For anyone needing a rest from Seoul, the Yangpyeong area of Gyeongi-do offers lots of things to do from making kimchi to climbing up mountains. But the area also has some fantastic cycling opportunities. It’s an easy day trip from Seoul and with bicycles for hire at the local stations it’s a must-do activity at this time of year. Actually if you are really hardcore you can cycle all the way down Korea along the bike path from Incheon to Busan in the south. But that must take several weeks surely 😕 So we opted for a more sedate two-hour tootle along an old rail track which has now been converted into a very nice bike path totally away from cars. We took the train to Ungilsan, just over an hour away on the Jungang line from Yongsan station in Seoul.
While we were waiting at Yongsan Station, this adorable (and enticingly empty) train pulled in. Unfortunately it was only passing through and we couldn’t get on it. Our train was not as cute or empty. At this time of year it’s a good idea to set off early for any trips out of Seoul. We caught the 8:37 am train but the platform was already FULL of mountain clad adjummas and adjoshis. And needless to say there were no seats on the train. So be prepared to stand.
At Ungilsan station there are two major options for outdoor pursuits. You can go up the Ungil mountain or you can go for a cycle along the the bike path. The area has a lot of farms too and apparently they offer some farming experiences such as making tofu or rice cakes. For cyclists there are rent-a-bike shops in the stations in this area. We paid 10,000 won each to rent our bikes for 4 hours. Or you can pay less just for two hours or 20,000 for the day.
The bikes for hire are mostly these kind of hybrid bikes with enough gears to get you around the course in reasonable comfort. Then there are tandems for the ‘romantic experience’. (we’re not romantic and I don’t want to fight over who’s going to sit on the back of the tandem 😕 ) Then there’s the ladies’ utility bike option (the granny shopping bike with the high handle bars and a basket on the front). We went for option 1. The helpful bloke on the desk will pump up your tyres and check that everything is in working order before you set off.
The bicycle road starts off along the Hangang River which is very close to the station. (Come out and turn left). There is a mix of your hardcore cyclists who have all the right gear and fly past everyone along the road, and then there are your Sunday afternoon cyclists – like us.
To get onto of the railroad bike path we had an exhilarating ride across a long bridge over the North Han River.
Then we stopped to eat our kimbap in a rest area. OK so we had only been cycling for about 10 minutes by this point but a girl’s got to eat. And we hadn’t had any breakfast. 😉 It’s a picturesque path and refreshing to be so near the mountains and away from cars. And there are lots of toilets and places to grab something to eat or drink on the way.
In some areas, parts of the old railway lines have been left as a reminder of times past.
There are several tunnels along the way too. I’ve never been through a tunnel that was just for bicycles before! By 11 am it was getting quite hot so the cool, dark tunnel was a refreshing change. There were a few walkers out and about too as there are three lanes on the bike path – two for bikes and one for walkers. But with all the cyclists flying by I can’t imagine this being a particularly relaxing walk!
The maps like this one of the Namhangang (River) cycle path are only in Korean …
The path sometimes runs parallel to railway lines or other traffic.
It was tempting to just keep on going along the path as it was so charming, but since we had only rented our bikes we had to take them back to the same place at the station. So eventually with regret we turned back.
This was the first time for me to ride a bike in Korea! And the trip really made me start thinking seriously about buying a decent bike since there are so many bike paths here now. It’s a shame not to use them! Read more about cycling in Korea here.
When it comes to food around the station, there’s not a huge amount of choice. There are eel farms in the area so many restaurants specialise in grilled eel. And there are also a few magkeoli and jeon (savoury pancake) restaurants at the entrance to ungilsan (mountain) aimed at groups of hikers. We didn’t feel like jeon and Mr Kim isn’t keen on eel, so we ended up in an ok noodle shop just around the corner from the station. After returning our bikes, we got on another packed train around 2:30 pm back to Seoul. A brief but fun trip out of the city.