Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cycling South Korea Jeju 2017: Day 10 - Busan Cherry Blossom Hunt

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Cycling South Korea Jeju 2017: Day 10 - The Busan Cherry Blossom Hunt
Tour of Busan, South Korea : Day 10 - 2nd April 2017
Cycling Distance - 36.72km.     Level: Easy.

This is page 9 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.

Route Recommendations :
1. Right is Right!
    South Korea's 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 road, take note that traffic is approaching from left! Sounds confusing, it actually isn't, just take while to get use to it.
    Generally, the road conditions of the highways and main roads in South Korea are in excellent conditions with few pot-holes. Most towns have well planned dedicated cycling lanes or shared lanes. But cycling on highways is a no-no.
    Local motorists, especially the taxi-drivers, are an impatient lot and unless a zebra-crossing is signalised, most don't bother to stop to let pedestrians or cyclist pass. In fact at un-signalised crossings we had to slowly edge our way out to stop oncoming traffic in order to cross.
    Do watch out for the delivery motorcycles in the larger towns, most of these are huge bikes and they ride across zebra-crossing and onto pavements, disregarding the safety of pedestrians!

2. Bringing Bikes Onto Korean Trains & Airport Limousine Buses.
    Full-sized bicycles are allowed onto the first and last coach of Korean trains on weekends or public holidays. Folding bikes are allowed onto the trains at any time and there was no neccesity to bag our bikes while on board. The fare for Busan's Metro is 1,300KRW for travel on a single line and 1,500KRW for multiple lines, there are no extra charges for bicycles.
    A convenient way to get to the airport from the city is by the airport limousine buses. The fare for the airport limousine bus from Busan to Busan's Gimhae International Airport (한국공항공사) is 6,000KRW per pax inclusive of bicycles. Do take note of the location of the nearest bus stop and the bus schedule (which is posted at the bus stop) the day prior. Click here for more information on the limousine bus and the route bus stops. The bus hold has limited space, so some of the luggage may have to be carried up into the bus itself.

3. Bringing Bikes Onto Planes
    Air Asia charges for checked in bicycles under sport equipment. If using light bike bags, 20kg should be adequate for the bike and the bag. However do weigh your bike together with the bag and book for slightly higher loads as the penalty for over-weight luggage can be quite high. We were all using light casing (Dimpa Bags with Impraboards) and booked 20kg for the going flight. For the return flight we booked 25kg as we were using a second Dimpa bag to hold our shopping stuff. For hard-case bags, double check the total weight and allow for more, generally 25kg should be adequate unless you are stuffing a lot of cloths into the bike bag. The airline allow two small bags (click here fo the allowable dimensions) both should not weigh more than 7kg; they are quite strict on this policy, so to follow it closely.
    For Air Asia, book your tickets early for cheaper fares, and take advantage of the multi-city option as it allows cheaper luggage and sports equipment charges. Web check-in for Air Asia it's fourteen days.
    One last tip, simple but important. Ensure that you DO NOT carry your tool kits or any long/sharp metal objects in your hand luggage. Put your tool kit into your checked-in bike bags. I often seen friends forgetting about this, only to have their tools confiscated at the security checkpoints.

4. Weather
Day 15°C | Night 5°C (Rain in the afternoon)
Even though it was early spring, the weather was surprisingly quite cold. During colder days we had on wind breakers, inner thermals, face masks and beanie caps.

5. Places of Interest
- Cherry Blossoms View at Pukyong University township starting from the Pukyong Nat'l Univ. Station (경성대 부경대) (GPS: 35.13793, 129.10119).
- Cherry Blossoms @ Namcheon-dong Cherry Blossom Road (GPS: 35.14242, 129.11644).
- Cherry Blossoms @ Oncheon Stream Park (GPS: 35.19358, 129.08978).
- Scenic Coastal View @ Igidae Coastal Promenade (GPS: 35.12547, 129.11683).
- Gwangandaegyo Bridge (부산 광안대교) (GPS: 35.14767, 129.13003).
Gwangalli Beach (GPS: 35.1541, 129.1197).
Cherry Blossoms places we missed (with the nearest Metro stations indicated) :
Haeundae-Dalmaji Road (GPS: 35.16565, 129.19118 ) (From Jangsan Station take Bus 2 or 10 - GPS: 35.16933, 129.17542).
Samnak Park (GPS: 35.1535, 129.11877) (Mt. Geumnyeon Station Exit 5 and head to Gwangalli Beach - GPS: 35.14988, 129.11101).

Cherry Blossom locations website:

6. Food
- Brunch @ a 24-hour restaurant serving localised style mostyly to taxi drivers (GPS: 35.12128, 129.11156). 
- Late Tea @ BIFF Food Street  (BIFF 광장) (GPS: 35.09863, 129.02905).
- Dinner @ Lotteria Busan Station (롯데리아 부산역전점) (GPS: 35.11536, 129.03939).

