Korail 3: Seoul-Cheoram-Buncheon

Daddy: Knowing his much Ethan loves trains, we were going to use our Korail Pass to the max and today we would take O Train and V Train

Korail 2: Seoul-Jecheon-Osong-Iksan

Daddy: On the long ride up the Mugunghwa, Korail was playing their tourist train videos. I had bought the Korail Pass thinking we would just KTX around the country but now I knew we could take the slower and more scenic tourist trains that had special designs. This was his special trip and to have both special trains and bikes on it was just too good to be true!

Daddy: Of coourse, I am largely to blame for Ethan’s long running fascination with long distance intercity trains. The above picture was taken 7 years ago on one of our early KTM sleeper train rides to Kelantan and back. This was father-son time back then and we both loved it!

Daddy: The A Train departed from Cheongnyangni at 8.30am. It appears to be older train cars which have they have improved and redesigned. Ethan was super pleased!

Daddy: Each car has additional viewing windows above the regular windows, creating a more airy feeling.

Daddy: The last car had even more windows and I spent a lot of time there looking out at the scenery.

Daddy: Ethan really enjoyed taking videos then later editing them. I suggested he reverse them so it looks like we are going forward and he said excitedly, “I already thought of that Dad. And we put it into the train simulator so we drive this part!”

Daddy: It felt a bit funny not being on the bike and zipping by the sights so fast. Ethan loves trains, but i still think the effort of bike touring makes one appreciate the surroundings more. Ethan may disagree vehemently however!

Daddy: We got off at Jecheon and walked around the local market. We found these onion pancakes and had a fun snack. Normally people stay on this train longer, but I figured out we could take a Mugunghwa and KTX and try another train during our limited time here.

KTX

a

West Gold G Train

Korail 1: Busan-Seoul-Gangneung

We woke up super early and left the hotel at 6.30am, sadly too early for the Toyoko Inn free breakfast.

We made it to the station and found the correct track. After all the logistical challenges it was a relief to be able to get our bikes all the way back to Seoul (technically Cheongnyangni station).

We rolled our bikes down the platform, watched by two Mugunghwa trains – the old but still very serviceable trains that serve all of Korea.

Only a few Mugunghwa trains have these bike racks in Car 4. This is also the dining car, but unfortunately food is no longer served – just a vending machine.

It was very cool to see some of the same cycle tracks we had ridden over the past 12 days, this time from the view of trains we had often seen passing us!

We crossed that bridge!

We approached Andong Station and recognizes many of the buildings and glimpses the red bicycle certification booth at which we had stamped our passports.

Our train arrived at Cheongnyangni Station. En route I had changed plans and decided we would stay near that station instead and use that station as a base. I found a reasonably priced motel very near the station and Ethan squealed in delight. This one had free popcorn and ice-cream vending machine in the lobby!

That afternoon, I summoned up all my energy and made the most of our Korail Pass by taking Ethan on a KTX joyride to the city of Gangneung on the north-eastern coast. It was 90 min there, a simple dinner and 90 minutes back.

He was delighted with his first ride on a KTX train, having only tried the KTX simulator in Kuala Lumpur before. He’s had lots of Shinkansen to compare it to!

Gangneung was one of the locations for the Olympics. We had dinner at the station and I rode 90 minutes back home with a very happy boy. This was the first day of our Korail Pass and we had 2 more days that I had planned full of Korea’s most interesting trains.

Ethan …

I rose slowly from Toyoko-Inn , only really rising when daddy said train. We grabbed a juice and coffee as the breakfast was still cooking .

Then , we went off to boejon station.

We arrived at boejon station. We saw our Mugonghua Train! We immediately went to car 4 and placed our bikes there . Our train looked liked the KTM (keratapi Tanan Melayu) !That was a nicer car. We also had a eating car that was not in operation. Just a vending machine .

The doors in the newer car looked different to the ones in the older cars.I wrote a postcard to Tally and we would mail it to her soon.The eating car door shown above. placeholder://This is a walk through of the eating car.The newer car interior looked nicer compared to the older one. placeholder://I also did a walk through video of the newer car .The Toilet was also noticeably nicer.

The doors of the newer cars are much nicer.

the seat in this picture is locked up

. It is locked up.

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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!

11 Changnyeon-Busan (94km)

Last night we decided we would try and ride further today, into the outskirts of Busan, so that on our final 12th day tomorrow we would get to the certification centre early and be able to use the rest of the day for other things. Today would end up being Ethan’s longest distance of riding in his life thus far.

The mornings were warming up as we we nearing the southern city of Busan. Cycling above 10 deg C is much easier!

