Monday, March 30, 2009


Saturday feels like such a blur to me, everything happened so quickly. Our tour bus arrived in Paju which almost felt like an amusement park because it had some rides (like the one where the boat goes from side to side and some other small types like that) and also had outdoor food vendors. We had about 15-20 minutes to eat and explore the small area that we were in which had the "freedom bridge" which I took a picture of but do not completely understand the meaning of. We were then hustled into a big bus which took multiple tour groups into the heavily guarded area. 

We drove into the civilian controlled zone where all of our passports were checked against a piece of paper where we wrote our names, passport numbers, and nationalities by a South Korean soldier. It was at the entrance to the CCZ (civilian controlled zone) where there were lots of soldiers and all cars had to stop before they could enter. I was surprised however that there was never a single time that I had to pass through a metal detector, and my purse was never checked. Being that it is so guarded, I thought for sure that i would have to go through at least one of these things. 

Most of the places that we went we were not allowed to take photos of. If they caught you trying to take a photo they would take your camera away. We went down into the 3rd tunnel which was made by the North Koreans trying to invade South Korea, but it was discovered just in time. Apparently North Korea was trying to say that they were just digging for coal, but there is no coal in the area which they say proves that this wasn't for mining coal. We were also told that the dynamite holes in the walls pointing in the south korean direction shows that it was North Korea that built the tunnel. To get down to the tunnel, you have to go down this steep cement i think path (11% incline)  and then you get to the tunnel which is very short. We had to wear helmets, and everyone else had to duck most of the way, including poor Patrick who had to duck the entire way, except for me. There was one time my head didnt clear and had i not been wearing the helmet, i would have! Yay for being short :). The only time that we were technically in the DMZ was at the very end of the tunnel. The part of the tunnel that extends from North Korea is completely blocked off by 3 barricades so that nobody can pass from one country to the next. On the way back, the climb up the passage was very difficult. I read somewhere that it is about 230 feet that you have to climb up that 11% incline which is definitely a work out, although a soldier passed us and he was definitely running up it. Everyone else found it tough but nowhere near impossible. 

We also went to an observatory where for 500 won (28 cents!) you could look into binoculars (like the kind you find atop towers for tourists) and look into the DMZ and into North Korea. Unfortunately there was a line well behind the binoculars of where you could take photos from. This was so that you couldnt take pictures of the DMZ, just of North Korea. They are VERY sensitive about what you take photos of. I had been to Israel and on army bases there and I thought I knew what strict was, but even on the Israeli army base we were actually allowed to take some photographs. 

We also went to the northern most train station in South Korea. It was just created in 2002, and it was made in hopes of being able to connect the two Koreas when the time comes. Three trains come to the train station every day from Seoul but that is as far as it goes. The plan is when the peninsula unifies, there will be a train that goes from Seoul to Pyongyang (capital of north korea). There was a lot of talk of hopes of a unification between the two countries, however it seems impossible at the moment. 

We were not able to go anywhere else unfortunately during the tour. I think stuff was blocked off with the ongoing North Korean threat. we did learn a lot about Korea during the trip all of which I did not know before.

At the end, we were taken to this beautiful amethyst wholesaler near Seoul. They get the amethyst from the Korean country. I was not planning on buying anything, however I found this beautiful ring that they had which cost only $38 after all the deductions. I am absolutely in love with this ring and it is exactly the kind of ring that I love. 

Okay that was my day Saturday. Now picture time!

^ My ring which I just adore.
^ Picture taken into North Korea. 
^ Taken at the Dorasan Station. 
^ Walked a lot around Seoul on Sunday with Yi Sul. Never expected I would find somewhere like this! It was just a cute little residential section of Seoul. 

^ Seoul!
^ Guard at Dorasan. We were allowed to stand next to him and have our picture taken with him but I decided against it. 
^Freedom bridge
^City Hall in Seoul

^ My wonderful youth hostel in Seoul. Gives new meaning to "Follow the yellow brick road" huh :D 

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