Saturday, January 3, 2009

Vacation Week 2

This week I also went to the DMZ and the war memorial in one day. When I type it, I know it sounds like a pretty heavy day but I had fun (and on the way home I bought shoes in the subway for 10,000 won!). To go to the DMZ, I had to get up REALLY early. For anyone, it would have been early but for me it was not much later than when I normally drift asleep. Side note- That morning I went to the ATM for some extra cash, thought I was getting 30,000 won but ended up with 300,000 won! oops. Anyway, I went to the DMZ with a small group of friends, and friends of friends. On the tour bus, the tour guide told us some interesting stories about Koreans. Sometimes I couldn't hear her but one was about how Korean women never let their boyfriends see them without makeup until they are married and that's why there are honeymoon divorces in Korea. Funny right? She also told us about her friend that had the surgery on her eyes that Koreans sometimes get during school vacation in high school but that it was messed up and she looked weird for years while she saved money to get it fixed. Then eventually she got married to a man who had big eyes but then they had a baby and the baby had her eyes! So right after the baby was born, the lady started saving money for his surgery. She also talked a little bit about Kim Jong Il but I couldn't really hear her at all. So anyway, we made a few stops at the DMZ. The first was to the Freedom Bridge and the Peace Bell. It was strange because in the parking lot, there was an amusement park. From the bridge, you could see a train coming from North Korea. There was also what looked like an empty swimming pool. Most of what you could see of North Korea was wilderness.

These were guarding the Freedom Bridge:

The end of the Freedom Bridge was covered in notes from people who were in South Korea to their family members in North Korea. I guess when the border was drawn there were families divided.

And here is the Peace Bell:

There were numbers involved in the design that were all symbolic but I don't remember what they were now. I'm sure anyone who is interested can google it, OR they can visit me in Korea and we can take the DMZ tour together. See? It's a fun place!

I believe our second stop was the tunnel. Tunnel #3. Before we got off the bus, the tour guide told us to make sure we stayed with her so we didn't step on any landmines. These were the most terrifying instructions I had ever heard. We were forbidden from taking photos down there so I have to rely on my memory. Before we went in the tunnel, we were brought into the tunnel museum. We watched a movie that told us what a great, fertile place the DMZ was and how it was a place where animals thrived. It didn't specify what animals were living there among the landmines but I thought it was little humorous.

Then we were told to store our bags and coats in lockers and make sure we put on a hard hat. It had to be a yellow hard hat because the blue ones were for people who were taking some sort of monorail down instead of walking. The tour guide told us that the tunnel had been created by North Korea. It was 1 of maybe 4 that had been found. She said that the North Koreans had initially painted the inside of the tunnel with coal paint and said it was a coal mine. Then they said they didn't build it and that it must have been built by the South Koreans but I guess they could tell from the dynamite marks and water levels that it had been built in a southward direction. So I guess the South Koreans were like we don't believe you but whatever and started doing tours. And once they starting making money, the North Koreans asked for commission because, after all, they had built the tunnel. So we went in and immediately I got confused and separated from my group. I didn't understand that you were just supposed to take a locker and go, and I had a small panic attack where I envisioned myself trying to navigate home between landmines. Finally I located 2 members of my group, got the instructions, begged them to wait for me, stowed my stuff and grabbed my hard hat (and boy do I wish there was a picture of me in a bright yellow hard hat!). The tunnel was SO steep. There were seats installed at intervals along the sides so that people could take breaks on the way back up (but I was too tough for that!). There were also periodic drips of spring water coming from the roof. At the end was the first barrier. Apparently there are 3 but the first was as far as we could go. You could look through a window and see through to the second and third barriers though. That was cool. It was very eerie and I do wish that I had some pictures. After the steep climb back up, we got back on the bus and went to the third stop. This was an observatory on top of a mountain. It was windy and freezing! It had some of those viewfinder things you put money into and for 500 won, you could see North Korea and actually see cars driving there and people in towers. You could only take pictures from behind the yellow line and I couldn't do that because there were too many people blocking my view. There was also a building and a guy was showing us something and saying something but I really couldn't tell what because I couldn't see over the people in front of me. So I have no pictures of this stop. The last stop was what I believe is or, possibly, was a railway station. You could get North Korean passport stamps there but the tour guide urged us several times not to put them in our passport. I put mine in my Korean pocket dictionary.

After this last stop we went to lunch and then the War Memorial Museum. There was a lot of interesting stuff there. Lots of little videos and mannequins in fatigues with red paint smeared on them. And a great diorama about a guy who killed his family because his wife asked him to *just in case* they didn't win the war and he didn't survive battle. He didn't survive after maybe 5 battles but talk about jumping the gun! There is more to my week off but I am tired now so I will be back with Vacation Week 3. Next installment? Probably jimjilbang! One of my new favorite places.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting vacation! I look forward to the third installment.