Tag Archives: South Korea


I bumped into one of my high school co-workers last night while she was taking her new MTB for a tame Pohang spin. Nice bike but what really caught my eye was the cool speaker/ light combo she had attached to her handle bar.

She bought one off gmarket for 19,000 won but so far, on the global version I’ve only been able to find ones around the 40,000 won mark.

Check it out. Or stick to one headphone on medium volume ūüėČ

You can also buy a mobile phone bracket online but the price range varies quite a lot with cheap models retailing for just under 9,000 won. This number looks like a sensible price middle ground. Personally, I’m a bit wary of having my phone on my handle bars- I feel it’s slighty safer in your rear pocket in case of an accident. Let me know how it works out for you if you get one!


Seoul to Busan Day 3 (Suanbo CC to Chilgokbo CC)

Day 3 was the best and worst day. Pieter¬†decided to call time on the trip due to fatigue and strain. It’s a tough ride if you don’t have TITS (time in the saddle). Last year Jake pulled out early on day¬†4 because he didn’t prep. I’m always amazed how many miles people manage to churn out with no prep but their bodies always pay the price.

Part of the Saejae Bicycle Path is Ihwaryeong, which is 548m high. Nothing like a never ending hill to start your day (p.34-35). It’s ¬†made tolerable by the thousands of butterflies that sit on the road and fly around you. After the Ihwaryeong Rest Area CC you will have a fabulous downhill. I clocked 54km/hr (with brakes on) while Andrew got 70km/hr (no brakes). You will be sharing the road with vehicles and motorbikes so brakes are boring but advisable.

After the hill flattens out you’ll get to¬†Mungyeong Buljeong Station CC. WARNING: after¬†you get your stamp¬†you¬†will cross over a highway with a blind spot. Andrew almost got hit by a car as they couldn’t see each other. Luckily no one was going fast and Andrew was quick to unclip and stop. They need to put a traffic mirror there for sure. We later met a Texan who actually came off his bike on the downhill and broke his toe. More on him later.

After we said goodbye to Pieter we carried on towards Sangpunggyo CC. We had to go up and down a bad ass hill first though (p.14/15 in Nakdonggang Vol. 2) but not before we scored some free cucumbers to snack on.¬†Thanks Korea! After¬†the nasty hill you get into Sangju where you have 2 choices. You can avoid the¬†Bicycle Museum, or go up another¬†hill to¬†see some¬†great bikes. Guess what WE chose… I highly recommend taking time to visit the museum.¬†Last year we¬†skipped the museum and took¬†the road leading through the village instead. Both ways lead you back onto the river path. Last year, on day 3, my tyre burst and the rest of the day was shot to hell. This year was perfect. It felt so good to ride past all the spots where I had to change my inner tubes last year¬†– I kept on getting punctures every hour after trying to¬†patch¬†up my tyre. It sucked my spirit big time and we limped into Gumi very late at night as a result.

This year we stopped for lunch at a cool place run by two artistic hippies next to Donamseowon Confucian Academy (p.16). They offer accommodation and food and it must have been good because we ended up staying for about 2- 3 hours. We met the broken toe guy, and it turns out that he graduated from the same university as Andrew, in the same year, on the same day! What are the odds??! We enjoyed makgeoli, pajeon and incredible hospitality here- highly recommended for a rest stop. The owners used to live on Jeju island and gave us each a handful of Jeju chocolates as a goodbye present.

We left, high on makgeoli and good company, and put our heads down to get to Gumi, which would bring us back in line with my original plan. We got to Gumi at 19:30 still feeling strong and decided to make a final push for Chilgok since the trail was so flat. Andrew and I took turns leading and drafting and we were cycling at a constant 25-28km/hr pace. We smashed it and pulled into Chilgokbo CC at 9PM. We had a bit of trouble finding accom so we put that on ice to re-fuel since we were approaching another 170km day. The naver map for Waegwan is a bit out of date, but we ate here (diagonally across from ŽßąÍ≥†žīĆ) and it was packed with Koreans enjoying the same top quality barbeque as we were. GO AND STUFF YOUR FACE! DO IT!

