War,war and war then DMZ
Sunset in Seoul!
Heading in the city is much larger than anywhere else, firstly the bus takes us through which seems to be an area with ALOT of appartment buildings. Kinda reminds me of the way I play sim city...people live here...umm people work here...and umm I'll put a fire brigade here..
Entering the city proper we are dropped off at the bus terminal and make our way to the subway and to the hostel. We have a hiccup or two but nothing major, just a lesson in the importance of looking at the directions and not trying to remember. Actually we arrived pretty much right outside our hostel and if it had not been for "helpful" expats we would of arrived with no worries but as it seems we walked in circles with all our bags untill finally coming back to where we were and looked up. So be it.
The hostel is great! You get a single room with tv shower, toilet ...the works and it's only 15,000 won a night! We have issues with the booking and the guy gives me and paul a dorm room to ourselves then single rooms the next night. I had researched the place and the price seemed very cheap, we figure out that it is usually 45,000 won...we try to book more nights at 15,000 won...he was'nt having it. Part of the research was to find a place with a kitchen, which this said it had but ended up being a closet with a sink. Though this did not deter Paul who had a determination to have bangers and mash. Getting back from a grocery shop we managed to get frankfurts and potatoes plus some baked beans, a hearty meal indeed. We had no peelers, no can openers and well pretty much no anything to help but with some English grit and a sharp knife cans would not stop Paul! The debaucle contined but I'll not bore you with the details, but we ate like kings that night...on the floor for some, no seats too.
Seoul is a lot more westernised than the rest of South Korea visibly influenced by American culture. I was hopeful for some non fishy food. The people seem more fashion concious but still drab colours, so I keep my red jacket hidden. In our first venture out we are quickly bombarded with K-Pop as a group of girls are having a show at the front of the shopping mall. The area we are staying is a shopping district mostly, I search for bags as I am in need of lighter bags (see previous post) but find none.
After our stay we reluctantly leave, I have been up a good part of the night reading reviews and scouring the world of hostels, something Paul has no patience for so agrees to what ever I think will be good. The hostel we end up at is run by two young guys that are cousins turning out to be really good. I feel like im boarding with housemates than with owners, the place is very social with a chilled atmosphere (www.bibim.com.kr or bibim on hostelworld if ever here) which works for me as it is pretty much home for two weeks. Staying at the hostel is a group of young singaporean girls which like to shop, drink and party...pretty much in that order. One night I head out with them on the town to a club. We line up and get in and I have never been so packed before in my life, it's rediculous! Not only is it packed but every now and then when the crowd on the right decides they have had enough of shoveing they shove enmass, which in turn gets pushed (insert screams and shouts of people). To get through the throng I have to arms up and shove and push copping and giving elbows a plenty and the heat is crazy plus smoking in club is allowed. But I'm stuck, I have lost half of the girls...the half with the ticket for my jacket. Giving up, I give in...finding a niche and having a boogie with semi easy access to the bar. Finally we find the others and exit and go to another club which is normal, finish up, eat some food and go home.
Now that we are settled for a little while, we go and do some sightseeing. The first thing we hear about is the palace which has a bit of a ceremony reagrding a change of the guard, we are given examples of the english buckingham palace guard where you can take a picture but they did'nt end up being what we were expecting. You can judge... Nooo, No! How did that get in there, much more traditional, well not that much..loved the beards! ha This guy cracked me up They were really into it.. and a few pics outside the palace.
This is General Soonshin who is famous as he commanded a victory against the Japanese fleet by enguinity in creating a unique design for a battle ship called the Turtle ship which was effective due to it's coverered decking. The Japanese fleet was 138 strong and the General only had 13 turtle ships which he used to defeat this fleet yet I'm sure there were many other ships but the turtle ship was a big factor in the victory. The strategy was that having an enclosed deck prevented musket fire and arrows aswell as cannons from doing alot of damage along with the covering having spikes to deter boarding. Here is a pilfered picture Here he observes over Seoul... Immortal!
After this it was visa time again, but I wont bore you with the details (Thank youuu my lovely sister Jasmine and her beloved Katey <3 ). With that somewhat sorted I thought I should do something out of the house as I had been couped up a bit stressed for a few days. So how better than to go to a prison museum depicting all the wierd and wonderful ways the Japanese tortured the Koreans. The prison was for the suspected and convicted of the Korean indepence movement sweeping the nation. It was in working order up until 1945, the liberation of Korea...not so long ago.
Here are some of the prisoner cards they have on display walls.
It's a strange thing seeing a family of parents and little kids going through something like this (There are lots), I was watching a father have his child read the plaque of an exhibit that is saying quite nightmarish things at an age like that :/ Strange but thats just the way it is in Korea, war and suffering has defined them more than anything. Whether domestic or from a foreign invasion they have been through ALOT!
Paul decided to experience a torture box...He's in there some where...
Oh there he is...LMAO! I decided to do..I dunno..gimp mixed with a hunchback? Give the English a seat of power and it goes right to thier head.. Then they become Australian? Oh this is a picture of the tunnel that they would drag bodies through after hangings etc...ominous..
Next we did a brief jaunt down to old Korea town to see some traditional houses and such. You just know a place is disappointing if I only take one photo! Well at least Paul got to have a traditional protection print done ( I seriously have Journal envy! He has so much cool stuff in his. If you travel make sure you get a good journal, Japan and alot of places do stamp and caligraphy, characters and such). It is done from these rocks.. only found in some place special, I was'nt listening as the other girl was hawt!
