Smoking, veges and baked beans…

Posted by on 10, Sep 2016 in 2016 - South Korea, Asia, South Korea, Tilly the Tandem

Smoking, veges and baked beans…

​Incheon to Seoul. 5 days, 87km, 135m climb

Asia is not renowned for its smoke free atmosphere so it’s been a real shock to find so little smoking here.  Many streets and all bars and restaurants are non smoking and you can’t even sit outside a bar and smoke without asking the other guests if they mind. You can’t smoke in stations or infact within 10 meters of a station and you rarely see anyone smoking walking down the street. They tend to congregate in corners, often with their backs to the passers by like naughty school boys, or drug addicts, which I suppose they are.  It’s the shape of things to come globally I suspect, or at least hope, and it’s been a huge breath of fresh air.  Mind you, you do see the odd person take off their surgical mask which they wear for the air pollution to have a ciggy…

But the city isn’t a health freaks nirvana.   If you’re vege it’s a real struggle if you want to eat Korean.  There’s plenty of Pizza, Mexican even vege restaurants but we’ve been told that many people think vege means no beef, so pork is OK and fish is definitely vegetarian! So the next few weeks may be a real challenge for us.

But not to worry, after reading that they are not keen on dairy produce we’ve found plenty of milk , a fair amount of cheese and some Cheddar too. And there are loads of Paris Bakery’s all over the place serving lots of breads and croissants for us to fall back on and we’ve found Heinz Baked Beans!  No danger of Jon starving then. 

But we have tried the local dishes;  spicy noodles which we’d call super spicy with an extra dash of spice; a traditional afternoon tea with a sausage shaped rice baton covered in nuts and gooey sauce; a local beer OB Premier, the first beer I’ve actually liked and the turd emoji from What’s app which turned out to be a pancake with chocolate in it.

The cycling so far has been easy, flat, mostly on wide cycle paths and a bit though Incheon on the main roads, but the drivers here seem so far to be patient, give you loads of room and are quite slow.  Not what we expected at all. But there again Seoul’s not what we expected.  It’s a huge city criss crossed with 6 Lane roads every other junction and numerous sky scrapers.  You could be in America when you see Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hut lining the streets. 

The people are overwhelmingly young, there seem to be few people over about 60 and even 30 is getting on a bit. But we’ve picked the student district to stay in (a hostel no less!) And here we’re almost a tourist attraction in our own right. (“Look old people!”)   Theres no one over 12, well they look 12 and they are all having a great time, we love it.  It’s small and winding streets are lined with bars and restaurants all playing music louder than their neighbours and adorned with so many flashing neon signs you can probably see the place from Mars. It’s been great fun, but has required a serious amount of alcohol, some sleeping pills and ear plugs come our bedtime at 9:30!

But being old in Korea appears to be an honour. We’ve been clapped when ordering coffees – maybe they expected us to die in the queue?   We get bowed to as well, though perhaps they are just covering up their laughter as they’ve seen two porky old fogies (seriously, we are fat here and if you come here and are obese,  or as Britain seems to call it these days ‘normal’ then be prepared to have people openly laugh at you and take pictures.)  The men and women are so thin it makes anorexia look like a national pastime.   But they look really healthy and happy too, so we think they’ve got it right and us in the west have it wrong.

And we really like the bowing, they bow, we bow, everyone bows and by then we’re all laughing and smiling at each other.  What’s not to like?

School kids love to come up to us and ask where we’re from and we’ve had to do school surveys. “What’s favourite sport” “Cricket” “What’s that!?”   Adults too like to chat and are so helpful and kind.  But they almost always get around to Brexit and think Britain barmey. 

So, we love Korea so far,  so much so we’ve just booked our cycle tour of the DMZ along the barbed wire of the border.  They make you wear helmets for that, which worried us a bit until they explained they were cycle helmets. ..

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