South Korea Day 09-10: Riding Suanbo to Andong and Rest Day

In hindsight I should have split this ride into two days, but instead I got slammed for 8 hours. The two peaks at the start only covered 20km but it took me two hours, as I walked my bike up the insanely steep bits. The downhill bits were fun, I was able to clock nearly 50km/hr after the terrible climbs.

View from the top

It was a relief to know that I passed the hardest part of the day, which is also the hardest leg of the whole trip. After a while I noticed a lot more cherry blossom trees and it looked like they were almost ready to bloom. It made me feel a bit more optimistic about my day, although I miscalculated one of the checkpoints and realised I was on the hook for 140km to reach my accommodation.

After I reached the midpoint, the headwind started, staring down these straight roads and having the wind blast me in the face, my knees and shoulders started to ache. The last 60km towards Andong was almost all farming area, so at least that kept me on my toes. Then the rain started, I handled it for a little while, but I was completely soaked when I reached the first petrol station. I threw in the towel and took a taxi for the last 24km.

I felt defeated, but it was just my body telling me I can’t cycle for 6 hours a day without prior training. I decided to scale back the last 4 rides to Busan, but in the meantime I needed to rest. I had a nice warm shower, put on my pajamas and went around the corner to Lotteria (a fast food place) and indulged in an extra large combo of beef bulgogi burger and fries.

Rest Day: Visiting Hahoe Village

After a nice sleep in, I took the bus to Hahoe Village, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s a really well preserved village that is over 600 years old. The Ryu family originated here too, including the two brothers, Ryu Unryong and Ryu Sengryong, a Confucian scholar and Prime Minister respectively.

Rather than being grid-shaped, this village is organised in a circle, around a 600 year old Zelkova tree for the Goddess Samsin, who promotes fertility and childbirth.

The white strips are prayers and messages

The Yangjin Residence below is for the eldest sons of the Ryu family, in the other homes there is a  wall in the front so that the women and men cannot see one another.

This Korean fir tree was planted by Queen Elizabeth when she visited in 1999, the sign is hard to read from the photo, but it says the tree is like the spirit of Koreans, it’s tough to handle the climate, but also has a softness to it, like an iron hand in a velvet glove.

The village also has straw-roofed houses and since people live in them, you can see satellite dishes outside and hot water systems outside. All up about 200 people live in the village, so I’m guessing they’re used to having tourists wandering around and taking photos.

It was pretty cool to visit the village, since it was a welcome break from the busy city pace. The photo below is really fuzzy, but along the river route, I always see these huge apartment complexes in the horizon. Since so much of the land is mountainous, people live in very high density housing, it’s normal to see apartments with 5 or even 8 high rise buildings in the same block.

The bus trip back to town took an hour and when I got back to my guest house, I cleaned the mud from my bike and planned out the rest of my cycling days. I had 320km to go and decided to spread it out over five days instead, which meant no more 100km+ days. I spoke to guy who ran the guest house and he took me to a restaurant to try a local specialty, grilled mackerel. He works with a co-op that also run a coffee shop and publish a magazine. It was interesting to talk to him because I felt like an outsider in Korea, since I didn’t speak the language, but I was glad to hear about his view on life in Korea. Given that they recently impeached the president, the country is facing a lot of changes.

By the end of the day I was quite exhausted, so I packed my bags, chatted to a lady who just checked into the same dorm and then went to bed.

 

 

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