Two bike cities, Chiang Mai and Gyeongju
Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Gyeongju, South Korea; were two cities I visited this year. I would call them ‘bike cities’ as cycling is always the best way to go around even the transport system is not bad.
Chiang Mai, Thailand 泰國清邁
Chiang Mai is in the northern part of Thailand. The airport, town centre and most sightseeing areas are so close together. There are no railways, and bus service is not so common although it is improving these years. Tourists usually need to rely on Tuk Tuk and Songthaew in the city.
Tuk Tuk and Songthaew are so special for most overseas travelers. They are, in general, the taxi without a meter calculating fares according to the distance a passenger have travelled. Tourists have to negotiate and even bargain with drivers for the price. Besides, it’s easy to get a Tuk Tuk or Songthaew in the town centre, while it’s not far away from it.
People who have driving licenses can rent motorbikes. For those who don’t have like me, a bicycle is always a great company!
The city has cycling paths and lanes in fact, but in most cases people have to ride with other vehicles, but their speed is not so fast that you don’t have to worry about the road safety.
You can ride inside the old town, and also the outside. It’s a good idea to go to Baan Kang Wat, the artist village which is 5 to 6km away, 30 minutes from the town centre. Huay Tung Tao Lake, the beautiful nature which requires about an hour journey (15km).
單車不論在古城內外都方便，不論去五至六公里外的Baan Kang Wat，甚至是15公里外的Huay Tung Tao Lake。從古城前往只要半到一小時。
Get the bike from hostels and bike shops. 55 to 60 Bahts for 24 hours in 2016. 24 hours is a good thing, so that you don’t have to hurry up to finish your bike journey at night, and return it before the shop closes. Park it just outside the hostel or hotel you are staying at.
The city is also developing their own bike share system. However, I didn’t try it.
Gyeongju, South Korea 南韓慶州
Gyeongju is a city with so many historic sites and traditional Korean houses. To get there, take an-hour train or bus from Busan, the largest city in the southern part of the country.
Many people are suggested to wander around the city by renting bikes. They are some bike rental shops around the train and intercity bus stations. However, I couldn’t find any bike share facilities in Gyeongju (as of May, 2016).
Like Chiang Mai, most popular tourist sites are close to each other. Most importantly, cyclists do not have to worry about car accidents as the pedestrian roads are so wide that include bikes.
Unlike Chiang Mai, Gyeongju provides great bus services. But Korean languages only can be an obstacle to overseas tourists. I only take a bus once in the city as one of the places I wanted to visit is too far away. Riding a bike is more comfortable than walking, and you can stop anywhere and anytime when you notice something interests you, even there are no parking spaces nearby.
Most people who visit Gyeongju do not stay overnight, as they may be told by travel guides that the city is so small and Busan has much more to be seen. Even there are not so many things to do in Gyeongju, Gyeongju is a place for one to slow down. Take a bike and ride it slowly. Sit in the park and do nothing. Wander around and get a coffee as the density of cafes is so high in a small town.
For me, bicycle is one of the great inventions in human’s history. It does not need electricity or diesel. It only needs a little bit training while no driving license is needed. It is not slower than other modes of transport like bus and subway, when you go to a place 15km away from the starting point. You can decide the path and don’t need to follow the (frustrating) public transport services. Follow your heart.