We signed up for a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Friday. We had to be at the front gate of the base at 7:50 a.m., so we had a quick breakfast and headed down to meet the bus. The tour was scheduled to take a good bit of the day, but honestly we were on the bus for quite a bit of it. We wanted to take the tour that goes to the Joint Security Area, but that one was sold out by the time we bought our tickets.
(That would be the tour where you have to wear pants, not shorts or skirts. The reason we’d bought the ugly, blue, stretchy, overpriced, non-returnable pants the day before.)
The tour we took went to Freedom Bridge, the northern-most train station in South Korea, and the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel.
At the first stop, Freedom Bridge, the girls had to use the restroom and when we came out, we couldn’t find the boys. Turns out they went up a hill and took some pictures. We sorta missed the whole deal on this stop, so I can’t tell you much about it. (It was only a 15 minute stop.)
Next we went to the train station that used to run to North Korea. From what I understand, that only lasted a short time before relations between the two countries got worse and they shut down this station. The guard told us about a billboard in that area that is a fake advertisement. It is actually a weapon, set to explode and close the road in case of attack from North Korea. It’s really something to think about, living in a country that could be attacked by their neighbors at any time. They live in that knowledge.
The next stop was an observation area. You could look out over a big field and see North Korea. However, they had very strict rules about cameras, with soldiers standing around to enforce the rules. If you tried to take pictures, we were told, they would take your camera and delete all the photos on it. You really couldn’t see much…a building or two in the far distance. They’re probably fake buildings anyway.
That portion of the tour was the most meaningful to me. To look out over North Korea, where so many people suffer and are so very oppressed…all I could do was stand there and pray for them all. Have mercy, God. Send your light of hope and truth to shine in that land of darkness.
The tunnel was up next. You couldn’t take pictures there, either. It was a dark, damp, low-ceiling-ed tunnel at a sharp incline, and not recommended for the claustrophobic. It wasn’t too bad going down, but it was a decent workout going up! Wayne, Mr. Strong Man, carried Ben on his back going up. (That alone probably made up for missing two weeks of PT.)
This stop also included a brief movie about the discovery of the tunnels and the DMZ in general, and a small museum, which our guide rushed us through.
Ben did pretty well with all the travel, although he cried off and on. I think it was a lot of bus time for a 3 year old, in general. It was kind of a lot of bus time for me. 🙂
The tour ended at the shopping area of Itaewon, but since the bus had to go by the base, the guide offered to drop off anyone who was staying there (US!) and wanted to skip the shopping portion (US!). As we were out of won and wondering how we’d get home from Itaewon, we took him up on his offer.
We had (a very late) lunch at a hotel restaurant. When the food came, Ben burst out excitedly and the waitress laughed. She told us he’d said, “I can eat everything!!” I guess he was hungry.
I honest-to-goodness have no idea what we did the rest of the day. I wrote things down while we were in Korea, but I was a couple days behind most of the time, and even then I couldn’t remember what happened Friday afternoon. I’m pretty sure we were wiped out and just messed around in the room or in the lobby area…probably the playground outside. Uneventful, anyway. Also, we were trying to make plans with Wayne’s brother James, who lives in Korea.
Day Six: We hang out with Uncle James.