Solo travelling

24th of July – A day to DMZ

Everyone knows that Korea has two parts North Korea and South Korea who used to be one country but now they are two. Since they only signed the armistice agreement, the two counties are technically still in war. The DMZ, demilitarized zone is significant symbol of this. The military demarcation line is at the 38 parallel. The joint security area (JSA) is where the two countries’ forces meet. From that line 2 km to North and 2 km to South is the DMZ area. It’s a dangerous area and you can only enter with a group tour and you have to go through a passport control and all.

There is a simple DMZ tour and a JSA tour. JSA tour means you go to the actual border of the two country in Panmunjom village. This tour is limited to 100 person a day. It’s even more expensive. The DMZ tour is much cheaper and they allow 5000 people to visit everyday. My tour was 50.000 won. A JSA tour would be 85.000 won.

I bought the simple DMZ tour. In the morning I had to go to a pickup point which was only 30 minutes from my place. We met at 8:10am. Then the bus went to DMZ. On the way the tour guide told us the history of Korea why it was separated into two countries. Her explanation was interesting. However it was in the morning so I couldn’t stay awake. Whatever I learned about it at school anyway.

Imjingak park

First we arrived to Imjingak park. At the park there was a Freedom bridge and a train that became very symbolic as it represents the history of division of the 2 countries. Over here there was also a tunnel exhibition but I didn’t have too much time so I didn’t see it. We only had 20 minutes here.

Steam Locomative at Jangdan station of the Gyeongui Line

3rd infiltration tunnel

Then we went to a tunnel. The tunnel was made by the North Koreans who wanted to invade Seoul even after the armistice was signed. We could go down the tunnel. It low maybe around 1.60 meters high. For me it wasn’t a problem because my height is 1.55 meters. But for the tall people it might be a torture. We had to go down on the road that was 11 degree steep. At the end of the tunnel I only saw a door and a small window to another door. It is said that the actual the end of the tunnel would lead to North Korea. But of course we couldn’t go there not to talk about it was below ground in the tunnel.

There wasn’t anything interesting except the part of going up. The steep road wasn’t as challenging as the mountain but it still required stamina. No photos were allowed here. We even had to leave our bag in a locker. I bought a magnet at the souvenir shop. It is said there were three things you can only buy at DMZ. A DMZ chocolate which was actually a peanut covered in chocolate. You could choose green tea chocolate or orange or plain one. The North Korean whisky and one more thing but I forgot. It wasn’t that interesting for me especially since a small bag of chocolate would cost 10.000 won.

Dorasan Observatory

We went to another place which was the Dorasan Observatory. From here through the binocular you can see North Korea. More exactly you can see the North Korean flag and its green grass field territory. When I saw the flag I was so excited though.

From the observatory

Inside the building you can watch the video about what is in Gaesong city. The observatory was nice but it would be better if the weather was clear. It was showering and foggy so I could barely see anything.

Dorasan station

The next place was Dorasan station. Between 2007-2008 Korea had an international train station which went through North Korea and connected with Vladivostok that lead to Europe. Since North Korea doesn’t allow this anymore, South Korea became an “island” that can only be approached by plane. Not even train. That cost too much for the economy of South Korea so there are discussions about cooperating with North Korea to open up the railway so the South Koreans can connect to the world by train.

The red line shows how connected South Korea would be to the world if they could use the train that goes through North Korea

It is said that during the summit in Hanoi, not long time ago, Kim Jong Un went to Hanoi by train just to show what North Korea is capable of. Behind the actual two countries situations there are still more to go. The route would mean a lot in terms of trading and economy. Sometimes a small act can mean a lot. In my opinion if North Korea opens up the railway to South Koreans, it’s not only beneficial to them but also to North Koreans too. Of course I can also understand their side because why would they give the others such a good benefit like this?

At the station there wasn’t anything interesting beside the board that says “to Pyeongyang” and the pictures of the summit and souvenir shop.

Unification village

On the way we passed the Unification village. Only around 450 people live here in order to cultivate the soil. Since the soil here has a good quality people grow ginseng here and sell it to the city. The government gave many benefits to people living here and that shows in their annual earnings. They earn almost 3 times more than people living in other part of Korea.

What interesting was that the village is in DMZ area so there is a checkpoint where the soldiers only let people in once they checked their passport. The checkpoint is open until 7pm. So anyone who lives there have to go home before 7pm otherwise they can’t go home.

What I needed to bring on DMZ tour was my passport. At the DMZ the soldiers will check them just like the people who live in the village. No dress code needed.

The tour ended here. At 12pm they took us back to Seoul. I got interesting informations and it was a nice experience but I didn’t feel that excited. I think going to JSA would be much more exciting. That’s gonna be my next goal.

After the tour I went home and ate in a restaurant near my place. I had a bowl of Bibimbap. Then I did laundry. It was raining so I didn’t feel like going anywhere and just stayed at home. In the evening I was so bored that I went out to eat kimbap and bought peach home. In few hours I spent another 9000 won because I was bored.

The day ended. Tomorrow is my last full day in Korea. Since the weather is probably raining I will let you know how it feels to deal with loneliness and boredom during solo travels. 🙂

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