Today’s main event is visiting the DMZ between North and South Korea, also known as the “Most Dangerous Place on Earth.” The first immediate surprise was finding a small theme-park just outside the DMZ. I mostly expected the DMZ to be considered a very ominous and sad location, however, I quickly realized it is a large tourist attraction even for locals and we passed a few field-trips throughout the day. Our first stop past Cow Bridge (the entrance) was Dorasan Station, the last trainstop in South Korea, and the first leading to Pyeongyang, North Korea. In the station was a photo gallery of the latest Korean Summit between leaders of North and South Korea last year.
After the station, we drove a little further to the blah Observatory where we could peer over the DMZ into North Korean soil. It was kind of crazy to look through binoculars at a country so widely discussed and so rarely understood. I took a fair amount of time aligning my phone’s camera to work through the binoculars to take a picture, so here is that one.
Next up was the unexpected hike of the day. North Korea had dug numerous tunnels under the DMZ to South Korea decades ago, and the 3rd tunnel is actually open to the public. The entrance was 45 degrees down and once we reached the bottom, the mandatory safety helmets’ importance became clear. Crouching through the low tunnels and hitting my head a few times along the way was worth it, though, as the ending showed a closed off pathway into North Korea. I also drank some of the spring water available at the bottom, which was pretty refreshing.
Last at the DMZ was a stop at Imjingak Park, where there was a monument for the US Soldiers present in the Korean War. It was a circular area of alternating US and South Korean flags with a large centerpiece, where the base of each flagpole had a different State Insignia. For lunch I ate at the Popeyes at the DMZ, thereby making it the most dangerous Popeyes on Earth.
Our next scheduled event was a cruise on the Han River, where we got to feed seagulls and were left to return to the hotel on our own: first group back gets free dinner. We struggled to find the subway station as we turned the wrong way, but once we were down there we just looked at the map and took the purple line the whole way to the hotel. Our wrong-turn cost us, however, as we were second to the hotel by a couple minutes. I definitely appreciate the Seoul subway system as it is very robust and convenient from any location.