Korean Trip Report Part Three
Saturday morning we got up bright and early and got ready for the DMZ tour. That is a tour put on by the USO that takes you to the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. It is an eight hour tour that goes over a lot of the history and takes you to many different spots showcasing the history.
We hopped in the car and after a minor accidental detour, made it to the USO unscathed and on time for the tour. We loaded into the tour bus with 40+ other tourists and traveled about an hour to the first stop on the tour. The 3rd underground tunnel.
According to our tour guide, this was one of the tunnels that North Korea dug in order to plan an attack on South Korea back in the day. We got to climb down into the tunnel and check it out but were not allowed to take pictures. We were warned before heading into the tunnel that if we had any type of phobia, it was probably not wise to proceed…especially claustrophobia. Whelp, as you all know, I am the queen of phobias and claustrophobia has been a big one for me in the past. Jim told me that I could head down and if I wanted to turn around at any time I could, so I gave it a shot.
The first thing I noticed before we even got to the tunnel was the extremely steep downhill trek we had to make to get there. It seemed never ending and all I could think about was that we had to make our way back up it to get out.
Once we got to the tunnel we ducked and headed in. Jim was in front of me and he kept making jokes to keep my mind off the tight spaces, but it was actually him repeatedly hitting his hardhat on the beams that kept me cracking up. At 5’4″ the tunnel wasn’t too small for me, but for him at 6’2″ he was struggling to stay hunched over enough.
Long story short, I made it through the entire tunnel and I was really proud of myself. Rob said he thought sure I had turned around until he heard me laughing in the distance behind him. He was kinda proud of me too. 🙂 The walk back up to the lobby was a bit tough though. A very steep uphill battle that had me stopping several times to catch my breath. I may do half marathons, but those are flat!
When I finally got to the top, Jim was waiting with much needed water and a power bar from the gift shop. After that we headed into the other building to see a short video of the history of the Koreas, before taking some pictures in front of the buildings and then getting back on the bus.
The second stop was the observatory, which didn’t prove very interesting because it was too overcast to see anything but we did watch another video on the history. We stopped at the gift store for a yummy chocolate coffee drink and then it was back on the bus, heading to the next stop: LUNCH!
The lunch was served at a cafeteria. We had the choice of Bulgogi or Bipimbap. I got the Bulgogi and Rob got the other. It was quite yummy and filling but we had to eat fast or we were going to miss our window of opportunity for the debriefing at our fourth stop: North Korea.
But first we stopped at the third part of the tour. A hardly used Subway Station. I know there was some significance to this but I don’t remember what it was. I just know that there is only one train that goes to and from at this station and you have to get a round trip ticket. There is no one way to this stop.
So I mentioned the fourth and last stop being North Korea. Heh. Yeah, kind of.
At the next stop we had to sign a waiver that if anything happened to us, we had no recourse and blah, blah, blah and then got a short lecture on more history. After that we were led outside and into a small building that was built on the border of South and North Korea. In the middle there was a table and on that table was a couple of microphones. The microphones were the line that was used to represent the border. If you were on the further side of the microphones you were in North Korea. So everyone had the chance to step over and get your picture taken NEAR one of the guards before we quickly and quietly made our way back into South Korea and back onto the bus to go see another observation point. More pictures, and back on the bus to go see the Bridge of No Return and then we headed back to the camp where we were originally debriefed.
Side note: You could not PAY me to drive in Seoul. It appears to be worse than LA and the drivers give ZERO fucks.
So the tour was very interesting and quite educational for me as I knew very little about any of the history of this place. The whole North Korea excursion was very surreal and really made you think.
We got home and Rob was off almost immediately to go to a jam session with some of his work connections. I helped out with the twins while Jim made pasta and meat sauce, which I ate and promptly headed up to bed. My plan was to watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix on my Ipad, but Korea had other ideas. Apparently, you do not get the same type of feed that you do in the US and there was no GG on the menu. So I went to bed instead. Rob came up sometime around one thirty or so and came to bed.
The next day was Sunday and that was the day we were going to head into Gangnam and get a hotel room. Jim had booked us at the Nox Boutique Hotel for two nights because it was near our plans for those two days. A baseball game and Lotte World.
Since the hotel was in Jim’s name and he was coming with us to the game, all three of us headed out on the subway around noon. We got to the hotel relatively painlessly, but it was too early to check in. So we made sure that we could check in without Jim after the game and checked out luggage before heading back out to the subway to get to the Sports Complex. Once we were there, we wandered around until we found the ticket booth and marveled at all the people.
Tickets in hand, we bought some hats because it was overcast but hot…typical sunburn weather, and then headed up to our seats.
The game itself was pretty boring until the sixth inning or so, but it was really cool to be at a place where the culture was the same. Good old baseball. Beer in hand, cheering for the team of your choice and having a grand old time. We ended up leaving around the eighth inning because Jim had to take off and given the amount of people at the stadium, the thought of the subway system when it let out was too scary to bear.
We bid Jim ado on the the subway train and headed up to our hotel. We checked in with no problem and got to our room on the eleventh floor. There were a total of five room on each floor. The hotel is tall but it is very skinny as most buildings are here. The room itself was pretty cool. There was a computer, fridge, big screen TV and the best part was the bathroom. It has a Jacuzzi tub along with a stand up shower that has a rainfall shower head and a steamer in it, and the toilet not only has a heated seat, but it also functions as a bidet.
We unpacked a bit and then headed back out to get dinner. We wound up getting some Korean chicken that was quite tasty. Back up in the room, we each took baths and then watched Korean TV until we went to bed.
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