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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Getting Out of the Concrete Jungle

This time of year the call of the outdoors is strong. Getting out of the concrete jungle in which  most of us live is a fine way to recharge the psychological batteries. Of course Korea’s excellent public transportation system makes it relatively easy to move around the country, but the best way to see the real beauty of Korea is to take the lesser traveled roads. And you can’t do that on a bus or train. And sometimes, even a car is difficult.  So for my money, there’s no finer way of getting out than on two wheels.

With the wind in your face, the sun on your back and the thrum and rumble of a motor between your legs a scooter or motorcycle provides freedom from the confines of the city.  An “autobi” (오도바이) as the Koreans call them, is a very inexpensive way to move about Korea. In the heavier travel times such as flower season, vacation times or fall color season, the two-wheelers can avoid the traffic jams by simply going around all the cars and buses. Side roads become opportunities for adventure. U-turns, should that adventurous side road  become a dead-end, are as easy as a military about-face.

Recently, I and several friends went on a Rock-Scissors-Paper tour. At major intersections we would decide our direction with Korea’s most common decision making tool.  Our destination was of less interest than the journey itself. But it allowed us to see places that buses, trains and taxis can’t or won’t go.

A view of Dudong in Ulju-gun in northwest Ulsan

I took this (badly stitched) panoramic set of pictures after we rode some tiny roads near Cheokgwa on the far north edge of Ulju-gun. To get there, we went out of Daundong on highway 14 and then took farm roads through small villages to arrive at a peak no buses and few taxis will ever go. Towards the left side of the photo are the “Relics of Park Jesang”, an historical shrine to a Korean hero from one of the many Japanese invasions of the peninsula. Just 100 meters away, however, was Suwangsa, a rare and beautiful find that is on no map and no buses will take you to. We would never have found that were it not for our trusty two-wheelers.

From there, our journey wandered throughout the countryside to where ever rock-scissors-paper decisions  led us. We saw verdant mountains, steep valleys, rugged coastlines, colorful temples, houses both humble and haughty and never once were we caught in heavy traffic or waited in line. Additionally, I’ve found that Koreans in the smaller communities in the country are not used to seeing foreigners come riding through their towns and they have, so far, been very kind, polite and helpful.

Friends (from left) Rocy, Dee, Fin and Ryan help make the directional decisions

And while I have many more pictures I could post, none can really compare to the beauty of being there. So often during the ride I heard my own voice inside my helmet exclaiming how fabulous this view is or how beautiful that house is or how colorful those flowers are.  I’m no photographer and prefer to look at my own pictures simply to remind me of the beauty I saw.  I strongly encourage you, dear reader, to make your own forays -and memories- into the countryside to experience the beauty of this wonderful country.

Scooters, motorcycles and bicycles are relatively cheap to obtain. For less than half a month’s salary  a decent used two-wheeler can be found at any number of shops.  We have some favorite shops, however. Click on our Partner page for a good place to get a set of wheels. It’s a relatively cheap way to gain freedom from the concrete jungle and see the real Korea.

And, if you get a set of wheels now, you’ll be ready for the most fun possible on two-wheels: the Ulsan Inferno, a bike/scooter/motorcycle photo scavenger hunt extravaganza that has been an annual tradition for years. That happens June 18th and is a not-to-be-missed event.

So, get out of the city. Get out of the concrete jungle.  Get off the beaten paths. Go far from the madding crowds. Add your own overused metaphors. And as Robert Frost once wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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