We eventually found¬†žôúÍīÄžė®ž≤úžõįžä§ŪĆĆ (Waegwan Oncheon Well Spa)¬†jimjjilbang past the railway station (and some great wall graffiti) and settled in just before midnight. There are wall sockets in the main area so you can charge your phone while you sleep.

Day 3 summary: 170km door to door (162 before entering Waegwan) 13 hours total time.

Fact of the day:  The world is a very small place sometimes.




Seoul to Busan Day 2 (Yangsu-ri to Suanbo Oncheon CC)

Day 2 was straight forward navigation wise.

Memorable moments include:

Рbeing on the side of the road around Gangcheon (Changnamgogae) (p.25), stationary and half clipped in waiting for Pieter to pee, seeing a huge truck hurtling toward us Final Destination style, me jumping into the ditch with my bike, only to find that the driver was merely avoiding a speed bump, not asleep or out of control. That was a scary moment for me.

Рstopping for lunch around Binae/ Jocheon (p.27) where the pajeon, mandu, rice cakes, acorn jelly salad and makgeoli tasted amazing and the owner showed us his chicks.

– Chungju (p.30). When you come into Chungju the bike path is at the very beginning of town so keep your eyes open otherwise you’ll miss Chungju Dam CC. “Miss” like a hole in the head because it is the worst hill on the whole 5 day route in my opinion. It’s really really really steep. Super awesome downhills on the way back to Chungju proper though! Chungju Dam marks the end of the Hangang trail- they sure make you work for your completion stickers. Once you’re back in town, the bike trail follows the river all the way to Chungju Tangeumdae CC, which marks the start of the Saejae Bicycle Path. IF YOU SCREW UP ON NAVIGATION HERE YOU WILL END UP GOING THROUGH A HIGHWAY TUNNEL FILLED WITH SPEEDING CARS, TRUCKS, DEAFENING FAN AND CAR HORN SOUNDS! Don’t get lost like we did last year (and some others did this year!!). Stay safe and keep on the proper Saejae Bike Path. There were a few crappy sections of the bike path including where they were rebuilding a small bridge, which meant we had to cycle over a very uneven dirt track next to it. Be careful if you’re on a road bike with thin tyres. For the most part it is a very beautiful route.

Before you get to Suanbo (p.35) there will be a hill but it’s not a killer. We pulled into Suanbo¬†around 20:30, well after sunset.¬†This town, best known for its hot springs, is completely lit up at night and a¬†welcome sight after a long day’s riding. We could have¬†finished sooner but wanted to end the¬†day by soaking our muscles¬†at the jimjjilbang.¬†You can¬†pay from 70, 000 won¬†upwards for a private room at žąėžēąŽ≥īžė®ž≤úŽěúŽďú¬†(Suanbo Oncheon Land) OR you can pay 10,000 won like we did to stay in the jimjjilbang. It was very quiet here but it could have been darker- none of this matters when you’ve been cycling all day. We had amazing dolsot bibimbap (ŽŹĆžÜ• ŽĻĄŽĻĒŽį•) from across the road for 10,000 won.

Day 2 summary: 171km, 12.5 hours door to door.

Fact of the day: there are many salmosa (mamushi) snakes in Korea. I counted 5 dead ones and 3 live ones slithering across the road in front of us.

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Seoul to Busan 2014: overview

I’m back from a really great ride this year so before I delve into the specifics I’m going to do an overview of what you should consider before you set off on your trip.

