DMZ Tour

Today we woke up at 9. Had our breakfast downstairs with the fiesty breakfast lady. You get coffee and juice she prepares the breakfast. Eggs over easy and toast.

Simple but filling.

We go upstairs to prepare for DMZ tour. Watch 2010 MTV music awards. Never saw it last year. Chelsea Handler was hysterical.

Go to lobby for our 11:10 pickup. A lovely Korean woman comes in speaking perfect English and holding a DMZ tour pamphlet.

She’s our ride. She walks us out to the mini-bus, which is a quick 5 minute walk from our hotel.

We jump up in our air-conditioned van. A few other Americans are in there. We have a couple more pick ups. A tottering old smoking white guy, a Chinese man who speaks almost no English, and a few others.

Sunny, our tour guide explains that we will pick up a few more people at the ticket office. They did the JSA tour in the am. This tour is the DMZ tour by Seoul City Tours.

It absolutely rocked. Sunny is the best tour guide ever. She had to be because we had some bad seeds on this tour.

But anyways. Onto the tour. During our 45-minute ride out to the ticket place Imjingak Park, Sunny explains what we will see and gives us an informative and fun overview of Korean history.

At Imjingak, we are driven past what looks like an amusement park. Kinda inappropriate. I’m guessing it’s for busy days when people have to wait for hours or something.

We see an old locomotive that was recovered from the battlefield

and Freedom Bridge.

We only had 30 minutes to look around. I squeezed in a pee break and a T-shirt purchase too. We switch to the DMZ tour bus departing at 1 pm, but it’s packed with Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. Sunny decides well take the 1:10 bus, which is for English tours only so she doesn’t have to yell over the other tour guides.

Ofc, despite Sunny explaining that everyone needs to be on time, the Chinese douche bag is 15 minutes late. I don’t get this. If you want to be an asshole, do it on your own time. When you delay the tour we all lose time at other sights. Because of you. And 15 minutes that’s beyond rude.

Sunny had to go running all over the park looking for his lazy ass. She was sweaty and coughing when she brought him back to bus.

We are joined by a biracial couple, an obnoxious know it all-American college kid and a few more doozies from the JSA morning tour.

Picture rules are confusing in DMZ. Can’t take picture on DMZ bus. In some but not all buildings. Ugh. Sunny is lovely and gives us an overview before each site.

The third infiltration tunnel is our next site. Sunny warns it’s steep. The South drilled a tunnel down to the North’s infiltration tunnel. Deep underground. This is the third of four the South discovered but there are rumored to be 15 more.

Basically, the North decided to build a tunnel from its side under the DMZ toward Seoul to launch a secret attack.

I don’t know how Seoul deals with the North. They are sneaky and conniving. Reminds me of the country I just escaped. I get why they are such bosom buddies now.

The North Ofc denies it built the infiltration tunnel and says the South did it. Evidence clearly shows the explosions in the rock had to come from the north. Oh and the North is pissed that the South makes money off the tunnel and demanded a share. Why? If you didn’t build it why are you entitled to anything?

We watch the 7-minute DMZ movie at the movie theater near the third tunnel.

So I decide I’ll try the tunnel. Despite my claustrophobia and respiratory infection. Not a good call. I get the construction hat on. I took a quick pic

as we were in lobby and guard asks me to store camera. This makes me nervous. Did I screw up the picture rules?

But as I enter cool air sweeps over me. Clammy air. I start down. It’s steep. And I feel the panic welling up. I know if I look back I’m done for but I need to see the way out. The exit has become a tiny circle of light.

It’s too far away. I freeze. Tell OL I can’t. But he should go on. Panic is sloshing around inside me. As I turn and hike back out of there, I worry I can’t make it back. My bronchis strain to get air. By the time get to the lobby I’m shaking and sweat is pouring out of me. Anxiety attack.

I go to gift shop. Need something to distract my mind. I pick up 50$ worth of stuff and a Sprite. Hoping sugar will help. Ofc, a bunch of redneck Americans comes in talking about North Korean beer. Being guys.

