BAMBOO GARDENS, GREEN TEA FIELDS, AND ISLAND EXPLORATION IN KOREA: YEONGSANG RIVER BIKING VENTURES
About every intercity or express bus company will allow you to put your bicycle in the underneath storage compartment free of charge. And to my knowledge, as long as you have a bike bag, you should be able to get your bicycle on a train as well (although I’ve never tried this option).
For a great weekend of cycling, head to Gwangju, Jeollanam-do. It’s located about halfway between Damyang and Mokpo, which are major stops along the Yeongsangang bike path. If you’ve never been to Gwangju, you should consider making it a destination with or without a bike. There’s plenty to see and do around the area.
Juknokwon Bamboo Garden in Damyang, South Korea.
Taffy made out of bamboo from Juknokwon Bamboo Garden in Damyang.
I stayed at a fantastic guesthouse in Gwangju. Not too far from the bus terminal, and a straight shot to the bike path along the river. Pedro’s House is one of the only guesthouses that cater to foreigners in the city of Gwangju. It also happens to be one of the best hostels I’ve stayed at.
After arriving in Gwangju with my bike, I rode from the bus terminal to Pedro’s House for a restful evening. Following a complimentary breakfast I was able to cook in the morning, I headed to the Yeongsang River. My plan for the first day was to bike to Damyang to see the bamboo forests, and then make it back in time for evening tea in Boseong.
Juknokwon Bamboo Garden in Damyang features a waterfall, walking paths, and an exhibition center. It’s located directly off the official Yeongsangang bicycle route. Spending an hour or two walking under the cover of bamboo is a refreshing way to cool off after biking in the summer heat. Make sure to stock up on snacks made of bamboo before getting back on the trail.
Following a long day of biking the Yeongsangang path from Gwangju to Damyang and back, I left my bike at the U-Square Bus Terminal, and cleaned up in a public restroom before catching a bus to Boseong.
Once I arrived in Boseong, I had about an hour before it got dark. I immediately located a taxi, and had the driver take me to one of the most popular spots in the area – Daehan Green Tea Plantation.
Daehan Green Tea Plantation in Boseong, South Korea. August, 2013.
On the second day of my journey, I left Gwangju and headed for Mokpo early in the morning. The stretch between Gwangju and Mokpo is about 110 kilometers. The Yeongsangang path officially starts at Damyang Dam, and ends at the Yeongsangang Estuary Bank just outside of Mokpo. The total route is around 140 kilometers.
Biking along the Yeongsang River path near Damyang, South Korea.
Once making it to Mokpo, I had very little time to sightsee. I rode through the city just as it was getting dark, and spent the night near the Coastal Ferry Terminal in preparation for a little island exploring the next day. A delicious meal of kimchi jjigae with an abundance of Korean side dishes filled me up.
A crab on Love Island in South Korea. August, 2013.
The tiny island of Oedal-do, known as “love island” because couples frequent it, has several places to stay, two beaches, hiking paths, a flower garden, and a swimming pool. Ferries cost around 7,000 won for a round-trip ticket, and take about one hour each way. You shouldn’t have a problem getting your bike on the boat, but I opted to leave mine at the ferry terminal since this particular island is so small.
Frying samgyeopsal and kimchi on Oedal Island, Korea.
If you have more time, consider visiting Hueksan-do, the larger, more popular island in the area. I hope to spend a few days camping and biking around Hueksan-do when I return to South Korea. After a day and night on ‘love island’, it was time to head back to Cheongju by bus with bike stowed below.
One of my favorite aspects of cycling around Korea is the freedom to hop off, drink some makgeolli under a bridge, have traditional cuisine in the middle of a rice paddy, and fully take in the countryside and culture. Get more adventurous with your bike trips. Don’t be afraid to leave your bicycle for side excursions. Biking ventures in Korea are only worthwhile if you’re able to see more than the mileage markers ahead.
This post was written for my "Biking Ventures" series on Kimchibytes. Check out the article on Kimchibytes for many more photos of biking along the Yeongsang River Bike Path in South Korea!
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|Wildflowers along the Yeongsang River near Gwangju, South Korea. August, 2013.|
|Old lanterns along the Yeongsang River Bike Path in South Korea. August, 2013.|
|Peppers drying on a sidewalk in Damyang, South Korea. August, 2013.|
|Sesame drying along the Yeongsangang Bike Path near Mokpo, South Korea. August, 2013.|