Date: June 6, 2013
Terrain: Mostly flat, with rolling hills
Ara Waterway-Incheon city limits: 1 - flat, well paved, well lit cycle path
Incheon city limits- bridge to Ganghwado: 2.5- mostly flat, no bike path, narrow road with some potholes, poorly kept or no sidewalks. Few street lights at night.
Ganghwado: 1.5- Mostly flat if you stay near the shorelines. Bike paths for most roads. Heading inland, there are fewer bike paths and more hills, but car traffic was never a problem, even on a holiday.
How to get there:
With bike: AREX train to Geomam Station. Follow Ara Waterway until the path turns left. Follow the path to the bridge entrance (on left). Cross the bridge and continue north (straight). Take the bridge to Ganghwado (first bridge on left).
Without bike: See here
Accommodations: I stayed in 프리존 (Free-Zone), a love motel in Gimpo before entering the island. On the island there are many places to stay and there are many camping areas as well around the island.
Things to See: fortresses, temples, museums, tombs, a pre-historic site, tranquil farms and the DMZ
Places to Eat: Everywhere if you like eel. If not, Ganghwa-eup (the city) should have more options.
Ganghwado is an island just off the coast of the west coast of Korea. It's also chuck full of things to see, from fortresses, temples, museums, tombs, a pre-historic site, and the DMZ. It's not a small area to cover, and sites are spread out, but we did our best to maximize our time on a one-day bike trip around the island.
The story actually begins at about 7pm the night before. We were debating when and how to get there and though we originally planned to throw our bikes in the car and drive the night before, after examining some maps on the smartphone, we (and by we, I mean Sanghyun) decided that it would be quite feasable to ride our bikes there, as long as we left right at that moment. So, already dusk, we hopped on our bikes, fortunately we're fairly well rigged up with blinking lights on the back and flash lights on the front, and made our way to Seoul Station to hop on the AREX train to Geomam station.
Once at Geomam station, we followed the Ara Waterway to the last bridge which crosses the canal. I was worried about crossing the bridge at night, but I was pleasantly surprised to find everything connected by bike path. We crossed the bridge and followed the path north. Luckily, the bike path was well paved and well lit, because it was now after 9pm.
The well paved bike path continued until the city limits of Incheon. As soon as we crossed into the city of Gimpo, the bike paths dissapeared (also helped by the fact that there is a military base which comes right up to the edge of the road as well. Here was the scary part. Intermitant street lights and no sidewalks or bike paths on a narrow two lane road at 10pm. I have a flashlight on my bike, but I realized quickly that it was way too weak. Fortunately Sanghyun's was extra strong and shone brightly enough for me to see most of the potholes before I hit them. Again, fortunately, there aren't many cars on the road at this time at night, but I was very worried about people speeding or drunk driving at that time of night on a lonley country road. Thankfully we made it to the other end and we stopped at the first motel we found along the road, which was probably only 3km but felt like 20km from the end of the bike path.
We asked at the 7/11 out front whether it would be better to stop here at the motel or continue a little more to the island, but the clerk reminded us that motels on the island were significanlty more expencive than on the mainland. So, not really wanting to be on the road anymore, plus not wanting to spend any more money than necessary, we stopped at the first love motel called 프리존 ('Free-Zone', I thought it was 'Prison') and got our room for 35,000 for the night. We could have splurged and gotten a room for 45,000 at the 'hotel' down the road, but personally I don't see much difference.
Crossing the bridge to Ganghwado
View as you arrive on Ganghwado
The biggest fortress we found
Typical road on Ganghwado
Just checking the map...
This is about as close as we were able to get to the DMZ
Bike path back to Incheon
Waiting for the train home at Geomam Station