7. Accommodations
Our accommodations was at Dong Yang Motel (동양모텔) (GPS: 35.11338, 129.04057).
    Address: 1203-6 Choryang-dong, Dong-gu, Busan, South Korea.
    Tel:  +82 51-442-1248
    Email: bsmt8899@daum.net
    Reservations:  www.bsmt.co.kr
    Room Rates: 50,000KRW per night for deluxe rooms (inclusive of 10,000KRW surcharge)

8. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    At the Busan's Gimhae International Airport pre-paid sim cards can be obtained from a couple of stalls at level 1. It's good to get the sim-cards at the airport stalls as there are staff there to help the unfamiliar (or non-techies) set up the sim cards for one's phones.
    Sim cards can also be obtained from larger outlets of the 24-hours convenience stores like 7-11, CU and GS25. See this link for more details.
    If not opting to get the data package, at some spots on the islands free open wifi is available, just use your phone to search for these.
    Save up each others local phone numbers once that is done. Create a chat group so that general communications can be broadcast, eg. where and when to meet to start the day.
    Alternatively, pocket wifis can be rented for use by a small group (usually up to five persons), and could end up cheaper. The only dis-advantage of this is that users must stay within 20-30 metres of the device. Pocket wifis can be obtain from Travel Recommends at the KLIA and KLIA2 airports in Malaysia. Pocket wifi can also be obtained in South Korea.

9. Communicating with Locals
    For the uninitiated cycling in foreign lands can be a daunting experience, especially when one can only speak a smattering of the local language or if there is no common language to speak to each other (like English). Most Koreans can hardly speak English, and learning some basic phrases will be helpful. When speaking to Koreans in English, they may initially seem stand-offish but after a while they did warm up to us.
    This could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations. We also had a list of destinations, accomodations, etc. with their Korean names just in case we had to show the locals.
    Memory-resident translation apps like Learn Korean by Wingsapp & Korean Flashcards by Bravolol were useful apps we used from Google Play Store are also useful; they give translations of basic terms.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule. It's good too to have these guides write the intended destinations in Korean so that one can show to other locals in order to get our bearings right.

10. Navigation
    Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty. We had pre-loaded the South Korean Map together with GPS coordinates of our destinations. These units are useful, but do study the proposed route made by the unit as sometimes these are longer loop around; OR sometimes there are parallel narrow lanes that can be used and these lanes can sometimes turn out to be more interesting.
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.
    Surprisingly, in many parts of the country, Google Maps don't seem to work well for cycling or even walking - it seem to only propose routes that goes onto buses or trains! Do let me know if this feature has been upgraded.
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PRELUDE

Our task yesterday was a straightforward one, cycle to the Nakdonggang Station and stamp our Korea Four River Passports. That done, we had an unexpected bonus of cycling around the nearby scenic Nakdong River Estuary before returning to the city for a warm red bean soup served by an equally warm Ajumma at the Arirang Street Market.
Today, we culminate our tour by going cherry blossom hunting around Busan!
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THE RIDE

 
Cycling Route Around Busan : Dong Yang Motel>Pukyong Nat'l Univ.>Igidae Coastal Promenade>Namcheon-dong>Gwangalli Beach>Oncheon Stream Park>BIFF Food Street>Dong Yang Motel.

This is a trail around  Busan City to hunting for beautiful sceneries of the cherry blossoms in full bloom. En route, were also surprising sceneries from a cliff side and a beach. The route includes several Metro train rides.


Our tour leader, Sin (of the hApPy HaPpY blogs) had done some research on the best locations for viewing cherry blossoms in Busan, and off we went starting with a train ride to Pukyong Station. The ride from the station to and around the university township was filled with well landscaped roads and cycling lanes, at several intersections we flowers laid out in their beds, just waking up colourfully to greet us.
Even without the cherry blossoms, the locality would be great to cycle around, and we had more coming.



In the township surrounding the university itself, most of the main roads were lined with rows and rows of blooming cherry trees and we cycled on gingerly, slowly filling our hearts with the sights.


Beautiful flowers are good, but we still had to fill our tummies; and rode into a quiter residential part of the town. Our hunt for blooms will have to wait, we will hunt for food first. But oddly, this suburb didn't seem to have any foodie places, and despite us cycling round the place several times we could not find anything to eat and was on the verge of going to a one of the convenience shop (like CU, etc.) .....


..... until we met a guardian angel, a Mr. Beh who works at the university. He advised us that at the residential areas there were no food shops, and led us back to the busier part of the town.


It's always great to have a local guide us around as they know the nooks and crannies of their home-towns, and Mr. Beh was indeed heaven-sent. He "dropped " us off at a small shop, one serving a house speciality of fish-vegetable soup. It was simple and good and made all the better as the lady owner had really put her heart into cooking it. It went very well with the Banchan and semi-polished rice. The soup iteself was soemewhat like chop suey with the vegetables cooked till soft, but did not have an underlying sourish taste.You must be wondering what the cup of milky looking drink is?


