Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Seoul Train Part IV - Seoul-dering On

The whole Pinas contingent went exploring the DMZ (demilitarized zone aka JSA - Joint Securities Zone) with Jean (from the US office), JinSoo, KiKeun and his two adorable sons (spitting images of their handsome father) - JunHyuk (10) and JunHwan (9).


The JSA circa 1970's - from wikipedia
Not being one who is good in history but interested in knowing, I bet wikipedia will give you a better explanation of what the DMZ is, how it came about and why the heck I wanted to see it.

The entire trip was an exercise in patience, restraint, endurance and adventure. I will expound on that in a few moments but before I do, let me say I enjoyed it immensely and I hope I enjoy the rest of my stay here in South Korea. Much as I miss the Philippines and I am excited as heck to get on that plane home in less than a month, I am looking forward to coming back here in early January of next year.

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Patience, little grasshoppers!

It took Kikeun and the rest of the group (we were 12 in all) more than two hours to get to DMZ in Paju City, where there are tour buses that leave every 30 mins and last approximately two hours. Along the way, we laughed over how simple words are said in Korean (JinSoo, KiKeun and the kids), Tagalog (the Pinoys), Bisaya (Adam, Terence and yours truly) and in Bahasa (Jean). A few of the things we laughed over are:
** How a rooster crows (Kukurakoo/Tiktilaok/Tugtugaok/Tuktukaroo)
** How a dog barks (Mong-mong/Aw-Aw/i forgot the Bahasa equivalent)
** How a baby cries (Ingee/Uhaaaa/Iwee)
** Turkey sounds (No words can describe this one. Suffice it to say, we laughed until we developed rock-hard abs)

After all that, we sank into pensive silence. Contemplating the barren landscape of ricefields (all empty now), brown mountains (no more leaves on trees because of the coming winter) and people walking quickly, most of them holding closed their jackets at the neck (that day, the temperature was a "balmy" 3C).

The snoring began a few more minutes later. First it was Meng (Adam got a good shot of that). Then it was Joan (Adam also has a picture). The loudest snore of all came from Jean. Of course, Adam got a shot of that too!

The two young men were well behaved during that leg of the trip.

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It cost us just 8,700 KRW (approximately 7 USD) to go on that trip but I spent way over 70,000 KRW (about 55USD) buying stuff for people back home. I also bought a pair of pale pink wool gloves to match my winter jacket. Mwehehehehe...

(After that trip, we had dinner at McDonald's - thanks Jean! - where sodas get free refills then went to Lotte Department Store. I spotted a nice jacket with stars on them at Zara and a way-too-cute LeSportsac shoulder bag... but I postponed my shopping to next week because I did not have enough KRW's and they don't accept USD's. I bought a couple of pairs of black wool leggings instead.. so I can wear my skirts even during winter. Next on the shoping list: heeled pumps!)

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We descended the Third Tunnel after we saw a short movie, went through the memorabilia display and took pictures where they were allowed (in most areas, it's not allowed). The Third Tunnel was discovered in the 1970's when water sounds were heard from underground and it was an effort by the North to invade Seoul. To get to the actual tunnel, we descended a man-made one that ends where the Third Tunnel ends as well. Must I say, that damn modern tunnel was really steep. Going down was a breeze.

Coming back up is another story altogether.

After we walked through the cold, damp tunnel (riddled with dynamite holes where the NKors shoved explosives to blast the granite away), drank from the cold water that trickled down the walls (there was a faucet that dispensed the stuff. It smelled, looked and tasted clean. I had but a sip just to try it), tried looking for North Korean soldiers on the other side of the blockades... the task of ascending back to civilization began.

My hip "popped" about five times during the whole uphill walk and I had to stop to "re-align" it. I got to the top after about 7 minutes of huffing and puffing, red-faced and my throat burning from gulping in too-cold air. But what the hey, I must have burned 500 calories in the process!

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After we were rested and human-looking again (a Texan I was ascending with had been climbing 20 minutes when I chanced upon her on the way up. Before I left, she appeared at the mouth of the modern tunnel, red-faced and with her female companion handing her a bottle of Pocari Sweat), we went out to see the Imjiang station of the EuroTrain.

It was marvelous! NAIA looks like a dump beside it.

The Eurotrain connects one to Europe, China, parts of the former Soviet Union (I think...my map-reading skills are B-A-D) and the rest of the freaking world! It's just so sad that it can't be used to ferry people from South Korea into the rest of the Earth - North Korea won't allow the rails to go through their country. In that way, South Korea is cut-off from the EuroTrain universe.

I said to KiKeun, "well, why not just build an underwater tunnel and have the train go that way? Or a long bridge so you don't have to go through the North."

He laughed (his eyes disappear when he does) and replied, "It will take South Korea another 50 years to have that technology!"

(On a not-so-unrelated note, is it just me or does Korean-accented English sound so cute?)

Outside the station, there is a section of the railroad in front of a memorial plaque of sorts (I couldn't read it. It was in Korean).

In true baliw spirit (Kass is not Kass if she were not crazy), I laid down across the tracks - sprawled like a drunken idiot about to be decapitated and de-calf-ed by a coming train. Reminds me of the time my whole family went to Caliraya, and in the same true baliw spirit, all five of us laid down in the middle of the highway.
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I picked up lots of souvenirs for my friends back in Manila. I just hope I see them before I need to leave again a little after New Year. Leaving again isn't such a bad thing, it's the being away from my loved ones that suck crap.

But that's another story altogether...

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Listening to: I Kissed A Girl - Kart Perry

"I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry Chapstick...
...It felt so wrong, it felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight"

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