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Post-Trip Report: Korea

A Foreigner Comes to Terms

This being my inaugural trip to Korea and Asia itself, I had a lot of questions and worries on my mind. After landing and biking for a few days those fears were washed away. I was completely immersed into a society which I could barely understand and fascinated me at every turn.

The weather in May was gorgeous, hot and quite dusty compared to my home country. The cycling infrastructure was phenomenal, with civilization always under an hour of cycling away.

I did a lot less cycling than I had planned since the mountains and sprawling cities pulled me in, but that's okay. I crossed the country twice by bike, visited some of it's most beautiful national parks and met many amazing people. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too!

West Coast: I had only a chance to bisect the centre of the country and travel along the east coast. I have friends who are waiting eagerly for me to visit the west side. There are many exciting cities to visit as well tons of cycling routes and of course more official bike path certification stamps to collect.

Island Hopping: The next time I visit the country I will definitely make up for my lost plans of cycling around Jeju island and it's baby brother. The island has the appeal of ~235km of ratified cycling path along the complete perimeter of it's coast and many popular natural sites.

Another island which I'd love to visit is way out in the East Sea, called Ulleungdo. A stunning little piece of rock with sheer cliffs, hiking and kayaking.

DMZ: Korean history and politics in the 20th century until present times is a very delicate subject. There exists very few places on the earth like the heavily militarized Korean DMZ and I regret not taking the time to visit it. It's hard to understand the country without understanding the conflict that brought about the DMZ. I, hypocritically, believe that this is a must on any itinerary for visiting the Korean Peninsula along with the War Memorial of Korea museum.

This section is getting harder as I begin to bring only what is really essential for the trip. Nonetheless here is what I thought about my gear for this particular type of trip:

Keep 3:
  • Wind Hard Tiny Quilt: This is my first time switching from a traditional sleeping bag to a quilt. This is Chinese made product that fits the budget and doesn't weigh a whole lot. Shaving over 1lb switching from my old bag and providing the same comfort, I can't praise this enough. Packs unimaginably small too! I grabbed it for $88 USD. TIP: wait for sales! People have said it's good down to 2C, so it'll be my go to for those conditions from now on. Link
  • Foldable Day pack: Another amazing inexpensive Chinese item that I picked up. Don't believe the marketing as it is not waterproof. It is truly foldable and pretty darn useful. I was able to fit every single piece of gear that I brought along with me into this pack. When I didn't need it, it was stashed away as small as possible alongside everything else. Really cheap at around $20 USD, this is definitely a must bring for me on all future trips. Allows me to do multi-day hikes or be a tourist away from the bike. Currently being used daily as my work or rock climbing bag. Link
  • Extra Straps: Last but not least, these helped keep my handlebar bag snug as well as providing endless opportunities to attach my tent poles anywhere on my bike. These extra Salsa Anything Cage straps I had lying around are a very basic in design and get the job done. They weigh next to nothing and work great in a pinch. Link
Lose 3:
  • Space Blanket: Classic case of packing my fears. There was never any point where I was in danger of needing to use this item. Of course it has it's place, but for future trips I'll be thinking twice about whether carrying it makes any sense.
  • Headphones: I ended up losing these about halfway through my trip. Realized they aren't really necessary and just another knick knack. I will just listen to what I want through the phone speaker. If I'm in a place where it would be annoying to other people then the solution is simple... turn it off. No need to encourage myself to be isolated from my surroundings.
  • Sleeveless Shirt: This style of shirt just exposes too much skin to be worth while, namely my upper shoulders, versus a normal t-shirt. To replace this item I can pack another t-shirt or just go shirtless. Either accomplishes the same function.

The country was the biggest star of this whole trip. It was so foreign to me but there was a never ending welcomeness to it. From the countless locals who made an effort to speak English with me, to the amazing infrastructure built by the government for cycling and other outdoor recreation and to finally the raw beauty of Korea, with her never ending chain of rugged mountaintops.

Do you want to read a day by day journal of the journey? Part 1 and Part 2
Want to see some tips for planning a trip like this? click here

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