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Cycling South Korea Jeju 2017: Day 1 - Hello Jeju! Oink! Oink!
Small Group Cycling Tour Around Jeju City - Kuala Lumpur>(by Air Asia)>Gimhae International Airport>(by Korean Air)>Jeju International Airport>Mir Guesthouse>Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock) (용두암)>Black Pork Street>Yongyeon Pond (용연구름다리)>Mir Guesthouse.
Cycling Distance - 8.072 km. Level: Easy
Cycling Time : 4:10pm to 9:30pm (Starting from airport)
Time Taken : 5hrs 20mins (inclusive of stops to to check-in, enjoy the sceneries, for dinner, regroup, rests and many,many photo opps).
This is page 1 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Route Recommendations :
At Jeju : Day 14°C | Night 6°C (No rain)
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 Planes
Korean Airlines allows 20kg free checked in luggage inclusive of sports equipment (i.e. bicycles too) for domestic flights; anything beyond that is chargeable.
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. Oddly for Korean Airlines, when some of us booked four months prior it cost us about MYR900/- for a return flight; while a friend who booke later (about 3 months prior to flight date) it cost her about MYR500/-.
Web check-in for Korean Airlines domestic flights is maximum 48-hours prior to the flight. 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.
3. Cycling Route
As Korea's traffic is left-hand drive, we took an anti-clockwise route around Jeju island so as to be on the seaward side for better views. Today's right is an easy on, a simple introduction to Jeju with a quick ride around to acquaint ourselves to the Jeju City and some eats too.
4. WeatherAt Busan: Day 13°C | Night 8°C (No rain)
At Jeju : Day 14°C | Night 6°C (No rain)
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
- Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock) (용두암) (GPS: 33.51614, 126.51188).
- Yongyeon Pond (용연구름다리) (GPS: 33.51492, 126.51434).
6. Certification Stations:
These are certification centres for the optional Korea Cycling Passport:
- Yongduam (GPS: 33.5158, 126.512).
Dinner was the renown Jeju Black Pork (제주흑돼지/jeju heuk-doe-ji) at Hwaro Hyang (GPS: 33.51567, 126.52678) at Black Pork Street.
It was okay only, and as the locals suggest this is a touristy spot, better black pork can be found elsewhere in Jeju City and other towns of the island.
Our accommodations at Jeju City was at the Mir Guesthouse (GPS: 33.51285, 126.51065). Because of it's central locality near the rock, room rates are higher: for a 3-bedder at around 88,000KRW per night and two beds in a female dorm at 26,500 KRW per bed per night. Because of it's high occupancy, we had to book through several web booking sites (like Agoda.com, Booking.com or Hotels.com) to be able to secure the necessary accommodations. Breakfast in included, and there is a 24-hour laundromat within walking distance.
The following are their contacts:
Address: 4 Yongdam-ro 7-gil, Yongdam 2(i)-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea.
Tel: +82 64-900-2561
9. 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.
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.
10. 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.
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.
Our Air Asia flight to Busan will take off at 1:25am on the fourth. We had arrived three hours earlier on the third; it's always good to be early in case of any snags.
As we strolled into the airport, I saw this unique poster that showed a top down view of people busy at the airport, bustling around like ants with some greeting each other. Weren't we glad that we would be getting away from this hustle and bustle; I love cycling, with the wind in the air and the serenity that reaches into one's core, calming oneself. It's therapeutic.
But when we arrived at Busann we were in for a shivering shock. Our flight from Busan to Jeju will take off from the Gimhae Airport Domestic Terminal. We had arrived at the International Terminal... and the thing is that they are two separate buildings with no covered connecting corridor, Ww had to walk along the external pavements. Yes, it's good to be out in the great outdoors but not with a cold stong wind blowing at us, chilling us to the spine and with us pushing our heavy luggage load. Dang! Why didn't they have a covered corridor.... *Brrrrr.... shivering*
Back in the relative warmth of the Domestic Terminal after checking in for our flight to Jeju, at the Shinsegae Food Mall ...
IT'S BING-SU TIME!!
What can I say? I am a sucker for Korean Bing-su. Sure we did have other Korean food for our lunch; but this colourful strawvberry Bing-su was most memorable - the red strawberries sitting on shaved ice topped up with scoops of red beans and a big dollop of strawberry ice-cream! It's heaven!
To top it all, I had a great companion in walloping this; see, Zuyi is one who appreciates great food too. In fact, Jo and Sin had dangled the good Korean food carrot to get him to come along for this cycling tour. Haha! Looks like I will be having a comrade-in-eats for later days. *grins cheekily*
Other than the eats, at the first floor there was an ongoing Korean Art exhibition for us to appreciate and while away our time. I like this wood panel carving of these zebras, ther horizontal black stripe contrasting well with the vertical timber stripes of the pine wood.
This is another nice one, of a young Korean girl in contemporary Western attire.
(... click here to see more of these Korean Art @ Busan Airport)
Cycling Route - Jeju International Airport>Mir Guesthouse>Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock) (용두암)>Black Pork Street>Yongyeon Pond (용연구름다리)>Mir Guesthouse.
