Although I can't get enough of the night life in Seoul, my friends and I decided we needed to take a break and get in touch with nature. The four day weekend we had for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) at the beginning of October was the perfect opportunity to get away from the city.
We checked out our favorite travel group on meetup.com and discovered a biking trip to Tsushima, Japan that sounded amazing. It was being planned and led by William, the lovely guy who planned our Jeju trip, so we knew it would be great.
Tsushima is a small island that while part of Japan, is actually closer to Korea. It takes about 2 hours by ferry from the port city of Busan, located on Korea's southeast coast. It has a subtropical climate and its economy is based mainly upon the abundant supply of fish in the surrounding blue-green ocean. The same crystal clear waters also attract tourists from South Korea who help to supplement the marine economy.
After catching a bus to Busan late Thursday night, we'd be picking up our bikes upon arrival and bringing them over to the island on the ferry. They would be our only means of transportation on the mountainous 700 square kilometer island. We planned to arrive on the southern end of the island and leave from the north, so for this trip, the lazy need not apply.
The first day we had a lunch of supermarket sushi that blew the sushi I've eaten in most restaurants out of the water. We also spent about a half hour roaming the Japanese beer aisle, ecstatically checking prices. It's the best beer around in my opinion, but its completely over priced in Korea. We spent the second half of the day on a 20 km bike, but we were totally unprepared from the arduous inclines that dominated the trail. After some consideration of our time constraints, we had opted for the shorter of the two routes leading to our campsite. This turned out to be a great decision as those who had gone on the longer route eventually had to abandon their progress and loop back around to the shorter road, arriving at the tents long after dark.
That night we lit a campfire, played some music, and enjoyed some more sushi and beer. We all had sore limbs and bums, so it wasn't long before I grew tired and went to sleep. There was a full day of biking ahead after all and we wanted to get an early start.
The island was truly beautiful, with 89% of its land covered in lush green forest. Towering mountains and rugged cliffs carve a dramatic landscape surrounded by sparkling ocean the color of emeralds. Nearly every time I looked above me I would see huge predatory birds soaring silently over head. It was fantastic, never in my life had I seen such a dynamic and lively sky.
After hours in our seats, the 50 km we needed to cover that day began to take its toll. We quickly realized we wouldn't be finding any restaurants to stop in and settled for an ice cream bar and banana to get us through the ride. It was a tough 6 hour work out with stops few and far between, but I felt inspired by what I saw around me. I was basking in the challenge.
I could taste the fresh sashimi and cold beer awaiting me at the endpoint. The smell of the ocean breeze at our seaside motel danced around my nostrils and the feel of the hot sauna water played on my skin as my legs pumped up each hill. The descents were exhilarating. I let my tires spin wildly, the cool air sweeping back my hair as the world passed me by in a blur. I had found that feeling that I am constantly seeking, that feeling of being alive.
All of the beautiful things I imagined awaited me and more. Draped in soft cotton kimonos, we watched the sun set against the purple sky and stared into the golden shimmer of the moon as it reflected on the sea. We sank deep into pillows and blankets laid out on the floor and sipped fresh green tea until we drifted into a peaceful sleep, only to be awoken to witness the sun rise again over the ocean. After, we enjoyed a traditional Japanese breakfast of fish, miso soup, rice and seaweed.
After spending the morning at the beach, we boarded the ferry again feeling triumphant and completely refreshed. So much so, in fact, that Lacy, Maddy and I decided to spend an extra night in Busan. We still had another day off and, as Maddy rightly argued, we had always wanted to explore the city.
So much for a weekend without city mayhem...