right is Right!
    Korea traffic is left-hand drive. For those coming from right-hand drive countries always do remember to ride on the right-hand side... i.e. Right is right! Same thing applies when crossing the rode, take note that traffic is approaching from left! Sounds confusing, it actually isn't, just take while to get use to it.
    Do be careful at un-signalised zebra-crossing, drivers often do not stop for pedestrians to cross.

2. Ride Conditions
    The route was fairly flat except for some steep stretches near the Bugak Skyway Park.
    The weather was cool at 24°C to 27°C day time and dipping down to about 21°C in the evening.

3. Points of Interest
Changdeokgung Palace (GPS: 37.57915, 126.99096) (Entry ticket: 3,000 KRW per adult, Secret Garden Entry: 8,000 KRW per adult)
Samcheong-ro (GPS: 37.58649, 126.98153)
Bugak Skyway Park (GPS: 37.59039, 126.98586)
Bukchon-ro (GPS: 37.58118, 126.9849)
- The Gangodang House at Concubine Alley in Yulgok-ro 3-gil.
Insadong-gil (GPS: 37.57546, 126.98304)
Myeongdong Cathedral (GPS: 37.56317, 126.98736)
Namdaemun Market (GPS: 37.55917, 126.97766)

4. Certification Stations:
These are certification centres:
None.

5. Food
Lunch was rice with dishes and cold noodles at an outlet at Samcheong-ro (GPS: 37.58649, 126.98153).
Dinner was one of our best of barbecued pork-ribs & pork fillet at Gojibultong Restaurant in Insadung (GPS: 37.57117, 126.98452)

6. Accommodations
    Our accommodations in Seoul was at the Seoul 53 Hotel Insadung (GPS: 37.57502, 126.98956), conveniently located at the old part of the city near to the city's many points of interest. Cost per night per room was 49,000KRW and came with a breakfast pack of sandwiches and gimbab rolls. All rooms have Wifi, but the signal was poor for those rooms on the upper floors.
    The owner Mr. Park and his son Sean, speaks very good English and were most helpful. He had just taken over the hotel for a week and had done a good job getting very comfortable.
    The following are their contacts:
    Address: 53 Iksun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
    Tel: +82-2-763-3833     Fax: +82-2-7633832
    Email address: 53hotelseoul@gmail.com

7. Phone Sim Cards
For staying in touch with each other, it will be good to get local sim-cards. At the Incheon International Airport pre-paid sim card can be surprisingly obtained from a convenience store at the first floor for 29,000 KRW with a 1 gig data, 100 minutes of call time. A lady working for the phone company waits outside at the benches to help set up and activate the line, and presto! within minutes it's done.
    Or one can pre-order online through mobile providers such as Evergreen EGsim and collect at their outlet at the airport. They have several plans to select from.


PRELUDE

The day before we had left Seoul and went to Nami Island, well almost went to Nami Island as some of us just stayed on in Gapyeong while a couple went over. It was a journey with many train rides. So for today... NO MORE TRAINS!; we will be cycling around Seoul, trying to cover as much as possible on our destinations list, and perhaps discover even more. Yup, as Sin put it, we are going Seoul Searching!



THE RIDE

The route is around Seoul, with our destinations a palace, a green and testing park, a cathedral and a street market. Along the way we discovered a couple of charming streets (Samcheong-ro & Bukchon-ro) and even a Concubine Alley!

Changdeokgung Palace
Our first destination, the Changdeokgung Palace, which is just a stone throw away from our hotel. Built in 1405, this palace is more than half a millennium old and is listed under the UNESCO Heritage List. It sits on grounds a large grounds with many palace buildings and structures within, at the rear is an even much large secret royal gardens.

Some photos inside the palace grounds:



The palace has many landscape gardens, the girls here enjoying one of the gardens which is just before the Huwon Secret Garden (royal gardens). The Secret Garden cover an area which is even larger than the palace proper grounds. For lack of time we decided to skip this garden .... er, perhaps the seperate entry price of 8,000 KRW was a deterrent too.


Other than the beautiful buildings, there are other beauties too; like these Japanese tourists dressed in traditional Korean costumes. Looks like they are attracted to this Ah Pek.... heh heh!


Those beauties aren't the only one attracted to the Ah Pek...
Out from the palace we headed for the Bugak Skyway Park; a kindly staff of our hotel had tip us that this park is a "must see" site in Seoul.
Unfortunately, our GPS units led us on a road that leads to the President's Palace, which is a restricted no-no zone. And here I am being "detained" by the palace security for trying to trespass! Actually, they were being sporting and play-acted along with me, although they could have done better and acted more seriously instead of smiling.. but then this AhPek has that effect on people and just makes them smile.


We back-tracked a bit and asked for directions from locals who pointed us to Samcheong-ro; the road that should lead to the park. But as we cycled along the road, we got distracted, just couldn't help it as it was such a nice road with colourful shops and cafes lining it.


Every once in a while, we spotted these older traditional houses built from pine wood.


Nearby was a building that shows the uglier side of any society - gambling. This here is the Korea Centre for Gambling Problems. Luckily my pockets were empty, so no such problems for me!