This was an easy ride, and introductory spin around Jeju City to go for eats and see a bit of the place.The eagles have landed! Actually the Bromptons have landed and invaded Jeju!
At a discreet corner of the terminal, below an escalator we unpacked and unfolded our bikes to the curious eyes of some locals passing by. They were most intrigued by the compact fold and went oohs and aahs when Wahlah! It unfolds into a bike!
We rode out from the airport, Lynn was all smiles and excited, this was her first cycling tour overseas. See how well she had packed her luggage into a C-bag with the Dimpa Bags & Impraboards nicely strapped to the front of the bag. She had learnt well in packing light.... her bag was even much lighter than mine! The rule of thumb is to pack two spare pants, and two spare jerseys or T-shirts; for the cold ride here we had also packed two sets Uniglo Heatech inner thermal wear.. As for underwear, I had packed five sets (in case washing don't dry fast enough)... don't want to get crotch itch do we?
We managed a few stops for photo opps, this one is at a bridge with dragon humps for railings.
There are two legends on the origin of this rock. In one, the dragon as an emissary of the Dragon King came to Mount Hallasan to gather the Elixir of Youth; while in the other the dragon on its ascend to to heaven, grabbed in its mouth the Sacred Jade belonging to the Guardian of Mount Halla. In both cases, the Guardian struck the dragon with an arrow and it fell into the sea, its head rising wailing above the water. Nearby, to the east of this rock is the Dragon Pool, where the dragon is reputed to live.
This is our hostel, the Mir Guesthouse, it was purposely built to in the shape of the Yongduam. Built in 2013, it is owned by a couple Mirjiji & Mirjugi, and was designed by architect Moon Hoon. The external is painted bluish-black to resemble basalt rock while the interior is painted a contrasting white. Windows in the shape of diamonds form the eyes and mouth of the dragon.
A mermaid with Korean features sits on a nearby platform, in the background is the sea of the Korea Straits.
Ahem.... these naughty people just can't leave the mermaid in peace. Tsk.. tsk!
Jokes aside, this is the nice panoramic vista from the viewing platform, the Yongduam Rock is at the bottom left corner. From this angle it seems to be turning it's head.
Next destination - Black Pork Street. It's one short street with several shops selling Jeju's renown Black Pork (제주흑돼지/jeju heuk-doe-ji). My comrade-in-eats, Zuyi, is at the far right. We rode along the street for a while trying to decide which shop to go for, and finally went to Hwaro Hyang a shop that had been blogged by a Malaysian. If she had like it, then it couldn't be wrong.
Here's our meal with two hot plates being used to barbecue our meat order of pork belly and pork neck.
The meat came in large slabs which was barbecued for a short while and then scissors cut to manageble cuts. The neck cuts were nicer but overall we found the meat tough almost as tough as wild boar meat... which I hoped was not what they had served us. Tastewise, we could not differentiate it from normal pork. The meal for the seven of us came to 112,000KRW (about MYR450). Overall it was not what we had expected and was quite a disappointing introduction to Jeju's renown black pork. Pity, their standards must have dropped since the lady's food blog. (Fortunately, on later days we did try the black pork again at other places and found those to be very nice. I guess what the locals said was true about this place - touristy pricing and not that good. One of the good Black Pork we had was at the Halla Pork Restaurant in nearby Sehwa-ri).
There were some small saving grace, we were served a couple of medium sized fresh abalone. These were sweet and tender unlike the rubbery canned ones.
This cole-slaw came with pinkish mayanaisse like sauce; looks a bit odd, slightly sweet but went very well with the cabbage.
Meal over, a quick ride back to the hotel with some short, interesting detours. At Tapdong-ro it go s bit steep and the girls came down to push; gentlemanly I came down to push; might as well do that and burn off some of the fatty black pork. Along the walls were some interesting wall murals, some were artwork, others were present and historical scenes of the city. Some lighted box signboards gave a brief of some of the photos, unfortunately they were in Korean.
One of the murals showing Yongyeon Park, which we would come by later. It was a welcomed distraction from the push, but unfortunately it was too dim to fully appreciate them.
Jeju Island is a volcanic island, often along the way we saw these creeks/ravines formed by streams running through the basalt rock. Bright spotlights shine on them to create a surrealstic out-of-the-world landscape.
A short spin around Yongyeon Park and then across the Yongyeon Bridge,and we were back to the busier part of town. From the bridge at the far end the river meets the sea and fishing boats could be seen moored there.
Okay... okay... these are not two bandits but Sin and me, both shivering in the cold night air. This was at the Korea Cycling Trail Passport stamping station at Yongduam. That's me holding up the passport.
A very nice stamp of the Rock with dragons flying overhead.
Mission accomplished; now we can go back and sleep, and look forward to tomorrow when we will start our Jeju round island cycling.
(That's "haengboghan jajeongeo" meaning "Happy Bicycles" in Korean)
A video by Sin of our first & second days' ride - Around Jeju City and onwards to the towering windmills of Sinchang-ri.
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