We knew our first certification point wasn’t far so this was something early to look forward to.

Built at a K-Water building, we are always pleased to see a red telephone booth on the cycling path.

The ancient tomb of Haman was here! Ethan laughed and joked that they must have transported him here after he hanged himself! (cf. Book of Esther)

We crossed a low bridge over a gurgling stream and Ethan stopped for photos and videos. I am really glad that he enjoys nature and the first extended use of his first iPhone is to capture these memories.

A fast section of beautifully winding asphalt afforded us views of the ocean while we rode up and down the rolling hills.

It had very little traffic, allowing me to give Ethan some freedom to ride and space for me to take wefies!

After that we spotted some wildflowers. Ethan also took his own close-up pictures!

We have the exact same expression! Focused but enjoying the morning ride. We had done quite a few kilometers already and I told Ethan we would find a rest stop.

I saw a few cafes on the map and navigated to one, but I didn’t expect such a nice place! In the mid-morning we were the only customers and we happily sat outdoors in perfect weather.

The lady serving us spoke great English and we splurged on a typical Korean cafe fare. The “Honey Bread” (earlier we had seen “Holy Bread” in a probably incorrect translation) makes for great cycling fuel. The whipped cream, coffee and matcha latte doesn’t hurt either.

We had a long stay there, 30-45 min and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was my favorite coffee place of the whole trip with good coffee, food and great ambience. There was even a camping trailer next to the cafe and the lady living there had hooked up electricity to the cafe, bought coffee and probably paid for the hookup!

We reluctantly left the cafe but had a great time riding. I love seeing these photos of Ethan in a relaxed road riding posture, enjoying nature, travel and his bike riding.

We had a few more kilometers to go to where I thought lunch would be, when we passed by a very interesting rustic shop. Through the old windows we could see a wooden deck with benches that overlooked the river. We had no idea what they served, but the traditional nature of the place looked fantastic.

The old lady looked puzzled to see foreign travelers stop at her shop. She tried to explain to us what she had, but instead resorted to giving Ethan a tasting sample. It was a something like a fish head soup which Ethan loved and it wasn’t very spicy. When she saw he liked the rice cakes in the soup she promptly gave us more, and gave extra rice to the hungry cyclists – all for the fixed price of $18. Sitting outdoors by the river, this was one our favorite restaurant lunches!

We were both very happy after lunch, having covered good distance, and had great morning and lunch break. We needed to do more as the certification booth was a long way away.

There were two possible routes so we chose one that was longer but looked flatter on Naver maps. Soon we came across a very interesting bench. Not only was it a bicycle, but a bike with a trailer!

For once, Ethan was pulled the trailer while I relaxed!

The road continued to follow the riverbanks as we went the long but flat way towards our destination.

We have lots of nice chats during our ride, telling each other how much we are enjoying each other’s company and talking about life.

A very long boardwalk stretch cut out the worst of the hills. Our wheels hummed and sang as we rolled along our wooden pathway.

Until finally we could stamp our passports! Here’s a good view of the trailer I pulled across Korea!

As we approached Busan the cycle path changed quickly. It was still enjoyable but with more stops, buildings and crossing traffic.

We were on one of the main cycle paths leading into the city and great effort had been put into making these enjoyable.

We passed under the huge Korean highways. We don’t build them like this in land-scarce Singapore!

After finding our motel, which was chosen for its reasonable price and being near the cycle path, I discovered there was no food in easy walking distance as it was in an industrial area. So we rode our bikes on another 3km round trip to find this famous chicken shop chain, Okkudak, which has opened in Singapore but we had never tried it before.

By the end of the day, Ethan has ridden 94km. This was our overall favorite riding day. We were just 10-15km from the final certification point so we would be able to finish it early tomorrow morning. We could taste sweet success as we closed our eyes, hugged one another, and feel fast asleep.

10 Dalseong-Changnyeong (58km)

With Busan nearing, I planned the last few days of travel so that we would arrive at the final certification centre early in the day and have time to to get our medals! Completion was in sight and the excitement was growing.

Bike paths within the towns are usually more difficult to navigate and ride, but this particular tree-lined was still beautiful even within the town.

Just outside some rolling hills combined with boardwalk-bridges that spanned the coast-line.

We climbed a steep section then looked backward for this fantastic sight!

The cycle path crossed a small town which was noticeable run down. We found a CU store for an ice-cream break and a lot of young men were driving in and out, with too much free time on their hands. A group of them were speaking loudly in Russian, and disheveled older men were walking the streets. I had not seen this part of Korea before. Though no-one gave us a second glance, we quickly left after Ethan finished his snack.