11:00am - Suddenly Anne shouted "Bae Go-pa-yo!" which mean "I am hungry" in Korean. This was quite unlike her, the brisk walk in the palace must have worked up her appetite. So we decided to food hunt first and found a homely restaurant at Samcheong-ro.
We had a brunch of spicy hot noodles, cold noodles (which we did not enjoy that much; the noodles were like glass noodle, bitey nice but we just did not like the cold soup), a tofu soup. Do note that soups are usually served with a bowl of rice, so there is no necessity to separately order rice unless one is really "Bae Go-pa-yo"!


The entry to the Bugak Skyway Park was along a narrow boardwalk next to the car-park.


The park was really a nice place: lot's of green, green trees with lots of green, green foliage. A beautiful place but it was also a taxing place for us cyclists; this place was not designed for cycling in, every so often we had to come down and push up steep paths with steps that hinder cycling...


... or even carry our bikes up and down stairs. Half the time we were doing just that!


But the park is really a nice place to cycle in - with sandy trails, it was shady and quiet, bringing us closer to Mother Nature.


At an exercise station, the girls having a swinging time.


The last part at the park was an easy ride, going down slope...
And then on exiting the park .... steep slopes & more steep slopes ... gulp! What goes down must also come up... and more pushing.


We exited to Bukchon-ro, another up-market shopping street with great photo opportunities.


In between the quaint house, nice, narrow side alleys.


We went searching for our next destination, Insadong-gil. But our GPS units led us astray, happily astray as we landed in a lover's lane; Yulgok-ro 3-gil. This was a street where the concubines of royalty used to stay, the biggest concubine house was Gangodang House. It is not there anymore, the ground now is occupied by a school. But it's reputation as a lover's area still stand as many couples come here for a loving walk.



The loving atmosphere must had spilled over to Jo and Sin. This wall mural is where many take photos, an apt statement "We are young" accompanies a painting of an old loving couple. The loving mood is infectious; couples are tempted to smooch, kiss to show their affections to each other.



Insadong-gil was just on the opposite side of the main road, we rode over and relaxed there - having ice-cream and watch the passing shopping crowd, many of whom were tourists like us - except they did not cycle.



In a convenient shop, I met these Polynesian group on an official visit. They were from Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii and New Zealand; soon we were chatting like friends and even did a short Maori Haka dance!



And the girls were playing with their food... Tsk.. tsk!

The Myeongdong Cathedral was our next destination, it was not easy to locate and we rode in circles before finding the entrance road which led in from a narrow dry market street.
The cathedral built in 1892 is the seat of the Catholic Church of Korea. Most of the churches were built with red facing bricks; I am not sure why this is so, but it does make them stand out and easily noticeable.


Catholicism was introduced into Korea in the early 17th Century from China. But the early Catholics faced persecution and as many as 10,000 were martyred, sometimes en masse. In the church ground is this bust of Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean priest to be martyred - in 1846 at Saenamteo, Seoul

The altar area of the church, with paintings of the apostles and other saints.


Wefie time at Paris Baguette, made easier by their ceiling mirrors.
4:30pm - The climbs at the park and looping around looking for the cathedral had evaporated our brunch .... it's "Bae Go-pa-yo" time again. Anne had always wanted to try out the Paris Baguette, and we dropped into the nearest one. We had some cakes and also some pretty good warm desserts like taro and sesame purees.

Now to head for the Namdaemun Market. Navigating the main streets of Seoul is not easy; sometimes a street was just directly across the main road, but to get to it we had to go to the next junction which could be about 200 metres away, cross up to five zebra-crossings. It wasn't easy and a often a lot of time was wasted waiting at the signalised crossings; can imagine how the poor local pedestrian feel.
But it is often, it is in this round a bout way of getting to a place is when we find interesting nooks and alleys; like this fountain with beautiful statues right next to the Shinsegae Main Departmental Store.


And nearby, flocks of pigeons scattering away as we rode through. Cheeky us, we rode around them a few time admiring their fluttering wings each time. Sometimes it's simple things like this that make a place memorable.

6:00pm - The Namdaemun Market was already busy with hectic activities. This market covered several street with many shops and temporary stall set up on the roads; even the pavements leading to the market were lined with stalls.

This was paradise for the girls, so much to buy - clothing, hats, tit-bits, shoes, hand-bags and so on and so on.

Oh-oh... looks like there was too much shopping and Sin had to "set up stall" to sell Bromptons here in Korea. What does that sign he is holding say? By one get one free?


It's dinner time and food hunt time again. Back at the Insadung area we found this wonderful place called Gojibultong Restaurant which serve very good barbecued pork back ribs and pork belly fillet. The ribs were nicely seasoned and juicy, while the pork belly was tender.

They have an interesting way of eating here, the pork is eaten on a bed of thinly sliced onion which was freshly dipped into a fruit vinegar. The sourish-sweet fruit vinegar soften the onions almost immediately making the whole concoction very yummy indeed .... and surprisingly no gassy problems afterwards.
We had by now started rating the food we ate. This one now is tops on our list and we have another twelve more days to go; let's see if some other will topple it. 

(... read more about the barbecued pork ribs)

It was a good meal to end our stay in Seoul. Tomorrow we leave the city with mixed feeling; a tinge of sadness as we will miss it, and also some excitement as we will be heading out to the 4-Rivers Cycling Trails.

맛있다 (Mashittda)!
(that's Delicious in Korean)


This is page 4 of a 15-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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A nice video by Sin of our Day 2 to Day 4 ride in Seoul. 


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