"Here, try my makgeolli!"
It is Makgeolli (막걸리), a slightly sweet alcoholic Korean beverage. It is usually made from fermented rice, although some variants are made from wheat, and some are flavored with corn, chestnuts, apples or other produce.
Another patron had happily shared this drink with us, these locals are so friendly. Here we are strangers in their town and they had warmly taken us in.


Our group photo with the lady owner of the shop.
The shop we were at was indeed one other tourists have not visited before; see, we were their first foreign patrons!


Mr. Beh had not "abandoned" us. A loving husband, he had returned after running several errand for his wife and had come back just as we finished of our meal. We were most grateful that he had re-joined us and told him of our plans. And the good thing was that he did speak passable English 😇.
Our first destination was the Igidae Coastal Promenade; Beh took us on a shortcut that cut away from the main roads and ran along un-tarred paths, through some whole-sale market sheds, etc. Not only did we save time but also got to see the "backyard" of the town.



At the Igidae Coastal Promenade, we parked our bicycles with Beh now turning guard to keep an eye on them. While the rest hung around the lower promenade, Zu-yi and me climbed up several stairs to a viewing platform tucked into the side of the adjacent hill. A look down from there was a rocky cliff with waves clashing onto the rocks as they broke against the coast .....


Looking up was a serene bay which was interuppted by the Gwangandaegyo Bridge (in short,Gwangan Bridge) slicing through the sea to connect metroplises on both sides.
We did not see any cherry blossoms here; Beh said that they were on a trail along the nearby hill, about half any hour's hike away through the light forest; so we decided to skip that as we were short on time.



Time to head off to our next blooming destination, and we were led along a route along bicycles lanes that hugged the coast. At certain stretches were sea walls painted with wall murals.


10:45am - We were mesmerized by the view at our next destination - the Namcheon-dong area. The streets here were lined with cherry trees arching over them. As we cycled along (see top most photo), it felt like going down a royal aisle, colourully decked in whitish pink. The branches swooped down so low that we could almost touch them.


The only thing that marred a perfect view were cars parked at the road side and a constant traffic flow of vehicles. Somehow I managed to find a break in the heavy traffic and did a butterfly jump. Lucky me!


A video of us riding through Namcheong-dong; please excuse the shakiness as it was filmed while I was cycling.


No cherry blossoms at Gwangalli Beach too, but we did have fine time cycling along the boardwalk that ran at the edge of the wide sandy beach.


Here there is a perfect view of the Gwangano Bridge "floating out at the sea, majestically connecting the two ends of the bay.


A BIG THANK YOU, MR. BEH!!
It was great to meet a soft-spoken man like you and we are most grateful for you kind help. You have really shown us the warm side of South Korea.



Waving our goodbyes to Mr. Beh, we boarded the Metro at Gwangan Station and headed for Dongnae Station. At Dongnae, we were saw the Oncheon Stream running at a lower level platform and was wondering how to get down there until we saw these steps leading down and it came with ramps for us to push our bikes on... no carrying required!
We looked around but there were no cherry trees.



Down at the platfrom were cycling lanes which took us through dim tunnels running below the main roads... and no cherry trees here too. Hey! Are we at the right place?


A quick stop to mark us being at Dongnae.


Finally, cherry trees and lots of them lining the top of the slopes of embankments, running on for a few kilometres.


At one point where the stream was wider, it calmy reflected the tall apartment buildings.


Although the cherry trees just run at the top, the bottom is not without colour. Fields of yellow rape see flowers and other colourful flowers lined the the edges of the walkways that ran on both sides of the stream.


It was a Sunday when we were there, and the place were full of locals making it difficult for us to cycle. But this was made up for by the weekend activities that are held there. These drummer girls are waiting their turn for a stage performance.


Some ladies in traditional Han-bok costumes.


Many were flying kites there too. But do watch out for them as sometimes the may come flying low and their strings may snag onto pedestrians or cyclists.


At the further end, the upper streets are lined with cherry trees also. Here are the girls doing a Happy Jump in exhiliration of being surrounded by such a beautiful sight.


Taking the Metro, we disembarked at Jagalchi Station and crossed the road to the BIFF Food Street. Many push-cart stalls were selling street food here, these tasted okay only and I found them to be expensive touristy pricing.


A lady was singing and dancing to liven up the place.

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POST SCRIPT
The following day we caught a Airport Limousine Bus from the Busan Station bus stop, headed to Gimhae International Airport and flew home.
One last tip here : it's about a few hundred meters to the bus-stop. Instead of having to lug their bikes which were already packed into Dimpa bags, my buddies had brought along foldable trolleys to easily wheel their bags to the bus stop. Some of these trolleys fold into a size as small as an A4 sheet of paper and were easy to carry around on their bicycles while touring around ... Dang! I must get one of those.

안녕 한국
We hope to come again soon.
(That's annyeong hangug meaning Goodbye Korea. )



A beautiful YouTube video by buddy Sin on our ride to see the cherry blossoms.


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