DMZ & an Afternoon in Seoul
We had debated for a while whether or not it would be worth it to do the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea) tour and we finally decided to do it yesterday morning. We did the DMZ Tunnel Tour from The Dragon Hill Lodge on USAG Yongsan Base. The JSA (Joint Security Area) tour is no longer available because tours are no longer going there due to peace talks. It was nice because it was a half day tour so we had the rest of the afternoon to spend in Seoul. Our tour guide was awesome and gave us information on the way there and at each stop. This particular tour is only available to military (because it starts on base) but there are lots of other non military DMZ tours also. The tour stops at the Freedom Bridge, the Third Infiltration Tunnel, the observation deck, and the train station that will hopefully someday connect North and South Korea.
The freedom bridge goes over the Imjin River and used to be a railroad that brought POW’s and other soldiers back to South Korea from the North just after the Korean War. It is here that you can see a barbed wire fence holding ribbons that commemorate those lost in the war, the families separated, and also hopeful messages of peace. You will see a part of an old train below also with the description next to it.
The next stop was the Third Infiltration Tunnel which was really cool to see but I have no photos of it as we were not allowed to take our phones or cameras inside. North Korea dug this tunnel years ago (it was discovered in 1978) that ran under the border from North Korea into South Korea so that they could invade South Korea. We had to wear hardhats, it was narrower than we thought it would be, a bit wet with water dripping down, short at parts so we had to hunch over, and takes you pretty deep down making it tiring for my pregnant self to take the walk back up and out of it. ;) At the end is a barrier that South Korea built where you can see into the next barrier. There is one more barrier beyond that one and then you hit North Korea.
The third stop was the Dora Observatory where you can see the Peace village/Propaganda Village in North Korea (last photo from the tour that is below) that is believed to be a fake village. There are even telescopes there so that you can peer into the other side where everything appears to be in good and running shape but apparently on an even closer look than possible from where we were, it is said that there aren’t even actual floors or rooms in the buildings in that village. Pretty crazy! Dorasan Station was the final stop where we were able to see the slightly eery and only international train station in Korea that one day will hopefully connect North and South Korea.
Overall, we thought the tour was worth it despite the fact that it’s a bit touristy. It was still cool to see all of this at this point in history and I’m glad we did it. It was also cool to see because maybe this is our last chance to witness this piece of history and someday (hopefully) this type of tour will be a thing of the past.
After our morning tour, we took the train in Seoul to grab lunch and coffee in our fav neighborhood, Yeonnam-dong. We ate lunch at Hu.Tong (on the sign it says Chinese local food and pub) which was excellent! We could not read the menu haha so I can’t tell you exactly what we ordered but it was delicious whatever it was! It was some sort of beef marinated in soy sauce with rice and I believe glass noodles accompanied by a delicious and spicy red soup. We had seen this place a few other times when roaming this neighborhood and had been wanting to try it. It did not disappoint.
After lunch we went for coffee at the Coffee Nap Roasters in Seoul. If you saw my last travel post, we went to the Coffee Nap Roasters shop in Pyeongtaek and wanted to try the branch in Seoul. The space was smaller than the last one we went to but it was also a really interesting space with a hill of red brick for people to enjoy their coffee on. They even have cushions that you can grab to make your seat of choice more comfortable. The coffee here was also great and David even picked up a bag to take home.