travel: 5Flags pt 2

[soundtrack]

Hold up. You almost lost me… Let me think back and try to remember what led up to that happy elevator full of weary travelers.

In the last episode, we were hauled off by the cops to a random town. We had no idea where we were and we woke up in the only available place, which we assumed was a hooker motel on account of the provocatively dressed guest leaving at six AM and nudie wallpaper. Does that about sum it up?

Alex and Steve were still passed out cold when I threw on my riding duds and circled around town in search of coffee. I returned to base while a few telltale drops of water spat down.

I came in through a mist of shower steam and dropped my helmet on the bed. “Little rain out there.”

Thinking little of it, we set off in search of a gel seat for Alex’s plagued posterior and a bite to eat before setting off. The bicycle shop was of no help, and the restaurant we found was… unusual, to say the least. Before we could enjoy our meal, all heck broke loose.

Turns out this was no ordinary restaurant. For a moment we thought that our only menu option was boshintang (보신탕). Boshintang, known in the West as “dogmeat stew” is a controversial dish in Korea. Many young Koreans polled claimed they considered dogs to be pets, not food. Legally, dogmeat is not considered a food, so production of the meat is done under the radar. Some restaurants in small towns continue to sell it, however, and this is the cause of much protest and derision within Korea 2.

I was once asked by a Korean woman if I would like to visit her father’s place and eat dog soup. I had absolutely no opinion in the matter, so I nodded and told her it sounded fine, but we never ended up going.

Still, we talked about the possibility. I announced my vow, and we thought about leaving the restaurant. They had a lovely chicken stew, however, so we ate up and hit the road. Steve wanted to cross the bridge into Seoul’s province tonight.

I looked at him with a furrowed brow. “You mean, you want to get to Hong Seong.”

“Naw, I think we can cross the bridge.”

“Wait, where’s the bridge?”

He showed us where the bridge was. It was about twice the distance. It would mean covering about seventy kilometers in one day.

“You really think we can cross the bridge tonight?”

Steve looked at the two of us with a smile filled with all kinds of ungodly mischief. Alex gave an appreciative nod. “Well, if we set that goal, who knows, we might make it.”

By the time we got outside, the few drops of rain I felt that morning had ripened into a full-on tempest. The owner of the restaurant helped Steve put some bags on his feet. We got back on the road, this time at a much slower pace. We only stopped to do videos when the rain periodically subsided, which wasn’t often.

Our only respite from the rain was a tunnel. We stopped before it to adjust our gear and prepare for twenty-odd minutes of low lighting accompanied by rushing traffic with limited visibility. Bike-hiking the mountain under which the tunnel stretched might have been preferable.

We rode through the tunnel on a column roughly two meters wide over cement tiles loosely lining a deep gutter. We all took a deep sigh of relief once we had the privilege of getting back into the pouring rain.

It started to become dark. I rode until I couldn’t see bikelights behind me anymore. I parked my bike for a moment that turned into twenty minutes. They weren’t THAT far behind, were they? I turned around and biked like crazy. Had someone gotten into an accident? Had they stopped to rest?

I guess they saw a bike parked on the way that looked like mine, and waited. As soon as we met up, I suggested we find some food. Steve told us we were close to Hong Seong, where there would be plenty to eat.

If you live in Korea and have never stayed at a jimjilbang, a Korean-style bathhouse with saunas, hot tubs, cold dips, massages, sleeping quarters, internet cafes, restaurants and arcades, you’d better get on that. We ordered steamed pork at the bathhouse restaurant. Alex was looking pretty happy. “You know what would make this dinner just this much better? If we could order a pizza.”

Steve looked at him with a big smile. I pondered his idea skeptically. “We’re in Korea. They have a way of doing things. You don’t just order a pizza in a restaurant. You can’t even do that in Canada.”

“Yeah, but what if we could?”

“You know what, go ahead and ask. I doubt they’ll agree, but go ahead and try.”

No traveler in recorded history has been as happy as we were right then. After police sirens, a seedy hotel in the middle of nowhere, stormgods, the tunnel, and splitting up, this night was our reward.

Another day in the rain with already sopping clothes was a thought we had little desire to entertain.

Hong Seong has a bus terminal.
We don’t have to go all the way to Seoul.

Oh yeah, I forgot.
We’re obstinate.

Oh well.
There are worse things than pneumonia.

final episode:

CROSSING THE BRIDGE

Now that Steve, Alex and the flying fish have gotten some rest, they push on, past their limits, to cross the bridge into Gyeonggi-do. Will they make it? Don’t miss the surprising conclusion to this wild ride!

2 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/young-koreans-turn-their-noses-up-at-dog-dinners-460090.html

 

 

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