A taste from the saddle, motorcycling in South Korea

Below is a glimpse into one of Adrian’s previous motorcycle trips through South Korea:

2_66The morning sun feels warm on my back as I make my way through traffic. Towering apartment complexes form the backdrop to a busy industrial area with machine shops lining the road, and a bustling market with cuts of meat hanging on hooks, glistening in the morning sun.

Out of nowhere a Harley passes me on the left, throttle wide open, strait pipes screaming the abrasive v-twin ta ta ta ta. I jump in the seat, clench the handle bars, and veer toward the right of my lane before I realize it and smile. I catch up to the Harley at the next light and he’s got the stereo blasting some traditional Korean music where a man is belting out lyrics over a cacophony of eastern sounding instruments. This makes me laugh, but I’m overpowered as the Harley tears away through the red light in an explosion of sound and glinting chrome.

Mountains burst from the river plain as I exit the city, chasing the yellow line as it curves and dips towards the coast. I pass rice paddies stacked in giant steps making their way up the mountain slopes, and red peppers drying on black sheets along the road. I can smell the sharp aroma of the peppers mixed with cool mountain air and the warm smell of late summer. As the ocean appears on my left I see a sign for “Korea’s scenic road 77.” I follow it south down the peninsula towards Tongyeong City.


Road 77 is fantastic, and follows the coast all the way, rising and falling over the cliffs. The views are spectacular; on my left the ocean stretching as far as the eye can see, dotted with islands, and to the right the mountainous landscape of the peninsula rising up and away from the road. I stop at a sign that says, “Dinosaur Footprints” and walk down to where big circular indentations have been left in the flat rock by the water’s edge. It’s not difficult to imagine dinosaurs walking along the water here beside the sparkling ocean, with islands in the distance and tree covered mountains.

I take the exit for Geoje Island and a suspension bridge looms ahead. As I cross there’s a moment where I feel like I’m flying over the ocean, the salty air rushing past my helmet and Geoje Island sprawled out ahead, awaiting my arrival.

On Geoje I head south following coastal road 1018, a two-laner winding its way beside mountains with uninterrupted views of the ocean with its checkerboards of fishing nets laid out across the water. I pass long green houses filled with ripe pineapples and ajummas nodding off in the shade beside tables piled high with fruit. I stop beside one of the tables and, after some haggling, part with W5,000 in exchange for a good sized pineapple. The ajumma smiles under her giant flower print sun visor, maybe because even after my haggling I still overpaid.


I continue on to where a small road takes me down to a deserted beach, and I find a spot in the sun beside the water. I’m no longer concerned with the price; it was worth it. The pineapple’s at the perfect ripeness; absolutely delicious. I devour it. Back on the road again I round the southern half of Geoje Island and wind my way north along the eastern coast.

I set up camp on Gujora Beach. It’s tucked into a small bay, and the cream coloured sand disappears into clear blue water. I swim and then relax, propped against a rock, beer in hand enjoying the warm afternoon sun. I’ll build a fire soon and have a beach BBQ but for now I’ll just sit and take it all in.

Experiencing the world on the back of a motorcycle connects you with it in a new way. The smells, sounds, and even temperature changes when you drive by a river or descend into a valley are instantly noticeable. You’re no longer in the observatory box of a car. Instead, you’re out in the world, everything is in three dimensions, and it’s brilliant. Exploring Korea on two wheels has allowed me to experience the country in a richer way. Breaking free from the congestion of the city and finding a back road to explore makes my weekends come alive. Watching a stunning west coast sunset while camped out on the beach are memories of Korea that I’ll never forget. It’s beautiful here.

- Adrian


2 friends, 4 weeks, 1 epic motorcycle adventure across South Korea!