Biking along Han Gang… And finding our way to Seoul Forest

Biking along the Han River is definitely my most favorite thing to do in Seoul. It’s free, fun, and beautiful whatever the season. You can wander around for hours and not feel tired at all. But if you do, there are plenty of rest stops, parks, cafes and convenience stores to keep you energized.

 

There are plenty of bike rentals along the river. This map from Hedgers Abroad shows all of them, those in green are for free.

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My favorite is the one in Oksu station, where kind ahjussis always offer us cold water after biking. Been down there several times, allowing myself to just be one with the wind, biking without any particular destination in mind.

This time though, I’ve decided to go to Seoul Forest. I tried to research beforehand how to go there from Oksu but didn’t find any useful info, so of course my sister and I got terribly lost! We did find it in the end and it was worth more than the 40 mins and several kilometers of ground we covered trying to find it. But I’ve decided to make this step-by-step guide just in case you want to remake this experience, sans all our mistakes haha! So here goes!

First, how to go to Oksu Station. Take line 3 (orange line) to Oksu, get off at Exit 2. Once outside, turn left. You should be able to see a short row of cafes and restaurants.

P1090275Walk straight for a few meters until you find the first pedestrian lane. Cross the street. You should find this on your left.

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Present your passport (1 passport per group, you have to leave it at the office), register on their logbook, and sign a couple of stuff. (I don’t know what really, it could be a waiver or a contract selling your soul haha) Then pick which bike you like. Confirm with the person in charge how long you’re allowed to rent the bike. Common rule is 2 hours, but we were allowed to have it for 3 last time (wohoo!). Then you’re good to go! Remember that you’re only allowed to use it along the river. From the bike ‘office,’ there’s a road leading down. Best to just walk with your bike if you’re not a good biker. The road’s quite steep.

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Across these pillars is a water fountain, where you might want to refill your bottle before setting of on your journey. Facing the Han River, you have two options. Turn right to Banpo Han Gang Park, or turn left to Seoul Forest. We turned left. Go straight for a kilometer or so until you find a fork. Turn left to this bridge.

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Once across, turn right then just follow the road. It should curve to the left after some time. Make sure to pay attention to signs on the way, it’s easy to miss the turn for Seoul Forest. After another kilometer, you should find this marker. This is where you make a u-turn.

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You know you’re in the right direction when you see this beautiful tunnel. We almost made a music video.

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At the end of the tunnel, turn right. You will find this barricade, but don’t be discouraged! We arrived here with several Koreans and they went straight in anyway!

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And that’s it! You’ve found the Seoul Forest. On the left is the deer farm, where you could actually feed them.

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There’s nothing much to do on this side actually. Although you might want to go further in to find this picturesque bridge.

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It actually leads to a path to the river. But after all our wrong turns this morning, we decided to just go back. Cowards? Maybe. Or just two tired girls badly in need of a respite from the heat! We went back to the deer farm, went further out, then took the first left to what looks like an unassuming path. And finally, FINALLY found what we were looking for! The children’s park! It’s a wide expanse of trees and greenery that made it easy to forget it was the middle of summer.

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My favorite view, kids being kids 😀

Benches and mini play parks are scattered around the forest for families to enjoy. There were a lot of people but the forest’s so big it doesn’t feel overcrowded at all. I really love how South Korea creates places like this, always reminding their residents they don’t have to go far and spend so much to be happy. Seoul Forest is right smack in the middle of a bustling city, but it’s easy to forget that too.

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It was really a pity we didn’t get to spend as much time as we wanted in Seoul Forest. At that time I badly wished we didn’t lose all that time getting lost. One day I hope I could come back with a mat, a basket full of food, and a good book. I wish one day I could return to Seoul and spend a whole day doing nothing, not feeling the need to hurry, because I have a lot of time. I would need a full month for that kind of ‘vacation.’ One day.

Even with 3 hours, we exceeded the allowed time for bike rental. I was afraid we’d get scolded for it. Instead, they offered us cold water when we returned. Little things like this always makes South Korea feel like home.

 

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