OK, so I have a fleet of motorcycles, some of which even work. Looking at regulations I quickly decided that importing one of them, no matter how small, would just cost too much. Korean customs will impose tax, based on the purchase price of the vehicle. The fact that it (or they) are decidedly second hand doesn't matter. (A colleague of mine bought a Kayak, paying Korean tax, took it out of the country and then had to pay /more/ tax importing it back in...). The fact that non of my bikes are of Korean origin would have meant that the tax would be Lots.
I am also living in an area that, if you did a googlemaps search, would show forest everywhere. To say that its isolated would be an understatement. It was therefore essential to have some means of getting from the middle of nowhere to the middle of somewhere. Or even the outskirts of nowhere.
2 minutes of Extensive Research Into Korean Bikes limited the choice to Daelim or Hyosung, the two Korean manufacturers of scooters. Thats not strictly true. Hyosung do do trailies and road sports bike up to 650cc. For the island a 250 would be ideal seeing as the speed limit is a whopping 80km/h. Even my MZ could manage that! A 250 however is not possible until I pass my motorcycle test (Koreans will not exchange motorcycle licences).
So for my first saturday off, I hopped onto the bus, complete with bus driver falling asleep at the wheel, to go to the local bike stores. Unlike european setups, shops on Jeju tend to be more of a back street affair, but scattered on the main streets. Bike shops were no exception. I had planned on visiting two, to discuss prices and see what was there. Joining me was San Jung, my lab technician. He offered to come along and having someone who could speak Korean might be of help.
First stop was Mr Lee's who appears in all of the press for renting bikes to foreigners and has good reviews. In the back of his shop was a Hyosung GT 250 R and he was happy for me to take it for a spin. No paper signing, no driving license or ID showing... just gave me a lid and let me go! How stress free is that? I took it up the road, handled nicely enough but stopped short of actually stopping. I rode back to the shop and found that oil/grease was all over one of the front disks. Erm... OK, but I wont be paying 3 million for that just yet. And no, I am not going to take it out on a further (extended) ride.
Also in the shop were two Hyosung 125 trailies. One blue and one orange. The orange one was in better nick overall (plus it was orange) so Mr Lee gave me the keys and I had a go on that. It stopped, it started. It worked. and I could have it for 1.1 million, which was quite pricey (they are 2.5 million new, and this was 4 years old).
To avoid doing anything rash, we went to another store which was closed (the owner inconveniently going to the airport and not answering his phone). San Jung did the yellow pages thing and off we trundled to the third shop. Nothing but scooters and a horrible Hyosung custom for 2 million.
I so tried not to buy a bike today. Somehow I ended back at Mr Lee's. We negotiated an oil change (done on the spot) a new crash hat and a bike lock. Pillion pegs are on order (for no extra charge).
And the deed was done. To celebrate, and to thank San Jung, we ate at a vietnamese/korean meal (delicious) just round the corner.
Jeju city is 35 km from digs. I was in jeans and T-shirt - and apart from the lid, had no protective clothing. The bike didn't even have a number plate as to get one you have to have insurance. Which I didn't. So my first ride on Orange was done in complete illegality.
Next on the agenda ... sort out paperwork, including a bike licence (but at least I can get to the test centre now!)
(Back on Two Wheels)