Seoul and The Demilitarized Zone

Seoul is the heart and soul (hurhurhur) of South Korea, with it’s bustling streets and even busier metro.

t-money-card

The Korean Metro is identical to Japan’s.The T-money card is a rechargeable, refundable card that can be used on the subway, buses and taxis. It can be purchased for 2500 won, and subsequently recharged with money at need. If you aren’t a fan of the plain designs that the station kiosks give you, you can go to the famous underground shopping centres in Myeongdong or Gangnam, which have small stalls selling T-money cards with Girls Generation, Big Bang, and Super Junior designs on them.

The Koreans are extremely kind – I went there alone with a friend, and on several occasions when we lost our way, random passerby would stop to help without even us asking. If you’re a shopaholic, then this place is absolutely down your alley. The enormous street markets of Myeongdong and Dongdaemun will keep you busy for a few days and leave you with aching feet. However, there are other attractions that do not result with an enormous hole in your wallet, and those listed below are just a few.

You haven’t seen Seoul if you haven’t seen Gyeongbukgung Palace. This enormous, majestic palace is a must-see for any visitor to the city. I would recommend 2 hours to explore this magnificent historical site – the National Folk Museum and the National Museum of Korea are located within the palace grounds. Admission fee: Adults – 3000 won. Children – 1000 won.

Gyeongbukgung Palace

Gyeongbukgung Palace

Changing of the guards ceremony

Changing of the guards ceremony

The N Seoul Tower is situated on the top of Mt Namsan and has been a symbol of Seoul since it was opened in 1980. You can take a cable car up to the top of Mt Namsan. Tickets to the observation deck are priced at 7000 won for teens and adults (Ages 13-64), and 3000 won for children (Ages 4-12).

N Seoul Tower - credits to Google (my photo was too lousy to post here)

N Seoul Tower – credits to Google (my photo was too lousy to post here)

Love Padlock

Love Padlocks on the top of Mt Namsan – write your name and the name of your signifcant other on the padlock, and chain it to the others as a sign of your everlasting love ❤

From the N Seoul Tower, you can then make your way to Namsangol Hanok Village, a traditional Korean village in the middle of Seoul. There will be well-labelled signposts in English giving you directions to the hanok village, so do keep an eye out for them and don’t be a klutz like I was and lost my way. Even if you do get lost, Korea is extremely wi-fi friendly, so you can use your GPS to navigate your way there.

Look out for these signs!!

Look out for these signs!!

It's a very pleasant walk to the hanok village

It’s a very pleasant walk to the hanok village

The traditional Korean houses in the village itself

The traditional Korean houses in the village itself

The Demilitarized Zone

The DMZ is an absolute MUST MUST MUST. It is a once in a lifetime experience, and I don’t think you can ever get another experience like this, unless you go to Syria or Afghanistan. You can only go with a tour, but most hotels will provide brochures on tours that will bring you to the DMZ which is only 50 km away from Seoul.

This is a train riddled with 1,020 bullet holes. derailed and forgotten after being bombed in the Korean War

This is a train riddled with 1,020 bullet holes. derailed and forgotten after being bombed in the Korean War

It may not look like an architectural miracle, but Freedom Bridge is a symbol of peace and hope, as it held the first exchange of prisoners  after the signing of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. 12,773 prisoners were returned on this bridge

It may not look like an architectural miracle, but Freedom Bridge is a symbol of peace and hope, as it held the first exchange of prisoners after the signing of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. 12,773 prisoners were returned on this bridge

You will also be brought to the 3rd tunnel of aggression, a tunnel that was dug by the North Koreans in preparation of an ambush on Seoul. After hints were given to South Korea by a defector, soldiers bore holes and stuck pipes filled with water into the ground in the approximate location of the tunnel. The tunnel was found in 1978, when water erupted from one of the pipes  – a sign that an explosive had been detonated underground for the construction of a tunnel. The South Koreans then built a second tunnel which intersected with the tunnel of aggression, and you are allowed to walk down the near 45° slope to look at the barracks which were built to stop North Korean soldiers passing through the tunnel. The walls of the tunnel are coated black with coal – North Korea denied that this was an attempt to attack the South, saying it was an abandoned coal mine. However, geologists conducted tests on the surrounding rocks and concluded that it was geologically impossible that coal would be found in the surrounding area. Photos were forbidden.

If you’re lucky, and you chose the right tour, you may be able to go to Panmunjom, the only place where visitors are required to sign a release that asks them to accept responsibility for “injury or death as a direct result of enemy action.” It is located in the border between North and South Korea, near the Joint Security Area. Cheaper tours don’t go out to these places, but I am sure the experience is worth the money.

That’s all for Seoul really! If you want more nature things to do, you can travel to the nearby Bukhansan National Park or Jeju Island (read my post about it!).

Hope you enjoyed the post and learned something new!

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