The Demilitarized Zone

Started our day with a breakfast buffet at Cafe Amiga in IP Boutique Hotel, Itaewon, Seoul.

My cousin Jay who's based in Japan flew in from Tokyo to spend the weekend with us in Seoul.

It's our fourth day and next on our itinerary was to go on tour in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). According to Wikipedia, the DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. In case you haven't heard, Korea is the only divided country in the world and the DMZ is the world's most heavily militarized border. You may be asking why on earth did we even come here.. I also have no idea. But despite these facts the DMZ has become one of the top must see places in Korea. We booked a half day DMZ tour with

We had a 15 min. stopover at Imjingak Park before entering the DMZ.

One of the rules that I STRICTLY followed while on tour was to never take photos unless our tour guide says so. Call me names or whatever but I don't want to get in trouble and I certainly don't want to extend my vacation nor meet the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un.

Hey, at least I got an obligatory tourist shot of me inside DMZ. Hehe.
This photo was taken right outside the DMZ Theater.

Landmines were all over the place.

After watching a short film about the history of North and South Korea, we're off to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel which is the closest out of the 4 tunnels discovered in Korea. Korean authorities believe that it was built for the purpose of invading Seoul and that there may be about 20 more tunnels yet to be discovered.

Our tourist guide advised us to leave our belongings inside lockers before entering the tunnel. Photos were strictly prohibited so I just grabbed a few photos online so I could still at least show you what I saw inside.

Before entering, all visitors must put on a helmet. Seriously now, it is a must specially for tall people.
Photo from Melinda's flickr.

There are two ways to reach the tunnel: one is by the monorail and the other is going down by foot. Sadly our tour didn't include the monorail option so we had no choice but to stick with the latter. Prepare your knees and make sure you're wearing the right pair of shoes 'coz you'll be walking a path downwards the gates of hell that's 300 meters long. I personally think this was the easy part of the tunnel tour.
Photo from

Moving on to the harder part. We needed to walk another part of the tunnel that has an approximate measurement of 170 (length) x 2 (width) x 1.75 (height) meters. I stand 5 foot 5 inches tall and my head would occasionally hit the ceiling a few times. This is definitely not the best place for tall people. Again, please follow the rules and wear your helmets travel junkies! Remember, safety first!

According to our guide, walls were painted black as a disguise but coal was never found in this area.
Photo from timcoop's flickr.

Curiosity hit us so we asked fellow tourists what's at the end of the tunnel. We've been walking for almost 20 minutes yet it's like a never ending path towards the gates of hell. For a moment I felt like I was channeling my inner Alice as I discover this "rabbit hole" going to the "wonderland".

This is the end, they blocked the tunnel. Seriously, that's it. Zzzzzz.
Photo from ~k-h-o's DeviantArt.

Here comes the hardest part of the tour: Hiking back up to the ground. Man, it was exhausting! Now I know why we needed to leave our stuff before entering the tunnel. I probably burned all the calories I consumed from breakfast that morning.
Photo from

Our next stop was the Dora Observation Platform. It is the northernmost observatory in South Korea from which visitors can witness life in North Korea.

Photos weren't allowed after the yellow line (not in the photo) so here's my best shot of North Korea using my iPhone. I seriously do not get the logic of that rule. My Aunt took photos beside the binoculars and one of the guards saw her and immediately deleted the photos in her Samsung Note. What is the difference anyway of taking photos before or after the yellow line? Hmmm, moving on...

Our last stop inside the DMZ is "Not the last station from the South, But the first station toward the North.", the Dorasan Station.

Dorasan Station is a railway station situated on the Gyeongui Line. There's actually an immigration inside the station just in case travelers want to do a side trip to Pyeongyang, North Korea.

Sadly, that was the last stop for our half day tour inside the DMZ since there's a scheduled military exercise near Panmunjom and safety is always top priority for tourists. Overall it was a fun, scary and silly all at the same time. I wouldn't mind coming back though, hopefully to see the real North Korea.