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DMZ - The Trip That Almost Didn't Happen

I did mention that we should make a visit to DMZ before the trip began, we didn't really plan for it to happen. We were Lonely Planeting this whole thing....seriously, with an official Lonely Planet book I bought some 6 years back when I said I wanted to visit South Korea. But it was in Insadong (I have to give my very persistent friend credit here and for dealing with a very impatient Marsha) that we found an information booth that KNEW EVERYTHING. You could ask the info counter when your next period will be and it can tell you the precise second and also bonus of telling you exactly how many kids you will have in the future. Heehe...of course not.

But thanks to their ability to hook us up to a seller that sells the precise universal charger we need AND find us a DMZ tour almost on the spot, the trip happened.

I am telling you once again that Korean summer is no...effin....joke. If you can see my pictures taken during our trip, first day...nice clothes, nice makeup, big ready smiles. Second day, casual max and not bothered with posing anymore. Third day, EFF THIS SHIT forget about the makeup, clothes and contact lens are we going or not I have run out of underwear cos been changing like mad I stink I need deodorant and so do you so are we going or not?

It is like stepping into hell. Every other second, we need to run into an air-conditioned store and pretend to look around or something. Step out into the windless outdoors and greet smog and your makeup will melt. You would think that South Koreans are smart enough to install air-conditioning or ventilation or at the very least a floor-standing fan in the subway stations, right? Wrong. There is absolutely frikking none.

And this will make my friend laugh because throughout the whole trip, she heard this one complaint from me. South Koreans have a rubbish bin problem! I am trying to do the decent thing by throwing things into proper rubbish bins but I keep having to hold the trash or the plastic bags throughout journeys. Someone please supply South Korea with some rubbish bins., like seriously. This is good business if my guess is right.

Or maybe their rubbish bins looks very different and we keep walking past them? One day I will find out.

Anyway, we booked a trip to DMZ which is located right about slightly more than an hour away from Seoul and the guide will come pick us up at....I don't an illegal hour to wake up? 6-something, maybe? About there.

This small group of six of us trooped off in a small but rather comfortable van. In my mind, I was chanting....please let there be a fan, let there be a fan, let there be a fan and God heard me and decided to bless me with working air-conditioning in the van. Yeeha!

As we left Seoul, two things stood out.

1. Looking back in the van, I can see that Seoul is enveloped in a ball of smog. Leave the city, the air clears.

2. Han river is a gorgeous sight but as we are half-point there, BARBED WIRES. Watch towers. The reason for them, as they guide explained, is that the North used to swim over the river in order to reach the South. But this habit have more or less stopped so, as you near the DMZ site, the watch towers are no longer manned. I think I spotted 2 or 3 manned ones but that's it.

This is only the mid point where you have to purchase your tickets, there are stalls for you to buy nitty gritty essentials like food and water and some souvenirs.

At the ticketing counter, once again, we met up with our 'buddies' the groups and groups and groups and groups of tourists from China. It was hilarious when one of them excitedly and randomly grabbed my friend's arm and took a photo with her. It was her befuddled 'sudden celebrity' moment. She was O.o and they were like \o/. I was like ?????

The guides, unfortunately, warned us that there are places that pictures and cameras are absolutely not allowed. The reason is....spies. (cue Jaws theme song) could be a spy from North (cue James Bond theme song) Are you a spy?

Jokes aside, if you read up on the tense North-South relationship, you will know this whole shit is real. And they are dead serious about it. South's soldier's been snatched before and I mean...hellowwwwww.....tunnels' been discovered before....this shit is REAL. K-pop and K-drama aside, the threat is a sobering reality.

After purchasing our tickets and loitering around, we got our large bus (Yay!) We need to take the bus up which took us up to

People might be used to this but I am not used to the sight of so much barbed wires. It is just not alright to me.

These are the messages left by South Koreans and tourists for the poor folks still in the North, still hoping for a reconciliation. They might not live long enough to read them, though. =( And oh, look at how sensitive and nice this Malaysian is. 'Japs shall pay'...what a peaceful message. But that's Malaysian-style for you la.

We are not allowed to take pictures anywhere near any of the soldiers unless it is somewhere safer and if the soldiers said OK. Most of them said NO by crossing their arms in front of them to make an X. OK, I manage to sneak this one cos there was a hole in the metal railing underneath the barbed wire. A little violation, I know but OTHERS WERE DOING IT TOO! Hahaha...what?!

The train that went into the North and came back battered. It died here. LOL

When I say battered, I meant THIS battered.

The bus then took us to Dorasan Station, a mint newly-built rail station ready to go to the North as soon as the North says it is OK.