Speeding along fast stretches of tarmac, I had picked out a likely good place to cook lunch en-route having concocted this plan the day before.

The lunch spot was an even better picnic spot than I had hoped for. We had some very good beef that I bought the previous night from a butcher we passed, fried up some spam, Onions and garlics that were leftover from last night’s BBQ friend with carrots bought a couple of days ago! The pre-cooked rice from the convenience store in Korea is expensive and heavy, but it heats up well in a pot of hot water with zero cleanup.

Fueled by beef we tackled the open fields with mountains in the distance.

Some bike lanes were highly protected paths along the mountain roads which made for easy and safe cycling.

There was a tough uphill section of 10% that lasted a kilometer or so which we walked up. At the top of these hills on the cycle routes is always a nice resting place with a view of the surroundings.

A fast downhill led to an interesting patch of very tall vegetation. It was like a wall on either side.

Nearing the town we would spend the night we saw what looked like an aqueduct! It was quite an unusual construction for irrigation. We wondered whether it was still used.

After so many days of passing barley (or whatever it is being dried on the side of the road we saw how it was being laid out on a mass scale by a machine!

I had picked one hotel but upon cycling up we saw a brand new one opened just next door. We went in and were happy to spot another vending machine. We got our room key in 3 minutes!

That night we walked around the side streets of this small town. A fried chicken place tempted us but it seemed more like fast food so we settled on this old, small Korean shop that were selling soup of some sorts. We managed to get a pork bone soup of some sorts which was tasty and wholesome!

That night Ethan wanted to try the bathrobe. He looked so handsome and cute in it! So we both wore the pair and had our P2P chat on some serious stuff! We have been sleeping late but still getting up early for our rides!

09 Chilgok-Dalseong (71km)

Firmly back on the Seoul-Busan route, we prepared to hammer out some more kilometers on what would become a great day of riding and exploring.

We passed this cafe with amazingly beautiful grounds. The cycle path had the river on one side and this cafe garden on the other. Unfortunately it was closed so we couldn’t stop for refreshments.

I had looked forward to autumn leaves on this ride and I wasn’t disappointed.

The boardwalk curved gracefully, hugging the contours of the coastal hill.

Until we reached our next stamp point!

We had cycled quite a bit already so stopped for a second breakfast break.

Ethan had lots of energy today and we continued onward for another hour or so.

I picked another rest stop to eat more snacks and an elderly couple who were hikers struck of a “conversation”. He was part of a cross-country hiking group, looked very experienced, and was very pleased to see Ethan’s handlebar bag with the Seoul-Busan sign. She gave us a baby apple (see below) and he was very happy when I used his Samsung phone to take a wefie of the four of us as he didn’t know how to do it!

Another verification booth for the day!

The stamp booth was at a building with a large CU convenience store so we decided to have a light early lunch there. Ethan made an apple snowman out of the small apple the elderly couple gave us and the large one we plucked a few days earlier.

After lunch a short but very steep hill forced us to walk a little bit. You can’t see how steep these slopes are in these photos.

The inter-town cycle paths crossed the town parks and connected them all wonderfully. It made me think of Singapore’s round island PCN vision – but I find that too disruptive.

Up and down the hills we went, but these were short climbs not the big one earlier in the trip.

Ethan was always ready with a big smile whenever I took photos!

Wildflowers greeted us then bid farewell as we coasted along.

As we approached the town we were going to stay in we saw this cool helicopter. Later we would see a vehicle test track and other signs of highly skilled manufacturing that took place there.

But just before we turned off into the gleaming new town, a historic site appeared just off the cycle path. We stopped to check it out.

And to take a cute photo. No, he’s not really tired…just enjoying time with his Dad.

From there it was a quick ride into town. On the map I could only find 2 motels and I could see it was small. I was worried it may be run down, but it was exactly the opposite! The small town looked very new, built around the manufacturing plants on the outskirts.

I rode right up to the very new motel, pushed our bikes through the front doors and were greeted by a snazzy vending machine. “Ethan, look at this!”

I knew he would love this! I had read that some new ones were entirely unmanned at the front reception like this one!

https://youtu.be/SmM_E6XOO30

The furnishings looked so new even the light switches had an LED screen. It was as if we were the first ones who stayed there!

After getting a room and buying snacks at Paris Baguette, we searched for dinner and settled on another pork grill place. This one gave lots of garlic with oil in a dish so we basically deep fried our garlic cloves until golden brown!

Ethan was super happy with the day riding and our motel room that night. We had a great P2P chat then fell fast sleep.