Autumn cycling in South Korea

Dries Van Ransbeeck
Road to the Rising Sun
4 min readNov 18, 2019


Short yet vivid and pleasant. These are probably the best words to sum up our 2,5 weeks in South Korea, a country which can only be reached by either ferry or plane, unless you can find a way to cross North Korea. Obviously, we played it safe and took a ferry from Tianjin in China to Incheon (which is 50 km away from Seoul). Our deep-dive in Korean culture started with a one-week stay with our friends in Seoul. Then we continued our journey along the 4 rivers cycling path to Busan. Here are some of the things we’ve learnt.

Our journey in South Korea — full itinerary:

Deep dive into Korean culture with our local friends in Seoul

We hosted Layla & Peter through Warmshowers in Brussels last year and we were so happy to see them again in Seoul, where they now live. It was a week of laughter, food tasting, talking & discovering the amazing Korean culture, including its many complicated social rules and norms.

First night in Seoul: several local dishes with drinks soju and maegeolli
Sightseeing in Seoul: Gyeongbokgung Palace and the annual lantern festival
Korean food is one of a kind: we definitely gained some weight during this week
Layla & Peter teaching us the basics of Korean
Peter explained us in 1, 2, 3 how to greet someone in a formal way
Farewell dinner with Belgian mussels and Moinette (yes, Moinette!). Layla & Peter’s friends gave us yellow roses as a welcome gift to their country :)

Crossing the whole country on a cycling path

South Korea is famous among cyclists because you can cross the whole country from the northwest (Seoul) to the southeast (Busan) by riding on a 633km dedicated path: the Four Rivers Cycling Path. Following rivers and going through beautiful forests with autumn colors, the ride was stunning.

On the way, we observed tens of herons flying over the water and fishermen patiently waiting on the river bank to catch a fish. The dead autumn leaves cracked under our wheels when we passed while some other birds appeared here and there. The days were sunny but the nights rather chilly, making us dive very early into our liner and sleeping bags.

The path is, however, built completely apart from the local life and we missed the interaction with locals between Seoul and Busan. While lots of money has been invested in cycling paths for touristic purposes, regular urban cycling paths are literally non existent. Cities have been clearly built for cars: traffic is heavy— day and night. Getting into a city was, every time, a dreadful experience! The worst part was when the cycling path ended near Busan: you go from cycling on a separate path to cycling on a 3 lane speedway road in a few minutes. Not the best experience!

On the road to… the Rising Sun!

We will soon be in Japan, our last destination! We’re still pinching ourselves (gently, don’t worry) to realize how far we have come.

The boat to Japan was a bit of a surreal experience: although the ferry had a capacity of 520 passengers, we were only around 50 passengers on board. Tensions between South Korea and Japan have led South Korean citizens to boycott Japanese products and not travel to Japan.

We arrived in Fukuoka at 7:30am and prepared ourselves for our very first Sumo Tournament. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, more on this in our next blog post! Happy Cycling!



Dries Van Ransbeeck
Road to the Rising Sun

Making slow travel the new normal · Co-founder Welcome To My Garden · Former coordinator @OpenKnowledgeBE