My Blog

We're Not There Yet

Bikes, bites, bytes.

Photo Galleries Now Up from USA to the beginning of New Zealand

Hey folks,

I’ve been working to get up country-by-country photo galleries from our trip. I’ve now posted those galleries for our cycling trip from the USA through half of New Zealand. Check them out on the PHOTOS tab above. The rest of New Zealand and Asia will be going up over the next couple of weeks

 

.

Last stop: Tokyo – Tokyo, Japan

‘Don’t be late, or you’ll be locked out’ is the last thing you want to hear before boarding an international flight. My younger brother, Julian, is teaching English in Tokyo and served as our host for the final stop on our round-the-world odyssey. I emailed him a few days before our flight to get his address and work out our arrival plans. A very complex plan emerged, which involved precision timing and no room for errors or else, well, we’d be locked out. Naturally, our flight was delayed. And the phone number I had for my brother was off by a digit. And it was raining.

Gangnam Style! – Seoul, Korea

The Obligatory DMZ Post – DMZ, Korea

When we say that we went to Korea, people often quip: ‘North or South?’ Well, I can snarkily reply that I actually have been to North Korea. So suck on that.

The Obligatory DMZ Post – DMZ, Korea

‘Don’t be late, or you’ll be locked out’ is the last thing you want to hear before boarding an international flight. My younger brother, Julian, is teaching English in Tokyo and served as our host for the final stop on our round-the-world odyssey. I emailed him a few days before our flight to get his address and work out our arrival plans. A very complex plan emerged, which involved precision timing and no room for errors or else, well, we’d be locked out. Naturally, our flight was delayed. And the phone number I had for my brother was off by a digit. And it was raining.

You Hike Like My Grandma! – Jirisan and Seoraksan National Parks, Korea

‘Don’t be late, or you’ll be locked out’ is the last thing you want to hear before boarding an international flight. My younger brother, Julian, is teaching English in Tokyo and served as our host for the final stop on our round-the-world odyssey. I emailed him a few days before our flight to get his address and work out our arrival plans. A very complex plan emerged, which involved precision timing and no room for errors or else, well, we’d be locked out. Naturally, our flight was delayed. And the phone number I had for my brother was off by a digit. And it was raining.

Back on Track! – Rail Bike Adventure – Samcheok, Korea

‘Don’t be late, or you’ll be locked out’ is the last thing you want to hear before boarding an international flight. My younger brother, Julian, is teaching English in Tokyo and served as our host for the final stop on our round-the-world odyssey. I emailed him a few days before our flight to get his address and work out our arrival plans. A very complex plan emerged, which involved precision timing and no room for errors or else, well, we’d be locked out. Naturally, our flight was delayed. And the phone number I had for my brother was off by a digit. And it was raining.

A Wealth of Penises – Samcheok, Korea

One very unique Korean institution that we discovered right away was the joy of the love motels. No, not like that. ‘Love motel’ is the term for a moderately priced hotel room, available in practically every city, that is intended for a couple to ‘get away from it all’. Yes, some of them are kind of sleazy, but they are easy to pick over and the nice ones are really nice! The idea is that unmarried young people will live with their parents until the wedding, so a couple that is dating needs a little privacy from time to time. While this invariably includes ‘love’ time, it also includes just lounging and hanging out together in a way that they can’t do at their family homes or in public. To that end, the love motel rooms can get pretty pimped out! A giant, flat screen Samsung TV with somewhere around a million channels is a foregone conclusion and the room will always include wi-fi and often include an entire desktop computer. There are usually an assortment of toiletries and coffee, tea, water and snacks all free! Anything other than the super-barebones hourly love motel will have decent decor and super-clean sheets and bathrooms (probably to avoid any ick-factor that the idea of a love motel conjures up). These rooms are used by older couples, young couples, travelers and businessmen; they are not unlike the average American motel (well, way nicer) in terms of user profile. Love motels are much easier to come by than a backpacker-type hostel and a lot cheaper (bunk bed rates start around $20 per person, whereas we never paid more than $30 for a private room in a love motel). It wasn’t as cheap as options in Southeast Asia, but for all the amenities, including K-pop TV, we were thrilled.

There’s Gold In Them Hills! And Also Dead Guys – Gyeongju, Korea

Gyeongju was a real highlight of our stay in Korea and it’s got to be at the top of the short list of major attractions in the whole country. It is the historical capital of the Shilla kingdom, which ruled much of the Korean peninsula for several centuries. The iconic hills in the center of town are actually tombs housing the remains of Shilla royalty and there is a fantastic museum that exposes an excavation of one of the tombs. Despite the fact that the whole town seems to be a giant historical sight (there has been documented human settlement here since prehistoric times), the town is lively and full of university students, young English teachers, and tourists of all types. It was also the site of the poshest love motel stay we had on the whole trip.

We stayed several days in Gyeongju- the longest we spent in any one place during our entire stay in Korea- and could have spent even more time exploring the surrounding towns and countryside. We rented bikes to tool around for the first two days, then submitted to public transit to get us to the famous temple just outside of town, the Bulguksa Temple. Bulguksa is widely considered one of the most beautiful and important temples in Korea, along with the Seokguram Grotto, which lies about 4km away. We thought it was just okay. Haeinsa was much more impressive to us, perhaps because the smaller size made it feel more intimate. We were so bored by Bulguksa that we decided to skip the long bus ride and hike up to Seokguram Grotto and just get back to the comforts of our love motel. I feel guilty writing that after the fact, but it is a reality of long-term travel that you get kind of apathetic at certain points. We were equally apathetic about the local specialty-Gyeongju ppang- which are mini barley pancakes made into sandwiches with sweet red bean paste inside. We were able to work up some enthusiasm for the enormous ssamspread that we had for lunch on the second day: not our best meal, but one of our biggest and after all our biking around, we were satisfied by quantity over quality.