I had wanted to visit the 38th Parallel from both sides of the border. You can read about my DMZ trip in North Koreas here. Unfortunately some things are not meant to be and although I got out to the DMZ I didnt get to the Joint Security Area (JSA). How did this happen? The only real tour that goes into the JSA is the USO tour. It turns out that you have to book that a week in advance. I didnt even book my flight to Korea that far in advance! You are also required to adhere to a dress code so that the North Koreans dont see scruffy foreigners and funnily enough the clothes that I wore when I went to the JSA in North Korea were not appropriate…. Go figure! No zip off pants, no jeans, no trainers, no loose clothing, no flip flops, no shorts, no shaggy hair… crazy long list of that you are and arent allowed to wear. To cut a long story short, I got a trip on a DMZ tour… just not one that went to the JSA. So I can still say that I have been to the DMZ on both sides. I cant say I have been to the JSA on both sides. Grrrrr!

So… The DMZ Tour…. Worst tour I have ever been on. Totally disorganised. Was an hours drive outside of Seoul. On the way the guide told us that we were not allowed to take photos from the bus. Then about 40 minutes into the drive she pointed out North Korea across the river… Remember we had been told no photos from inside the bus.

Got to the DMZ area where they were supposed to have shuttle busses to take us into the DMZ. There were no busses as the busses were full. As it transpires you can take your own bus into the DMZ as long as you have 30+ people on it. We had 26. Eventually we had a small Chinese and small Japanese group join us on our English speaking bus to make up the numbers and we were allowed to enter.

First visit was to the “3rd Tunnel of Aggression” which is a tunnel built by the North Koreans under the DMZ to allow them to invade South Korea. To get down into it we had to go 358m down and back up a 45 degree ramp which may not sound too bad but I promise you that your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs) will ache the next day – mostly from trying to control yourself going down hill.

3rd Tunnel of Agression

3rd Tunnel of Agression – Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/49857054@N00

Photos are not allowed in the tunnel anymore but it seems that people have been taking them. This is basically what the flat bit of the tunnel looks like:

The tunnel - courtesy of http://teymarieastudillo.wordpress.com/

The tunnel – courtesy of http://teymarieastudillo.wordpress.com/

Second stop on the tour was a lookout point where we were allowed to take photos of North Korea but from about 12 feet back from the edge of the lookout which meant that people were standing on a painted line holding cameras up in the air hoping to point then in the right direction. Luckily, I did and was able to get a photo of the North Korean and South Korean flagpoles.

Look closely... North Korean flag on the left... South Korean on the right

Look closely… North Korean flag on the left… South Korean on the right

Final visit was to Dorasan Train Station which is in effect a ghost station as the only tickets it can sell are platform tickets. It was supposed to link North and South Korea and the South Koreans see it as the start to a trans Eurasian railway network. Strangely enough it is staffed with ticket sellers, security, railway workers etc. No idea why! They may have to wait a while for a train. AND I thought the North Koreans were weird?? 🙂

The train station to nowhere...

The train station to nowhere…