11 May 2016
Busan (South Korea) – 28 + 34kms = 62k kms travelled
F – i – n – a – l – l – y it happened to me and I just can ride it (Gloria Gayner ;-)….. I am sitting on the bike again, feeling a tad apprehensive tackling Busan rush-hour traffic having to ride ~ 32 kms to get back to my Hostel.
But first things – first.
A day ago I went to my appointment with Customs. The very helpful Customs Officer and I had agreed that we travel together to Gamman Pier, where the ship had berthed. He would inspect the bike and issue a ‘Temporary Import Certificate’. That was great, cause I only vaguely knew where Gamman Pier was, and with a nicely-uniformed official by my side, I shall be home & hosed …
Well, the best laid plans …. The nice Customs Officer told me now that the container, in which my bike was loaded, had been shipped this morning to the Bond store in Yangsen.
I smiled, but inside many 4-letter expletives and some table thumbing took place. In Asia it is considered rude to get/or show being annoyed or angry. Guess that applies world-wide. However, sitting vis-à-vis a Customs Official who can wield anything he likes .. well, I’d say I am in a weak position to express my emotions freely. But bugger!, now I would have to pay transport and storage, before getting the bike out 😦 .
On the brighter side the Customs Officer decided that my bike did not require a customs inspection – must be my honest face…. or did he want to soften me up for more ? It may have had to do with the rain outside and rather wanting to remain in a warm, cosy office?? Well, it was the softening-up bit, as now I had to pay insurance and a safety deposit. The latter wasn’t a real deposit, as them – you usually get back. Nada in this instance. “Motorbike riding in Korea is dangerous” he told me “ .. and very expensive” I added.
Well almost $A 200 later I walked out with my certificate, a big yellow sticker showing that I am legit to travel with this bike in SK. The very nice Customs Officer – he’ll be not on my Christmas list though – had rung the bond company and I spoke to a young woman with really good English. We arranged for me to pick up the bike tomorrow after lunch and she’d emailed me the address details.
So she did :-). Moreover she also send another email saying that she had managed to waive the transport and o/night storage fee. My lucky day after all??
Next day, so that is Wednesday, I hop on the metro to travel almost 30 stations to Yangsen, all the way Line 2.
It gives you an idea how far out north from Busan it was. I was equipped with a map, yes again from the very nice Customs Official, of where to alight the train and do a “10 mins walk to the Bond store” thingo.
Hah ha ha! Is this India, where everybody answers ‘Yes” to any question?!? I did alight but found myself on the other side of the freeway. My maps me showed the only way to get across other than fly, were two looong ways to get to where I needed to go. No Taxi in sight.
So, off I go to my long walk to bike 😉
Almost one hour later I finally arrive. Having asked several people for directions, in the end I approached a security man in his booth. He dropped his tools (he was fixing a picture) and ask me to hop into his tiny security car. Off we went. He would drive me to the spot. The problem was he didn’t really know where it was either ( I did show him the address as received in the email). But at this stage nothing mattered, as now I was in Karma stage: whatever happened was good anyways – no worries whatsoever – go with the flow.
A few telephone calls later we did indeed arrive, at the right spot, about 500mtrs away from his booth. It was 12.45 – so just in time. I was sincerely grateful for the effort this stranger went through to help me and Thanked him profusely.
The Bond store girls didn’t speak any English, so instead we shared some laughter about whatever. Soon a male colleague arrived, he spoke English. He told me that everybody was at lunch and I had to wait one hour. Expletives, still suppressed, but only just. So I decided to behaved a little agitated – just to show my displeasure a tiny bit. I enquired where my box might be. We peeked out of the window and –voila – there it was, just besides the
building. Excitement! I raced downstairs and showed’em my name on the box to proof “this is it!” Give it to me!! Now!!! – all in pantomime. I brought out the knife and stabbed each of them several times – here you have it – you bastards!
… no, I didn’t … but I used my knife to cut through the wrap of the box. And guess what, the box was damaged! Karma, breath in – hold – breathe out – repeat.
