Running on a pedal and a prayer… 

Posted by on 22, Sep 2016 in 2016 - South Korea, Asia, South Korea, Tilly the Tandem

Running on a pedal and a prayer… 

​270km 6 days 1100m climb (500km total)

Coming to Korea for a vegetarian is apparently akin to going to Nashville if you hate country music, add in making it a cycling holiday and it’d be like going to Nashville if you hate country music, America and Americans.   We need about twice the normal amount of calories a day when cycling and have been getting about half our normal food consumption.  By the time we reached Chungju we were finding even the flat stretches hard work and having to push Tilly up an 800m 10% Hill to get a passport stamp only to find the Chungjudam passport booth had been moved temporarily to the bottom of the hill ( where we missed it on the way up and down!) finished us off.

We’d cycled a 450km Y course from Seoul (top left of the Y), to Chuncheon (top right) and down to Chungju (bottom) and were covering less distance each day.  Having missed the passport booth at Chungjudam we had to return to find it the next day and so decided to have a day off (it was still 37km return to find the relocated booth!) And holed up in a cheap motel with a lovely room. We’d had a few Korean meals but they’ve always been cold, which is an anathema to us Europeans and were for us noodles, some chilli sauce a couple of vegetables (even Jon was wanting more vegetables) and lashings of seaweed.  Sadly as veggies the seaweed is just too fishy and really put us off, so Chungju was Pizza time, and bloody delicious it was too.  I could have eaten four of the extra large ones and still had room for a pint of Ben And Jerry’s ice cream I was that hungry. 

All the Koreans we meet are so helpful and kind and in restaurants they really try hard to get us something we can eat – rice Omelette and salad was very nice – but Vegetarianism seems to be so rare, despite the monks being veggie, that many are unable to understand it. All agree Beef is meat but then there’s a sliding scale of what is actually veggie, with pork, bacon, fish and Shellfish being offered the most.  When you don’t want to eat an animal and the staff don’t really understand you, and you them and the kitchen is littered with bits of dead animal, it’s difficult to feel confident about eating there.  This is in no way a complaint about Korea, the Koreans or their food – they are some of the kindest and happiest people we’ve met – it’s their country and customs and traditions and we respect that, it’s just hard for us to eat!

So we’ve been trying to find meals in shops to cook.  Korea’s main supermarkets are corner shops, 7 Elevens etc.  In one we found a lady who spoke English and she went through the two isles of noodles and only found one that was vege, even the ones not picturing any meat or fish had pork / bacon / fish in them.

Of course the alphabet doesn’t help.  In other countries we recognise the letters and on menus we can pick out meat and fish, here we really struggle to understand any of the writing so we can’t look at menus and work it out and rely almost entirely on the staff.  Even Google translate often fails stupendously – beef with picture windows 1 holiday.  Would be an example of its efforts. 

Anyway, after our day of rest and pizza we decided that another day off was in order for more refueling – a veggie English breakfast, another pizza and ice cream and we actually stopped being hungry.  We had planned to set off again the day after but the typhoon that is passing through the area chasing after last week’s earthquake plunged Chungju into a dull rainy gloom and we holed up in the hotel rooms for the day watching films and eating more pasta!  

Chungju is the end of the Hangang river route and we’ve now finished the Bukhangang, Namhangang and Ara lock routes which are all relatively flat.  Chungju is also the start of the Saejae bicycle path which is only 100km long but through the mountains with a couple of difficult ascents in it.  When we arrived at Chungju we were so tired and worn out we were actually wondering what on earth we were doing here, but two days of crap food revived us and reignited our desired to press on and we’re both now really looking forward to getting stuck into the mountain climbs.  It’s amazing how much difference a couple of days of rest and lots of food makes. 


  1. If you are still in Korea and traveling around, I recommend to go Emart which is the biggest market in Korea. Have a nice day.

    • Thanks. We are still here and really enjoying the country.

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