Sunday, January 20, 2013

South & North Korea trip!

Hooray for another small vacation! Chris and I traveled to South Korea to see my friend Eve and we also took a day tour to North Korea.

We started off the trip with an evening flight to Seoul via Korean Air. That airline is so luxurious! For our inflight entertainment we watched the movie Million Dollar Baby while eating really good airline food. The food was so delicious that I asked for a second meal and they actually gave me another!

We arrived in Seoul later in the evening on Friday, so we met up with Eve, my friend from Hungary, on Saturday. She's teaching English in a hagwon only an hour away from Seoul so we were able to catch up, drink, and eat Korean pancakes.

Eve and I traveling through some of Romania in 2010.

It's been too long since I last saw Eve! (2 years!)

Eve & I have always bonded over street food.
The next day we checked out of the hostel and went back with Eve to her city, Cheonan, via a 5 hour mistake of a metro trip instead of a 1 hour bus ride. She had to work from 1-8 on Monday so Chris and I went shopping! Korean fashion is a wonderful thing and I pretty much have a female Korean body, so I was really in my element.

Haggled for this dress! My dad would be so proud. I got a discount of 11 dollars!
After a few wonderful days with Eve in Cheonan, Chris and I headed back to Seoul because we had the North Korean tour the next day! Chris booked us a nice hotel room and he took me out on a sweet date to a Chinese restaurant. The man knows that Chinese food is my favorite :)

But before we got Chinese food we definitely picked up some street food.

The next morning we hopped on a tour bus offered by the Panmunjom Travel Center and we were off to learn a TON of interesting information about North Korea. Our tour included going to the Mt. Odu Unification Observatory, ImjinGak, getting an amazing lunch of beef bulgogi, going to Camp Bonifas (it has the world's most dangerous golf course), and getting a JSA tour (JAS stands for Joint Security Area). We also got a bonus of talking to a defector from North Korea.

Here's our wonderful tour guide. She was so sweet.
The picture above shows the fences and how they keep people in. The fence is deep into the ground (so you can't dig under it), has 3 layers of barbed wire on top of it, and is electrified. 

Defector on the left, tour guide on the right.
We got the basic tour, but our entire tour was upgraded free of charge to include a defector from North Korea! We were able to ask her questions like how did she escape, what was the reason to make her want to escape, how is the education system in North Korea, how is the internet or cell phone usage and she gave us amazing information. I can post her answers if there is interest.

This is the train that runs 4x a day from North to South Korea. (North Korea is in the background). It's always empty, but it's meant to be symbolic more than functional.

Also, in regards to this tour, we were really lucky. This tour company only offers 4 tours a week and the tours the day before AND the day after ours had been canceled with only an hour or so notice. We were the exception tour group this week and whew, are we glad the tour wasn't canceled. 

Before we could enter into the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) we had to sign a release stating that if we died it wasn't anyone's fault but our own. We also got a briefing (I feel asleep during it) 

I look a little freaked out because this guard just stopped me. I had crossed the border from South to North and I guess he thought I was going for the door and he stomped his foot and stuck out his arm. I really just wanted a photo with him all along. The guards are always in this pose.

After that amazing tour we picked up some North Korean wine (18% alcohol content!) and brought it back to Eve's place. We did face masks and drank that wine along with some Mongolian vodka we brought.

Chris, me, Eve, and Jocelyn (another English teacher at Eve's school)
And then on our final day we all went shopping, ate sushi, and recovered from our respective hangovers. 

We're back in Mongolia now and school picks up in about a week, so I'm trying to get motivated for the final semester of teaching! Also, tea was spilled on my MacBookPro, so it looks like I'm out a computer until sometimes works but it kinda depends on the day, I guess.

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