Kiwi bikers tour Korea, following Khan’s steps

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Kiwi bikers tour Korea, following Khan’s steps


Economists are stereotypically considered boring, staid and unadventurous. But one economist who breaks such generalizations is “Welsh Speedstar” Gareth Morgan, a 52-year-old investment manager from New Zealand. Mr. Morgan is traveling around Korea by motorcycle, accompanied by his wife, “Witch Doctor” Joanne, motorcycle dealer “The Salesman” Brendan Keogh and, for most of the trip, farmer “The Bodyguard” Dave Wallace. Mr. Morgan rode a motorbike on the Silk Road for about three months last year, then published a book on the trip, “Silkriders.”
“Korea is the easternmost boundary of Kublai Khan’s empire ― the largest empire the world has ever known. Last year we traveled from its western-most boundary in Europe all the way to Beijing by motorcycle. To complete the traverse of the whole empire, however, we needed to come to Korea,” Mr. Morgan said in an e-mail interview with the JoongAng Daily.
Since Sept. 20, when the group started off from Seoul to Gapyeong, Gyeonggi province, they have been on the road from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. almost every day to complete their 2,410-kilometer (1,498-mile) “Korea Kiwis” trip. Much of that time, however, they are off their bikes taking photos and enjoying the scenery. Sticking mainly to back roads, they have so far passed through Sokcho, Chungju, Andong, Gyeongju, Jeonju, Gwangju, Mokpo and Gunsan. They plan to leave for New Zealand next Sunday from Seoul after returning on Friday from a trip to Mount Seorak.
Mr. Morgan believes that when on a journey, one should make the experience as authentically local as possible. “We are really trying to experience the true Korea so we often sleep in ondol style rooms and eat the local food,” he said.
They begin each day with a Korean-style breakfast, baekban, have fruit with lunch or a light meal of gimbap or mandu with kimchi, and order local specialties for dinner if they can understand the menu, accompanied by Korean beer. “The kimchi varies from place to place, as do the types of vegetable and seafood,” he added.
The group rides Hyosung GV650s, a Korean motorcycle brand.
“[Mr. Keogh] sells the model in his shop in Wellington,” Mr. Morgan said. The team is sponsored by the New Zealand agent for Hyosung, Korean Air and Ventura motorcycle luggage.
Not all of their travel is on motorcycles. In Gyeongju, they hired bicycles for the day to enjoy the historical aspects of the city and to take a better look around. They also take days off to hike in national and regional parks.
Thus far, their favorite place has been a little fishing village just south of Sokcho, Gangwon province. “We watched the boats coming in and unloading the fish, and the older people of the families cleaning the nets,” he said.
In New Zealand, drivers use the left side of the road, and “it’s difficult to change sides,” Mr. Morgan said, adding that they have to be extra careful because of that. Some Koreans, however, thought the travelers, with their helmets on, were locals.
“When we were at a very busy intersection, a lost Korean man asked us the way. Once he realized we were foreign, he laughed loudly and kept going,” he said.
Mr. Morgan said that managing business is possible during the trip thanks to modern technology. He and his wife update their Web site about the journey as they travel. He also said that he has discovered new investment ideas on the road.
“We have really enjoyed traveling from village to village on our bikes, stopping off to experience the different lifestyles of the local people ― and of course to eat their sumptuous food,” Mr. Morgan said.
“We hope to write a book about the Korean trip and our adventures. It would be great to have it published in both English and Hangul,” he added.
Mr. Morgan is planning to continue his global motorcycling adventure, and already has further trips scheduled until 2009.

by Park Sung-ha
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