Recently I went and had a tourist day again seeing the war memorial museum then heading to the Seoul tower hopeing to catch a sunset. Im just going to show you the pictures, but before I do. The UN part of the museum was great because I was finally able to read those cool documents that you wished were not in Korean (Given that the documents were americans this stands to reason, but don't step on my buzz). The documents are from General McArthur who was the first Commanding General of the U.N. (don't quote me on specific titles) his first mission being the military response to aid south Korea in the Korean war. He details his assesment to the U.N. about that state of affairs in the country. I'll do them first so that you can have a read... Here is what he looks like And here is the charter for the U.N. if you have not read it before.. Most places you go to do with the U.N. forces you have a tally of dates, number of troops, casualities etc
Here is Australia's exhibit A drum U.N. forces that participated
There was a cool statue out the front, well statues.. Like I said war at an early age is apart of life..
Trying to make the sunset I miss timed but got far up enough to find a random spot with a good view. The place I travel through in called Itewon, know for it's American population situated near the U.S. army base. This being the case it also looks to be a bit of a hub for the church, having neon crosses plaguing it's rooftops. with the sunsets though I sieze the photo opp.. Finally I find my way to Seoul tower (Got lost a lil bit) and it's dark, the climb is 20 minutxes or so of stairs..pics.. I get a Seoul tower with a old to new theme like in Tokyo!
There is a stream that runs through Seoul which has been likened to the manhattan park walk for romance, it could work...when it's warmer.
Site seeing is great but the most interesting thing of all is the South/North relationship. I briefed on it in an earlier blog with the anology for the relationship being that of brothers, one is a drug addicted allways fucking up, the other fights and defends thier ideals but still really has hope that they will clean thier act up and once again be family. There is such a strong desire for reunification that it's heartbreaking.
So off to the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone, though it is the most militarised zone in the world :p) and to the JSA (Joint Security Area). Perhaps if I could only speak with some north Koreans I could let them know that Sth Korea just wants to make up?!? The cost for the tour was expensive ($135,00 won) but it is probably the best thing you can do. I mean why come to Korea and not go to the DMZ, then again maybe the signing of the waiver for any liability to the U.N. in the case of limb loss, abduction or death could put some people off (I got to keep the signed waiver as a memento afterwards!). So on the Bus trip your told of many rules, like umm no bare back shoes or faded jeans. No pictures except at points that they say it is ok..this is the checkpoint going into the start of the DMZ...no pictures after this untill we get to the next destination.
The first stop is one of the I think four tunnels that the Sth Koreans found going under the demilitarised zone and into the Sth Korean land. They found the tunnel by accident when they were fitting pipes for some other reason, the north koreans excuse was that they were mineing for gold haha. The tunnel has not been collapsed to my knowledge but has three concrete walls with guard windows. It was very surreal being able to look through the last wall and see the dark window of the next knowing that it continued on to North Korea. No pictures were allowed in the tunnel which you were able to go down (I snuck one in with my phone but cannot upload :p). They say with other tunnels they found that a great sneak attack could of been done, just one tunnel could of allowed 38,000 soldiers in about an hour.
Next was the observation tower into the DMZ. There is a central border which is the the real dividing line, then there is two kilometres on either side for it's respective country which is the DMZ. At the observation tower you could only take photos from a certain marked distance so not to gve away positions of defence. I wish I had taken a photo of it but all tourists including myself are standing as tall as possible with cameras held high taking random pictures and hopeing for the best, somehow i was fortunate with some of mine. Here is a border marker at the two kilometre mark for Sth Korea DMZ guard posts Observation tower from the photo zone..
Next is the train station Gyeongui, I had thought that it was not active but it actually is and runs three times a day bringing everyday Nth Koreans to Sth Korea to work in a factory close by to the station. The station is also a symbol of reunification, a hope that some day it will be used for mass transit from the north to south, along with opening up Sth korea to a european transit line showed here on the board They have everthing allready in place, customs, immigration. I mean the train line runs all the way to the capital of North Korea, Pyeongyang. The soldiers I see are mostly just kids doing thier two year compulsory service. I somehow get into a situation of national bravado! ha I so let him win!...Ok, well he's a trained soldier...sorry Australia...haha.
Next is the most dangerous place of the DMZ.
JSA...(Spot the Nth Korean!) JSA is for Joint Security Area (Before entering you need to sign the waiver mentioned earlier). That concrete line going from blue building to the other is the border line, from there it's Nth Korea. The blue buildings are the area that Sth Korean, North Korean and U.N. officials meet these buildings that cross that middle boundary 50/50, here is a shot from the window of one. Meeting room guard duty.
This was not always the way though, the buildings used to be divided in a much more random array. Now a certain area of the JSA had a Sth Korean guard post which was effectivelly surounded by three Nth Korean guard posts. The closest other Sth Korean Guard post has sight of the surrounded one but a tree grew in the line of sight and gave a blind spot. The Sth Koreans one day went to chop down the tree which for some reason the Nth Koreans took offence too. Quickly the Sth Koreans were outnumbered and the Nth Koreans butchered the Sth koreans with the axes. It is for this reason that the JSA is now divided by a line down the middle and not just by building. The soldiers are serious here, strictly no arm wrestling! I don't know why I look worried here haha I was a bit upset with not being able to get the shots I wanted.
On the way back we go past the bridge of no return, at the end of the war prisoners were given the choice of which side to go on, once they had passed there was no going back..
As for where I am now...BEIJING, CHINA!
So ciao for now and wish me luck in extending my Visa so I can give you a good overview of China.