Oman green update

It’s been six months! I can hardly believe it, but it’s a year since I left Korea, six months since I arrived in my latest home, and about two months since the heat began to ease off enough to allow for exploration. And the first thing I needed to explore, quite desperately, was a recycling centre.

Yes, since my last post about keeping carbon-footprint conscious in Oman, progress has been slow, but significant. Happily, this is not only true for me personally but also in wider society, where energy conservation is being nurtured. As the oil price slump continues and Oman seeks to diversify, belts are being tightened, expats are flooding home, and the answer to a number of problems is decidedly Green. More

Three Things Thursday; Nguyen tombs of Hue

I’m reading northern blogs hinting at the signs of the end of the summer and the first signs of autumn with hopeful anticipation. Temperatures have teasingly dropped a little here at the south east corner of the Arabian peninsula, but the ferocious summer shows few signs of letting up just yet. So while I wait for a glorious winter to roll on in and allow me to showcase the best of Oman, I’m reaching back to the archives again for this month’s Three Things in order to share Three Nguyen Tombs…

…you can reach under your own steam in Hue, Vietnam. More

Three Things Thursday; places to see in Da Lat

I recently got to spend an unexpected bonus six weeks travelling around Vietnam – o happy days – so this month I share with you three lovely places…

Da Lat market

Da Lat market

…you can visit in Da Lat, southern Vietnam.

The name Da Lat may ring unhappy bells for news followers. Several days after I was there in February the town hit international headlines for all the wrong reasons when a group of adventure-seekers encountered tragedy at a waterfall. This mountain idyll is a feature on the backpacker circuit of Vietnam because of its adventure sports opportunities, which include waterfall treks, zip lining and biking. Its mountain climate also makes it an attractive getaway for those based in HCMC, following in a long tradition set by the colonial French, who built their summer house getaways there.

Ensconced in the hilly Lam Dong province at 1500 metres, Da Lat is an 8 hour bus ride or one hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City. I picked up a $20 flight with JetStar, having read scare stories online about the bus journey. I later discovered that the people writing the scare stories were probably just unlucky as the bus journey is fine. Not being much of a one for adventure sports, I stuck to pootling around by rented pushbike, and found the town had plenty of more sedate sights to offer.

Thing 1 ~ the Crazy House More

Three Things Thursday

It’s less than a fortnight until I depart Korea and my wonderful home in Seoul for good, so this month I present for you my Top Three Things…

…to get up to in Korea.

Thing 1 ~ cross country cycling

I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of amazing holidays in the last few years, but my cross-country bikeride from Seoul to Busan in June this year was one of my favourite holidays ever. I finally completed the Seoul to Ara Hangang West Sea Lock just last weekend when, after days of frustrating packing and paperwork preparing for the move, we decided to blow off some steam by jumping on the bikes for the 40km ride west towards Incheon and the beginning / end of the full 4 Rivers trail. It gave a nice sense of closure both to our summer adventure and to the wonderful and incredibly active life we’ve enjoyed for our two years here.

The full, day-by-day account of my June bike-venture has all the gory details, which I won’t go into again here. Suffice to say that everyone I have read about or spoken to who has tackled this momentous journey concurs – it is one of the greatest adventures they’ve ever had, inside or outside of Korea. And I think there are several good reasons why, many of which are reasons I’ll really miss this place when I leave.

Firstly, a reason many Koreans give when describing why they’d never move to another country on a permanent basis: More

Busan or Bust: epilogue

Or, “Things my bike has taught me.”

In which I reflect on beginners’ lessons about bikes and parts, packing for a cycling trip and how to cycle long distances comfortably, and also include links to all the useful information that helped me along the way.

On the way in Hangang park

On the way in Hangang park

About parts and packing:
More

Busan or Bust: Days 6 and 7 ~ setbacks, surprises and the End of the Road

In which my body is falling apart, the bikes are falling apart, but we finally make it to Busan and THE BEACH

Day 6 ~ 남지 to 양산 (Namji to Yangsan) 70km

Day 7 ~ 양산 to 해운대, 부산 (Yangsan to Haeundae beach, Busan) 40km

You can also navigate from Yangsan to Busan Seomyeon station using Jan Boonstra‘s live Google Map.

