Korea Trip- Day 4

The DMZ.

Becky signed us up for a tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone- the 4km strip between North and South Korea) for our 4th day in Korea.  We had a tour guide named Mel, and she was super nice, and really informative.
Our VIP bus, and Mel
Our Arabian Nights themed bus?
So we got picked up in Seoul, right off Becky's base, and then drove North.  We stopped in Imjingak, a park in the city of Paju, I don't think we had crossed into the DMZ at this point yet?  No, we couldn't have, because we had to switch buses here.  We saw Freedom Bridge, the only bridge crossing the Imjin River, and the only bridge connecting North and South Korea.  Around 13,000 war captives crossed back into South Korea via this bridge- giving it it's name.  All of the ribbons you see are from people separated from their families still in North Korea, and they hang them in memory of these loved ones :-(

Freedom Bridge, crossing between North and South Korea
Ribbons in honor of separated loved ones

So we got onto a different bus, and crossed into the DMZ- a guard got onto our bus and just walked up and down the middle aisle.  Mel said we were lucky- sometimes they check every person on the bus and make sure they match their documentation.  Don't worry, Becky and I were too busy finding out "What happens when strawberry meets milk?" to be too worried!
Crucial.  And to answer the question, it tasted like a strawberry version of cream soda, it wasn't actually milky.  It was really good actually!

And to be clear, since the DMZ is the "buffer zone" between North and South Korea, we were never actually in North Korea, we were only ever on the South Korean side of the DMZ and the guards we interacted with were South Korean soldiers. 

Ok, back to the action.  Once we crossed into the DMZ, we went to Dorasan Station- a railroad station built for once North and South are united again.  Mel made a funny statement about how then she could take a train to Europe instead of having to fly.  I guess it's a cool concept when you're essentially on an island, but I'd rather fly :-)
We had just crossed the Imjin River, and are located at the dot where she's pointing- Dorasan Station.  If the train worked, we would be headed straight to Pyongyang- North Korea's capital city.
Dorasan Station
Head downstairs for the platform to Pyongyang, weird.
The map of train lines that could be

Then we got back in the bus and headed to Dora Observatory.  We were up on a platform and could look over into North Korea.  We were only allowed to take pictures from a certain area, and of course, since it was foggy, none of my pictures could pick up North Korea from that area.  But, we could see it.  There are propaganda towns built there, that have lights on timers that come on at certain times, and no one moving around in them.  They are supposed to fool us into thinking that things are great in North Korea, and their people live in clean, nice towns.  It was super eerie, knowing that North Korea is like, trying to fool us, but also won't let us see how they truly live.  I dunno, it was strange knowing that pretty much everything we could see was a lie and was an orchestrated view.
Becky looking through the binoculars
This is as close as I could get.  I had my zoom lens with me, but from this distance, none of my pictures show any more than this one does.  Don't worry, we could see a lot more than you would think based on this picture.  But yes, it was foggy.  Ah well, you'll just have to go and see for yourself.
Then another drink break- a warm coffee in a can called "I'm... cafe latte"  Love.  And we headed to the 3rd Tunnel tour.  Gah it was so cool!  We went down into a tunnel that was dug by North Koreans straight into South Korea.  So far, 4 tunnels have been discovered, the most recent found in 1990.  The tunnel we went down into, the 3rd tunnel (named in order of when they were found- this one was found in 1978 based on a tip from a North Korean defector) was 73m below the surface, only about 2m high, and we were able to walk for a bit before we hit a blockade (so put there by the South Koreans).  There are 3 blockades down there, these huge concrete doors all on the South Korean side.  We were told we were about 75m from North Korea once we got to that 1st blockade. 
We weren't allowed to take any pictures down there, and there was a video camera trained on the end blockade once we got there.  We had to lock our belongings in lockers before going down.  They weren't messing around, and I was not about to try to push them.  So sorry guys, no pictures of most of this stuff.  But some more info about the tunnel- North Korea tried to say these were coal mining tunnels, not for use in invading.  They painted the walls black to try to cover their lie.  Also, any obvious dynamite holes were painted yellow, for us to easily see that the direction the dynamite was inserted means the tunnels were built North to South, not the other way around.  And it was more like a long cave, with water dripping down the ceiling and down the walls- not a finished tunnel like you might be picturing.

Oh, and no big deal, Mel told us not to stray at all during our DMZ tour, because there are landmines everywhere- soldiers hear them go off at night and think "well, there goes a deer".  Umm, don't worry Mel, I had no intention of straying.  Especially since everywhere we were was surrounded by barbed wire fences.  There was no way.

But don't worry, we got out just fine.  I even bought two bags of rice when I was there- white and black.  I had no idea, but about 500 people live in this strip of land, and they're mostly all rice farmers.  Who.  Knew.  Also, this then meant I had to lug around 2 bags of rice until we got back to the hotel again, hahaha, stupid.

We got dropped off back in Itaewon, and walked over to a galbi restaurant Becky had been to and loved.  It was about 2 or 3pm, so we were the ONLY people in this hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  I'm sure the owners thought we were lost.  But it was great Korean BBQ!  Matt was able to eat a ton of the sides (which were unlimited) and didn't miss the fact that he wasn't eating meat.  I hope everyone else enjoyed their food!  Check out this gorgeousness.
Our table was manned by Becky, cooking marinated pork.
The other table was manning the beef station.
Egg souffle thing, I don't remember what this was actually called, but I tore into it, haha.
And after a very serious day of DMZ tour, we went to a norebong to lighten the mood.  That's right, korean karaoke!  Becky and Liz had been to this place that looked like a dollhouse, and you could see into the front rooms to see everyone singing.

We were in a back room because all of the front rooms were occupied at the time, but after we were done singing, we grabbed some cups of free ice cream and watched the rooms.  One room got super excited when they saw us watching and started waving and jumping up and down, haha.
And on our way back home, Becky and I saw this store and had to pay homage to Love Actually by taking a picture :-)
That's it for Day 4!  A very serious DMZ tour, followed by a not-so-serious norebong adventure.  It was a wonderful day!  And once again, we crashed in bed, knowing that we were hiking a mountain the next morning!  Gah, I love this vacation!  Thanks again for reading!

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