Saturday, January 12, 2008
Korea Vacation: Day Two
Day two in Korea started early. All four of us got up and took a taxi to the Lotte Hotel to meet at a DMZ tour place. Why a taxi? Because they are dirt cheap in Korea and ever cheaper when split between four people. And what's the DMZ? It's the demilitarized zone that basically separates North and South Korea. And you can't just go there on your own. You have to go with a tour.

Tour started out with a long bus ride. As we drove, the tour guide gave us the days run down and some instructions. I found the tour guide to be a bit pushy and she kept taking about a famous bridge but couldn't pronounce bridge properly! It was driving me crazy!

We had to stop at this strange fair ground and switch to a special DMZ bus and then headed to what's called the 3rd tunnel. Tour starts with a brief video on the history of the Korean War and North/South Korea relations. After that, it's to the tunnel. It's basically one of several secret tunnels that North Korea dug in order to try and invade South Korea. You take a trolley car down into the tunnel, walk around, and then come back up. You're not allowed to take pictures in the tunnel, so I don't have any, but it was a pretty basic tunnel so use your imagination.

Next stop was a mountain observatory where you can see into North Korea. There is also a large building/meeting conference area there, but we couldn't go in due to meetings that were happening that day. Although it was an observatory, there was a line painted on the ground and once past the line, you couldn't take pictures. Here's the best I could get of the North Korean landscape.

Next, it was to a train station. It doesn't have any working trains yet, but South Korea built in anticipation of the day that people can freely travel between the north and south.

Then it was off to lunch. I will say, one thing I greatly enjoyed while in Korea was the food. Super spicy and really good flavor. Most of it is good for your health too. Interestingly enough, during lunch there was this really loud explosion. After just having just gone on a military tour where they explained about old land mines and such, it was quite a shock. Of course, it wasn't a land mind, but there was a large truck across the street that was on fire so I assume its engine must have blown.

After lunch we headed to a place called Panumunjeom which is home of the Joint Security Area. It's the only place in the DMZ where the North and South connect. So, yes, I actually got to stand in North Korea for a few minutes. In the Joint Security Area, there are two different guards and the guard in the back is the one in North Korea. If you step behind him, it means that you are defecting to North Korea. They highly frown on those even thinking of doing this! During the tour, at one of the few little shops, I picked up some nice stamps for my grandfather but that was pretty much all I purchased while there.

After touring the DMZ all four of us did some wondering around and ate some of the wonderful, spicy, street vendor, food. Then we met up with one of Janet's friends and picked up some dinner. After dinner we went to what has to be the most awesome desert place ever! It was all done up like a garden fantasy land. All the chairs were either like porch swings or fancy flowery rocking chairs! And the desert was super tasty and cheap!

Then we browsed around and did some shopping. The only thing I picked up was an eyelash curler as we had plans to go clubbing the next day and I didn't have on. Plus, with my $1 eyelash curler purchase I also got this crazy pink feather pen as a bonus gift. The pen would have probably cost me $3 by itself in the States.

After that we did more wandering and I picked up some more vendor snacks from the same vendor I saw the first night I was in Korea.

The night ended on a rather poor note. We tried and tried and tried to get a taxi to take us back home, but they would all pull up slowly, hear where we wanted to go and then drive off! WTF! The only thing that made me feel any better about this was that it was happening to other people as well, not just us. Apparently, after a certain time, taxi drivers in Korea basically become independent agents and can refuse fairs as well as charge whatever they want. Eventually we did make it back home, but only by offering a taxi driver $20 for what should have been a $2, maybe $3, fare.

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