But alas, my curiosity about North Korea would die down, and so this time, I invested the $80 for a day trip from Seoul. There are many different types of tours, and many do not actually take you to the border area, but just to the area around it and some of the tunnels that North Korea dug to invade the south. So if you book a tour, make you get the right one (and that lunch is included, too, I've heard from many who went on tour that they were taken to tourist trap kind of, expensive and bad restaurants).
My trip started at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, a swanky place that is part of a giant shopping centre. To my big surprise, there was a group of middle aged Brits in my tour group (a species rarely seen in Asia except for Thailand), along with a group of American college kids and another university aged group from Malaysia. Just as I though “Phew, no crazy army dudes!”, the tour guide, a perky Korean lady in her late 50s introduced herself. I don't want to sound paranoid, but Korean grandmothers are out to get me (no really, I get kicked, run over and shouted at by them, or at least get dirty looks every waking hour I spend in Korea).
“Laura” seemed an exception and was funny, kind, yet full of information and passion for her country's heritage and history. So I take back what I've said – not all Korean ladies are pure evil (still, most are). The first part of our visit was the spent at the War Museum which is actually inside Seoul, yet I hadn't taken the trip before. I like history, but war is not exactly my favourite topic. Like most Korean museums I've been to, this one was a firework of media and interactivity, but also full of information – too much to process on a short visit. If anyone is that much into the smallest details and battles of the Korean war, I can imagine that they can easily spend a day in here, though. I was a little confused by activities such as the “shooting centre” and “real time battle simulation”, though.
|Memorial and altar to pray to ancestors buried in North Korea|
The next stop was Imjimgak Park, the northernmost Park in South Korea. What's special about this place is that people whose ancestors are from the Northern Part of the Peninsula come here to honour ancestors during Korean New Year and Chuseok (Thanksgiving), where it's normally customary to return to your home town (i.e. the place where the graves of your ancestors are located). The park also hosts a few monuments, most strikingly the remains of a train all of whose passengers where shot during the war when North Korea attacked.
After the park, it was time for lunch. At this point, I felt a little cheated regarding my time... it was already past 2 pm and we had left Seoul at 10 am. Did I really pay that much money to spend hours and hours on a bus?