I was really excited to leave China after being fed up with the humidity, crowds, pushing and hearing people clear their throats out. The reason why I’d chose to visit Seoul was to visit the Demilitarized Zone and the Joint Security Area (known as the DMZ & JSA).
My first full day was the tour to the DMZ and JSA. Originally I’d wanted to go to a couple of museums and such to learn about the situation between the North and South, however due to my organisational skills (or perhaps lack of) I could only get a tour on my first day. A lot of it you aren’t allowed to take pictures.
After an hour or so in a bus from Seoul, the first stop was the Third Tunnel. The South had discovered by chance that the North had been digging a tunnel in addition to the two they had already dealt with prior to attack the South. The North had apparently been painting the walls black, saying that they had been mining for coal. Just outside of here were a DMZ sign and a memorial with people posing for pictures which reminded me of going to Auschwitz, with people posing for pictures in front of the gates. The Korean War lead to over three million deaths, resulting in a torn nation. I may sound like a miserable fucker, but I think there’s a time and a place for tourist pictures. With that said, I did take a selfie later on that day with North Korea in the background as it’s the only chance I’ll ever get to do that.
Our next stop was lunch, in a building next to the toll/border going to North Korea. We got told basically not to mess around and to keep away as we were being recorded on CCTV by the North. Then, we went to a viewpoint that had binoculars to overlook the propaganda village. The village was built to give the impression to the South and rest of the world that everything in the North is fine. It was also very touristy there, with a few tour buses which I hadn’t been expecting.
Our next stop was the train station, from where tourists can come to the North from the South and have a tour that is similar, with very different information given to them. It wasn’t really anything too amazing, just a train station with the Korean military making sure that people weren’t pissing around there.
The JSA was our last stop, with an armed member of the Armed Forces from the USA as our tour guide. We had to sign a bit of paper literally signing our lives away, to behave in a way in which the UN can keep it’s integrity and not to point or do anything that the North could do to use as propaganda. We got taken to an area in which we could see North Korea, then taken into a building that technically crossed the border to put us in North Korea.
After, we went back to Seoul – I slept more or less the whole way back.
The next day was OK – I decided that I’d give Gyeongbokgung Palace a visit, and whilst it’s nice to look around and everything, I don’t think I really care about palaces. After, I chose to go to Seodaemun Prison – a place where the Japanese would imprison Koreans who wanted Korea to be liberated. It was interesting, and I did notice that they said that the prison was in operation until the late 1980s, though not a lot was mentioned about what the prison was used for after Korea was liberated.
The prison reminded me of both Fremantle Prison in Western Australia and Dacau Camp in Munich. I cannot for the life of me understand why parents take their cretins to places like this – whilst it’s part of the Korean history, a lot of children were just pissing around.
The next day I chose to go to the Bukchon Hanok village, styled in the same way that the city was centuries ago. It did piss it down, but luckily I had borrowed an umbrella from the hostel, then I went to the Korean War Museum which is closed on Tuesdays, though they do have an outside area with the warplanes and tanks used in the war. From there I went to Gangnam to see what the fuss was about, then back to the hostel.
One of the more popular drinks in Korea is Soju, which tastes pretty much like alcohol unless you get the flavoured one for au$2 each from 7-11 or any convenience store. I’ve had them nightly in Korea, the flavoured ones are great, but when someone starts talking to me after I’ve drank one I have to sneak off to bed.
During my time in hostels I’ve heard a lot of people say how much they love Seoul. It seems like a place that you can get a lot out of if you’re willing to be social. For me, I’m aware that I am most likely on track to be a cat woman, and whilst I like to have a drink in the hostel I don’t really like to stay up until 7am with people I’ve just met. Had I not been alone, I would’ve had some Korean BBQ and probably gone to see a K-Pop concert. I can’t say that I wouldn’t ever visit Seoul again, but I’d consider a visit if in Asia and with company.