Sunday, March 11, 2007

So, what did you do this weekend?

Oh, nothing much...I just went to North Korea!!!! Really stupid tourist Saturday and Sunday. (By the way, Kim Jong Il says 'hi'.)

After adult class on Friday night, we took a cab to the Adventure Korea meeting place in Hongdae. We were scheduled to depart at 11:30pm. We drove through the night to arrive at the South Korean border control check point at 7am. We were a little early and so had to kill some time.

After going through South Korean security, we boarded the bus and drove through the DMZ. The border had ten foot high barbed wire fences. The DMZ was completely devoid of trees for visibility reasons. We came to the North Korean border control and the differences in the two countries became immediately apparent. South Korea had a beautiful building on their side of the border. It was reminiscent of an airport with the metal detectors, sweeping architecture and roomy interior. North Korea had a tent. It was a large steel framed tent, but a tent nonetheless.

We were not allowed to take pictures and all of the border control agents were very gruff looking in their military dress. We continued on to our hotel in the Mount Kumgang region of North Korea on the eastern coastline.

We went less that twenty miles into the country but along the way we saw North Korean villagers walking and riding their bicycles to and from destinations. Farmers plowed fields with oxen and every quarter mile along the road, a N. Korean soldier stood guard. The guards had red flags and if they saw you take a picture of something you weren't supposed to they would confiscate your camera.

We were shuttled up the mountain along 77 hairpin turns that unfortunately reminded me of Tokyo Drift. The trail was lined with breathtaking views and vistas. In some places the path became a near vertical ascent up stairs that made for and adventurous challenge.

After we made our way back down the mountain we went straight to the second hike of the day around Samilpo lake. This was more of a leisurely walk and so made for a nice cool down. We hadn't had time to eat anything since 6am and with all of our exertions we ravenously devoured some not-very-good kabobs at the end of the trail.

We boarded the bus back to the hotel complex area and sat down for our final scheduled activity of the day, a Korean acrobatic show. It was really good and the performers demonstrated some amazing feats of balance, strength and agility. Unfortunately, we were so exhausted that few of us made it through the entire performance awake.

More tomorrow...

Meanwhile, what happened while we were away?...There was a riot in Seoul over FTA negotiations.

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