A few hundred thousand won will get you a homely, but functional bike handed down through generations of English teachers and adjashi delivery drivers. This will not be a sleek machine; it will not be the chromed out chopper of your middle-aged uncle or a fast, overly-decaled sports bike. However, your new ride will provide you access to neighborhoods, sights aplenty and small towns where foreigners seldom venture. Trust me, you will learn to love it, once you overcome the fear of death that should be associated with Korean rush hour traffic. Your city will never be the same.
Though the public transportation system here is top-notch, Busan is a city made for motorcycles. The relatively easy-to-navigate roads and scenic routes tie the furthest reaches of the city together. Traffic rarely hampers the journey of a rider who has become accustomed to cutting down side streets, weaving through the lines of cars, and occasionally veering onto the sidewalk for brief stretches. You have seen others do it and shook your head at the madness of it. Never mind that. It is as necessary as it is fun. You’ll arrive at your destination much more quickly than you would expect, all the while learning more about the city around you.
In a port city like ours, the coastal roads are your friend. With the ocean to one side, you are given easy navigational bearings and a beautiful view.
Gijang-gun, Busan’s most rural district, is a short ride that fully utilizes these assets. Located on the northeastern side of the city, the region is full of winding little roads that weave across hills and through fishing villages.
Built in the 14th century, the Gijang wall can still be found around the area over 600 years later
Gijang-eup, the town proper, is itself an interesting neighborhood to explore, including a quiet park full of wild flowers, a functioning water wheel and plenty of the strangely fascinating hummingbird moths. As a plus, the route to get there could not be simpler.
From Haeundae, make your way to Songjeong Beach either across Dalmaji Hill or through the Songjeong Tunnel by Jangsan. For scenic purposes, I recommend taking the hill. Once to the ocean, follow the the coast Eastward. This will take you past the sea temple, Yonggungsa, a beautiful place to visit on the rare occasion that it’s not too crowded, as well as through the fishing villages of Sirangri, Yeonwhari and Daebyeonri where you can stop for a seafood meal, or to stock-up on a wide variety of dried fish products. Follow the coastal roads and eventually, you’ll come to the town of Gijang. Or you won’t, and you’ll find something new.
Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to get lost and do a bit of exploring.
Gijang photo by Jens-Olaf Walter