Wednesday was so busy! We had an amazing music class in the morning, a trip to the National museum and fan making in the afternoon, and a cruise on the Hangang (Han river) in the evening. A day of pictures. The music class featured traditional instruments – not folk music like previously – but more ‘elite’ (the professor’s words). She has been teaching music a number of years so she brought some very famous students with her (who come out of love to her). Apparently we could not afford the price of a show with them. It was pretty incredible.
We then went on buses to the National Museum where we had a very rapid tour. We saw the famous Pensive Bodhisattva (late 6th century) and a room of Buddha’s. We then had the opportunity to paint fans. I will have to go back.
I then had dinner at a fabulous restaurant. I had pizza with sliced almonds and Gouda (yummmm). I asked for something vegetarian as I couldn’t read the menu – only the names were in English, not the descriptions. We then walked down to the river, the sun was just about to set – very beautiful & green. Bike & walking trails, many people enjoying the day. Afterwards was the Hangang (Han River) cruise. Very beautiful, lovely breeze. We went down to the bridge that lights up and sprays water – you can see the video here.
Thursday morning we had a lesson on traditional Korean dance. Due to the number of students we were lined up 5 deep. It made it a bit frustrating as we could not see the footwork in the back. Still, it was fun, quite good exercise too! There is a video of the routine here, it is just over two minutes long.
The afternoon was the last lecture. It was about the two Koreas. The speaker, Jane Kim, is an American of Korean descent. She works with North Korean Defectors in South Korea. Phenomenal speaker. The website of the organization, The Empathy Foundation, is only in Korean, but English is being added. They are on Facebook too as they run a hostel called the Empathy Guest House.
Friday – what an exhausting day. We had a busy day going to the border of North Korea. We went to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) of Korea at Cheorwon (very beautiful area). We passed through so many checkpoints – every time we entered and left an area, soldiers came on the bus to confirm the number of people that were on the bus and to make sure our documents were o.k. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
The first line we crossed was the CLL (Civilian Limit Line). The only people allowed to live inside there were those whose families have lived and farmed there for a long time. The next line is the SLL (South Limit Line) which, combined with the NLL (North Limit Line) make up the DMZ. The MDL (Military Demarcation Line) is the actual border inside the DMZ.
We went to the 2nd Infiltration Tunnel. North Korea made several tunnels (the link states all of them) under the DMZ in an attempt to invade the south in the 70’s. They were discovered. South Korea opened an entrance to the tunnel and now we can go in about 400 m – within a few hundred meters of the MDL. As with most of Korea, the tunnel walls are granite. You had to wear a hardhat inside (soldiers handed them out). Many places the ceiling was low and you had to crouch down a bit. No pictures were allowed inside the tunnel.
Next we went to the Cheorwon Peace Observatory which is right above the SLL of the DMZ. No photos were allowed to be taken northward, or of an South Korean military anything. I took a picture of the relief map, just for perspective. A student is pointing to the building we are in. The two larger fence lines make up the DMZ. The building is the site of a ancient (early 900’s) capital, Taebong, of the Three Kingdom Period – no one has access to the site anymore. It was pretty neat being able to look in to North Korea that way.
The last stop was Woljeong-ri Station which connected North and South Korea. It is in the DMZ but South Korea built a replica in the hopes that one day the North & South will be connected again. South Korea is not an island, yet the only way to get to another country is by boat or plane. Before one could go to Europe or China by train, not anymore. We then went to a traditional Korean restaurant for lunch (yes, we did all that in the morning!). As I am vegetarian I was given my favourite Bibimbap again – yum
Saturday was a free day – we could chose what to do or not. So Sharon Kelly and I headed out on an adventure. The morning brought us to the tombs which are located within walking distance to the University. For 1000 won ($1) we got access to tombs at two sites. The first was Taereung – Tomb if Queen Munjeong who, according to the guide pamphlet, was “tenacious” and “wielded great power” in a time of the male dominated Joseon dynasty. You could not walk up to the tomb, but there was a good museum at the base.
Next we went about 20 minutes down the road to Gangneung (recently opened to the public) which house King Myeongjong and Queen Insun. These tombs we could get quite close to.
For lunch we shared a Mango Ice Flakes. Yummm. I had been wanting to try to Korean dessert of shaved ice, cream, ice cream and topping. We also had some green tea cookies. totally decadent and totally delicious. I will have to make it when I get back to Canada.
We caught the subway to Insa-Dong and wandered. It was very crowded! Still, I bought a couple of things. We also went to the 4 story Ssamziegil which houses many wonderful shops.
As I had been wanting to see Cheong-gye-cheon, we went there next. A highway was demolished and a long buried stream was exposed in the middle of Seoul. It is a wonderful place where you can dangle your feet in the water and see fish swimming. Wonderful after a day on your feet.
On the way home we wandered in to a protest. Not sure fully what they were protesting, best we could figure is about lack of work. The police said it was a peaceful protest. There were so many police present! They were doing an excellent job of directing traffic. One student said protest often happen there.
Definitely a day of contrasts