Thursday, 24 September 2015

Time and relative dimensions in space

"Travel broadens the mind". I must have heard that phrase an infinite amount of times in my life. My parents exposed me to to the joys of "being abroad" from the age of 11. Living the good life in the middle east in the early 70s. I remember though that although money wasn't short in the family we always travelled home to the UK for holidays. I don't know why. Hey I was just a kid along for the ride.

The point is that despite the mind expanding attributes of travel, we never forget who we are or where we're from.. Even if that is the raison d'etre of your journey (it isn't mine).  Fifty two years of programming to look right first to cross the road isn't overridden easily.

I'm fairly used to being an "odd one out" as well. Ever since I grew tall relative to most, people in the street seem to have thought I was blind and deaf to points or loud whispers. But in Korea I really am an odd European in a population of Asian faces.

Korea is a confusion of culture for me and I don't mean that in a bad way. It has obvious American influences with 7-11 shops and coffee bars. The golden arches don't appear to have pissed on everyone's burgers yet though. A multitude of mediocre motels and a yen for modern tech.  It's difficult to spot if the cars are Korean or European. . (There's a game in itself).

Most signs and shops have English translations alongside the native language. I can't imagine the UK having non English signs for the benefit of other cultures unless it's a document from Sheffield council.

Were I to choose to seek a life outside of my country of birth, I do know my choice wouldn't be here as much as it wouldn't be some southern Spanish resort with English breakfast on the menu. There is a balance between familiarity and being out of step. Modern Korea has everything someone might need, but it doesn't have enough space for me.
With time to spend, I seek peace in shaded gardens and woodlands, away from the manic race of life in the big cities. Nature gets squeezed in our ever expanding population of the planet. When I thought I was absolutely in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan there was inevitably someone waiting for a bus. So in a small country like Korea it's easy to feel hemmed in.

Next week I venture back to Busan for my bikes appointment with a box. In lots of ways I'm looking forward to "moving on", the phrase that has became synonymous with my journey and one I haven't put into practice for a few weeks now. Therein lies the root of my thoughts I think. It's been an education but I don't feel the need for further study.

A beach and some time to clear the interference from my head will cleanse my senses.
Having re-read that it sounds like I'm overly unimpressed which I'm not, if you follow my double negative. There's a lot of good things I have seen here. I have got similar feelings in almost every large city I have passed through. It's a sense of disappointment at human society. Homeless people  sleeping in the station. The race to have everything now. Convenience food and throw away society. Cigarettes outside and forget your insides. Less personal space and build upwards.
What's really important? I think that has to be a personal choice.
Switch off your computer and explore the world. It has a lot more to offer than some virtual reality or towing the corporate line.

Everyone has had a holiday they remember. A place where real life is set aside. The daily pressure of work parked for a while. But really, why can't life be like that? I'll tell you why. . It's because you've got caught up in what you think is important. A new car, the latest phone, providing everything your kids with every modern need. Having new clothes or the latest shoes. Making your house as nice as your neighbour's and filling it with cinema sized TVs, but it's all frivolous.

As I look around 99% of people are using mobile devices. (Ironically so am I) Drivers are impatient because someone paused at a red traffic light. There's no time for each other any more. No time for thought or accepting others choices.

While I'm not ready to live a hermits life in a cave, my travel expanded mind has yet to come to terms with a newer understanding of what makes me tick. .

 Apart from my mechanical heart valve.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

A mish mash of thoughts

Days are cooler at this time of year in South Korea. The sweltering heat of summer passed over to more southern latitudes as the seasons turn. Which is fine by me as I head west from Busan to explore a little before I return to surrender my two wheeled freedom to a  shipping agent with a wooden box.

More sights:
Maybe I've got a little blasé about seeing so many new things along the way but I feel like I've been in Korea long enough now. Yes its another river, another mountain. More strange towns and more unknown destinations. Fresh perception please... (In other words next country please)

A chance meeting with a native English speaker (albeit an American one) is a chance to chat (probably too much) without seeing the lack of understanding in the victims eyes.  It's a strange thing to not have had a conversation for what seems like an age.

Country bumkin: Out of the big city the pace of life is fractionally less frantic. As I've discovered along the way I'm even more of a country boy than even I though I was.

Korean cars:
Is that a Kia or a BMW? A Hyundai or a Mercedes? Was that a Maserati? Aston Martin? No, a Hyundai genesis. . .
Korean cars have come along way since the Daewoo matiz. While they're not copies. The styling cues catch me out. . . Just thought I'd mention it as my mind wandered during a traffic heavy time.

