3 September 2013

South Korea Day 6 - Imjingak, DMZ, Dora Observatory & Dora Station

Assalamualaikum. 안녕!


Curi masa update. While waiting for my work to finish; jangan jak leka & hangus. Memang masaklah kan. Right, continue with the content already. Pot pet pot pet nanti ntah apa yang siap. Harus bertangguh lagi lepas tu. 

Ms H went back to Malaysia early in the morning. And only us three ladies joined the tour to DMZ. For a half day tour; Imjingak, Third Tunnel, Dora Observatory & Dora Station are included in the itinerary. To join the full day tour that includes Joint Security Area (read: here); one have to make an early reservation. If I'm not mistaken; the booking has to be made at least three days prior the tour date. We booked ours a day before the tour at the hostel reception (Banana Backpackers) since it's a half day tour. 

Initially, we were quite hesitant to proceed with the plan. With the high tensions of a situation currently going on between the two Koreas at that time; I was advised by Lisa to put the plan on hold. She got most of the latest information from her friends back in South Korea. Also the embassy. 

Being stubborn that I am, I insisted to go. Hence I sent Banana Hostel a private message in fb. Asking about the situation there. Much to my surprise, I got quite a positive reply from them. 
Either they're purposely did that for the sake of their business or that's what really happened there...I proceed with my plan; still. Instead of worrying, I looked forward for the trip. Betul kerja gila. 
Early that morning Mr Kim; our tour guide picked us up at the hostel. We left the hostel at 7a. After picking up the rest of the tour members from their respective hostels/hotels; off we went to Imjingak. Along the way, ndak sempat membuta Mr Kim told us a bit of introduction about the places we're gonna visit. Also the rules to be observed. And stories about the North; which I concluded most of them focused on the President. 

Having seen (Exhibition) the North Korean Communist's brutalities towards not only the South Koreans; but also their own people does change my judgement towards the President. In my point of view, rather than wanting to develop the country for his people; all he ever wanted is the power to rule. Oh great! Did u just say ur view about other country's president out loud? Since when kisah politik jadi makanan kau, Bie? Eh?
Anyways, we reached Imjingak Unification Park an hour later. This is where Mr Kim registered our name & passport number to the system. Only those registered can enter the DMZ area; the only divided state in the world. Alhamdulillah it was a smooth journey knowing the fact that we were in a war zone. A war can break at any time. 

Imjingak can also be reach via public transportation (subway, taxi) but here is as far as an individual tour can go. One still has to be in a tour or board buses for fee to venture closer to the border. 
Downside of joining a tour. Limited time to stroll around. Let alone taking picture of the monuments regarding the Korean War. We were given merely 15mins to 'enjoyed' the view. That is I reckoned depending on how long Mr Kim will be in queue to register our names. 
I was quite curious to climb the stairs...and see by myself what's there. Yet again, the time given was my only barrier. Pasrah! 
The De-Militarized Zone. Finally here. This is where the Third Infiltration Tunnel is. We were given an hour & a half to explore this area. That includes the return journey to the tunnel.

Korean DMZ is the most heavily militarized border in the world. It is 250kilometres long & approximately 4km wide. DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsular that serves as a buffer zone between the North & the South. (source wiki)
Unification sounds rather extreme for me. I would prefer for both side to be friendlier with each other first. The South had survived enough to be where they stands now. I think it is fair if the North is allowed to 'borrowed' the skills & knowledge from the South to improve & develop their country. Let the North catch up with what the South has achieved so far...and only then unification shall take place. 
We went down to see the Infiltration Tunnel. No bags nor camera or even handphone is allowed to bring inside the tunnel. We have to leave all of our belongings in the locker provided before proceeding to the walkway. 

A bit of info about the tunnel (source wiki):
Since November 15, 1974, the South has discovered that four tunnels crossing the DMZ have been dug by North Korea. This is indicated by the orientation of the blasting lines within each tunnel. Upon their discovery, North Korea claimed that the tunnels were for coal mining; however, no coal has been found in the tunnels, which are dug through granite, but some of the tunnel walls have been painted black to give the appearance ofanthracite.
The tunnels are believed to have been planned as a military invasion route by North Korea. Each shaft is large enough to permit the passage of an entire infantry division in one hour, though the tunnels are not wide enough for tanks or vehicles. All the tunnels run in a north-south direction and do not have branches. Following each discovery, engineering within the tunnels has become progressively more advanced. For example, the third tunnel sloped slightly upwards as it progressed southward, to prevent water stagnation. Today, visitors may visit the second, third and fourth tunnels through guided tours.

This is the closest point to be used as proof that I've been there. While Ms G & Ms Z are the witnesses that I survived the 716m journey. To & fro. I successfully overcame my fear factor for the second time. I did the first time at Black Country Museum; with Ernie. The picture above doesn't do enough justification. We were damn tired the moment we came out from the tunnel. The 358m route up was indeed exhausting! I almost fainted. Drama sungguh!

