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1987 Biking Korea

On the overnight ferry from Japan to Korea, the “Land of Morning Calm”, I decided to cycle the 500km from the southeast coast to Seoul. From whence the thought came, I know not, but once it had entered my head, I could not banish it.

I purchased a second-hand bicycle in the village of Kyongju from a man who, our transaction complete, sat back and smiled at me over his cup of tea, and said, “Your breasts are very charming”.

 

Pusan
Pusan
Pusan
Pusan
Kyongju
Kyongju

And from there set off on an adventure that lasted two weeks. Two weeks during which I heard almost no English spoken. Two weeks during which I learned to recognize enough of the Korean alphabet to tell, eventually, a coffee shop from a toilet. Two weeks during which I laboured west across the mountains and north against the wind. During which I watched a Korea on the brink of spring, blossom.

I left Kyongju on the last day of March in one of those very gentle yet insistent rains and was soon cold and soaked. I stopped in a warm coffee shop to read Stephen King and found myself conversing instead with a Buddhist monk from a nearby temple while I dried out and waited for the weather to clear. Which it obligingly did, and soon I was whizzing along between rows of tall and naked poplars. Past men preparing the fields for the planting of rice and ginseng; women washing clothes in clear and icy rivers; black goats tethered here and there and tiny cluttered villages with brightly coloured roofs; past stately old grandfathers gossiping with their cronies – all dressed in traditional baggy trousers and silk jackets in pastel pinks and greens and mauves. All with horsehair hats upon their heads and gnarled hands resting on their walking sticks.

Pulguksa temple
Pulguksa temple
Pulguksa temple
Pulguksa temple
Pulguksa temple
Pulguksa temple
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