12 Busan (26km)

We headed for the bike path, eagerly anticipating our final day. Today was Ethan’s 12th consecutive day of cycling, now having done 700+km. I hadn’t planned 12 days for a 12 year old but it worked out nicely!

We rejoined the bike path and took our first good morning photo together with a prayer for thanksgiving and safety on our final day. God indeed has blessed us richly with each other.

A passing elderly lady offered to take a photo for us. We never refuse and sometimes ask!

The final stretch led past some swan sculptures.

We crossed a long bridge over the huge mouth of the Hanggang River so we could see the other side on our final ride in.

There it was! The official end of the Korea Cross Country Ride! My cycle touring buddy was elated, spontaneously whooping for joy and raising both arms in victory! He wasn’t sure he could make it before we started the trip but he trusted his Dad and really enjoyed himself through the challenges.

Pleased as punch, Ethan took a few of his own selfies. He laughs at how I like taking pictures of him taking pictures. It’s because I get the greatest joy seeing him enjoy himself in healthy ways! When he becomes a Dad he will remember and understand.

I found the certification center where we would have our passports verified. I had read that you drop off your completed passport and they mail you the certificate, but I was pleased that you could get the certificate on the spot and you could optionally pay for the medal and the box. We got everything!

I knew Ethan would love this medal, and it looked really good in the wooden display case. It would be an excellent commemoration of not just his achievement but our time together and how Dad guides him through, just as how I would guide him through his adolescent years.

The P2P material encourages giving your son/daughter a special gift to remember the time together. This certificate and award is even more meaningful than a gift because Ethan earned it through through 12 days of riding in our time together.

Having discarded all my tennis medals and trophies from young, I am not too much into medals myself but I definitely got one for myself to be a matching pair with Ethan and remember our time together.

People say “once in a lifetime” trip but I hope this is “start of a lifetime” of such trips together with my budding cycle companion. This will be a special coming of age trip, as he will soon get a lot bigger, stronger and hairier!

I am super grateful and pleased that things worked out despite the inevitable challenges that no amount of planning can eradicate.

We now headed from the cycle path into the heart of Busan city where the bus and train terminals were.

We passed the first McDonalds that we had seen in the entire trip!

The first tunnel we passed through had a protected pathway so we went slowly and it was fine. The second tunnel was not protected so we walked our bikes slowly through it being very careful not to trip on the sidewalk. The first tunnel was fun but we were glad when the second tunnel was over!

Just before our hotel we bought milk from a lady on these cool electric carts! A few of them were plying the city area.

I had seen a Toyoko Inn on the map and thought it would be fun to stay there as we have good memories from Japan! We booked our room, and locked up our bikes in the lobby, knowing that Toyoko Inns have tiny rooms but have a good system for left luggage. We then went to book our Mugunghwa train the next day back to Seoul.

Only certain trains have bike racks and I could not find out which ones had them without reading Korean. I hit a snag when discovering that the Mugunghwa with bike racks s didn’t depart from Busan Station but from Bujeon Station 10km away and it was very early at 7.20am. Most people take the bus with their bikes as it’s faster than the Mugunghwa but of course Ethan wanted the train.

I would later find out that it is possible to take the special S-Train from Busan. This is little known and the Korail lady never told me this option. The S-Train is the only tourist train that has bike racks. You can take it from Busan to another southern city, Suncheon, explore that and optionally transfer to a second separate S-Train to Yeosu Expo (which is what I would do). Explore Yeosu Expo for a few hours then take the S-Train from Yeosu Expo to Seoul. It is slow but it appears to be a very enjoyable train and worth it especially on a Korail Pass. However it is currently quite popular so can book out especially in weekends.

The logistics were difficult to sort out so I decided to eat lunch first and we had our first non-Korean food! I had tonkatsu and Ethan had miso ramen. They were good but with a definite Korean influence.

After lunch I decided that we would take the Mugunghwa, and we would change hotels. Toyoko Inn@Busan Station refunded my money as I would stay at another Toyoko Inn near to Bujeon Station for the early departure.

We still had the whole afternoon so we followed our plan of leaving our bikes at Toyoko Inn and we took the bus to Gamcheon Culture Village.

It’s a residential village built on the steep mountains in the city, so it’s really hard to even walk up let alone cycle!

Ethan told me that people moved here to escape the Korean War and the town was established! It was very pretty and picturesque. As we walked with tourists we laughed that we had not heard so much English since the beginning of the trip!

We enjoyed walking and buying snacks as we went along. Taking the bus and walking was a nice change, and I used Naver app to tell me which buses to take and when to get off!

We took the bus back to Busan Station, retrieved our bikes and rode 10km through town to Bujeon Station. It was a bit stressful for me having to make the last minute change and worry about the logistics of bike transport. I would fine by myself but moving bikes, luggage and a 13 year old through a large foreign city is harder. We made it to Bujeon as the sun was setting, and a grilled chicken skewed stall beckoned us to delay a bit, which we did!

The design of the entire Toyoko Inn is exactly like that in Japan! They allowed us to book a single room as Ethan was 12 years old so the cost at less than $60 was similar to the motels we had been staying in, but the room was much smaller. Ethan took a WhatsApp call from his friend Jonathan who also likes trains but loves buses!

We walked to a grill place for dinner that we passed very near the hotel as it looked really good. A line had formed and we waited 30 min for a table but we didn’t mind too much. I didn’t know how to order but everyone was having “assorted meats” which turned out to be liver, intestines, and minced beef you were meant to eat raw!

Fortunately Ethan likes the liver which was very mild, I ate most of the intestines which were very soft and rich, and I ordered extra of the minced beef. We tried it raw and it wasn’t bad but we preferred it cooked – which no-one else was doing but we did it anyway!

At night, we took the medal out of the box and Ethan wore it happily for a short while while enjoying another milkshake in a squeeze-pack!

What a day! It was too late and we were too tired for P2P. We would have to rise early and do a short cycle to the train station for our train ride tomorrow. Ethan was super grateful that I had gone through the extra trouble of getting the long slow train ride back! We would have to rise early and ride a few kilometers to Bujeon Station and find the tracks before 7am tomorrow.

Here’s a short video clip of the earlier part of today, riding to the finish line!

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