I buy handkerchief and check out lady doesn’t put it in bag. Just hands it to me because I am melting.

I go outside to bathroom. Need quiet to calm down. Still shaking and feeling really off kilter. Stand outside and take pics.

Go back inside and run into OL. He says good call not coming down. The south’s tunnel wasn’t the scary part. The north’s tunnel forced him  to double over to fit through.

Scary.

We eat some snacks. He goes to take outside pics and I am swarmed by Asian tour bus. I go outside and it’s already time to leave for next spot.

We go to the Dora observatory where you can see the JSA and the North Korean and South Korean sides of the DMZ. Interestingly, after Seoul put up a South Korean flag, the North put up theirs–larger and taller. So freaking childish.

You can’t take pics from there. But I looked through binoculars. Pretty neat to see it.

There are factories on the north side built by south side companies. They wanted to do manufacturing in lower income country and had a special agreement with the north to construct these factories where workers make $67/month. A high salary in the north.

From fifteen feet back behind a yellow line, you can take pictures, but with the binoculars it’s impossible to get a good shot. I think that’s what they intended.

This is North Korea:

 

Me at Dora Observatory:

Then we went to Dorasan station, which is a train station the South built in hope of reuniting someday. The station will link the south to the north and onward forming a transatlantic railroad. Someday.

The South is so hopeful of reuniting. It truly wants one Korea. And invests multi-billion dollars toward that goal.

The weird thing is you can’t take pics in the direction of North Korea, but can in any other direction. Insane.

Our last stop was the unification village where the government gave families land to locate but only one adult offspring can stay on there. The other must relocate.

The giftshop there was the last stop on the tour. Not as much as the shops at other places. Best gift shop was at infiltration tunnel and Imjingak Park.

Then we road back to Imjingak and switched to our bus.

Hour ride back to Seoul. During which we pay for the tour. I use credit card.

The Chinese guy doesn’t get what 48,000 won is and hands her 10000 won bill. She says four more and he hands her 4 1000 won bills. It takes three tries to get the proper payment. Supreme Idiot.

Look I get that English isn’t your native language and you shouldn’t be expected to speak it. UNLESS YOU SIGN UP FOR AN ENGLISH TOUR OF SOMETHING.

We enter the city at rush hour. Enroute to an amethyst store, we pass Gyeongbokgong palace and Sunny tells us about it. Chinese guy says get out now. She say no we are going to amethyst store. And the palace’s last entry is 5 and it closes at 6. Its 4:59 right now.

Ofc when we arrive at store, he starts walking off to palace. I told Sunny you are wonderful. Truly. To deal with that schmuck. Who btw made us 15 minutes behind schedule by being late. OL points out–Irony is if he was on time he could have made it to the palace. Lol.

I was excited about store. Until I saw the prices. $100 US dollars for a stretch bracelet with amethyst round beads. Are you fucking kidding me?!

I have a huge amethyst ring bought in the US and set in silver that cost $50.

No one buys a thing. Then we got dropped off at city hall and trekked back to hotel. Rested. Then dinner at Shinsegae again. Omelette filled with rice and sweet potato and bananas croquettes.

OL had chicken Sichuan. We came back to the room. Watched Ghost Lab.

I teased OL cause he throws the cover over his head ala Vlad the Impaler at night. We realize he has a million nicknames courtesy of me and I have none from him.

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4 Responses to DMZ Tour

  1. berry says:

    Looks pretty scary. Dmz could go off any minute. Nice pics. What a volatile area. R u glad u went.

    • The area is policed by both sides. It didn’t feel scary–just sad that a country was torn in half like this. Very glad I went. I learned so much about Korea and I saw a piece of history. 🙂

  2. Alice says:

    Hi,

    I would like to ask for the dmz tour, can the payment be paid by cash, given on the tour day itself?

    Regards,
    Alice

    • Alice, you have to contact the company several days ahead of time and pay by credit card. If you want to go right into the center of the DMZ, you have to register 2 months ahead of time, fill out lengthy paperwork and dress very conservative and business casual. Hope that helps!

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