The soft blue sky above caress by the reflected light from the autumn sun.
The lacy waves are a drumbeat that echoes beneath when it hits the coastline as we pedal our way amid the mountain and sea.
We can feel the sea breeze, smell its salty scent, and admire the scenic landscapes while silently sliding through the country’s famous landmarks and hidden panoramic views.
Through the invitation of Korea Tourism Organisation and Gangwon Province, we will see what’s within this place hailed by many as the “most beautiful province of Korea”. Gears up and wheels down, as we pedal our way to give you what lies beyond this province called Gangwon.
Gangwon Province is located in mountainous, forested northeast South Korea. With natural attractions of mountains, sea, lakes, and caves, Gangwon is loved by visitors over decades during the winter season.
As the most snowy region called “Wonderland of Snow” in Korea, Gangwon hosted the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games successfully and has become the top worldwide destination.
In the cycling tour in Gangwon this time, we are taking you to cycle along the quaint coastal road, pools of autumn trees with speckles of red and yellow. If you are a fan of the sea, breeze, autumn, seafood, nature, and cycling, be sure to read this article till the end!
Our long-awaited “MY Celebrity Cycling x Gangwon, Korea” together with 11 best friends – Hafizul Kamal, Shukri Yahaya, Sharnaaz Ahmad, Syafiq Kyle, Theeban G, Azim Wahab (Bonkers Cycling Club), Fakhrul Aizat, Muhammad Zameer, Elyse Leong, Cheok Mok Yee (Malaysia Airlines), and Baz Tan (Malaysia Airlines) through the northeast South Korea begins now!
The following day dawns with bright sunshine. Before we head out onto the path, we stop by any bicycle certification centre, and purchase a cycling passport / stamp book. This passport can be stamped at various checkpoints that are spread out along the trails. From the certification centres, you can also pick up a map of all the bike paths.
We set course in the lovely morning across a picturesque coastal road towards the first cycling destination, Imwon. The beauty of Imwon is at its best, taking us though the hilly terrains and breathtaking and tranquil fishing village. If you’re a beginner, this humble town offers full service bicycle rental shops as well as well-maintained bike paths and pedestrian walkways.
Interestingly, the red phone booths dotted along the bike baths are hard to miss. You can collect stamps representing all the main tourist sites. Stamping is free. Inside the booth you will find a bicycle map and QR-codes for information. Most importantly, each booth should contain a unique stamp and an ink pad.
We move ahead and let the road fill our sight with the serenity and vibrancy of the fishing town and adjacent red and yellow autumn trees. We get carried away by the beauty of Hanjae Park, with the vivid gold and rust coloured fall leaves filled intensely under the golden sunshine.
From Hanjae Park, we can overlook and bask in the captivating Samcheok Harbour with creaking boats on waves. There’s the salty breeze and the new white paint along the sea wall. There’s where the clouds roam freely above – the view unhindered by the rising of hills. We take a short break, chatting over a cup of coffee, and revelling in the nature beauty.
Before we continued our afternoon cycling expedition, we refuelled our bodies with scrumptious Korean Set Meals at a Korean restaurant located near Samcheok Beach. The main dishes during a Hanjeongsik usually involve a form of Korean pancakes, soybean paste stew, porridge, hot pot, soups, fried dishes, shelled crabs, raw fish, eel, patbab (a mixture of rice, beans and nuts) and more.
Note: To help Malaysian-Muslims experience better, especially the richness and diversity of Korea’s culinary delights, you will be spoilt and pampered for choice for Muslim-friendly restaurants
Gearing up for a little 20 kilometres on the North to Samcheok Sol Beach, the sugar white sand and emerald green water is frequented by families and friends. It casts a pleasant eye with its powered white sand and pine trees along the shore. The shallow water and calm waves make this beach perfect for not only the local visitors, but also foreign tourists.
It’s dinner time!
Dinner was succulent steamed Snow Crab, Fried Rice, and Ramyeon. When the Steamed Snow Crabs are served, every parts of the crabs are separated and organised on the serving plate. The legs and claws are usually cut through vertically on one side so it’s easier to us to indulge in. The meat of the crab is so juicy and tender!
It’s absolutely one of the best dinners. We go back to the hotel, with our happy tummies, recharge, and ready for another long day.
Rise and shine!
The breezy weather, seafood aroma, and pleasant course are sure to delight a sense of adventure. It is a brief 10 kilometre yet thrilling ride from Mangsang Beach to Gyeongpo Beach that make us astonished at how this place can be. Mangsang beach is sought out by families and tourists, for its white sands, shallow waters, and leisure facilities. If you are a seafood lover, this area features a great variety of shell fishes including crabs, clams, squirts, and flounders.