We then move to Dora Observatory. Built looks across the DMZ, this observatory is the closest to the North.
The yellow line is the farthest one can go to take picture at this area. 
This observatory is located atop Mount Dora. On a clear day, the propaganda village of North Korea can be seen from the observatory point. But that day wasn't our luck. It was hazy & all I could see is the Imjin river. Because of the limited time given (again), we didn't have the chance to discover the area more. I later found out that there is another observatory that overlooked North Kore; Odusan Observatory. It is reachable via train or city bus. Please refer here for more info. This might be of useful info for me next time. 
Last stop is the Dorasan Station. A functional train station; the last one in South Korea from the DMZ. And perhaps the first to North Korea. One day...
The station that connects the South & North. 700m from the Southern Boundary of the DMZ. 
The train line goes all the way to Pyeongyang. But no train run the track for now; of course. 
This modern & complete functional station is idle. Mr Kim told me, there will be only twice service from Seoul to this station in a day. If North Korea has somehow liberated, this station is going to service traffic between Seoul & the North Korea.
Who knows one day...the station is finally open to public. Untuk simpan that bit of a proud feeling that we've been there even before it started its operation to the North Korea...stamped the paper that has our name in Hangul with the stamp chop that stated "Pyeongyang".
The Trans-Korean railway is already built connecting the Trans-Siberia railway & Trans-China railway. Again, if one day the North Korea wants to 'freed' its country...this station will be the starting point of the transcontinental railroad. London is reachable via train from South Korea! Daebak! 
There are few people in our bus who booked the tour to JSA & they were sent to a restaurant near the DMZ. Lunch is provided for the tour that includes JSA. And they will continue their tour after lunch. As we only booked for the half day tour, we went straight back to Seoul.

I stumbled upon bloggers who hired taxi to go to Imjingak where they got the chance to step foot on the Bridge of Freedom & went up to Odusan Observatory. Their pictures are enough to make me envy their journey. I should visit the bridge one day. I was choked with emotion by just looking at the pictures for I want to experience it myself. 

Standing on the bridge...imagining the sorrow & grieve of the refugees (thousands of them) who escaped from the communist; left their family behind in North Korea knowing they will never be able to see them again. Insha Allah, I will pay that border another visit. But not during the upcoming trip for sure. 
Alas perut. Boiled guguma given by the Ahjumma; at the restaurant where we had our dinner the night before. I stopped after eating more than eight sweet potatoes. Lapar! I only had porridge for breakfast ok! And ouh, I left the fridge magnets & souvenirs I bought at the Third Tunnel in the bus. Brilliant! Sudahlah beli fridge magnet paling mahal. Why u so lucky eh, Bie?
The bus driver dropped us in front of a hotel situated opposite the City Hall. But before that, we made a stop at a ginseng outlet somewhere in Seoul. Thing tour agent will do in every organized tour & expect to pay sky high price when u decide to buy at this outlet. 

The hungry us paid little attention to the brief introduction about the ginseng. All we could think at that time was of course 'where to have our lunch'. Mr Kim suggested us an Arabian restaurant in Myeongdong. We were like "How to get there?". As usual, survival mode switch on automatically whenever I'm abroad. Choii!
We navigated the route to Myeongdong from City Hall using the google map in my phone. Pandai bah terus si Err baca map. Where got u say ur skill in reading map deteriorate leii! And of course Korean yang super helpful nampak kami macam lost, lead us to the stairs to the restaurant. Sekalinya, kedai banyak bintang! Harga standard lah kalau sudah banyak bintang. 

And laju jak kami decide untuk cari kedai makan lain. Eomoni Jib jadi pilihan; a seafood restaurant suggested by the Korean Muslim Federation. Found it in a blog. 

Had a scrumptious luncheon in Myeongdong before going back to our hostel. Will update more about that later. 

p/s How I really wish I snapped the pictures of the barb wires, fortified areas/river/hills. Everything that can  at least briefly explain that there are loads of 'unfinished business' between the two countries. How I wish...


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4 hollered!:

Ernie Khairina said...

patutla berwassap semalam..tdur lambat ni kasi siap DMZ hehe

wahh ramai pulak kan time kamu pg tu, sbb saya ingat2 time saya pg dulu macam teda org, lepas tu ni mcm sdh upgrade tempat dia.

sedap kan tu ubi hehe

BibiErr Karim said...

Hahaha balik dari cafe saya tidur terus. Terbangun, trus xdapat tidur sudah. Kunun mau kasi siap ni tapi brought forward p ni pagi juga. Sebab gatal tangan surf sana sini lagi.

Raaaamai time kami. Berbas2 lagi. Mostly from China ah.

Hihi ubi tu sedap. Mau lagi time lapar, terus macam mau kasi habis semua.

Liza Razak said...

teringin nak kesana nanti bila tengok entry sis ni :)

BibiErr Karim said...

Insha Allah awak akan sampai one day. Amiiiin.

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