Friday, November 25, 2011

Tandem = Two

The weather is starting to turn cold here in Seoul. So before it got too miserable to be outside, Emma, Andy, Katie and I decided to take advantage of one of the last warm and enjoyable days and spend some time down by the Han River that runs through the middle of Seoul.

We made our way down to the river and scouted out a bike rental place. There were two different options to choose from: single, regular bikes or tandem bikes for two. Having never had the opportunity to ride a tandem, I instantly was drawn to this option. Emma and Katie shared my enthusiasm; however, Andy was hesitant as he apparently struggles with his own two wheels. After being outvoted, Andy finally succumbed to the majority and went along with the tandem decision. Let the adventure begin...

Andy and I shared a bike, while Emma and Katie took another one. It took a good 5 minutes for Andy and I to get the hang of balancing both of our weights and peddling in time. However, even once we got the hang of things, our bike decided to have a mind of its own as it started going through various gears at inopportune times. For example, while peddling up a nice little incline, the sputtering of the peddles/chains caused us to walk our bike up the rest of the hill while other Korean bikers zoomed past us.

Andy and I having a rough time getting started

Finally got the hang of things!

Emma and Katie ready to go!

And they're off!

Since we only had the bikes for an hour, we had to turn around at some point and head back to the bike shop. We decided to switch partners, so I rode back with Katie, while Andy accompanied Emma back to the shop. It was an awesome leisurely ride back along the river. Granted as the sun started to go down, so did the temperature, making us happy that we decided to turn back when we did.

Heading back to the shop

The sun setting over the Han River

Following our bike ride, we headed to find a restaurant to enjoy some food and re-energize ourselves from the cold. We ended up eating at a traditional Korean restaurant that served this amazing Korean dumpling soup. The dumplings were filled with meat, green onions, and some other vegetables. It hit the spot and rejuvenated us for our last adventure of the night, the Seoul Lantern Festival.

Full of soup and warmed to the bone, we headed back out into the cold, hopped on the subway and made our way to northern Seoul to Cheonggyecheon, a man-made stream that flows in the middle of Seoul. Set up in the river were hundreds of various lanterns. There were traditional Korean lanterns that told stories about Korea's past, represented the various animals of the Chinese calendar, and depicted various famous leaders from Korea's history. Also included in the display were famous sites from around the world (including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Statue of Liberty) and some superheroes (including Superman and Batman). All in all, despite the cold and loads of people (probably close to 1 million or so) it was a great experience.

(Side note - this was actually the second time that I had seen the lanterns, as I had visited the festival a couple of weeks earlier with my friends Travis, Megan, Steve, Mitch, and Katie Power. It was just as impressive the second time around.)

After taking in all of the lanterns that we could before losing feeling in our bodies, we decided to head to a coffee shop to warm up, get a nice steaming cup of joe, and chill out for a while. We found a place near the river, headed in, and warmed up around some coffee and conversation.

Tandems, dumplings, and lanterns...the recipe for a successful day.