1. Prep

2. Budget

3. Time of year

4. Resources

5. Packing

Let’s start with number 1. PREP. If you don’t do long rides before setting off on a 655km+ ride, you’re going to have a hard time. You HAVE to make time to go on rides of 60km + at least twice. WHY? Long rides teach you how often you should eat and drink on the bike. You should always eat and drink BEFORE you feel hungry, thirsty or void of energy. When you have no energy, you will feel tired, lose concentration, miss road signs, get lost and waste time. Also, your ass, nuts and lady bits need to become accustomed to the saddle that will become your new BFF on the trip. TRY TO USE EVERYTHING YOU WILL ON THE TRIP IN YOUR PREP PHASE: equipment, food, drinks, clothing, chamois cream, bags. This way you’ll know if a gel will give you the shits, your bike shorts rub you raw or that your bag is too heavy etc. Service your bike beforehand, especially your gears and brakes. Check your tyres for wear- Korean tyres wear out much quicker than Continental tyres. If you see cracks in your tyres or a weird smooth bulge change them! Pump your tyres to the recommended PSI/bar before you set off (my road bike=¬† 110 bar). Clean and lube your chain.

2. BUDGET. I left Pohang with 263,000 won in my bank account and I have 14,000 left. This does not include my bus fare ( approx. 40,000 won). Accom:¬†Save money by¬†sharing rooms with a group or sleeping in jimjjilbangs. My accom during this trip varied from 6,000 – 10,000 won per night in jimjjilbangs to 17,000 won sharing with 2 guys in a motel room. WARNING: out in the sticks they might tell you it’s not OK for girls and guys to share rooms. If you have time to look around, I advise you to do so until you find a friendly hotel that understands that there will be no orgies/ threesomes after a long day’s cycling. Food: Korean sit down lunches can vary from 6,000 to 10,000 won, dinner from 10,000-15,000 won (sharing) and each CU convenience store stop will probably set you back between 5,000 to 10,000 won (water, powerade/ pocari sweat, ice cream, mentos, kimbap, egg etc.). VEGETARIANS should go around to a few CUs beforehand to see what would be OK to eat PRIOR to your trip.

3. Time of year: Last year I did the ride in August during the heat wave. This year I did it in June. I definitely recommend June. It’s cooler, which means you sweat less, burn less, fatigue less. You also see different things at different times of the year. June has loads of colourful roadside flowers and thousands of butterflies, as well as different crops being harvested. We saw garlic and¬†onions this year whereas last year in August we saw thousands of chillies spread out by the roadside to dry. All of these sights are great photo opportunities. I’d love to do the ride in Spring and Autumn one day to see the great colour changes that accompany the seasons here in Korea.

4. Resources: The KTO maps are great. If you’re relying on blogs or on-road maps, use Jan Boonstra, not just any dick who did the ride and got lost a lot…. Do your homework. Plan a route. Look at the distances and estimated times given in the booklets (we were usually 20-30 minutes faster but I’d say we’re above average fitness and on road bikes). Join Facebook’s Cycling Seoul to Busan. Learn to use naver maps. The entire 4 rivers bike path is on naver map road view.


1. Click žěźž†ĄÍĪį on the upper right hand corner
2. You will then see the bike path in red (exclusive for bikes) and blue (shared with motor vehicles)
3. Click the road view icon.
4. Click the part of the path that you want to see on road view.

Passports: If you want to complete any of the 4 Rivers trails/ cross country (the Ara Lock- Nakdonggang estuary bank route) and get recognition for it you need to pick up a passport (around 4,000 won). There are specific places to pick these up so check this website beforehand for opening times. If you have a nice Korean friends they can order one for you on the 4 Rivers Korean website. You have to get each stamp to get a sticker at the end (you get a medal and certificate for cross country and completing 4 rivers. Each course gets you a sticker and the grand slam gets you a certificate). There are certificate centers at the end of each course to give you your goodies.

