Angela and I just spent the week bicycling around the South Korean island of Jeju. This was our first self-supported bike trip in which we carried all of our luggage on the back on the bike. Jeju was the perfect location to do this for the first time as it is really well set-up for biking, and navigation was mostly simple. There are some things we would definitely do differently, so make sure to read that part if you are considering this trip yourself. Overall though, it was a fantastic trip.
Day 1 – Jeju to Hallim
Distance: 30.3 km
We started our first day by finding Mr. Lee’s Bike Shop. They were really friendly and helpful at Mr. Lee’s bike shop, but they made us leave one passport behind as collateral for the bicycles. I didn’t have any problems with checking into our accommodations and being without a passport, but I am not sure what would have happened if they had asked for mine. I also can’t recommend Mr. Lee’s bike shop too highly because their bikes were a little rugged, and they only had six. I think there may be bicycle rental shops around Jeju that specialize a little more, as we soon discovered that Mr. Lee’s was mainly for scooters and motorbikes. It was only about $100 to rent a bicycle for seven days.
All of the bikes did have racks, so we were able to bungee our bags onto them. The place only had two bungees of their own, but luckily Angela and I brought a whole bunch for everyone to use. We would have been in a little bit of trouble had we not thought to bring them.
It was raining on our first day, but we were ready for that.
We stayed mostly on the coast as soon as we were able. For this stretch of the trip, the coastal road was also one of the main roads, so we covered a lot of ground pretty quickly. This lulled us into a false sense of leisure, as we would soon find out that the coastal roads can add a lot of distance when it is different than the main road. We were able to use a portable wifi device that we had rented to find our way with our phone maps.
After a fairly easy first day of riding, we decided to stop at Aewol Gwakji Gwamul Beach. Our friend Justen did a great job of finding some cool things to see along the way, so he knew that the beach was near our first night’s accommodation. Since we made good time, we decided to stop and check it out.
We had pretty mediocre beers at a little cafe, and then decided to buy some soju and hang out on the beach instead.
As you can tell, it was pretty overcast our first day biking in Jeju. We arrived to our Air BnB near Hallim
We ended our first evening with a delicious Korean barbeque dinner. The restaurant owner was very kind, and helped us cook some of our meat. He even gave us a few things to try for free. We stayed up a little too late and ended up having a little too much soju.
Day 2 – Hallim to Daepyeong
Distance: 52.5 km
Our second day was a little challenging. We slept in, figuring that the distance would be similar to the first day. However, we calculated the distance via the major roads, but we ended up staying on the coastal road, which ended up adding a lot of distance. It was beautiful, but enough longer and windier than we predicted that we all ended up a little demoralized by the end of the day.
We road onto the coastal road immediately, and found a great little food truck, and right next to it a coffee truck. Part of the reason that this day ended up being longer may have had something to do with the amount of stopping that we did in the beginning.
A few more miles down the road was a beach, so we had to stop there and check it out.
Once we road out into the countryside, we found the ‘natural cactus habitat’ that apparently is flourishing in Jeju
The coastal road eventually meandered as close to the ocean as it possible could, where there were long rows of wind turbines.
I have never been so close to a wind generator, and didn’t realize that they were actually pretty loud.
Around lunchtime, we stopped in a little coastal village where local female divers were drying their catch of squid. There is a strong tradition of female Korean divers in Jeju that still continues today.
We found this day to be a lot longer than expected. Our mileage was figured by using the main roads. The main road deviated a long way from the coast, so we decided to take the coastal road instead which was beautiful. It also almost doubled our expected mileage, and caused a little demoralization in the biking troops. If we had known better, we may have split up our route differently to still allow for the coastal road, but to make the days a little shorter. Towards the end of the ride, we found the famous Jeju Sex Museum, but we were too tired to stop. It was also located in the middle of a big hill, which didn’t help. Angela did decide to stop on the hill to get the photo, though.
We arrived completely exhausted to our hostel in Daepyeong. It was extremely remote, but luckily there was a Korean fried chicken and beer restaurant just a five minute walk away. We were asleep by 9:00 PM.
Day 3 – Daepyeong to Seogwipo
Distance: 22.5 km
Due to the difficulty of the previous day, we decided to take the main road most of the day to cut down on miles.We thought we would cut off towards the coast near the end of the day, but finish most of our miles on a straight road. This made the day easier, but there was not much to see on the main road. Jeju is surprisingly industrial, so I would recommend always sticking to the coastal road when possible. We had no pictures to share as this day was pretty boring when it came to riding the bicycles.
We arrived to our hotel, the KAL Hotel, and enjoyed the 70’s style design. The hotel was very nice, but very dated in a hilarious way.
The views from the rooms were stunning, though.
We headed into the town of Seogwipo to look for some fun, since we had finished so early. We found a new bar called ‘Jerry’s’. They immediately turned us away, because they were apparently not yet open for business. On our way out, they chased after us and told us we could come in if we wanted. I think we drank all of the few beers that actually had in stock, and we ate homemade gimpop. They were celebrating the opening of the bar with close friends and family, but decided making some money on their very first customers would be OK, too.
After Jerry’s, we headed to Jeongbang Waterfall. This is a famous waterfall in Jeju, because you can actually swim in the water under the falls. Some of our group took advantage of this, but they were the only ones from the large group of onlookers.