Island dreaming:
Still facing indecision about where to aim for. . I think my bike will be in Australia quicker than I anticipated as the shipping won't take as long as I thought. It can sit and wait for me for a while. It's not going anywhere without me. I'm a little concerned about being "stuck" in one place without transport and having to spend money on a "holiday" although I can live pretty cheaply. Guess I need to download some good books and find a shady spot on a beach.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Inner city planning

Time to move. . 

Too long in one place has not been a good thing on this journey and too long in the urban sprawl of Busan is another of those times. I feel the need to get outta town and find some peace and quiet again.

At the time of writing there is still no news of shipping and while it's not a big issue right now, I will feel more settled once I know when the next move will happen.

. . .

A few days later and there is some news. . 
The bike will be shipped from Korea to Singapore and onto Australia in early October and hopefully it will be a relatively simple process. Although I don't yet know the estimated delivery date. I then have to decide my own destination to fit around that schedule.

So it's time to choose where to go while the bike is crated and transported. . .
Finding space is not an easy thing to do. . South Korea is a relatively small and quite heavily populated country . After the vast expanses of Kazakhstan and Russia I'm not sure I will ever look at travel across country in the same way again.

Once I deliver the bike to the shipping agent I'll be in a whole new world without my own personal transport for the first time. I've never enjoyed public transport particularly but trains and planes (without the automobiles) will be my means of getting about. So I'll look for somewhere that doesn't involve lots of travelling from an airport. Somewhere warm and less crowded with a beach and that doesn't cost a fortune. . With all of southeast Asia to choose from that should be relatively easy. . 


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Buzzing around Busan

Busan is another big city. . 

Another mix of tall buildings and crowded streets. Not my idea of a good time but it fills my needs at the moment as I seek out transportation down under without resorting to stealing a penny bun!

It's a cool place temperature wise at a comfortable 20° and there's lots of American influences with coffee shops on every street and 7-11 stores on every corner. But as the Americans continue their "mutual defence treaty" in South Korea that has been in place since WW2 I guess it's only to be expected. The centre of the part of town I'm in has a plethora of shopping with everything available in all the well known shopping chains and lots that are unknown to me. .. . Although that doesn't mean much given my love of shopping. . . Food places of every flavour from the ubiquitous burger bars to seafood and traditional noodle and rice restaurants.  A pan pizza is literally that with a pancake thin base!

Unfortunately airtight sewer covers are not part of the street furniture and the waft of noodles, spiced meats and rice being prepared by street vendors is often accompanied by a less enticing aroma

I found a small customs bike shop who seems to build street bikes and track style Harley's. He is trying to source a  tyre for me, but if not I'm comfortable that the last of the rear tyre will last for my time in Korea.

A "famous" beach in town is less attractive than the less hyped beach just outside the stylish busiest area. But there are large areas of wooded hillside visible from almost anywhere in the city. I'll make some time in the week to see if they are navigable on foot

I'm struggling with the language. So far on the way I've made a sometimes valiant effort to speak at least a few words when conversing with the locals but Korean will just not stick in my head as I try to wrap my tongue around the strange mix of consonants and vowels in odd orders. . I managed better with Russian and that's saying something!

Busan is somewhere that is easy to get on with, but would become tiresome. At least for me if I were here for a length of time. . I need more of a sense of space than is available just like my time in any urban space I have stayed in along the way. Less people and open skies work for me.  In the meantime I'll indulge myself in the modernity and avoid the crush of traffic and the scooters using the pedestrian crossings where I can. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Green hills of Gyeongju

With a few days to fill and various sites and attractions to visit the week was entertaining and relaxing.

Cool wooded hillsides with shaded walks. Cafés and countryside parks. I've ridden my bike just for pleasure with no definite destination and no long distances to cover.
Finding winding, little used hill passes that have been bypassed by new straight freeways. Along river sides and dams it's a green place to explore. With few cars using these less direct routes the roads are not busy and places to stop and admire the view are uncrowded.
The crowds seem to gather at tourist hot spots. . Playgrounds, shopping centres and the like.  But there's lots of cyclists in the hills and campers at  the beach. Hybrid cars and wind turbines. Modern life. Green countryside and warm days.

After getting some fresh air and a bit of exercise walking through some of the woodland paths I will move south to Busan. A fairly big city but somewhere I need to get to know a bit as I think my bike will be shipped from there later in the month.

It will be a shame to leave the countryside I've stayed in recently but there will be time later to look further at some more natural scenery once I have a better idea of time and place of packing my bike into the hold of a ship.