▲ English teacher Darren Southcott can frequently exploring Jeju’s highways and byways by bike. photo by Brian Miller
You never get lost on the coastal road and you always end up where you started if you go for long enough. There are positives and negatives to that and it is well worth searching out each little nook and cranny to find a favorite spot.
The best way to do this is often to take an afternoon trip on a bike, rather than go on a tour. There are many advantages to this approach, not least of which it is much easier on the limbs!
Coming out of Jeju-si there are two options, east or west on the 1132. West takes you towards the great beaches of Hamdeok and Kimnyeong, on to Seongsan Ilchulbong, and west goes round to Hallim and the beaches at Hyeopchae and Gwakji. Aewol is also eastward of the city and often passed by Hyeopchae-bound beach-goers, but it deserves a visit of its own.
The coastal road initially provides little enthusiasm for the ride, as Oedo, the first post-city town, is somewhat anonymous other than a delightful sea water sauna, which is duly noted for the return leg. The large cycle-laneless dual carriage way is not inspiring either, so when the opportunity arises at Hagwi to skirt the sea away from the traffic it should be taken.
Here riders can get down to the sea breeze and speed that little bit more relaxed, with tractors replacing buses as the main threats to health. Fun moments are also around the corner as the coastal road, complete with emergency vehicle lane, leads into a cul-de-sac! This is where rudimentary Korean comes in handy as a local farmer is sure to direct you back on track.
A forced repatriation with the 1132 is short-lived and just as Shineom-ri nears riders can begin to feel the freedom of the roads that bit more. The coast becomes cliffy and less predictable, forcing the ride to weave in and out and up and down. The views are fantastic, but the temptation to find the best panorama can take the cyclist’s eye off the road.
From here, with Hallasan directly to the south and the sea open to the north, the views are hard to beat. The windy coastal road takes riders through fields and gardens and freshwater springs with attendant shrines pop out of the rock.
With each cliff rise, the road juts out into the sea, and then on each drop it recedes again, bringing the land back into view. This variation, and the openness of the road, gives the few kilometers into Gonae-ri a real buzz and it isn’t before long you are rolling into Aewol with the harbor in sight.
▲ Former Jeju resident and English teacher Zach Clark handles some rough terrain in the hills above Jungmun. Photo by Brian Miller
The harbor and town here are pleasant enough, without setting the world alight, but as with many Jeju seaside towns, the true feel of the place comes with the food. After the long cycle it is best to settle down for some raw fish at one of the roadside restaurants. Such freshness is the order of the day after the sweltering summer ride.
On the return leg it is down to the rider to decide which route to take. There is the 1132, with the fumes and trucks, or there is the sea-skirting winding coastal road, where the biggest danger is the scenery taking your eyes off the road.
Of course, the last stop is the sauna. At Oedo, just to the sea side of the road, the sea water sauna stands beckoning. After a sweaty cycle, there is not much more deserved than a sweaty, salty scrub down by the seaside.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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