Friday, July 27, 2012

Korea Trip: Seoul Part 2

Our second day activity should be the one that I've been waiting for \(^^)/ the DMZ tour!!!

Initially we'd wanted to go there on our own. That's by train from Seoul station to Imjingak via the Gyeongui line. But after considering that we have to be extra punctual because we have to catch the Nanta Show in Hongdae in the evening, we finally agree to go for the tour.

We saw some brochures at the receptionist counter at the guesthouse and found some very cheap half-day DMZ tour. The one that we took cost 41 000 won. It says there on the brochure that we can make a booking within 24 hours so I was in a hurry and sent an email. When they didn't reply as quick as I expect them to, I called them after our prayer in Itaewon central mosque. Surprisingly, the booking was extremely quick. They only asked for my name, how many person and our lodging address. I was out from the phone booth in less than 5 minutes.

MR: Dah ke? Kejapnye
GG: Dah. Errr.. Tu la gg pon konpius kejap sangat
MR: Confirm 41 000??
GG: Erk? Meh nak confirm balik

So.. On the 23rd June, at 7.40 am, the bus waited for us in front of the guesthouse. We were late! We were suppose to check out that morning and move to another guesthouse and and and I'd left the room key inside the room instead of the counter.. O MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our extremely cute tour guide

The bus was full. I sat next to a very nice Swiss businessman.

GG: HH, orang sebelah aku dari pergunungan Alps!
HH: Tengok die pakai jam brand ape weyh!
GG: Eyh?? Jap jap aku x nampak brand die!!! (-_-") stress!

DMZ was not far at all! It took about 20 minutes to get there. On the highway, we can see North Korea just across this very wide river. No boat was sailing on the river; that's forbidden. There was also no aeroplane in the airspace; that's forbidden too. There were barbed wire fences along the river bank and there were watch towers  in every 200-300 meters *rough estimation*. 

Along the way, our tour guide told the history of the Korean War. The history goes back to when Japan was in power. The Soviet declared war against Japan and towards the end of the World War II, the Soviet have occupied the northern part of Korea. Then, Korea was divided into north and south by this agreement made by the victorious Allies. The US was to administer the south while the Soviet administered the north. So that's how the North becomes the Communist while the south becomes the Capitalist. So, the Korean War started when the North invaded the South on June 1950. It lasted for about 3 years and the Korean suffered a lot from the war. The tour guide repeatedly say, "We don't war anymore" as she tells us the story. Our first stop was Imjingak

Imjingak has a 3-storey observatory building but I didn't spend much time there because I wanted to see the displays that they have in the park. Met a Korean fella with his Mongolian friend on my way down. They asked me where I'm from and then the ayam-itik conversation starts again. I got used to it after 6 days in Korea hehe 

So, what else do they have in Imjingak...

This altar; Mangbaedan altar. I didn't take the whole picture of it because there were so many tourists. Anyway.. this altar is where the North Korean do their annual ancestral rites ceremony where they'll bow towards their homeland on new year. There's a plate that tells how the North Korean still hope for unification and still dream of going back to their homeland. Rasa macam mo menangis jak masa baca tuh T_T o sedihnya tu kalo aku x dapat balik pi Sabah suda~ emosi..

This rusty locomotive was derailed by bombs during the Korean war. There are 1022 bullet holes on the locomotive!

And this is the Freedom Bridge. It was originally one of the two railroad bridges on the Gyeongui line that was later destroyed during the Korean War. The west bridge was then restored to enable the return of 12 773 prisoners of war. The prisoners returned on foot and they yelled "FREEDOM!! FREEDOM!!" as they walk back towards South Korea. That's how the bridge got it's name

Next the  3rd Infiltration Tunnel

There are four infiltration tunnels dug by the North Korean. The first 3 was found in the 70's while the last one was found in 1990. We were not allowed to take pictures in it. I think there must be a good reason why they don't allow tourists to take pictures so, yeah, we didn't. This is a very interesting place! \(^^)/ (for nerds like me..)
The tunnel is actually inclining so we have to go down and then walk for about 300m until the first concrete barricade that is used to block the tunnel. The height of the tunnel is said to be 2m but I think it's lesser than that now that they have those metal pipes on the ceiling. We were given helmets so we don't knock our heads on those pipes. I'm short so I walk erect all the way. But you can hear 'thud.. thud.. thud' bunyi kepala orang terhantuk haha

The most interesting part is how they found the tunnel!!!! 
Well, the south intelligence only know that the north is digging a tunnel in DMZ area and it is located just beneath an area that has trees.. Ok smart.. How are they going to narrow that down?? You know what they did? They placed many many PVC pipes filled with water in the suspected areas and after 3 years, suddenly one of the pipe burst and the water shoot up to the sky and that was how they found the tunnel.

The north tried to cover it up by saying they were actually mining coal and even painted the walls with coal. But it was obvious that they were making the tunnel for invasion because there are no coal in that area.. Only granite. 

Next.. Dorasan Station and Dorasan Observatory

This is the Dora Observatory which is situated on top of Mount Dora. Inside the bus, the guide told us we are going to climb the mountain by foot and HH and I were so happy about it \(^^)/ "Yeay!" but later she said she was just kidding.. Memang kami suka naek gunung kan.. :P

They actually restrict photo taking beyond that yellow line. So I didn't get any nice shots of North Korea due to my non-modifiable height :p. The army stationed there are very strict. There was a guy who took some pics beyond the yellow line, an army shouted with a very stern voice, "NO PICTURES BEYOND THE YELLOW LINE PLEASE!" took the camera and I think he deleted the pictures. You can get a glimpse of the north side through the binoculars by inserting a 500 won coin. You can see the Propaganda Village and a city called Kaesong

Kejayaan MR :)

You know, as I stood there, I was actually allured by the enigmatic quality of the North Korea. Maybe someday I'll find a way to visit that country that most people know so little about.. Bole masok dalam wish list :).

 We then moved to Dorasan station, the last station in South Korea that are now left abandoned. Once upon a time, long long ago (to make it sounds epic sket), there used to be a train that carries goods from Kaesong to the South but then one day the North Korea decided to close the border. If unification ever happen and this station is reopened, we could go to Europe by train from Seoul via the trans siberian railway \(^^)/ tapi bila la tu kn....

The tour bus actually will either drop you at the city center or in Itaewon but luckily it made a stop at this ginseng shop in Hongdae so kami turun di sana jak la.. Okay.. ketara kan sy sangat excited about DMZ that I wrote this lengthy post about it though this is actually a half-day tour.

So to be continued lah! (^^) 

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