We found a local place that served duruchigi for dinner, which is a popular Korean dish.
Day 4 – Seogwipo to Seongeup Folk Village
Distance: 35.7 km
This was an interesting day. We did manage to stay on the coast for a majority of the ride, but we also knew that there was a typhoon coming through the area later that evening. It was a little rainy, and because of our fear of getting caught in inclement weather, we went pretty quickly. Our map to the folk village was not quite accurate, so we ended up in the capital of the district before realizing we were not very near our accommodations. We had to bike several miles inland from the coast – you can see the moment we realized where we actually had to go on the map. Luckily, we did not go out of the way. We were also nervous because our Air BnB was supposedly a thatched roof cottage in the folk village, and we were nervous about how that might hold up in a typhoon. Luckily we arrived before the inclement weather.
Our host came over and welcomed us, and then invited us to eat at his family restaurant. The folk village receives a lot of tour groups, and his restaurant is set up to feed large groups of tourists every day. It is not pretty to look at, but the food was delicious. They specialized in all-you-can-eat bulgogi, a traditional Korean dish. Our host, ‘Bonggi’, told us that they sometimes fed up to 1,000 guests during lunch. After lunch, Bonggi delivered more bulgogi for us to make at the cottage for dinner. He even made the rice for us, so we didn’t mess it up!
We knew that the typhoon would last well into the next morning, and our next day was only 8 miles. Because of this, we decided to stay up a little too late and enjoy some soju with our kind host, Bonggi, who decided to stop by and hang out with us.
We did not sleep much afterwards, because the winds picked up to around 80 mph. It was extremely noisy in our cottage, but we were safe.
Day 5 – Seongeup Folk Village to Seongsan
Distance: 13.6 km
We woke up to some serious damage done to the thatched roof.
We had a slow start, but eventually hit the road after the rain stopped.
Our next Air BnB was near the ocean again, so thanks to the elevation of the folk village, we coasted almost the entire 8 miles to our next stop. I might have pedaled 10 total rotations during the entire day. It was the best day ever.
We arrived in very good time, and had to negotiate a little with our Air BnB host as we discovered the water was out due to the typhoon. His wife was not too kind about letting us cancel the booking, so we ended up having to stay. Luckily, the water came back on. We went to the coast and explored a famous Jeju sight: Sunrise Peak.
Angela and I were too tired to hike up to Sunrise Peak, but the rest of our crew did while we went back and rested. We took it pretty easy after cooking spaghetti in our Air BnB since we had stayed up too late the previous night.
Day 6 – Seongsan to Hamdoek Beach
Distance: 38.1 km
This was one of the most enjoyable days of bike riding. We were able to stay along the coast the entire day without adding too much mileage. We began our day with a quick map check at a coffee shop overlooking the ocean.
We had beautiful views for the entire ride up to Hamdoek Beach, and enjoyed a few breaks with a view.
There were also a few food trucks and unique roadside snacks along the Northeast edge of the island, more so than we found anywhere else along the coast.
Instead of staying in a boring hotel or Air BnB, we decided to book a trailer for our night near Hamdoek Beach. There was a real hotel right next door that owned several camper trailers, for some strange reason. We appeared to be the only guests enjoying the trailers.
We enjoyed the actual beach for a while, and then ate dinner in the area near the beach.
Day 7 – Hamdoek Beach to Jeju City
Distance: 25.9 km
It rained for the entirety of our last day of biking. We did not stop very much because it was not so pleasant, and we were all getting fairly worn out. We pushed pretty hard to get to Jeju City, and our first stop was the bicycle rental store before checking into our hotel.
Overall, for first time unsupported bicycle riders, Jeju was a good fit. We learned a lot, and we enjoyed the trip. We pre-booked all of our accommodations, which may be a good idea in peak season, but we did not visit during a popular time. It would have been easy for us to find places to stay every day without prior booking, with the exception of the Air BnB locations. Doing so would have allowed us to have a little more control over how far we wanted to go each day, which may be a better way to do it given that some of our days ended up being extremely easy, and some days were quite long.
In case you are interested, the items we packed for this trip are below:
1 bike jersey
2 pairs of bike shorts
1 rain jacket
1 pair or shorts
1 pair of shoes
pass the pigs
multi-purpose bike tool (taken away at airport…)
bungee chords for our bags
waterproof backpack cover
For a whole week, we did not bring very much stuff. This resulted in having to do a little bit of sink laundry every day, and take advantage of the washing machines when we found them. There were never dryers available. It was a little bit of a hassle, but the result was a small backpack that was extremely easy to bungee onto the bike rack.
Things I might do differently:
If I did this trip again, I would be very careful to calculate the mileage based on the coastal road. It is a little tricky to do this on Googlemaps, but using much patience it was possible. Also, I might consider doing it over more days. Even one extra day would have resulted in much easier days overall. However, if you are a hardcore biker, you could easily do fewer days. I have heard that some people even complete the entire island in one or two long days. That kind of riding isn’t for us, though. Also, if we had waited to find our accommodations until we decided we were ready to stop biking, we may have been able to split the days up into more equal chunks. We also would have likely missed out on some of our more enjoyable experiences, though. Lastly, I would shop around a little more for a bicycle rental shop that maybe specialized a little more than the shop we chose did.