Sunday, November 7, 2010

The D.M.Z, Teralyn, and the best weekend ever

Despite coming down with a nasty cold by Friday night which left me with an alternately squeaky and manly voice, I had one of the greatest weekends ever thanks, in due part, to my travel companion, Teralyn. We GET each other. Laughter was never too far around the corner and "good talk time" abounded. Oh, yeah, and we went to the DMZ......

I got out of work Friday night as quickly as I could and Alex was kind enough to drive me home to grab my camera (which I had forgotten) before I hopped on the bus. I arrived at the hostel, The Grape Garden House, right before 11, which was perfect, as that was the latest time to check in. Teralyn wasn't going to arrive until 12:30. The hostel was really great! We stayed in the dorm and met a couple of nice gentlemen, originally from Texas and currently living in D.C. We all went for a beer and met up with the hostel owner, Min, who seems like a truly sweet person who loves owning a hostel--if only so he can meet people from around the world. I would definitely recommend staying at the hostel. It's located very close to Hongik University subway station and is surrounded by cute cute shops and restaurants.

Teralyn! She made it!

 The group

We had to get up early-ish to get to our time at the Grape Garden House was short, but sweet. Here are some pictures of the entrance:

Then, it was on to the tour. Photo ops were somewhat restricted, but here are the few I took--

Check out the maple!

 The bridge you can see is called the "Freedom Bridge," which was used to exchange political prisoners after the Korean war.

 Oh! The paleness of my skin! :) (Sickness?)

 These ribbons are prayers for families waiting reunification, peace, and well wishes for the citizens of North Korea. It was quite lovely.

 Hehehehe. He just made me laugh.

 This train was stopped during a battle and sat alone for many years.

 The end point of the Freedom Bridge.


 Sign for the DMZ. Notice the empty empty roads.

Okay, so after the Freedom Bridge, we were taken to the main part of the tour, the "Joint Security Area" or JSA. This is an area that was formed after the historic "tree chopping incident" for important meetings to be held between the countries. In fact, North Korea rarely partakes in talks. The most recent, newsworthy talks were those regarding the sinking of the South Korean boat. I couldn't tell you all of the information I learned on the I apologize if it seems a bit jumbled.

The JSA. The blue buildings are where officials meet. You can see Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers. A U.S. soldier gave us the tour. North Korea has the white building. is a picture of North Korea!

 Inside one of the buildings. I was technically on the North Korean side at this point (SWEET). The soldiers were there for our protection and stayed in this pose the entire time, as gawking tourists (myself included) took pictures with them.

Soldiers chosen for this duty must have at least a Level One Blackbelt in Tai Kwon Do, speak English, Korean and (I think?) Japanese.

 Close up of the North Korean building. See the one soldier? He checked us out with his binoculars every once in awhile...and hid behind the building post...and there is also someone taking pictures from the window to his left.

You can hardly see it, but this is the Bride of No Return, in which prisoners (after the war) were given a chance to go one way or the is my understanding that most chose the country which they were from.

And OF COURSE there was a gift shop. This guy made me laugh.


And those are all of the pictures. I might have more after Teralyn and I are able to exchange. Her camera took better ones.

After the tour we grabbed a delicious Indian/Nepali dinner near the hostel. It lasted about 3 hours and we made it through a delicious bottle of wine. Again, have not laughed so much...

I would definitely recommend going on the JSA tour of the DMZ, as it is quite informative and well done. I'd like to return to go on a tour of the 3rd Tunnel (where N.K. tunneled underground). SO, that might happen in the future. Only about 5 months left! Wow.

Feeling good good good.


Megan said...

I like the happy turn these posts have taken! :)

Janet said...

Wow, Katrina, that was an exciting adventure.. When we went on tour in Korea I did not want (afraid I guess) to go to the DMZ, now I wish we had.
THanks for sharing all your pics. I am really enjoying your posts. We visited a lot of the places you have posted. I think you have been to both cities that the girls were born in already.
I hope the next 5 months are exciting and rewarding for you. I can't wait to see more.