After running the gauntlet of steep narrow elevators, and heavily laden wide-set bikes, we were kindly greeted onto the ferry by the chief steward, a well dressed and effeminate man, who I happily mistook for the captain. That mis-labelling was the happiest of accidents, and we were very quickly upgraded from cattle class to the roomiest suite.
As we left port, I sat on the top deck at dusk, reflecting on the previous ferry we had taken, across the Caspian Sea into Kazakhstan. In our journey across the greatest central Asian landmass this was the first time we had touched the sea. At that moment we were embarking on the real core of the journey, the greatest unknowns, the highest peaks, and the most massive plains. I felt a veteran compared to my previous self on that kazakh ferry, there was a greater degree of wonder and giggling excitement, now replaced by a settle c’est la vie. It wasn’t that interest had diminished in life, but more by moving slowly across such great distances allowed the veteran tour cyclist to recognise the commonalities of global life. With a greater sample size links and likenesses are easier to determine. The unique nature of all things is never lost, just the similarities become more apparent.
In my head at Lotus the journey to Beijing would be our last great push, and from then on Beijing, Korea and Japan would be a long form of victory lap. After the 6 day time trial sown highways and across industrial ports, I had reviewed that victory lap judgement to start in Korea. The closer I come to finishing the journey, the less the ending or the completion matters, the width of experience and what can be retained of that is what the completion of the trip once was to me. Greatest lesson and reminder to live in your time, not in your achievements.
As all ferries have been so far, the journey flew by too fast. This is golden time where you aren’t cycling, and there is no possibility of doing so, and where the temptation of internet is absent from your attention. I will try and create similar situations on a regular basis in normal life, where work or labour simply isn’t possible and digital distraction is removed.
The rain threatening in drizzle as we stood outside the ferry terminal.
Longer journey to Seoul than anticipated, the distance mainly felt because of the rain, heaviest rain of journey so far, rivers down the highway slopes of incheon, rain to the degree where discomfort is pushed through, even danger is disregarded, as the absurd and sheer wetness becomes only comical. a jovial and specialist bike shop gave us free hivis jackets after joining in with a hearty laugh at our predicament / choice. After having handed out the business card with the asian swastika on, and quietening the room somewhat.
Time in Seoul Cheongbok harvest festival disrupted and disjoined the affair, the most remarkable features were the extensive palace gardens in a wondrous grove setting, where the royal family had to amuse themselves and did so with consumate and reliable elegance. Hanbok wearing tourists in the burning sun, free entry for a double price costume sweatbox.
Reversal and renovation in 1990s vs any Japanese changes to the Imperial palace quarter, as made during occupation. nder the guise of exhibitions and other 'temporary changes' the Japanese had sought to demolish and devalue the strongest symbols of Korean royal and natonal identity. Since the 1990s (research), this process had been actively reversed and rebuilding was exentsive along historical records.
During the festival we saw massive pro-USA ralies and flagwaving in a central square and central station. Bizarre for someone of my age to see the USA held in such high popular regard, rather than it mentioned wit the usual despairing undertones.
Food and pickling, avenues and walls of giant clay jars enroute, master picklers makes for most different or apart cuisine observed yet. temple food was pinnacle of this reserve of preserve. So many flavours experienced in a single meal that I had never even been able to conceive of, and are so original it is hard to remember them now.
In visiting a city temple, chinese lanterns lit in vast arrays creating glowing walls, paper prayer hanging illuminated in flickering strands, the monks chanting at night surrounded by skyscrapers flashing modernity to ancient creed, mainly middle aged women, devout and with rare time in a city life. Robs story of one huffy puffy argue with him and her other neighbour missing the point somewhat
Seoul reflections with it's flashing lights and cheongbok holiday sales, it's highpower all access value suction commercial machine, value extraction and consumer spin. With streetwear, snail sauce face creams, the outward preservation of youth as always the most powerful money magnet. In all it made Asli and I yearn for more rurality, and for an environment where rule of cosumerism is not quite so strangling. Like gettting in an icebath after a sauna, this concentrated shot of urban consumerism felt all the more extreme after long hours in limitless natural environments.
DMZ ginseng museum commercial factory prison
E bike spur moment purchase enabled an adventure, tipping point, in a small way alike to me starting the journey, as a purchase locked her into traversing the country. The rain washed us down the river, trying to get some distance on Rob before he caught us at our usual race pace.
Asli somewhat panicking in the dark and wet, unsure of the battery life of her bike, we couldn't find the desired pension, but in asking for directions, we were taken in by a lady and her daughter and son in law, whose skin proved the advert for Korean cosmetics. We had a true mother's love-cooked supper, and we were given the guestroom but as we later found it may have really been a host room. After dinner, we were told we could go to bed or we could join in with some family Karaoke, it ran the range of emotion as singing quality and ambition was even greater in its variety. The disco ball, and HQ mics proved the permanence and importance of this post dinner fixture, later talking to wooj, I heard that with dinner guest this was par for the course in almost any korean household, even with important quasi-business dinners. I wonder how much more harmonious many UK families would operate if the same pastime was adopted. The crucifixes and easter touches were forcible symbols of the lady's devout nature who made it to church in the morning, Theresa was as a good a christian as to be fond anywhere.