13/14 May 2016
Busan – Andong – Donghae (South Korea) – 470 kms travelled = Total 532 kms
Reflecting on the past weeks here in South Korea, I must confess it has not really grown on me ……. I know, I know, now you are thinking that I should get with it, or get in the spirit and embrace diversity .. or stuff like that.
I do! Both! … but still hasn’t grown on me (sorry Sven). Perhaps I wasn’t at the ‘right’ places or here at the ‘right’ time, possible but not probable.
I cannot quite put the finger on to it, it’s more a number of little things. Things if isolated amount to nothing, but altogether and that gut-feeling …..
The last two days I have done some solid riding, around 470kays. I’ve been on all kind of roads (the road network in Korea is nothing to complain about): Forbidden free-ways – lucky there was a small escape service-road so I did not get onto it – Verboten!!. I’ve been on autobahn-like expressways, usually two lanes in one direction, looks and feels like an (old) autobahn (as they are now4 lanes and more … well, at least in parts). Been on smaller one-lane roads still traffic going fast. I even have been on what we would call “C” roads, but only a few.
Korea is not a motorcycle-conscious country. For example on all these above-mentioned roads there are long stretches of parallel grooves. Even in tight corners! That makes riding a motorbike with knobbies ‘real fun!’ Imagine riding on these in rain. “YIELD” was the thought! Soon I figured at about 97kmh the bike reacted least unstable…. Well, I am almost certain road conditions in countries to come are much worse.
I’ve seen, spoken to, taken selfies with a few Korean motorcyclist. There are a happy bunch, then again I am sure that applies all over the world. Today a couple on BM GS 1200 and 800, or the three Harley riders who I travelled behind for quite a few kays, and who showed me the right direction to today’s destination. Yesterday the same happened with a Yamaha rider – and all ask my age!? Fuck! am I looking indeed old?? 😉
Yesterday and today car drivers are the biggest worry. Nobody ever sticks to any speed limit anywhere! Dickheads a fair few, special dickheads one each day came rather close. If there would be a red light, I would stop and punch’em on the nose. No other language will they understand – no hesitation here!
So, on a bigger bike it is a bit like me travelling in the Busan Metro: I stick out like dogs’ balls … In the metro this doesn’t really matter much, but in South Korean traffic it sure does!
Here is what I found on a South Korean website for expats – extracts but verbatim:
- In Korea, laws are sometimes viewed as goals one strives to achieve as opposed to parameters within which one must operate. This has certainly been true of traffic laws, and you will still see drivers who adhere to this philosophy.
- Traffic etiquette is often based on the ‘might is right’ philosophy, which means that buses and expensive cars regularly disregard traffic rules and even ‘bully’ smaller or less expensive cars.
- After driving for a while in Korea, one learns that, while not mean or rude, most Korean drivers are quite oblivious of others when they want to change lanes, turn, etc. Most drivers seem to feel that the space on either side of their vehicle belongs to them and to believe that there is no one behind them.
- Koreans are generally in a hurry and it shows in the driving. It is not unusual for a driver behind a car stopped at a red light or at a pedestrian crossing to toot her/his own impatiently to ‘encourage’ that car to get going regardless of pedestrians or the light.
- Pedestrian walkways are usually placed a little ways back from the light, so many drivers, in an attempt to gain a fraction of second, will run to be on the traffic light side of the walkway, even if pedestrian have started across. Buses love to do this and consequently often end up blocking part, if not all, of the pedestrian walkway.
- It is not unusual for motorcycles (read: scooters) to drive on the sidewalk as if they were on the road – sometimes more recklessly even since they are in no danger from cars. This is against the law but there is little or no enforcement of the regulation.
- Road Signs are often written in both English and Korean with the English print being a little smaller. The main problem lies in the placement of the signs – sometimes a few meters away and other times right at the junction where you need to turn off. The aggressive driving habits of bus and taxi drivers add to the problem of driving in general, but also to the challenges of figuring out the road sign and then moving into the appropriate lane.
So, that’s the lay of the land experienced word-for-word on yesterdays first ‘real’ ride from Busan to Andong and today onwards to Donghae..
Phewww, initially it was difficult, do get out of Busan. It took me more than an hour. I must have crossed ‘that’ (one and the same or several?? – dunno) river at least 5 times, but trusted in maps.me. After all it delivered me back to my accommodation after releasing the bike from the bond store. I was surprised to find myself in Yangsen again! This time travelling through in the opposite direction. Later even maps.me got confused but after going back and forwards I just abandoned it, following my instinct instead. My much better half Louise will tell you a story what happened the last time I disputed the directions with a navi ….
All but the to-be-paid freeways lead right through the middle of every city (at least the ones I went through. So extra care is required. I try to keep my cool, keep the shoulders relaxed and a bit of positive self-talk, even when cut off . The operative word-of-the-day was “Yield” …. no reason to take risks or become angry..
The bike feels a little ‘arse-heavy’ and I have to get rid of more stuff and perhaps re-pack all gear: trial and error and try again. However, when the 31ltr tank is full, the bike feels beautifully balanced.
Well, plenty of kays in front of me to find the best possible weight distribution – no worries.
Just to come back to my not warming to SK, the landscape I travelled through seem discombobulated, kind of a mix of industry, small holders farm which universally stunk of cow-shit, rubbish and smaller villages in Hanok-style houses. It almost feels like Germany in the 50-ties. Can’t quite describe it. The landscape outside the cities is green. Not an Australian green, but neither a German green. Something like the shape of the leaves and the shades of green are different. However, today – for the first time – I saw a clear blue sky. Mind you I am almost in the centre of the country.
Tomorrow I shall close off my South Korea chapter. A short trip to the ferry terminal and in the early afternoon I board off to Vladivostok. better start reading my Russian books.