A bike. That’s just what I needed to get around the town. I live just a few miles away from the main gate and the Sinjang-dong Shopping Mall. About a 20 minute walk, 5 minute cab ride. Not all that far. The problem is that Songtan doesn’t have many areas designated for pedestrians and the roads are narrow. All in all it doesn’t lend itself to feeling safe and secure with the crazy Korean drivers whizzing by. So as soon as I got here I started looking around for a bike for sale. I found a couple places.
Craigslist – Seoul
I was surprised to find that there was a Craigslist here. There’s only one for the whole country so you have to pay attention to the area in the listing. However most are listed in the Seoul area. That’s where I found my bike.
I haven’t had a chance to track down this little shop yet, but I have heard great things. I’m sure I’ll be going there if I need anything for the bike. They are a local place near Osan AB. Leaving the Main gate toward the Sinjang-dong Shopping Mall go right to the triangle of death as we call it and left to the bridge over the train tracks. Approx 1/2 mile down you will see a McDonalds on the corner across the intersection where you would walk underground as a pedestrian. Turn left at the McDonalds and go down approx 1/4 mile and his shop is on the right. You will see the trek/specialized logos on his building. as you walk inside it seems very cluttered and compact, this is typical of korean culture though. However you walk upstairs and it’s a very different story. They have street bikes from $400-$7000, everything from starters to top of the line.
Anyway, on with the story. Yesterday was an experience in public transit. I found a good bike on Craigslist, stylish and practically new, for ₩200,000. I just had to make my way up to Seoul to get it. Since it takes a while to get there I planned to make a day of it, getting food and going around the city with my camera.
Getting to Seoul wasn’t too bad. Got a little turned around on the city bus here in Songtan. There was nothing around in English. But I found my way eventually to the transfer. After that it was no problem, it was a direct bus from Osan to Seoul. I just had to look out for my stop. It was still mostly Korean but I was heading to one of the subway stops and those are clearly labeled with english. The street signs also list the upcoming station so I was able to look ahead to my stop.
The bike was better than I expected. I had to unwrap it, taking off plastic coverings and cardboard padding.
It was a little overcast, but that never bothered me. I started heading down the street to this good restaurant I’d found. Didn’t get very far. In the span of about 2 minutes it went from overcast to pouring down heavy rain. I got drenched. Took cover in a shop with a bit of overhang, then when the rain let up a little bit, made a dash for the nearest subway station. The rain didn’t let up for long and soon I was drenched again biking through with it all in my face.
I decided to just head home because all my plans were out the window. That’s where things got stickier. I walked up with my newly bought bike and the worker at the entrance started freaking out holding up his hands to stop me and saying “NO, NO , NO, NO, NO! Too busy! Too busy!” And tried to wave me off. Well, obviously I wasn’t going anywhere. I stood my ground and kept saying yes. And yes, with the bike.
“No, no, no. It’s wednesday. No ride. Saturday, yes. Sunday, yes. Holiday, yes. Wednesday, no!”
Well, that makes absolutely no sense. I can understand during rush hour. But this was about 1:30 in the afternoon. We went back and forth for about 10 minutes, and I finally won out. I was starting to think that I was going to be stranded. In the end he checked to see how busy it actually was and said I could go through. I had to ride in the very back in car 10-4, but I already knew that. You can’t prop your bike up against the doors. The very end car is designated for bikers and has a blank wall along the back to prop the bike up on.
Navigating the bike through the subway was frustrating at times. They get pretty crowded around the entrance doors with narrow waiting paths in some stations. I had to weave my way through people to the very far end. Some places didn’t have elevators so I carried the bike up and down the stairs. Once on the subway I was fine. In fact, once I got through that first toll I was fine. None of the other stations had any qualm with my bike and the subway became less and less crowded the further south I got.
I only had one hiccup along the way. Missed my transfer from line 2 to line 4, so I got off the next exit. That was a pleasant area. Sanbon Station sits at the end of an open plaza full of bars and shops. To the rear of the station is a large residential area that eventually leads to a number of hills and mountains. You could see them from the Plaza. It was pretty and the trees were just starting to get touched with Fall’s color.
Just to the left of the exit down into the Plaza was Paris Baguette. They had a table set up outside with samples and filled with breads. It was just what I was looking for because I didn’t have a bike lock to go into a restaurant. They had this delicious cheese filled bread with almonds on top. I bought one and biked down to the other end where there was a stage and seating to eat. These ladies from a local church came by and handed me a cup of hot sweetened coffee. It was perfect. And I was out of range from the storm.
After that it was back up to the station and off again to Geumjeong to transfer to line 1 and on home.
All in all I liked traveling the subway more. You got to see more of the countryside and cities and culture as you passed through. The signs were more English friendly and made me more at ease and comfortable traveling. And the price was just about the same as the bus rout.