You can’t cycle to Haeundae Beach from here said the lady in the tourist office at Busan port. You are not allowed through the tunnels or over the bridges. We asked about buses and the subway. No we were not allowed to take our bikes on those either. A great start to our Korean trip, we had booked an Airbnb with Tim on the other side of Busan to rest up after Japan. What to do? We plotted a route on the GPS and pedalled out of the port onto a 6 lane highway.
Cycling across Busan wasn’t bad at all apart from the usual suspects taxis and buses who were determined to cut you up. After 18km of urban warfare we made it to Haeundae beach and a week off the bikes. We found that Busan has some pretty good cycle routes unfortunately not in the direction we wanted.
We had come to Busan to cycle up the 4 rivers route to Seoul. The South Koreans had put a huge amount of effort into creating a safe route, mainly on purpose built cycle tracks that crossed the country. They had produced some excellent route maps showing everything from bike repair shops to hotels which were free from tourist information. The only downside was the start of the route was back on the otherside of Busan.
The route was easy to find and very well signposted along mainly paved paths usually away from roads. There were plenty of parks and stopping places along the route. It bypassed most towns so that if you wanted to buy food etc you just had to get off the route. It was busy leaving Busan with plenty of cyclists but thinned out after the first 50km. In total it was 600km from Busan to Seoul. Most of the Korean cyclists doing the route just carried a small rucksack and were on a lightweight mountain bike doing the trip in 4 or 5 days. We did it more slowly taking 7 days.
We camped for the first half staying in the small parks just on the route. It was getting cold with temperatures down to 4 degrees celcius at night. We did pass through a couple of open campsites with free showers but didn’t stop apart from taking a shower. The highest point of the route is at 530 metres which was a gentle climb from the south but a steep descent. Most of the route was pretty flat with an occasional stupidly steep bit sometimes as much as 20% but only for relatively short distances.
When the temperatures started dropping below freezing we stayed in the excellent cheap Motels 40-50 thousand won about £25. This bought you a large well equipped room often with interesting beds that you could programme to vibrate!! We even passed a bicycle museum which unfortunately was closed. We were very impressed by the route , the Koreans have invested heavily creating a safe, enjoyable route. Nearing Seoul it even goes through old railway tunnels, nicely lit with music and art light shows.Reaching Seoul the route remained traffic free along the river under bridges choked with traffic.
We stayed in Seoul for a few days sorting out flights and bike boxes. It is an interesting city with an excellent subway system for getting around. It was very cold with temperatures of 4 degrees with a strong wind. We were looking forward to the warmer temperatures of Hanoi.