I took these photos just in case of having a case and started to unpack. “NO, No, no!” they all shouted. I had to wait – one hour! Customs needed to issues some other certificate … One must love their little souls. Give anybody some authority, especially in government or semi-government and they happily exercise the shit out of it!
Nah, I didn’t accept this. So I called the young, good-English spoken lady and explained. She in turn called the warehouse staff and things started to move!
Indeed the staff helped me to re-assemble the bike, well one did. He even organised a forklift, so it was easier to fit the front wheel – all others watched, in a ‘supportive’ way. In just over one hour I had it all together – all reassembled. I typed my destination into the maps.me app, connected the iPhone into its handlebar cradle (QuadLock is the name of this product, very good! – google it), plugged the power cord into my accessory plug and THAT was when I was sitting on the bike feeling apprehensive.
I know, I know. I have driven in busy traffic many time in Melbourne. Also often enough with a fully loaded bike. But here in Yangsen heading to Busan things were different: bikes are NOT allowed on the freeway, I had to use local roads. the distance showed 32 kms and some ridiculous 45 mins travel time – hahaha. Only if I am the Korean version of Rossi, and even then it would be difficult. remember, this is right-hand traffic, which again is in my DNA having lived in German for –still- most of my life. But the signage is different: lost of Korean and occasionally something smaller in English …
Off I took.
Initially it was difficult to get out of Yangsen. Lots of traffic, not sure where I was going, new to the maps.me navigation … but eventually, having stopped a few times to re-orientate myself I managed to head towards Busan. Got as high as 80kmh. Hitting Busan, the traffic got even more dense. I had all available lights on and blinking, so I couldn’t be missed as a foreigner by anyone! That worked – I wasn’t hit, neither hit anybody else. But I got lost another 232 times and ultimately, in the traffic, sidled up besides a t-Max rider and ask him directions. He didn’t speak English, but he understood. So the brotherhood of motorcyclist must include scooter riders!! From now on for me that’s a fact. He streamed off, showing me the speed of his mount. I streamed after him – no worries mate. After some fast streaming, past Police and everything else, he stopped and pointed me into the right direction. The navi showed still 7.3 kms to go.
I made it to the accommodation in one piece, felt almost in Pope-mood wanting to kiss the ground and was RELIEVED to have arrived in one piece and in daylight.
Celebration! The ride had re-commenced. and this through some challenging traffic. From now on my approach will be to leave big cities very early in the morning to stand a chance for less traffic … So I went and shouted myself a Weihenstephan Dark Wheat Beer from the tap in the original glass, overlooking Gwangali beach.
Der liebe Gott war wieder ein guter Mann !!
Tomorrow I shall spent the day to re-pack, check oils, air and stuff, so I am ready to leave Busan Friday morning heading towards Donghae on SK’s east-coast. There the ferry to Vladivostok will leave – a 22hrs trip (not overnight as I was told).
I’ve already booked a cheap hostel in Vlad – Russia here I come!!
To round up South Korea here are some more pix/impressions I like to share:
The metro in Busan is very easy to use even if one is a foreigner. The system is well-oiled, the rolling-stock perhaps a little dated, but absolutely reliable. Trains arrive in 6 min intervals anytime, any day. Usually I am the only foreigner in sight, so even in a packed carriage, I have a light-tower look over everything. A few people approached me and asked questions. They usually speak English very well. It’s nice to be accosted and somebody shows interest.
I noticed older people on the train look always rather dapperly dressed. They have small frames, I haven’t seen a porky old one yet, they are clean and even fashionable attired. Leisure wear is the go. I’d say 90% of the middle- to old-aged people wear it. They just look like an older Bear grills version. Northface garments take the cake. Northface must do a roving business here, I cannot miss seeing this logo all the time on almost everybody. These people are colour label-coordinated and almost all wear runners or sporty walking shoes. The younger generation is a tad taller, perhaps a bit more flappy and all – no exclusion – have their head into their smartphone – Samsung reigns – not Apple.