OUCH! %&*# that hurt!… So, what I didn’t finish telling you in part one of my day tour to the DMZ, while I was at Imjingak Park at the lookout, I tripped and fell head over turkey and injured my foot. Hobbling back to the car park, I finally found my coach but I was the last to board. The tour guide had given explicit instructions that we were there for only 15 minutes and she again reiterated, while looking at ME, that her instructions were to be followed for we were heading closer to the border, the most heavily guarded border in the world where things can change quickly. With all eyes on me, I sunk into my seat 😦
First stop after Injingak was the Dora Observatory, situated on top of Mount Dora (Dorasan), it is one of the few places you can see into North Korea, with the use of binoculars. Note the yellow line, that is ‘the photo line’, pictures are not allowed to be taken past that point. I saw several people try to disobey this, clicking away while standing at the wall, only to be yelled at straight away by South Korean soldiers who are watching everyone’s moves – I wasn’t going to be one to be in trouble again!
From beyond the photo line I could clearly see the North Korean town of Kijong-dong, referred to Peace Village in the North and Propaganda Village in the South. It’s claimed to have around 200 residents living in the village, but it is suspected that the buildings are merely empty concrete shells with lights turned on by timers (same time every evening). Also visible from the observatory was the North Korean flag, flying on the worlds third largest flag pole at almost 100 metres with the flag weighing almost 270 kilograms. The stop here was brief but I made sure I was first on that bus 😉
The next stop on the tour was the Third Infiltration Tunnel, also known as the Third Tunnel of Aggression. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed in the tunnel, and when you enter the building all bags and electronic items are placed in a locker. After donning a safety hat, you make the arduous 1.6 kilometre walk down a steep incline to the 2.2 x 2.2 metre tunnel 73 metres below ground, then the even more grueling 1.6 kilometre walk back up to the surface – especially with an injured foot!. The tunnel is one of 4 that have been discovered by the South Koreans between 1974 and 1990 leaving the belief that there are more not yet known about. This particular tunnel, was the third discovered (hence the name) in 1978 when a defector from the North informed the South. Once found, the North claimed they were coal mining and coal was painted in the tunnel, although no coal is located in the area which is dominated by granite. The climb was tiring, sweat inducing and quite painful with really not much to see but the depth, height and length of the tunnel really indicated the lengths the North were preparing to go to to invade the South with some 30,000 men being able to come through the tunnel every hour.
The last stop before lunch was Dorasan Railway Station and I found this quite strange. The station was formally the northernmost stop from South Korea but with the line being restored the tracks now run all the way to Pyong Yang. The station sits silently awaiting the trains that it is hoped will one day reunify the country and run all the way to Europe. Inside the gleaming empty station, you can look through the doors to the tracks like they are hoping for a Northern train to arrive, while a South Korean Soldier stands Guard.
After leaving Dorasan Station, we drove a few kilometres to a nearby restaurant where the guide called out the names of 5 of the group on the tour, mine included, for us 5 were having lunch here and the rest of the coach were returning to Seoul. She escorted us off the coach and into the restaurant and advised we would be having another guide who would meet us soon and escort us on the next part of the tour. After shoes were removed and we were directed to a table, we sat on cushions in the Korean style and introduced ourselves, a couple from Canada, a middle aged Frenchman and a young British fellow travelling throughout Asia over 3 months and of course me – Matthew, a.k.a FreakyFlier asking them all what airlines they flew to Seoul on! During the delicious lunch of Korean Bulgogi and Kimchi platters, we discussed the tour so far and out thoughts on it and we were nervously excited for the next part of the tour where we would be going to the Joint Security Area, Panmunjom and stepping into North Korea.
Come back for part 3 – Panmunjom