Its been 4 days of jam packed things and currently I am waiting for the train to Busan.
So mini post on the tour I did on Friday.
I booked the morning tour with lunch thrown in.
Pick up time was 7.30am from the Guesthouse, Bibimbap Guesthouse.
From there the van went around various hotels etc to pick up others booked for the tour after which we transferred to the coach that would take us on the long haul towards the DMZ (the letter Z is pronounced as zee here in Korea, unlike the zed I am used to). Well it’s around 50 to 60 kilometres in distance. Possibly it felt further due to the running around we did before collecting all the others.
First stop was………… We didn’t have much time there, max 20 minutes but enough to prowl around and snap some photos. We were still quite a distance from the actual border lines, so we couldn’t see North Korea.
The next couple of stops were much closer and the military presence was getting heavier with every meter. A rigorous passport control is performed before we can enter the area. We then visited Tunnel 3 which was impressive as well as oppressive.
A short blurb, so to speak, on these tunnels. There are at least 4 known tunnels heading towards the Seoul area. The burrow down some hundreds of feet below the surface and then stretch across the heavily guarded DMZ lines. South Korea believe that the North built these as means of transporting large numbers of troops right into South Korea territory under passing the borders. North Korea deny this and claim that the South built these with the aim of blaming the North.
Anyway, back to the tour.., we were not allowed to take camera with us for this section of the tour, we had to don hard hats and we soon found out why…
After trudging down deeper and deeper into the tunnel, watching rather bemusedly others panting away on their way back up, the ceiling got lower and lower such that many people had to partially crouch. Some did not… ☺.
Remember, these tunnels, about two men wide and about a short man’s height were hacked out of the rock using manual labour.
As the tunnel levelled out we could see tell-tale signs of the work that was required to dig the tunnels – bore holes for dynamite and such – there was also lots of water dripping from the ceiling so it was quite humid inside.
About 300 meters into the tunnel we reached a walled of section with a window. Through the window one could see another concrete wall and window, presumably North Korea end.
That’s it but well worth the trek and it was time to go back up. And no wonder people were huffing and puffing on the way back… a steep incline of steps stretching well over 200 meters took the wind out of most of us. A few times down and up those steps and you can forget about gym or aerobics or whatever they are referred to as lately.
That done we then set off for an Observation Post which was quite high, the name escapes me at the moment – will update when I have chance (tour leaflet is somewhere deep within my luggage) – it was windy and extremely cold there but we could actually see the North Korean lines with the naked eye (even clearer thanks to the binoculars installed). It was both an exhilarating and oppressing experience. Exhilarating as we were there, on the border of what is still technically a border between two nations at war, oppressing because the North Korean lines and what they stood for were there within sight. The guard posts were quiet yet foreboding. You could almost feel the eyes watching, suspicious and hostile, invisible yet very clearly there.
From there we then went to Dorasan Station, an imposing railway station which was totally empty of people except for the tourists and the few staff working the souvenir shop. This is the northernmost station, 56km from Seoul and 205km from Pjeongjang. This is a highly restricted area which requires extensive security checks. Impressive and sad… a beautiful station kept in pristine condition but never frequented except by Military.
After that a few of us had booked lunch also as part of the tour – myself included – so our guide took us back to Seoul and off to a tiny but fantastic restaurant where we sat and enjoyed a lovely meal before going our own way.
Check this link for more on the DMZ tours here: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_ENG_2_2.jsp