Episode 3: Yeongojeon & the DMZ
Date: October 6, 2012
OMG! I’m so sorry to the 1 or 2 people who read my blog!!! This is quite a late post; I just realized now that’s it’s been a month since I’ve posted anything. Time flies when you’re having fun so sorry once again!
So it’s been five weeks now I’ve been in South Korea. I really enjoying myself and I’m even considering extending my stay here! Maybe by another semester if my University allows it. I think it’s a combination of living on my way and experiencing a new culture that makes me want to stay here even longer here. I really do love South Korea, people are very friendly, living here as foreigner is not expensive and I experience something new every single day.
If you’ve actually taken interest in my blog thus far, you’ll notice it started from a nervous, uncertain kind of storytelling to a more comfortable “haha I’m in South Korea, don’t you wish you were me!?” type feeling. I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable living abroad because I’ve started to familiarize myself with the way things are done here. I guess you need to go through these frustrations and problems before you can enjoy anything.
I need to start this blog by talking about Yeongojeon. I had a great time attending Yeongojeon and if you get the chance to attend, go! Yeongojeon is the games of Yonsei University vs. Korea University which are Soccer, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Rugby and Baseball. They play various sports and students can attend all the games and cheer on their school for hours straight (I’m serious the students just don’t get tired). For the Basketball and Ice Hockey games, you’ll need to get tickets to attend. The experience was amazing; I have never seen school spirit so alive and vibrant than at Yonsei. Heck, just in Korea in general because Korea University seemed even more ecstatic and cheered on non-stop. Students here are very proud of their school and show it off with pride! Although Korea University won this year 4-3, Yonsei students were so energetic and proud of their school. The after party was great fun as a concert was held at the Uni after where students came to show off some talent and KPOP group f(x) performed!
I’m told also that many students, after the games and concerts, will walk the streets of Sinchon and cheer and chant in front of restaurants until restaurant owners come out and give them food. I didn’t get a chance to do this because I didn’t know who I would tag along with so I’m assuming if you’re Korean or have made some Korean friends, you can easily have a chance to participate in this activity.
Now, I’m from Canada and Canadians have deep love for their country’s customs and traditions. I miss my Tim Hortons so freaking much you have no idea! And I miss poutine, and beaver tail and the Rideau Canal and my beautiful French and English! And I’ve only been here four weeks, is something wrong with me? Perhaps, but eating Korean food everyday is not something my body is use to so if you’re not a fan of spicy food and seaweed soup and kimchi then there are many places you can visit to eat Western food. Lotteria offers great burgers and fries at a cheap cost and much healthier than McDonalds. KFC here is terrible because it isn’t oily enough. And although that’s supposed to be a good thing, let’s admit it, we westerners are fat motherfuckers. I grew up eating shit like McDonald’s and KFC and Burger King despite eating my mom’s healthy food every single day. So don’t feel bad! You’re body is not use to different kinds of food so don’t hate yourself for indulging in something non-healthy. I give you three weeks before you give in anyways.
Places I recommend to go eat when you’re missing the food back home is Lotteria, MOS Burger, Popeye’s, and there are plenty of western restaurants in Itaewon that I can’t possibly remember. Itaewon is the foreigner’s district, that’s where you will find all foreigners (mostly American soldiers) and everyone speaks English there. You’ll find Indian, Middle Eastern, American, African, and European restaurants by the lot. Yonsei University also has cafeterias everywhere that provide yummy western food.
So, my dad decided to visit me for a week before heading on his yearly trips. Now I love my parents, but I’m also enjoying my freedom here. So no, I was not happy he came to visit me. But I was very sad when he left. After waving goodbye to him at 5:30AM, in a taxi bound for Incheon International airport to catch his next flight, I began to tear up. Only now do I realize that I miss my family so much. More than I ever expected.
Alright, no sappy shit now. So I was busy occupying him for a week. We took a DMZ tour yesterday morning where we visited the 3rd infiltration tunnel, the Dora Observatory and Dorasan Station. This package is called the Half Day DMZ tour. There are three kinds of tours:
Half Day DMZ Tour: Price varies depending of which time of the day
Full Day DMZ tour: Includes lunch – 65 000 Won
DMZ&Panmunjeom tour: Includes lunch – 135 000 won
Panmunjeon Tour: Includes lunch – 87 000 won
The Half day tour was great but if you’re looking for a richer experience, I recommend any Panmunjeom tour. The only reason I say this is because in such tours you can reach the most forward point of the Demilitariazed zone and you can actually see North Korean soldiers. But that depends on how much you value that experience because it does cost a lot more. I plan on doing the Panmunjeom tour, when I do I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. As for the tour I did, I thought it was a great experience for its price. I don’t really think the lunch was worth it cause you can find something to eat on your own for later. But for an extra 8000 won, lunch is included at a Korean restaurant in Insadong on your way back from the DMZ.
Before that, however, we visited a Ginger Museum where they try your best to sell you overpriced ginger that apparently keeps your mind and body healthy. If I had a 300$ budget to spend on ginger, I would. Looking at the Koreans’ skin, I believe it.
The DMZ tour was very interesting, and whether you choose the morning, afternoon, full day or half day DMZ tour, just make sure you DO IT. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the country’s terrible separation and a chance to say you’ve seen North Korea! Tours into North Korea are no longer permitted after two South Korean tourists were shot by a North Korean soldier during a tour, you can now only visit the border or see North Korea from afar. It’s quite sad because North Korea is terribly underdeveloped compared to South Korea. Few buildings stand high, some of which aren’t even occupied according to our tour guide as they’ve been built merely for show. Two flags stand side by side near the border, North Korea’s being taller because everything is just a big competition for them. I don’t know how it is to live in North Korea, but I still felt very sad watching it from afar as a free tourist. I wondered how happy North Koreans really were, but still kind of hoped we were just all so wrong about life in a communist country.
Word of advice, when the tour guide tells you not to take pictures in a specific area, don’t take any fucking pictures. Now I know you’ll be a smart ass and sneak pics anyways. That’s fine because everyone’s doing it. But don’t be a dumbass like me and do it in front of an employee. I got my camera confiscated and they refused to give it back until I brought my tour guide to them. Until you can prove that you aren’t some North Korean spy and you’re actually just a dumbass tourist, you aren’t getting your shit back. Needless to say my tour guide wasn’t happy because not only did he specifically tell us not to take pics, but he also had to walk down and up that long ass tunnel that leads to the 3rd infiltration tunnel. Fuck, it wasn’t fun for me too I went up and down twice! Prepare to exercise your ass out on that tour.
I’ll stop here cause it’s getting long. This weekend was Chuseok in Korea, or as Koreans call it, Korean Thanksgiving. It isn’t Thanksgiving at all, it’s more so a holiday to celebrate harvesting in Korea. Many Koreans have their family’s over and perform interesting ceremonies to pay respect to their ancestors. I didn’t have the opportunity of going to the country side so if you get the chance, do it. Many Koreans visit their grandparents in the country side where they get to eat yummy food and live away from the city for a while. I’m sure it’s a great experience so try it if you can! Meeting Korean people has been harder than I expected so I’ve made few Korean friends. Korean people are just like the Chinese in Ottawa, always sticking together. It’s hard to enter their clicks so I advise you join school groups and clubs. It’s a great way to meet people, especially if you don’t look like a typical Westerner and by that, I mean blond hair, blue eyes, pale skin. Koreans really, really like that. So try your best at making friends and don’t worry if you don’t, you can always befriend exchange students like yourself! (Befriend the Canadians, they are super nice ;D)
Good luck, have fun and until next time!