Monday, 20 May 2013

Cycling Seoul's Han River: Part 1

My time in Korea has been one of the busiest periods of my life so far. When I'm not working, I'm either going on adventures with Angela, drinking at darts bars with friends, or working on this blog. Leading such a hectic lifestyle has meant having to sacrifice quite a few former pastimes that I used to enjoy. I rarely play guitar anymore, haven't written a single poem or story since arriving here, and apart from the occasional cell phone platformer I've all but abandoned video-games. I used to love watching movies, but only have time for one or two a month now, and as for reading, I'm embarrassed to say I've finished a grand total of three books since I got here nearly seven months ago.

But one of the hobbies that I've missed the most is cycling. I've always loved the rush I feel when soaring down country roads, winding through midday traffic, or going night cycling in the city. There is a simultaneous tranquility and exhilaration I feel when cycling. I can be cruising at a mere 20 miles per hour and yet feel like I'm soaring at rocket-speed; I can be caught pedalling precariously between rows and rows of trucks in a rush hour traffic jam and yet somehow feel completely at peace.

Angela and I cycled on some islands near Incheon back in late March, but otherwise we've been waiting for the weather to warm up before exploring more cycle routes in Korea. Back in winter, we bought some bicycles from one of Angela's former co-teachers, and now that we're in the middle of spring we thought we'd finally test them out. A couple of weekends ago we cycled from Angela's home in outer Gangnam to the nearby Han River in Seoul. We cycled a short section of the river near the Olympic Park and Ttukseom Hangang Park. It was a gorgeous day, and despite getting lost at one point, we had a wonderfully relaxing cycling trip, hopefully the first of many in the city.

Before leaving, we had breakfast on Angela's roof with some friends.
Opening some champagne on the rooftops of Daecheong, Gangnam.
Our bellies filled, we soon set off on our bikes.
Our tyres were a bit flat, so I filled them up at a conveniently placed bicycle pump-point near the road.
On our way towards downtown Seoul.

Almost the entirety of our route was along bicycle paths. After months of exploring Seoul via busy highways and metro stations, it was refreshing to view the city from these quiet, wooded pathways frequented by locals.
Approaching one of Seoul's many "cheons" or streams that are tributary to the Han River.

There were lots of other cyclists out enjoying the sunny weather.

A common contradiction of Korean city life: farmers harvesting plants, seeds and vegetables even amid the concrete of urban highways and apartment blocks.

A gathering under a bridge.
Soon we reached the Tancheon, a major tributary of the Han, and home to Seoul's Olympic Park.

Me standing near where the Tancheon meets the Han.

Across the Han we could see Ttukseom island and its curiously-shaped J-Bug Complex, which we would soon visit.

We crossed the river via a busy traffic bridge.

Arriving at the northern banks of the Han.

The J-Bug Complex was packed with families and couples picnicking on the grass.
One of the greatest shames of contemporary Korean youth culture: couple's clothing!

The entrance to the J-Bug, which contains restaurants and art galleries.
Click here to continue the adventure in Part 2!

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