What the heck is DMZ? Reminds me of TMZ. DMZ refers to the Demilitarized Zone of Korea. Kinda cool acronym for such a serious place. It is the "peaceful zone".
You cannot DIY the DMZ tour. You need to join a tour group. I chose something that costs ₩ 41,000 for a half-day tour without lunch. There are other cheaper and more expensive tours. Our tour includes the pick-up from the hostel. Reservation was done via email, payment was done on the day of the tour.
I did not put all the historic details here. It is best to learn some of the history from the Korean guides themselves.
A van arrived to pick us up at our hostel at 7:00am. On the dot. We were brought to a bigger bus – the tourist bus. I ate my ₩ 900 bread from Ministop at the bus. Since our hostel does not provide breakfast, we buy bread/ rice cakes/ noodles from the nearby convenience stores for breakfast.
Our guide was Song – his English name because he said that Korean names are so hard (True, dat). Good thing "Seoul" is pretty easy to remember. His English was pretty good. On the hour long journey to DMZ, he told us about the history and some facts about Korea. How Samsung beat the sales of all the Japanese brands, how Hyundai became popular, Korea's relationship with Japan, their Kpop groups, Koreanovelas, along with some jokes. It kept me awake and avoid the masandal-tulog syndrome.
|Song, with his unruly hair.|
Our first stop was the tunnels. We watched a 7-minute presentation about the history of the tunnels. Even though the Korean war was over, NK was cooking an attack against SK (or so the video says). They dug up these tunnels that pass through the border of the countries, exiting in SK. The NK soldiers can pass through these tunnels and launch an attack. NK denied these. There were 4 tunnels discovered so far, and they said that they are expecting that more tunnels will be discovered. *shivers*
We spent around one hour in the tunnel – going deep inside then going back. Warning, going down the tunnel is relative easy, going up is hard. I hope your knees are tough. You cannot take pics inside the tunnel. Sadly, some Chinese tourists still took pics of the place. *sigh* It is our responsibility as tourists to respect the rules of the country that we are visiting.
|I have no idea how to pose with these statues.|
There’s this viewing deck where you can view a town of North Korea...on clear days. You can drop won coins in the telescopes for a clearer view. But it was cloudy, so I got a white background.
|My gloves had different colors. I lost the pair of each, and left with these. They are still gloves so I will still use them.|
We were warned that the picture-taker needs to be inside the yellow line. If it is taken outside that yellow line, a soldier of North Korea will yell at you. True. Some Chinese folks were deliberately taking pics outside the line. A NK soldier yelled at them to stop taking pics. Scary for me, I don’t know if they were scared at all (or if they cared about the rules in the first place).
Up next, Dorasan Station. This is the gateway to North Korea. Song shared that they believe that someday, both Koreas will be united. They instill to their children that unification is the vision. I was amazed that SK is so visionary about their unification with NK. And how “forgiving” it is, ideally.
|I have this umbrella with polka dots now. I lost my umbrella in the mall the previous night so I purchased the cheapest umbrella – this one cost me ₩ 3,000. Ouch!|
NK isn’t completely closed to outsiders. There are some residents of SK that travel daily to a factory of NK. They pass by immigration everyday –twice a day! So imagine how many stamps they have on their passport already. Also, in Matt’s 2012 Wherethehellismatt video, he danced in NK. How did he do it? He googled “Tours in North Korea” and paid for the fee. SIMPL (he shared in his blog).
|You can enter those glass doors... for a fee|
You have to ask for permission if you want a picture with these soldiers. Song says they allow beautiful women to take pics of them. So girls, wag kayo papayag na walang picture!
|Okay soldiers, smile! I like their uniform.|
|With the railroad tracks. The tracks are for display purposes only.|
There's this stamp of North Korea. Since I had no paper, I used a receipt.
There was also this bridge with some history.
|Letters/ pics of SK relatives in NK|
The tour was done at around 1pm. As part of the tour, we had to stop at this Amethyst (or something) factory. Basically, they will try to sell you something. I’ve read about this part, but I guess this is an inevitable part of the tour.The bus drops off the tourists at four different points in the city. The bus dropped us of at Lotte Mall, where we had our late lunch.
The tour was very enriching. I enjoyed this tour the most in Korea – next to the cherry blossoms. It made the Korean history very interesting.
- Pay attention to your guide. He will tell you if you cannot take pics. Respect the rules.
- Remember the plate number of your bus. There are a lot of tour buses there.
- Bring an umbrella. Wear walking shoes. You will be doing some walking in the tunnel.
- Bring water and some light snacks. The tour is quite long.
- Bring a piece of paper where you can stamp NoKor's commemorative stamp.
- Watch out for spies of North Korea. If you catch one, the government will give you a reward.