DMZ, Insadong, Chungyechun, City Hall, drunkeness, Seoul taxis

Tuesday, July 25th was my friends 7th day in Korea. We woke up real early and walked from my house to the USO where we had to be at 7:00 AM. On the way we saw a well-dressed man sprawled out on the sidewalk. Later that night we’d see a couple of more well dressed men made to look stupid because of alcohol. We checked in for the DMZ tour, had a quick breakfast (the USO has American style food and is cheap) and got on the bus.

The DMZ is unique. Soldiers stopped our bus to check our IDs a couple of times and we had to drive through an obstacle course (which I guess prevents any vehicle from getting into the DMZ quickly). We listened to a US Army infantry specialist’s short lecture on DMZ history. Not surprisingly it seemed designed to convince people that the UN / US / ROK forces behaved honorably while the North Korean soldiers were murderers. One wonders what sort of presentations you hear on the other side of the 38th parallel.

Then we went to the JSA where we took pictures of the North Korean side and waited our turn to enter a UN building that straddled the 38th parallel. In there we were actually able to go north of the 38th parallel. During this experience you have to be impressed by the ROK soldiers in their modified Taekwando ready positions and mirrored sunglasses. These guys look bad.

Luckily, we were able to compare them up close and personal with some North Korean soldiers who marched up to the building we were in, tapped windows with their radios, looked inside, and took up position right outside the windows. I understand that they don’t always come out and put on a show, so I guess we got lucky. Although it was a little unsettling looking face to face at a North Korean soldier through a window while standing on the North Korean side of the 38th parallel.

I think lunch was next. You eat in a big cafeteria-looking place with OK food. Bulgogi for 10,000 or bibimbap for 5,000. The food was fine but nothing special.

Then we drove around the DMZ to an observation point where you can spend 500 won (50 cents or so) to look into some binoculars and see North Korea. This was pretty uninteresting for most since you can’t see much besides trees even with the binoculars. Someone said he saw a truck driving off in the distance…

Then came another gift shop. A friend of mine bought North Korean liquor. Another friend bought a couple of DMZ T-shirts. We all thanked the US army personnel for showing us around in the heat and doing a fine job keeping us entertained.

Then we went to infiltration tunnel #3, built (of course) by the North Koreans. Again you wonder what they say on the other side, probably something about proof the tunnel was dug by the South Koreans… If you’re tall you have to walk hunched over which is uncomfortable. Some people started feeling claustrophobic and urging the tour guide to lead us out if the tunnel. Getting out of the tunnel involves walk up a fairly steep incline for a few minutes and you’ll probably be a bit sweaty when you get out into the gift shop. I bought myself a nice cold drink at that point.

Then we got on the bus and went back to the USO in Seoul. A few hours later we were in Insadong, checking out some artwork and waiting to meet a friend. We then walked through Chungyechun, a little stream through the middle of Seoul. It’s a nice relaxing stroll and not a bad place for people watching. The mosaic on the side is a fairly interesting depiction of a royal procession with explanations about who is positioned where in the procession.

Then we went to the area around City Hall where there’s a big grass lawn. People like to hang out here on summer nights so we strolled around a bit before going to a bar. Here we were entertained by a guy who was drunk enough to puke on the ground in front of his seat and then fall into the puke. We should have left, but watching his friends try to get him a cab was too funny. They would hide him, flag down a cab, open the door, and then try to drag their friend in before the driver could get away. Since the drunk guy didn’t want to be dragged, they were way too slow and the cabbies kept getting away.

Later we tried to get a cab home, but we must have watched 10 or 20 cabs totally ignore us as we tried to flag one down (and we were perfectly sober). It was depressing and it started to rain so we went back to the bar and had another drink. Then we got some women to hail us the cab we needed. That was no problem except that one woman tried to get me to sprint across a 10-lane highway with her. A double suicide with someone I’ve only met once isn’t how I want to go, and luckily I was able to overpower her and drag us both back to safety on the side of the road.

That’s when I noticed another drunk guy hugging a tree, sleeping. It’s not everyday you see a guy in a suit who fell asleep while hugging a tree. Part of me wanted to stay out and look for more funny looking drunk people, but it was around 2:00 AM and we had been awake since 5:30 AM so I went home and went to bed.

Filed Under: Travel ideas

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  1. tom hritz says:

    It’s too bad that you hate our military so. You betrayed your bises at least twice that I noticed.

  2. James Trotta says:

    Tom, I’m not sure how I gave off the impression that I hat the military. Was it because I mentioned that I wonder what the other side’s propaganda was like regarding the tunnel?

    Anyway, I find it troubling that you think I hate the US military. I have some good friends who are soldiers in the US military.

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