5. Packing: I can almost guarantee you won’t be reading a book on this trip so don’t pack it!!! Don’t pack huge bottles of shampoo, sunscreen, after-sun etc. (My bag weighed 6kg before the trip but I packed spares for everything on my bike). En route we saw a young Korean guy who’s done the trip ten times and he had the right idea: 2 drinks bottles on his bike and a fanny pack. That was it. It held his phone, money, spare top, sunscreen and chargers.¬† His snacks went in his cycle top’s pockets. Next time I do the ride I want to do it like him (I’d add a lightweight rain top). You can wash your clothes every night and if it’s still a bit wet in the morning it’s OK.¬†If you sleep in a jimjjilbang you get clothes anyway and the restaurants along the way are pretty used to stinky cyclists by now… DON’T overpack! You’ll regret it!¬†If you find that your bike was too heavy after your first day, send stuff home via the post office or CU- they often have a posting facility. Our friend posted home 3 of his 8kg load!

My next five posts will briefly detail my trip i.t.o accommodation, navigation, points of interest etc. I hope you find them useful.


BIPAF 2014 (Busan International Performing Arts Festival)

My friend entered his play “Treasured Love” ¬†into¬† this year’s BIPAF’s 10 minute play competition. He recruited 4 volunteers from Pohang, including me, and we started preparing mid April. We lost one along the way so he became writer-director-actor. What a guy!

I didn’t realise how big the festival was. It ran from 2-11 May and the 10 minute play competition was the only one open to amateurs like us.¬† I’m pretty sure that we were the only foreigners out of 25 plays in the running.

It became clear on rehearsal day that our play was slightly different to the rest. The main Korean themes were suicide, bullying and handicapped issues. Real tear-jerkers- no language required! Our play was about vampires… A combo of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Only Lovers Left Alive”.¬† Needless to say, we gave our best but it was never going to cut it. At least we got some laughs from the audience…

I  learned a lot about what to expect and prep for next time.

Firstly, the theme has to have substance. Koreans like heavy themes, they spell drama with a capital D. The ten minute play should feature both laughter and tears (real ones, preferably shed by a male). There’s got to be Love and a Broken Heart somewhere in the mix. Plus Redemption if you have time…

Secondly, you need a soundtrack. At least one song but more is better.

Thirdly, lighting. Don’t think that having the lights on all the time will win you any points. It won’t.

Fourthly, timing. If the competition is called “Ten minute Plays” then you’d better finish right at 09:59 or 10:00. Seven and a half minutes? Forget you!

Lastly, script. Keep the English to a minimum, keep it basic, speak slowly. If you can, don’t use any language, concentrate on miming and dancing instead. Everyone loves a bit of synchronised dancing, especially if it’s a group of boys popping on the stage.

If I lived in Busan I would definitely have gone to the other shows. I admire¬† Korea’s approach¬†to making arts and culture accessible¬†to everyone¬†by making tickets affordable.

I hope that next year will see more foreign plays in the running, since there is talent in Pohang, Daegu and Busan. Maybe one day a foreign play can even win. Now wouldn’t that be something!



Weird things Koreans do to Western food


Koreans have taken pizza to a different level.

Expect to find sweetcorn, potato and sweet potato on your pizza. Also, you may find it useful to know that your stuffed crust may not be cheese but sweet potato. Disappointing LOL!

Instead of a mozzerella shaker/ olive oil or pepper grinder on your table you can expect to  get a side of honey to dip your pizza slice in.

On the pizza theme, my students brought me a slice of home ec pizza- pizza with a rice base. I like this actually, crunchy rice with cheese on top. Nom nom.


You may be able to find wholewheat bread in big cities but in smaller cities and town white bread is a staple.

Koreans love white bread. They also do some crazy shit to it.

Sweet garlic bread. Absolutely traumatic the first time this happens to you. I still don’t get why they’d take a classic and butcher it. Even if it’s cheesy garlic bread it will STILL be sweet.

Bread as dessert. Take a big chunk of bread. Slather in honey/ cinnamon/ butter. That’s the kind of thing I ate as a student when I spent all my pocket money on weed and my cupboard was bare!¬†Here it’s a thing that people pay for. SMH.

Tomatoes as fruit:

Fruit salad with kiwi, apple and tomato anyone? How about an extra of breakfast cereal added in? I cannot lie, this was strange at the beginning but now I really like it!


