Welcome to our first, on-the-road Quesnel Cariboo Observer story for our latest Good Neighbour Tour.
This time, our bicycle touring adventure is in South Korea and SE Asia.
As you may know, typically we head south to places like Mexico and Central America. This time, we’ve chosen to tour in countries we’ve never ever visited, never mind cycled around them. We were attracted by the vastly different cultures we’ll be immersed in, along with taking in the sights, sounds and incredible food we’ll come upon.
After a long 11-hour flight, we arrived in Seoul, South Korea. We arrived at almost the exact time the northern edge of typhoon Mitag was sweeping across Seoul. This storm was the seventh typhoon to hit South Korea this year, and it has taken a toll. The death toll is 11, with three people still missing.
We took a taxi/van ride in torrential rain to the home of two cycling friends we met three years ago … in Quesnel.
Sungjong and Jihuyn were finishing the last leg of a 10-year world bicycle tour, and they arrived in our town with a broken part on their tandem bike. As Warmshowers hosts in Quesnel, we meet many cyclists from around the globe, and these guys were happy to stay with us for 10 days while a special part was ordered for the bike. Today, we meet these Good Neighbours again in their hometown just northwest of Seoul! They were adamant they wanted to return the favour, so their home has become our base camp for our South Korean adventure. Thanks!
Our first few days were an immersion in the culture, food and history of South Korea.
Jihuyn was happy to take us into downtown Seoul on the incredible subway system. There we dined with her, sampling tasty Korean dishes — very different than what we eat at home! Kimchi, a cousin to sauerkraut, is super yummy and very good for you. And then there’s Bibimbap — essentially a bowl of mixed ingredients including, but not limited to, rice, seasoned and sautéed vegetables, mushrooms, beef, soy sauce, gochujang (chili pepper paste) and a fried egg. Tasty!
After lunch, we visited the King’s Palace. An incredible collection of buildings and temples, it was built around 1395 and was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon. It was stunning to stroll around the buildings and take in the guided tours.
On the way back to the subway station to our friends’ place, we encountered a political protest chosen because Oct. 3 is a public holiday in South Korea — that’s today! Also known by the English name National Foundation Day, this holiday celebrates the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333 BC. It has traditionally been regarded as the date for the founding of the Korean people. The protest was fueled from the patriotism fostered by South Korea’s older generation, and they have called for President Moon Jae-in to step down. The issue deals with the government’s Justice Minister’s wife being charged with corruption.
In a few days, we’ll leave our friends’ haven and make our way to the famous 4 Rivers Bicycle Trail, which goes from Seoul in the north to Busan in the southern coast. Over 600 kilometres of safe, scenic riding with NO CARS on any of the trail segments. Can’t wait!
‘Till next time,
— Chris and Heather
Quesnel residents Chris and Heather Hartridge are spending five and a half months cycle touring around South Korea and Southeast Asia on their Good Neighbour Tour. The Quesnel Bikers, as they are known, will be sharing their journey with the community by sending periodic articles and photos to the Observer. They also have a blog at crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?doc_id=22429.