There is no better way to explore the delights of the coast than by with a bicycle. The splendid and varied coastline at Gyeongpo Beach offers slender tall pine forest, wild roses, and irresistible fine sands. Located 1 kilometre away from Gyeongpodae and 6 kilometres from downtown Gangneung, Gyeongpo Beach is a sand bank formed between Gyeongpo Lake and the ocean, and extends to a length of 1.8 kilometres.
Capping off our cycling tour is a feast at a historical house which offers mouth-watering Seafood Noodles Soup. It comes with the luxurious such as abalones, mantis shrimps, oysters, octopuses, mussels, and clams. As the seafood is cooked, the delicious and yummy juices are collected, and it forms a highly flavourful soup base. After getting our stomach filled and energy restored, we cycle the remaining distance to Chodang Sundubu Village.
Just south of Gyeongpo Beach, it is famous for dubu (tofu). Along Gangneung’s most famous food street the beans are ground for Chodang dubu, then through several steps, salt water from the East Sea is used in the congealing process resulting in a soft and light tofu.
The name of this village, Chodang, originates from the name of a famous family that once lived here known as Chodang-Heoyeop. Heoyeop was the father of son, writer/poet Heo-gyun [1569 – 1618] and daughter, poet Heonan-seolheon [1563 – 1589]. A traditional-style Korean house has been reconstructed on the site where the original house of Heo-gyun and Heonan-seolheon once stood.
There is nothing more satisfying than devouring a bowl of hot and delectable Chodong Sundubu after a long ride, especially on a chilly day. The Soft Tofu Soup has a rich taste than any other tofu, and is incredibly softer.
From logging by the scenic sea, pedalling the scenic routes, tasting the freshest seafood, to sampling the softest tofu soup, we check into Ojuk Hanok Hotel. Gangneung Ojuk Hanok Village is very next to Ojukheon. The Korean traditional style accommodation owned and operated by Gangneung City, consists of small Korean houses, walks, ponds, yards, a pavilion, and more.
Hanok refers to houses built in the traditional Korean style. While tile-roofed and thatch-roofed hanoks were equally common, the former was typically noblemen residences while the latter was mostly houses of the commoners in the past. These days, most traditional hanok that are still used for housing have modern facilities installed within.
One of the main charms to hanok is its unique heating system – ondol. A layer of stone is laid down below the flooring and when heated, the heat spreads up into every room of the house, keeping both the floor and the air surprisingly warm in winter. The use of ondol has influenced the Korean culture to a lifestyle of sitting on the floor, even in modern times.
An uninterrupted and sound sleep is definitely much needed after two days of biking!
Fresh windy cool and crispy air welcome another wonderful morning. On the third and last day, we are excited and ready for a 100 kilometre ride in this attractive province.
Despite the long distance, the road is never dull. The views change from little harbour towns to beaches, hotels, cafes and market. There are dedicated bicycle lanes, several parks, and public air pumps strategically placed along the 100 kilometre route. There are also informative signages in both Korean and English at junctions to help cyclists find our way.
Riding along the lush seaside path to Dongho Beach, we tuck deep in the simplicity on two wheels leading us to a whole new world. Dongho Beach is located south of Gomsoman Bay, between the Byeonsan Peninsula of Buan and Gochang-gun, Jeollabuk-do. Skirting the 1 kilometre long white sandy beach lies a green forest with pine trees hundreds of years old.
The sunset viewed from the forest is particularly eye-catching as the soft pink from the falling sun covers the sky. The water just offshore is relatively shallow, varying in depth between 0.5 and 1.5 meters. The high salt content in the seawater makes it an ideal place for sea and sand bathing. If you are the fans of dried seafood, vendors are seen selling dried Korean sea goods at this side of town.
We cycle mostly on uphill and downhill terrains, it feel like a roller coaster ride until we reach our final destination at Jumunjin Beach. Located in the northern-most part of Gangneung, the flat bottom and clear water of Jumunjin Beach make it easy to gather clams and to fish at the nearby lake.
As soon as we approach to Jumunjin Beach, the fresh salty air, the sound of cashing waves, and the brisk breeze greet us. Completing 100 kilometres give us a real sense of achievement. It is indeed an overwhelming experience to get an insight into the heart and soul of coastal Gangwon, Korea.
While indulging in the recollection of “MY Celebrity Cycling x Gangwon, Korea” and wallowing in Korean Fried Chicken, we wish we could rewind time and make this moment last forever.