The difference between being a dive instructor and an English teacher


I was a dive instructor for 8 years but became restless. As part of a couple I found myself being shoe-horned towards office jobs instead of teaching and guiding and I refused to be pigeon-holed because of my gender. I took a few years out to get back into normal life and then decided to get back into teaching of another kind: teaching English as a Foreign Language. I love traveling and exploring countries by living in them so this was a perfect way for me to keep my lifestyle going. The quality of my life is more important than  chasing dollar signs so teaching/ traveling/living outdoors suits me to a t.

I believed that teaching English and teaching scuba diving would be much the same. Same same but different.

Pros of being a dive instructor:

– You get wet every day and see awesome wildlife.

– You get to teach a variety of ages.

– Your students generally WANT to be there, they’re on holiday and they are happy.

– Small class sizes with additional helpers with a class of 8+.

– You can choose whether to certify someone or not based on their ability.

–¬†Fast results.

– You get tips.

– You can drink with your students after class. Students can become friends… or conquests.

– You are usually in good shape because you do moderate exercise every day to off-set the booze you drink with your customers.

– You can swear underwater and no one will understand you.

– The majority of people you encounter during your working day will share English as a common language.

Cons of being a dive instructor:

– Less holiday time, long hours and early morning starts. You work when everyone else is on holiday (Christmas, Easter, New Year, school holidays).

– Commercial pressure on you to perform/ bend standards/ pass students.

– You have to spend a lot of your free time with customers to give them an unforgettable experience. This leaves less time to nurture personal relationships.

– There is a large amount of egotistical, crazy managers and dive shop owners in this world and no human resources department to support you in case of maltreatment.

Pros of being an English Teacher:

– You have lots of fun and laugh a lot.

– You get a good amount of holiday and enough money to travel.

– You are making a difference, especially if you teach in a government school. Even if the kids still suck at English, you are teaching them about the wider world and acceptance of “other”. When you’re a dive instructor you mostly teach people who are well-off who can afford to see the world and travel.

– You get letters and gifts from your students and they love greeting you outside of school.

Cons of being an English Teacher:

– Large class size, hard to give individual attention, kids get left behind.

– Everyone passes regardless of ability.

– You will encounter discipline problems and language barriers to a degree not encountered as a dive instructor.

РMore creative lesson planning required as opposed to pre-planned formulaic PADI teaching.

– You can’t swear.

– You may be the only foreigner at your school so you may feel isolated because of the lack of English around you.

For me, Teaching English is more challenging but far more rewarding. I miss¬†being a dive instructor and in an ideal world I’d¬†alternate between the two jobs.¬†¬†However, I managed to educate 600 teenagers about the ocean and conservation last year. I would never have been able to teach that many students how to dive. I may have moved battle grounds but the fight remains the same: education in order to preserve oceanic species.


Kayaking and camping on Geoje Island

Getting from Pohang to Geoje is a pain in the ass. It really is. But I had such an awesome weekend that the looooong journey was totally worth it.

From Pohang shiwae (downtown intercity bus terminal) you need to get a bus to Nopo dong in Busan, which is a frequent service and takes 1:30 hours. From Nopo dong you can take¬†the subway to Hadan (yes, nearly the whole orange line…) which takes about an hour. From Hadan you need to take the 2000 bus and get off at Gohyun Fire Station¬†and change to bus 22/23 to Gujora Beach. We messed this bit up which ended wasting an hour or so. Make sure the bus driver understands that he needs to tell you to get off at Gohyun ūüėČ Bus 22/23 only runs every 30 minutes.

Another way of doing it is to get a bus from Nopo to Gohyun which exposes you to potentially bad traffic and doesn’t run as frequently. We used this option on the way back home and we found out that the service was once per hour- we’d missed the last bus by 5 minutes… In total the journey from Pohang to Gujora beach takes about 5 hours but if it’s planned according to bus schedules it should take around 3-4. It’s probably a good idea to download the bus app for the cities you plan to visit before you go, if you want to optimize your beach time! Or learn to use naver maps properly- it has magical properties that most foreigners do not know about! If you want to learn how to use naver maps properly, check out this blog. Do¬†this BEFORE your trip.

