|I’ve met a number of people in Korea who share my enthusiasm for biking, especially in the countryside. We organized a group to go on a recent summer weekend to Jeollabuk-do (전라북도), about three hours southwest of Seoul. To beat weekend traffic we left very early on Saturday morning and headed for Jinan County (진안군). On our way down we stopped for breakfast – remarkably fresh and delicious – at a roadside rest stop; I wish American highway rest stops served fresh beancurd soup (순두부 찌개). In Jinan County we drove by its most famous sight: Maisan (마이산, 馬耳山), “Horse Ear Peaks” with its two extraordinary rock peaks. We admired the peaks from a distance and eventually stopped in the small village where we would base up for our two-day bike ride. |
| My son James is visiting Korea and he was especially glad to join in the bike ride. Over the years, James and I have mountain biked together everywhere we’ve lived or traveled, throughout the U.S. and overseas. It’s a great way to see the countryside and to learn more about how people live. Some people think that mountain biking is about young, tough guys racing down steep, rock-strewn trails. But the kind of mountain biking I do is what I think of as “farmer biking,” using sturdy, fat-tired bikes to explore the back roads. I was happy to see that Korea remains a great place for this kind of riding, and I was glad to meet Koreans who also enjoy these types of trips. |
The Korean countryside has changed a lot, but I discovered in Jinan that it is still possible to ride from village to village on dirt or concrete paths, or on quiet secondary roads, with mountains looming all around. Riding through the rice paddies and villages of Jinan evoked the Korea I used to know. The young
|rice shoots were intensely green and Jinan’s mountains were spectacular, with their high rock faces and heavy forests. I observed widespread cultivation of ginseng, clearly an increasingly important crop for the rural economy. We could see for ourselves the problem of the declining, aging rural population in the abandoned houses and the wrinkled visages we saw, but the vegetable gardens were still well and lovingly tended.|
One of the early scenes in the popular soap opera “Autumn in My Heart” (가을동화) has children riding their bicycles on the non-gil (논길) between the paddies. It’s a beautiful scene, and I can report you can still ride your bike in places like that.
On the first day of our ride, we stopped for lunch at Yeongmojeong Pavilion (영모정). The lovely pavilion (정자) was built in 1869 in honor of a filial son, over a bend in the stream. Several women from the local village provided a delicious all-vegetable picnic lunch; we feasted as we cooled down from our ride in the refreshing breeze rising from the stream below us. Another young man from the area played several traditional musical instruments and explained their history.
| On the second day of our trip, the riding was more challenging as we climbed up a forest road to enjoy expansive views of the countryside. We also had fun riding down. There were several flat tires during the ride- typical for this type of course. We finished the ride by visiting an extraordinary cave that’s refreshingly cold in the summer. Throughout the weekend, we were reminded of the natural, “green” ways people found to stay cool absent air- |
We had help in organizing this ride from a number of local people who are working to preserve elements of traditional Korean life and to share it with others. For example, we visited an old rice mill that had been bought by a woman who decided to open it to visitors. We reflected on the role of rice mills in Korean towns and villages not so many years ago, and marveled at the ingenuity of the mill.
My weekend in Jeollabuk-do was a good reminder that there’s a lot to explore in Korea, and a lot of it is in places that may not be
the most famous tourist destinations. I am looking forward to enjoying the bike paths being built throughout Korea but in the meantime, my advice to anyone wanting to get some exercise, fresh air, and see something of Korea’s traditions,
is to get on a bike and try out the country byways.
| (This article is courtesy of: http://cafe.daum.net/usembassy/I2bb/40) |
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