Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Riding a Motorbike in Korea, Red Lights Optional

Riding a motorbike, or moped, in the States is about as cool as driving a ten year-old mini van...oh wait, I already did that....well I guess for the sake of continuity I recently bought a moped to get around Yeoju since my apartment is a bit far from my school/ the downtown.

In my humble opinion however, riding a moped in Asia is way cooler than doing it in the States because 1) lots of people drive them here 2) I'm in Asia...this sounds really obnoxious (probably cause it is) but seriously, try adding "in Asia" to the end of any first person verb phrase and see how infinitely cooler it sounds..."I hiked a Asia", "I went to a water Asia", "I ate a Asia"...see what I mean?

And the big number 3) unless you're at a major intersection or downtown, traffic laws in rural Korea are OPTIONAL. Red lights? I ran three of those this morning. Now I'm not doing this out of sheer stupidity. Some people do obey traffic lights, signs, etc, so I simply follow what the other cars around me are doing. If it's an empty street and everyone is running the red light then I will run it's better to run the light than get passed by cars and trucks, which is quite scary. Also since I'm technically still a bike (no license or registration required), I'm not sure how much traffic laws apply to me anyway...I mean...I park on the sidewalk.

The first week I had my bike I was pretty much too scared to ride it, a fear which I attribute to my parents (hi mom! hi dad!). However, this isn't because they are overly paranoid, in fact, it's their lax attitude towards most other things that made me think twice about getting a bike. In general, my parents have been surprisingly cool about my many shenanigans (transferring to a college 1500 miles away, an impromptu trip to Bratislava, moving to South Korea...), but I've always heard them talk about how dangerous bikes can be.

I found it extremely uncomfortable at first. The throttle can seem jumpy and making good turns is tricky; you can't be afraid to stick your feet out for balance.  It took me a few tries to stop and go without wobbling all over the place. I also made the mistake of learning on the go in real traffic. Why you ask? I don't know...because I'm in Korea and logic has escaped me a bit. Luckily no one was hurt by my inaugural solo ride through the downtown (though they may have been offended by my dress which was riding up the whole time). 

I got my bike for a good price since I bought mine from another foreign teacher who is moving. If you're moving to Korea and looking to get a bike you can get cheap used ones for as low as 400,000 won (around $375), though usually they run around 500,000 won. If you're buying one in a shop, bring a co-worker or someone one who speaks Korean so you don't get ripped off and/or end up buying a crappy bike.

Even if you don't need one for daily use, it's fun to hop on a country road, open up the throttle (max out at 45 mph) and feel the breeze. Now that I've gotten used to riding it I don't know what I'd do without it...probably a lot of walking or hand gesturing to cab drivers. I started going to a Korean class and so far I can write my name is Korean...which impressed my co-teacher much less than I thought it would. What would impress him about that? I don't know...Korean kindergarteners and I now have something in common?

Anyway here's a blurry photo I snapped while riding my bike (sorry mom...but look no traffic! Plus it's good for practicing balance):

This is the view driving from my school (which I stopped to take a photo of):

Minus the streetlight....the mountains are really beautiful. It's been very cloudy and raining a lot here because of monsoon season, so today was an unusually nice day.

In cute news, I found the pet store where all the Koreans get their tiny dogs from:

The best thing about this picture is that you can see me making my "awww-I-want-it!" face in the mirror. I have to say...this guy is making Gus look bad...

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