The end of the trail

The end of the trail

The story so far
Day 6 started in high spirits with a lie-in until 8am and fine weather. We trotted merrily down to pack up the bikes in the parking garage below our motel and disaster struck. Wonderboy’s valve blew, and I discovered that, despite meticulous bike parts planning, I had neglected to pack, or even acquire, a spanner.
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Busan or Bust: Day 5 ~ ‘will I make it out of this alive’ day

In which I discover trick hills and trick trail signs and am aided by a longed-for tailwind

Day 5 ~ 대구 to 남지 (Daegu to Namji) around 100km

4Rivers guide here.

The story so far

It was great to be back on the road after our day off in Daegu. Prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best, I strapped on newly purchased ankle supports, lowered the bike seat a little further, and hit the road.

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Busan or Bust: Day 4 ~ ‘break’ day

In which I am plagued by a day-long headwind, dodgy ankles and knees and ridiculous humidity

Day 4 ~ Sang-ju to Daegu (outskirts) 110km

4Rivers Nakdong river trail guide here.

The story so far

I awoke and showered and quickly realised that the general pinkness of yesterday was not, as I had feared, sunburn, but a heat rash which, at this point at the end of the day, has not only worsened but spread from my pink and splotchy burning arms to my splotchy-and-starting-to-itch-ferociously legs. This was the first of numerous irritations which were to make Day 4 the Break day after the highs of yesterday.

Nevertheless, the morning got off to another upbeat start. It had rained more overnight and the air was fresh and cool, the ground drying. I was on the road again by 8:15. Thankfully, I hadn’t lost much ground through the big detour into the city as I was able to take a different route out to a point further along the trail. Being a geek, I insisted on backtracking 3km to Sangju weir to collect the next Stamp in my homemade bike passport, but Wonderboy gamely went along with it, and we were still making good time and feeling great.

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Lush landscapes

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Busan or Bust: Day 3 ~ ‘make’ day

In which I conquer Ihwaryang pass and escape a rainstorm in the nick of time

Day 3 ~ 수안보 to 상주시 (Suanbo to Sangju) 80km

4Rivers guide here.

Day 3

Day 3

The story so far

I started today’s ride with a photo before we set off from the lacklustre Motel Gloria in Suanbo, convinced from other blogs I’d read that today, hill climb day, could be the ‘break’ day for my legs and my suffering bike. Instead, it has definitely been the ‘make’ day, in which I have discovered that I was, in fact, born to bike, and should immediately quit any other line of work and spend the rest of my life on epic cycle trails around the globe.
More

Busan or Bust: Day 2 ~ It Is Closed on Mondays.

In which disaster strikes twice but doesn’t hinder distance.

Day 2 ~ 여주시 to 수안보 map (Yeoju to Suanbo) 91km

4Rivers guide here. Scroll to the bottom right of the page to download a PDF copy of the map. Korean only, I’m afraid, but y’know – maps is maps.

Map (c) 2009-2014 by Map Pedometer. 4Rivers guide (c) Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Day 2 (courtesy 4Rivers)

Day 2 (courtesy 4Rivers)

The story so far

I slept the sleep of the dead after my first day’s riding and awoke totally disoriented on finding myself in a hotel room. Having read on Couch on Wheels’ account of the trip that the tomb of the Number 1 Korean historical figure King Sejong the Great is located here, I felt I must visit it. Wonderboy felt no such compunction, so I agreed to get up early and go before we hit the road.

It Is Closed on Mondays

It Is Closed on Mondays

I’d obviously assumed that this would be a public memorial site that I could wander up to. In fact it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage site, fully ticketed, walled and gated. Such a site was obviously not open at 7am, and as with attractions the world over, it is not open at all on Mondays. More

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