Seoul, South Korea

This was my first visit to Seoul and, like the rest of the group, I really didn’t know what to expect. So what is South Korea like?
Well, the first thing I noticed on Saturday evening when we arrived was just how young everybody was. On the streets of Seoul on a Saturday night, there was nobody under the age of 30! I felt old here. Really old!, The city itself was bouncing with life and music. Bars, restaurants and clubs were pulsing and it was only 6pm! Remember we had just come from Beijing, a much more sombre city in many ways and where people seemed to spend their life simply commuting. When we walked through a vibrant area of the city towards our restaurant for dinner, this proved to be another stark contrast for our Global Explorers.
The restaurant that was chosen for our first night dinner was typically Korean -full of young people, noisy music and everybody cooking their food on hot stones. It seems that Koreans like to go out to dinner and then do all the cooking themselves!
Our full day in Seoul was spent driving out to the DMZ – The De Militarised Zone, about an hour’s drive out of the city. Arriving at the check point, two soldiers got on the bus and checked our passports before we could proceed in to the Zone. We then headed down Tunnel number 3,wearing our hard yellow hats and looking more like construction workers than tourists. We walked the 500m down the steep gradient to the concrete wall at the end, looked at the concrete, saw how many days that North and South Korea had been at peace, only to walk all the way back up the incredibly steep hill back to the beginning. The short film then told us what the tunnels were all about – ie. built by North Korea to attack South Korea if and when necessary.
We then drove to the observation platform where we looked through binoculars at the dictator led country of North Korea, saw the two flags of North and South Korea, the mass of tripple barbed wire to ensure that nobody crosses the border either way and apart from that we saw nothing of life on the other side of the fence that remains elusive to us.
We then headed to the railway station where one day there may be a train that links North and South Korea but for now, one train arrives each day at 11.40am but we had to leave the platform before it actually came. We had however, by this time taken our historic photos of the station and the platform that receives so few trains. This was a strange visit to what felt more like a theme park than a historic relic of the Cold War. In fact they’re about to open a new camp site in the DMZ so young people can take their vacations there!
Lunch was again another DIY meal and the group got more in to the swing of cooking their own food in pots of hot broth. I’ve never eaten so much cabbage as I have in Seoul!
Dinner was at the Korea House where we were entertained by a rather stunning and futuristic performance with amazing graphics and lasers, followed by more traditional dancing and foolery. It was like being at a Korean pantomime with Gloria, one of our group, coaxed onto the stage to become part of the act. She was a star!
Our last supper here in Seoul was a series of Korean samplers – some hot and some cold. The general consensus has been that Korean cuisine is not our Explorers favourite. Korea itself is more like Japan than its other Asian counterparts with everyone pretty much needing a degree in computer science to even operate the toilet.
Seoul has been an interesting insight in to this country and this concludes our stay in Asia. I think most of the group are now craving a good Aussie steak and chips in Sydney, our next stop!!

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