Thursday, June 20, 2013

Biking Ganghwado

Crane in a rice paddy, a common sight on Ganghwado

Ganghwado is an island just off the coast of the west coast of Korea. It's also chuck full of things to see, from fortresses, temples, museums, tombs, a pre-historic site, and the DMZ. It's not a small area to cover, and sites are spread out, but we did our best to maximize our time on a one-day bike trip around the island.

The story actually begins at about 7pm the night before. We were debating when and how to get there and though we originally planned to throw our bikes in the car and drive the night before, after examining some maps on the smartphone, we (and by we, I mean Sanghyun) decided that it would be quite feasable to ride our bikes there, as long as we left right at that moment. So, already dusk, we hopped on our bikes, fortunately we're fairly well rigged up with blinking lights on the back and flash lights on the front, and made our way to Seoul Station to hop on the AREX train to Geomam station.

Once at Geomam station, we followed the Ara Waterway to the last bridge which crosses the canal. I was worried about crossing the bridge at night, but I was pleasantly surprised to find everything connected by bike path. We crossed the bridge and followed the path north. Luckily, the bike path was well paved and well lit, because it was now after 9pm.

The well paved bike path continued until the city limits of Incheon. As soon as we crossed into the city of Gimpo, the bike paths dissapeared (also helped by the fact that there is a military base which comes right up to the edge of the road as well. Here was the scary part. Intermitant street lights and no sidewalks or bike paths on a narrow two lane road at 10pm. I have a flashlight on my bike, but I realized quickly that it was way too weak. Fortunately Sanghyun's was extra strong and shone brightly enough for me to see most of the potholes before I hit them. Again, fortunately, there aren't many cars on the road at this time at night, but I was very worried about people speeding or drunk driving at that time of night on a lonley country road. Thankfully we made it to the other end and we stopped at the first motel we found along the road, which was probably only 3km but felt like 20km from the end of the bike path.

We asked at the 7/11 out front whether it would be better to stop here at the motel or continue a little more to the island, but the clerk reminded us that motels on the island were significanlty more expencive than on the mainland. So, not really wanting to be on the road anymore, plus not wanting to spend any more money than necessary, we stopped at the first love motel called 프리존 ('Free-Zone', I thought it was 'Prison') and got our room for 35,000 for the night. We could have splurged and gotten a room for 45,000 at the 'hotel' down the road, but personally I don't see much difference.

Crossing the bridge to Ganghwado 

We got a late start due to getting in so late the night before, but we woke up and headed out. It wasn't too far to the bridge to get to Ganghwado, though sidewalks were rough and the streets were full of traffic, sometimes hard to pass. Once we got to the bridge we were traffic-free thanks to this handy bike/walking path along the bridge.

View as you arrive on Ganghwado

As soon as we got to the Ganghwado side, we found ourselves on this fantastic bike path. Separated from cars by a curb and well paved and well marked.

The biggest fortress we found

If you turn right after entering you'll quickly stumble upon the first of many fortresses. I recommend shelling out the big bucks ( I forget, but I think it was less than 2,000 won) for a pass to five fortresses. You probably won't want to visit all 5, but if you visit two or three, it will still save you money in the end. As you continue north you will continue to pass fortress after fortress, so you might be glad for buying that 5 fortress pass.

Typical road on Ganghwado

After visiting three fortresses, we decided to make our way to the DMZ at the northernmost tip of the island. To get there, you need to follow the signs for the 강화평화전망대 (Ganghwa Peace Observatory). Be aware that most of the signs pointing here are not in English, so it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention!

Just checking the map... 

Heading up to the DMZ and observatory there were bike paths for at least 50% of the ride, but even when there weren't bike paths, we never felt in danger. Dispite being a holiday and all the traffic we saw before getting onto the island, up here there were very few cars at all (as you can see on the road behind us in the photos).

This is about as close as we were able to get to the DMZ

Unfortunately, upon reaching the DMZ, we were not allowed to enter because we were on bike. Apparently, according to the guard, bikes and motorcycles are not allowed into the DMZ. The soldier suggested that we take the bus, but when we asked when it passed by, he said 'not often', so we gave up and instead decided to find the famous pre-historic dolmen.

Pre-historic Dolmen

A dolmen is apparently a pre-historic style tomb, and this one on Ganghwa is the most famous in Korea. Probably because it's pretty huge. There were no bike paths getting here either, but we took back roads and there were very few cars, and most of them were driving slowly as they were probably lost tourists.

Bike path back to Incheon

Finally, it was time to say good-bye to Ganghwa, though there is still so much left unseen. That just means, though, that we have a good excuse to come back again! So long for now Ganghwado!

Waiting for the train home at Geomam Station


  1. I love biking, but I don't think I'll be able to keep up with you guys O_o

  2. hehe... there are plenty of places to go leisure biking too!!