A visit to South Korea is never complete without taking part in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) tour especially if you're interested in knowing what happened between South Korea and North Korea, from the South's perspective.
Of course, DMZ doesn't only exist in the Korean Peninsular - there's also one in Vietnam.
After a few days of debating, we finally settled for the half-day tour, and got our guesthouse's staff to help us book.
We were told that the tour included pick-up from the guesthouse, and to our surprise, our pick-up ride was.. way beyond what we imagined.
Imagine being greeted by a well-suited up handsome Korean in glasses, who looks like he's ready to go to work, and taking you to a.. VOLKSWAGEN JETTA.
Sorry no photo of the handsome Korean with the car because we were to stunned/surprised to take photos.
We expected a jumbo taxi with an ahjussi driver to pick us up by the way
He then brought us to a place which looked like a hotel's compound and parked. Asked to wait in the car before he got out, and we didn't even know for what. After a while suddenly we saw a bus appearing from behind and a young man running to the car, opened my side of the door and said, "Get out, get out, quick!" Well, not in a rude way, but more of a very enthusiastic way.
Then that was one fml moment happened.
I wanted to enter the bus from the left side (Korean buses' doors are on the right!) and was confused when I saw there wasn't any door. Then I quickly realised my embarrassing mistake but the young man, who was actually our tour guide came up to me and asked, "why? what's wrong? is there anything there?"
*smacks head* malunya saya.
We got on the bus - which was filled with other tourists, and filled up the attendance sheet. The bus went to pick up more tourists from another hotel before setting off.
Our journey took about an hour to the first stop. During that time, our tour guide, James Park of VIP TRAVEL explained a little bit about Korea, the war of the Korean Peninsular and etc etc.
No worries about not understanding him because he's a professional tour guide, who speaks English, in an American accent! Like really really American accent, because he studied there.
The DMZ is a military buffer zone actually which cuts across the Korean Peninsular. It is 2km from the boundary of each country where no military activities are allowed.
Our first stop was the Imjingak Park.
The Bridge of Freedom
No pictures were allowed to be taken while passing this bridge. And military personnels will come up and check your passports/visas.
The bridge is also known as the Cow Bridge, according to James. I can't remember the whole story, but it was about a man who stole his father's cow and ran into the South, set up a business using that one cow (can't remember what was the business), became successful, and as a form of gratitude to his father, sent back 1000+ (I might be wrong here!) cows back through the bridge.
Hence it was called the Cow Bridge.
The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel+DMZ Exhibition/Theatre Hall
We were brought to a place where the 3rd infiltration tunnel (or 3rd Tunnel of Aggression) built by North Korea is located. We were asked to wear safety helmets and went into the tunnel, which starts with slope downwards. The slope is more than 45 degrees I tell you. Imagine walking back up it! It was like a workout for us! Haha.
No photographing allowed in the tunnel as well.
After the tunnel experience, we were ushered into the DMZ Exhibition Hall, where items involved in the tension between the two countries were shown and some other information. And then into the theatre to watch some documentary.
Next stop was the Dorasan Observatory, where visitors are able to look into North Korea through binoculars!
We were only allowed to take photographs from quite a distance from the binoculars with a yellow line as a boundary. If you pass that and try to take photographs there are soldiers around to stop you from doing it.
You can buy goodies in the mart. We bought two bottles of North Korean raspberry wine, and when James saw us with them, he went,"Are you guys alcoholics or something?"
And he wouldn't let us get away ever since. Even on the bus, when the bottles clanked or something, he would go,"you alcoholics"
Or better known as the cleanest station in Korea. Because it's never been used!
If it happens it Malaysia sure it will be a big hoohoohaahaa one.
You have to buy tickets if you want to go inside to see the tracks, so we did!
Never stood on a train track so imagine our excitement! No worries of any trains coming to bang you from any direction because surprise surprise.. NO TRAIN GOES THERE.
Our last stop was the ginseng centre, which has all the information about the Korean ginseng and also products.
Too expensive for us.
Met a Malaysian working there. Haha.
Then we were dropped of in Itaewon and brought to late lunch by James. It was actually an extra free service provided by him because we wanted to take the tour with lunch provided but he advised us not to. In the end, instead of telling us where to go for lunch, he brought us!
Overall the tour was a bit of a rush I must say. We didn't have a lot of time to snap photos especially on our Imjingak Park and 3rd Infiltration Tunnel+DMZ Exhibiton/Theatre stops. Wanted to take photos with the DMZ signs but we were rushed since there were a lot of other tours due to the peak season. James had to make sure that we did not clash with other tours because it will screw up the schedule. But luckily towards the few last stops we had a lot of time to take photos.
It was a tiring tour for me, especially the tunnel part! Haha were pretty beat up but since it was our last night in Seoul, we decided to go up to the N Seoul Tower, which I will cover in the next Korean Dream post!