• Day16

    Seoul, S. Korea pt2

    October 16, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ 🌙 11 °C

    I won't bore you (although it might be too late) about the day I spent sightseeing but I will mention that the view from the top of the tower was totally unexpected. I didn't realise how green Seoul was. There are green mountains that stick out in the middle of the city and spread out to the sides. It's a beautiful city. I was lucky enough to capture the sunset on the way down. And boy does it set quickly. I'll post a video when I can get to a computer.

    The next night we had a few Soju's and beer at the guesthouse before heading out for some drinks. Cece and Jeroen joined us this time and they were really fun and laid back. The park was empty so we headed to a couple bars. On the way Cece freaked out because she saw a player from "The League of Legends". I had never heard of this game before but supposedly there are millions of players around the world and Cece and Jeroen were here to watch the final. This thing even has its own channel in S. Korea! But more on this later. Most of the guys left pretty early but me and Cesar stayed for a few more drinks before heading home via the park.

    The park was packed now. There was a rap battle going on in one corner, jazz played in another and a boxing match in the middle. So of course we watched the boxing. Basically anyone from the crowd could pay to punch this guy who was padded up and all he could do was block. A great way to release some anger. It was all rather timid and fun until an American army dude (off duty of course) decides he wants a go. He was hench and looked like he knew what he was doing. The poor Korean student padded up took a massive beating and had to sit out for a while. It was brutal. But it got worse.

    So the little hobo we met the night before wanted to get in on the action and was looking for a challenger. Nobody wanted to get involved. So after a few minutes this dude goes up to the other hobo we met and starts punching him in the face. The guy on the receiving end was a lot bigger than his "friend" and just had a confused/surprised look on his face. A couple more punches were thrown in his direction until the big dude snapped and tackled his so called mate to the ground. They were split up by people from the crowd and as the night had just turned sour it was time to retire for the night.

    The next day I took a tour of the DMZ. This is the buffer zone between North and South Korea. I was being picked up from the hostel about 6am and on the way the party was still going on outside. People were now migrating to the restaurants to get some food and more alcohol I suppose. This place doesn't sleep at the weekend. Anyway the first stop was to the border point where officials from both sides would meet. We were allowed to enter a South Korean hut that technically allowed us to cross the border into North Korea. The hut was guarded by some mean looking South Koreans with dark shades, staring right into the eyes of the North Korean soldiers. Apparently they are trained in a special form of Taekwondo where they can stand in one stance for hours. The North Korean soldiers on the other hand looked really weak and nervous. Our American soldier tour guide said we could take as many photos as we liked of the North Koreans as it made them nervous so we obliged. But we were warned not to get in the way of the South Korean soldiers otherwise they would punch you in the face and it looked like they would.

    Anyway we had to leave the hut and lineup just outside. As we did there was a North Korean tour happening on the North Korean side. They normally have a lot of Chinese tourists visit North Korea that take this tour but we were told that these were North Korean tourists. There was a camera stand off where both sides took out there cameras and clicked away at each other. It was such a surreal experience.

    After this section we were able to go to a vantage point and look into North Korea. It turns out that the first couple villages are fake and only there to make Korea look good. There's a funny story that the North Koreans put up a massive flag, only for South Korea to put up a bigger flag, then the North Koreans just went all out and put up a gigantic flag that is so large and heavy it can't fly.

    The rest of the tour was a bit shite so not worth commenting about. Definitely do the JSA tour if you're in South Korea and skip the DMZ tour. You can't say you enjoy a trip like this because the situation is sad but it's amazing to see how you control a buffer zone between two countries technically at war. You can feel the tension though it didn't feel hostile. And it was nice to learn about the efforts made by the South Koreans to reunite. The South Koreans have actually built a factory in North Korea to help employ people over there. The South Koreans do benefit from cheaper labour but it's another way of making peace with the opposition. Now I know I'm being fed propaganda on the South Korean side but I genuinely feel there is an effort to reunite from the South side.
    Read more