DMZ and Jeju Island

by Mike on March 30, 2014

The De-Militarized Zone(DMZ) is the area separating North Korea and South. Tourist can go and see the area and the Joint Secured Area(JSA) only on the USO sanctioned tours.  I’ve been lucky to go on this tour on my previous visit to Seoul.  However, the visibility wasn’t the best and couldn’t see much into North Korea.

JSA

JSA in the DMZ

When I went on the DMZ tour this time, I was hoping the visibility would be a better so that I could see more into North Korea.

However, that didn’t prove to be successful.  The visibility was equally terrible this time around too.  The vantage point at Opiodo Station was very low and I could barely make out the North Korean flag in propaganda village.

View in to North Korea from Oppiodo station

View in to North Korea

The 3rd infiltration tunnel was another stop along the USO sanctioned tour.  Hard hats are required due to the low clearance.  Most tourists are disappointed by the lack of an elevator.  Instead, the decent requires a trek on a down a 30 degree tunnel meeting up with the infiltration tunnel.

Once we were down to the level where the infiltration tunnel is, it’s another 300 ft walk to the underground demarcation line separating the North and South.  This is the walk where the hard is absolutely necessary.

Unlike the previous tour, we didn’t stop at Dorasan station, which is the train station built to link the North and South together in the event of reunification.

JEJU ISLAND – THE HAWAII OF SOUTH KOREA

The easiest and quickest way to Jeju Island from Seoul is to fly.  With the numerous daily flights, the fares are very competitive. So my cousin and I ended up buying tickets on Asiana Airlines for the outbound and a local budget carrier, Eastar for the return. I think we each paid $80 USD round trip for the flights.

Alternatively, I could have redeemed some miles, but given the inexpensive cost of the paid fares, the opportunity cost of using miles would be too costly.

A few different friends gave some recommendations on what to do and where to eat.

The first night we were told we have to go to the Love Museum, but only at night because the lighting brings out the features of the figurines at this out door museum.

Here’s one of the more innocent pictures from the museum and I’ll leave the rest to imagination.

Love Land

Love Land

On our first full day in Jeju, we decided to hire a cab and visit some sites on the southern part of the island, but we really didn’t have an idea on what to see and do.  The cab ride to the southern part of the island would cost about $60 USD round trip.  Instead the cab driver offered to hire him for 8 to 9 hours for $110 USD all in.

We decided on the latter and mapped out a tentative route stopping at some of the notable sights near where we were intending to go.

The cab driver insisted we call him “ajeossi,” which means man in Korean.

We both decided that we see nature and physical land marks rather than shows that Jeju Island is also known for, so “ajeossi” recommended: Jungmun, ChenJiyeon Falls as the major stops for the day and some vantage points he knew about.

The “ajeossi” vary pretty knowledgeable about the scenic vantage points because he used to take honeymoon photos back when Jeju was a popular honeymoon spot for South Koreans.  Apparently, instead, newly wed Koreans head to other notable destination South East Asia.

At the vantage points and places of interest, the “ajeossi” told us some relevant facts about the sights.  After which, he directed us to walk leisurely in so and so direction.

After about the third or so point of interest, my cousin and I were joking around with each other about how great of the deal he’s getting by driving a 10 or 15 minutes to a point of interest, telling us some stuff and going back to his car to take a nap.

I think we should of started calling him Mr. Nap Time.  Here’s a picture of him in the car napping while we were returning from one of our walks.

Our taxi driver sleeping

Our taxi driver sleeping

We ended up hiring him for another half day before our return flight back to Seoul because he did take us to fantastic places for lunch and dinner. Additionally, being a native of Jeju Island, he had an extraordinary amount of knowledge.

The highlight of the second day was the two UNESCO world heritage sights Bijarim Forest and Manjanggul Lava Tubes.

Water fountain in Bijarim Park

Water fountain in Bijarim Park

Oldest Nutmeg tree in Bijarim

Oldest Nutmeg tree in Bijarim

Manjanggul lava tubes

Lava Tube

I’ve never been in a Lava tube before, but according to my cousin, these were much larger than the one he’s seen in Hawaii.

Yes, “ajeossi” slept yet again while we were exploring these stops.

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