If you DO mess up, try to get off at Okpo, which is a foreigner friendly area with cool eateries including B.O.Bs sports bar with handmade burgers. Then take a taxi or bus 22/23 to Gohyun Bus Terminal.

Gujora beach is pretty idyllic with camping available cheaply at a stone’s throw away from the beach. Our kayaking was coordinated and guided by Kyoung Sig Jung, who runs the Geoje Kayak Club. Our BBQ and camping equipment needs were sorted by Derrick from Waegook Travel. These two guys went out of their way to accommodate our needs. Seriously, shared between 10 people it came to 62,000 won per person for kayak hire, camping space rental, BBQ meat packs and a weber grill. Fantastic! There are a few small shops nearby with bigger supermarkets a 5 minute car ride away.

So here’s what all the hype is about. You can also go for a hike that leads through a bamboo forest if you fancy that over being on the water.





Korean Folk Tales: The Farting Wife

My kids are currently re-painting the school walls and the theme is “Traditional Korean Stories”. I asked my sixth graders to tell me about some of the stories and this one is a beaut!



There‚Äôs a lot to geek over in Gwangju, South Korea, beyond the obvious Starcraft tournament cable channel and poorly-translated English tees. ¬†One of my favorites are the traditional morality stories, the fables if you prefer. ¬†A group of expatriates gathered at the local English broadcasting station ‚Äď GFN (Gwangju Foreign Network) ‚Äď to do the voice-acting for a compilation of Korean folk tales. These ranged from the mundane to the mythical to the downright nonsensical; each providing a valuable insight into Korean culture.


Over the next few months, Waygeek will be releasing one of the recordings ‚Äď which are affiliated with the GFN program¬†Once Upon a Time ‚Ästper week. ¬†This week is the ridiculous tale of the Farting Wife.

Stay tuned for next week’s folk tale: The People Who Saw a Mirror for the First Time.

Listen to GFN online at http://tunein.com/radio/GFN-Gwangju-English-Station-987-s104649/.

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Korea’s ferry disaster

I read the news about the ferry disaster yesterday between my 5th and 6th grade elementary classes. It was very difficult for me to be upbeat and cheery in class after reading about this tragic accident, but knowing that my kids wouldn’t have heard about it yet, keeping face was very important.

Jeju field trips are an institution in high school. Last year my first graders went for 4 days, taking a plane instead of a ferry. Jeju is known as “the Hawaii of Korea” and those teenagers and teachers would have been so excited about the trip. When I think about the numbers my eyes well up. The teachers who were on the ferry are not 9-5ers. In Korea, high school home room teachers are at school from 08:30 to 22:00 every weekday and 9:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. They see the kids more than the parents do. I often asked my students what time they got home- the answer was often 11PM or after, and their parents would usually already be asleep. The teachers on the ferry were like parents to these students. I taught 2 grades last year- about 620 kids. I can’t imagine a whole grade being wiped out. On the way back from out teacher’s trip yesterday we listened to the radio- it’s all very different from the BBC. Real time, raw, on the ground reporting and witness statements. Awful.

My high school Facebook profile’s¬†newsfeed¬†is dominated by passenger videos, screenprints of kakao talk messages between trapped high school students and parents, the last messages between loved ones. Pictures of unused lifeboats, ¬†passengers¬†sliding on the boat as it’s tilting and sinking into the water and¬†howling grandmothers, mothers and fathers in Jindo.¬†Knowing that many Koreans don’t like swimming…

My thoughts are with the families of everyone affected by this horrible accident. I hope that the survivors can find the strength to carry on and that they can live their lives in a way that will honour their missing friends and loved ones.

Korean kids are so special. They are so kind, cute, lovely, funny. They work so hard. It’s an extra blow, losing¬†humans with such great potential. Truly a dark day for this wonderful country.