Chapter 58 The One With North Korea


I woke to the sun streaming into my curtain-less dorm room at 6am which set me up pretty well for my early start heading out on a tour to the DMZ which is the demilitarised area between North and South Korea and the closest you can get to the boarder. With current tensions we couldn’t get to the JSA or joint security area which is the actual final point before the boarder but instead had a tour planned around some of the key view points on the way. I joined my little tour group and a mix up of names meant that I was to be Mr Sargeant Abi for the day! Our guide George was so adorable and was filled with information for us although the guy in front of me managed to sleep pretty much entirely through the first two hours. Our first stop was Imjingak park where we strolled with bleary eyes to a coffee stop and then to a view of freedom bridge where prisoners of war were transferred between the split nation. Our next stop was the third infiltration tunnel where our group was ferried into a small cinema to watch a horrifying film that combined a very short and dark history of Korean tensions including clips of children crying next to their murdered parents cut with shots of the DMZ portrayed as this nature reserve/family holiday destination! We all left with the message that this was the ‘Age of Reunification’ yet it just really didn’t seem to fit with what we had all been seeing on the news with recent events. George then took us to the infiltration tunnel entrance where he explained that this was one of the four tunnels dug by North Korean soldiers that had been discovered by South Korea after armistice had been agreed. After donning hard hats we all walked down into the tunnel which was designed to transport thousands of troops from North Korea into Seoul in less than an hour! It was pretty cramped but eventually we got our view into the tiny room at the end of the tunnel, an empty (but nonetheless North Korean) room! After obligatory selfies with life sized wax Korean soldiers we hopped back on the bus to the Dora Observatory. There we were promised a view into North Korea however with smog and pollution it was pretty hard to get a really good look. We then headed to the Dorsan train station, our final destination where we were able to get onto the platform designed to connect the North and South via train. The entire line is currently in working order but until North Korea allows entry to their country, South Korea remains unconnected by land to the rest of Asia and Europe. We then made our return bus journey to Seoul via this odd stop at an Amethyst polishing and jewellery souvenir store where myself and the other tourists just strolled through as no one booking onto the tour was exactly there to shop for Amethysts! I spent my afternoon in gangnam purely to tick it off my list as it is essentially just the super fancy bit of Seoul! I did eventually discover a beautiful riverside park however and my expectations were truly surpassed. The local students had set up serious tent-tarpaulin situations for their picnics so it seemed almost like a mini festival campsite to stroll through! I eventually found my way to the famed rainbow bridge just in time to watch its fountain show lit up with LEDs as the sun set! That evening Nadia introduced me to cheese ttyeppokki which is like rice flour sausage shapes in spicy sauce covered in cheese – amazing!

I began my day with a trip to an adorable old lady who agreed to fix the zip on my broken bag from India and then headed to the Cheonggyecheon river for the third or maybe fourth time in my trip so far! With a beautiful sunny day in store I decided to walk down to Seonyuyudo park to find a sunbathing spot and spent the most wonderfully leisurely day there! I read and snacked on bananas and peanut butter until I decided I ought to grab a proper dinner and had another delish salad this time from Again Refresh near my hostel in Hongdae. With Bali looming I figured a health kick needs to be resumed and settled down for an early night too! 

I spent a solid 3 hours waiting for my 3 minute appointment to get my stitches out at the hospital in Hongdae but eventually was able to properly begin my day at about 1pm. I strolled down to my final bucket list tourist destination for the city, Changdeokgung Palace and its secret gardens! It was absolutely beautiful and being such a lovely sunny day was perfect respite for my morning standing in a hospital waiting room. I strolled from there down to Insa-dong which is an area of Seoul filled with artists and workshops selling crafts and local handmade goods. There I grabbed lunch where for four quid I had this amazing sizzling tofu, mushroom and seafood soup with a bowl of hot sticky rice, two types of kimchee, cold spicy tofu and a little Russian salad! I still LOVE Korean food! I found my way then to this adorable little art store complex where I headed to the roof (regular readers should by now be realising my lack of vertigo and love for rooftop views!). At the very top I found this ridiculous toilet themed restaurant where you could get pasta served in mini ceramic toilet bowls and poo shaped chocolate filled cakes! As the sun started to set I strolled my way back along Cheonggyecheon river. With poo cake in hand I grabbed some pictures of the last of the lantern festival in the form of installations on podiums along the river itself before another early night.

(Photos; DMZ 1-8, Gangnam Sunset, Some sevit fountain bridge, George our DMZ guide, DMZ 1-4, Gangnam 1-3, Palace 1, 2, The beautiful inner cityriver, art complex in insa-dong, the poo cake thing, that amazing tofu soup lunch, Palace 1, 2, Again refresh salad!)


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