All the soldiers that I unabashedly asked said No to me (rejection max, I have never been rejected by so many men in such a short period of time - haha) except for this one. Bless his heart. I asked him first and as soon as he said yes and we asked our guide to take a picture for us, you should see the throngs of other China tourists.....HOMAIKOT! PAPPARAZZIIIIIIII!!!! LOL!

To Pyongyang...why you no say 'yes' to Seoul?

And Pyongyang, this way to Seoul...

I don't know what this building is cause we can't go in, but I like the saying 'End of Separation. Beginning of Unification'. There were soldiers all around, NONE of them smiling. NONE. Did not find a single smiling soldier in South Korea except for one in Seoul subway station and there were hundreds of them everywhere in the station. But only one smiled at me. KNN. Before this, they were in a small room by themselves watching Kpop!! I am not lying, not kidding. The soldiers were watching Kpop...for real....SNSD and SISTAR to be precise (bless my knowledge of music - LOL)

I am so damn proud of my mini self-cam camera for zooming in so far across the miles and miles of DMZ zone to catch the North Korean flag. You are not allowed to take a picture of the DMZ zone....once again, reason? Spy. So, we were only allowed to use their mega binoculars or use our own to see into DMZ. If you want to snap a picture, you have back up to a yellow line and take a picture from that point. This no-camera thing was really making me I have to store everything in my mind. I can't bring home epic pictures home with me even after making my way all the way there. =( Or at least let me share them with my family and friends and readers, right?

But I caught the North flag sitting opposite the South's.

If you are curious what it looks like, it looks something like this..

....X 3000!

Absolutely gorgeous green, untouched, void of human beings....rolling green everywhere. And then there were the North and South flag. We could see a little into the North border of things, looks legit and nice. But that is the military base, of course it is nice, duh. The poor is inside. XD

It is really a pity that pictures were not allowed into the tunnel and if you want to know what the tunnel is like, it is like this... It is BLOODY STEEP, that walk down and up.

And it is so funny because after we put the hard hat on and stuff and began our journey down the tunnel, we saw people coming up on our left side heaving and panting, some sitting down, some practically white in the face....I wasn't really thinking and worrying about the way UP (yet) cos I was trying not to catapult down.

Halfway through, I was entertaining thoughts of 'forget it, I am not doing this, what if a dynamite goes off, what if water comes in and we drown, what if the North decide it was a good day to play a prank, this tunnel is too small, why is it so cold, I can't do this, let's go up and tell everyone we did the whole thing, they won't know anyway we can bluff our way through....'

If you are going to do this, let me tell you that you will probably feel something like this but maybe not so LOL exaggerated la but after you cross about the halfway mark, you will feel better and start getting a bit more curious. =))))

Anyway, you see how the tunnel reaches a plateau? Yeah, that's where you stop fighting gravity but fight cold, the roof and dampness. And a possible dynamite. Or soldiers. Kidding....

If I thought the tunnel was small before this, I didn't know what the word 'small' meant...and short. You realize that they give you a hard hat for a good reason. If you are anything taller than....I don't know....say 5'3", bend. Bend lower. And if your head (not the hard hats) hits the roof/ceiling/whateveryoucallit, it is gonna hurt.

The almost-crawl was wet and interesting, we made jokes about not farting in there and watch your backside to keep each other from freaking out and having some fun, I guess.

And at the end of the whole thing....we were greeted with Christmas Lights. Yup. That was what the crawl was all about. There was this strange little structure with red Christmasy lights there and we joked around, 'And folks, THIS is what all that crawling was for, thank you very much!' LOL

Nah, you actually see the sealed off area and if your eyesight is really good, you can see into the DMZ juuuusssssttttttttt a tiny little bit. Makes you curious about it, though. We didn't get the whole thing cause it was such a last minute thing, you know. I feel great that we even managed to squeeze this one in. So, it was back to crawling into the wet, cold tunnel and then back to the steep one (OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG)...and there you have it....DMZ completed.

Before we went back to Seoul, we made a courtesy stop at a village center or tourist stop and then to a Ginseng outlet stop (doubtlessly sponsored or organized part of this trip) where they try to sell you their Korean Ginseng. Did you know the ginseng is a controlled item there? I certainly didn't but it is.

Anyway, we were also treated to a video about the war and the DMZ and stuff at the museum. It was touching but also very touristy towards the end. If you want to go prepared, visit the USO DMZ Tour (http://www.uso.org We called them when we were there but they were full until a week or so. Too bad we did't get to visit Panmunjeom, the only village in the DMZ that tourists are allowed into.

Funnily, it wasn't as HOT and HUMID on the outskirts. I, therefore, blame the smog and windlessness of Seoul.

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