I do not consider myself a skilled bike rider. I got my first cycle only last spring as a mere means of transportation after I returned to Korea (I did not want to get myself into a tragedy of driving on Korean roads). However, as I grew more comfortable on two wheels I became more ambitious and began dreaming about traveling around Korea on my new favourite toy. At least that was the plan before I got hit by a car while I was crossing a street on my bike in one August afternoon.
My body recovered quick but my mind could not escape free from the traumatic moment when I was forcefully separated from my bike in a split second that seems much longer in my memory. I was afraid to grab onto my bike handles for almost 6 months and it came to a point where I’ve had enough. I needed to face my fear and defeat it. Approximately 140km in below zero degree weather was my challenge. A perfect way to get back on the road.
The Geumgang bike path runs 146km along the beautiful river of 금강, literally translates to “Golden River”. For people living in Daejeon, the path begins from Daecheong Dam and finishes at the port city of Gunsan, which is located along the west coast of South Korea. You will be riding from Chungcheong province to Jeolla province, and pass some of the major historic cities such as Gongju and Buyeo, former capital cities of Baekje kingdom.
According to information released by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, it takes approximately 9 hours 40 minutes to complete the route. But living in Yuseong, my friend and I decided to take a shortcut (blue arrow) from Yuseong to Sejong by riding the newly installed bike-only road built right in the middle of the expressway.
Riding along high-speeding cars on both sides without life-threatening risks was an exceptional experience. The path takes you right into Sejong in no time. Last year I have tried biking from the Daecheong to Sejong using the old bike path along the river but this new expressway is definitely a better option for me.
From Sejong, rest of the path is mostly flat, wide and well-maintained. Blue line on the road marks the bike path and there were blue signs every 500m or so telling you how far along you are on the route. Every now and then we biked past rest areas completed with bench and trash cans (sometimes bike pumps as well). Public restrooms were also reasonably spaced along the road.
There were some mountainous area near Iksan, Jeollabuk-do. Some of these path were still covered in snow as this was in early February. Walking our bikes over icy hills caused unexpected delay but in the end we managed to arrive safely in Gunsan shortly after sunset.
Many of my friends who have done the Geumgang route have finished the run in single day. Although it is quite doable, my purpose of the trip was to see what Korea has to offer along the bike path. The original plan was to spend first night in Buyeo which is about halfway point, then spend second night in Gunsan where we would take early morning ferry on third day to Seonyudo island. However, because February 8th was Lunar New Year the ferry schedule has changed and we had to settle for touring the city of Gunsan intead (which turned out to be quite a nice experience).
We planned to spend at least 2-3 hours each in Gongju and Buyeo to see historic sites including UNESCO world heritage sites such as Songsan-ri tombs and Jeongrimsaji. Many of these famous attractions are close to the bike path and admission fees are very cheap. Instead of just passing by, stopping for culturalization at live outdoor museums was definitely a highlight of the trip.
Overall, I believe I have spent around 70,000 won for three days of bike trip. I did not include 33,000 spent on a jar of salted pollack roe (명란젓) at a fermented seafood shop in Ganggyeong that was a favour from my mother.
Each night was spent at jjimjilbang (24hr sauna), which costed around 8,000 won per night. Breakfasts were easily taken care of at convenience stores for mere few thousands and other meals were affordable enough at local diners. Biking is really the best and most economical way of traveling in Korea. I look forward to tour along other major rivers of my mother country.