A day to itself for this edition of South Korean Diaries as it was such a busy day and so much to write about and for the simple fact I like to keep my articles a certain length.
A long anticipated day, I booked for this a good month before this trip back in Australia and I talk of the highly popular DMZ tour, Korean Demilitarized Zone. Now I’m not going to get into deep about the tour itself on here, that will be saved for a separate blog based on the DMZ.
Dropping the kids off to their Auntie’s. The tour started off at the magnificent Lotte Hotel, let me tell you that is some amazing and posh hotel. On a bus, only half packed at this stage, we head to Paju, a newly built city (1997) that borders the DMZ and a location where North Korea can be seen. Our first port of call is to go the Observatory, where we receive a mini slide about the Observatory and take a better look into a north Korea village through installed binoculars, the difference between the two countries couldn’t be more startling. The North Korean village has unfinished infrastructure, no roads and bugger all trees as they have all been cut down to help with heating during the cold winter months.
Next was Imjingak Park, a tourist zone best known for its freedom bridge where the South Koreans crossed to come home after the signing of the Armistice agreement. Also it has the last train, named appropriately, as it was the last train to cross into North Korea. The park also has another Observation point to check in on those North Koreans and traditional dancers which you see a fair bit in the country.
One thing about the borders of the two countries you will notice is that, a barb wire fence stretches across the whole border and a large and wide river practically separates the countries, for most parts of the border anyway.
Following the bridge is time for lunch, the bus takes us all to a local restaurant where there are a lot of grill set up with the famous Korean meal I have spoken about earlier, Bulgogi. The lunch satisfies and we are off again and for some unknown reason when our bus leaves this time it is full, but oh well.
It is now time to enter the DMZ itself, a war zone you could say. Just so you know a DMZ is a two kilometre border that stretches the whole 241 kilometres line between the south and the north. And I will get into that more in my feature blog, because it is quite detailed. Anyway to keep it short, in the DMZ, we are greeted by both United States and Korean Soldiers, show heir passport and get a twenty-minute briefing, on the history of Korean War and how the DMZ became.
On the bus where unfortunately pictures are not allowed to be taken, we are taken to the blue buildings, you may have heard of them but within the buildings one half is South Korea and the other is North and if one country is inside the other is not allowed. We are lucky today that the North is not in there and we cn enter and we go to the other side of the building we are officially in North Korea, now that was pretty cool if you asked me even if for only a matter of minutes. Photos are allowed within the blue building with a couple of South Korean soldiers who are happy enough to be in the photo. In fact, they don’t move the whole time with in the building. Such discipline.
From there we get another short trip to the main office at the DMZ where we had our original presentation, we have a little shop in the souvenir shop and is off back to Seoul. A tour worthwhile. Now just on the tour if ever wanting to purchase a seat, don’t do it through trip advisor, book it through the tour agency itself, Panmunjeom agency, you save $90 and you get the same deal.
After picking up the kids, I am spoilt even more, dinner is at TGI Fridays, it was fantastic, friendly staff, unlimited tap beer for five bucks and a fantastic steak perfectly cooked to my liking which is rare. Yeah I like a bit of blood. Anyway the perfect and much needed western meal capped off a great day.