Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seoul - Day 6

I booked a half-day tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) yesterday. This area is along the North/South Korea border and is 4km wide, 2km into the North and 2km into the South. We specifically visited the 3rd Tunnel area because it's closest to Seoul (only took an hour to drive there). There are four tunnels along the North/South border, all of which were dug by North Korea over the years in order to send an army through to invade South Korea. What I remember most is that the Fourth Tunnel was found in 1990 which, for some reason, doesn't seem that long ago to me. You had to walk down a 300m walkway to get to the tunnel itself and then walk to the end of the tunnel to see what's on the North Korean side. O_O Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed for this portion of the tour. There were several spots in the tunnel where you had to bend down to avoid hitting your head on the rocky ceiling - good thing we wore hard hats! You could ride a tram back up the walkway, but there were several mainland Chinese tourists waiting for it (about the parents' age), so I ended up walking up that same walkway to the top. (O_o) All the walking around I've done so far came in handy!

Next, we went to a lookout point, Dora Observatory, where you could see both the North Korean and South Korean flags. Strange! There was a designated photo line here, so I couldn't get actual pictures of the flags. Do: Sadness. But I did get to see them with a pair of binoculars. 

After that, we went to Dorasan Station, the northernmost station in South Korea. According to the tour guide, there was a point in time where North Korea encouraged South Korea to build tracks into North Korea. But... once some tracks were laid down, the North Koreans told them they couldn't ride a train into that country. :o/ More details here. It's a beautiful station.

At the end of the tour, we were taken to a government-sponsored ginseng center. *rolls eyes* This was obviously a ploy to sell ginseng to hapless tourists, so I didn't buy any. Apparently, Korean ginseng has many valuable properties (especially those that are six years or older). My sister said Chinese tourists like to buy it. The website I provided says that buying from that particular place is a scam. This does not surprise me. A friend of mine is also in Korea and had mentioned this center a few days ago; I'm glad she did! Unfortunately, her mom bought into the hype and now they've got a year's supply of ginseng to contend with. O.o

The tour ended at the City Hall metro station where we ate at a nearby restaurant. Lunch was optional; since my sister needed time to study, I opted to get lunch with the tour group. Ehhh... the lunch was not that great. I ordered bulgogi but they obviously used cheap cuts of meat. There were several different nationalities on the tour though, which was neat. A few guys were in Seoul for a teaching conference (one from Hungary, one from Czech Republic, one from Germany). One guy was on a business trip from Pennsylvania; another guy on a business trip was from New Zealand. This guy had actually been to Atlanta before! Haha, when I travel, I usually hear foreigners visiting New York or California, so it was weird to hear that someone had been to Atlanta. A few people from Singapore... and I can't remember the rest. I got pretty lucky with the tour group. I was late getting picked up from my hostel, so I had to sit in a small shuttle bus that accompanied the larger tour bus. The larger bus had 41 people while the small bus had 15. I liked the small bus better, of course.

I went to Ewha University to meet up with my sister. We stayed in her dorm for a bit, trying to figure out our next move. We decided to go shopping for a few things people wanted me to bring back. We went to two grocery stores on different sides of town only to find that they were both closed. :o\ What a waste of time! (We learned after the fact that stores are now closed on Sundays. Mind you, they used to stay open. I'm not sure what prompted the change but it was frustrating.) We gave up and had dinner near her university - Japanese curry. Yummy.




Entrance to walkway to Third Tunnel - No photography allowed. 


Dora Observatory 






Dorasan Station 





Freedom Bridge 







Bulgogi 



They look like fingers to me. 



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