Bucket list for 2012

Image from fabulouslyfrugirl.wordpress.com

I always have my to-do list at the beginning of every year. However, I’m a bit sad because I only accomplished a few in 2011. I’ve managed to travel, get involved in an exercise regimen and present my research in a national convention. So for 2012, I’m sticking to the basics. Here goes my bucket list:

  1. Continue with my exercise regimen no matter what happens. I’ve fallen in love with Zumba and I certainly found it to be effective. I lost weight before the holidays but unfortunately got them back because of the long break. LOL. No matter, I’ll dance those pounds away.
  2. I’m still eager to travel this year. I would still target one international and one local.
  3. This year, I want to conduct a workshop based on my research.
  4. If it’s possible for me to present my research again, I’d like to do that as well.
  5. Also, I’d like to work on having my work published (this I really have to do ASAP).
  6.  Read more. But I don’t know if I still have the time to do so. My one-book-per-month project last year did not push through because I had to do a lot of reading in my coursework. Maybe target at least 6 books for this year? Hmm…
  7. Settle on a permanent place of work. I’m working on this really. Hopefully before the year ends, I’d have a go for it.
  8. Get really serious with my finances.  Well, “get my finances in order” is a much better term.
  9. Study hard.

The year that was 2011

Tower ruins, Mui Ne, Vietnam, July 2011

 

As I’ve written in my post as I bid 2011 goodbye and welcomed 2012, 2011 was a year of somehow settling down, calming down. So I don’t know if there’s much to write about in the year that just ended. However, here are some highlights.

I miss blogging. I have not blogged or written down anything the whole of 2011. Well, I did write but of all it were papers for academic work. Although I keep a journal where I write my innermost thoughts and feelings but I stopped after a few entries. I guess I got so lazy and also so busy with school and office work (Aha! That’s a contradiction, eh?) that I have not opened my account for the longest time.

Paper Presentation. In May 2011, I had the opportunity to share the results of my research in the annual convention of guidance counselors. It was a first for me and I hope that it won’t be the last.

Travel. In July, I had the chance to travel with my mom to Vietnam. We stayed there for almost a week. We explored Ho Chi Minh City and Mui Ne, a seaside town about 6 hours away from the city. We sampled the delicious Vietnamese cuisine. I especially loved the pho (rice noodles), spring rolls, bahn mi, and many others. I was also amazed how cheap the fruits were. I heard that the coffee was awesome; too bad I don’t drink. There’s shopping too! Oh yes, going to Vietnam is a bit inexpensive compared to other countries. I would definitely like to go back but this time, to Hanoi.

Studies. This has taken most of my time this year. I’m not complaining because it was my decision to engage in further studies. The learning process is just amazing. However, it does get toxic and stressful at times, especially when accomplishing requirements and beating deadlines.

Hellos and goodbyes. This is really part and parcel of life, isn’t? There is a time for meeting new people, welcoming new additions in the family but there is also a time for goodbyes – temporarily or permanently.

Korean Escapade 2010: Reflections from the Dae Han Min Guk Dream Trip

The trip to Korea was really an adventure of a lifetime. Korea is one country which I think is supposed to be enjoyed and experienced with travel buddies and friends. So it was really a good idea that I was with them during this Korean adventure. I do have some reflections and lessons which I would like to share:

image from theepochtimes.com

1)      If you survived the tunnel, you can survive anything. This is one catchphrase that we invented after surviving the 3rd tunnel at the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). We really had a challenging time navigating the tunnel because of its inclination/slope. It was easy enough to go down but it was really difficult to climb up. Our muscles protested; our lungs felt like they were going to burst; and we felt like we were going to faint. So after the experience, we surmised that if we have indeed survived the said tunnel, we can survive anything that life would bring us.

A drawing of the 3rd tunnel, DMZ, October 2010

2)      A hotel near the subway is very favorable. Our hotel was about 10-15 minutes from the nearest subway station. We had actually a good exercise every time we walk towards the subway station. However, during the night, it can really be an inconvenience because we were tired already and we cannot walk that distance anymore. So, next time (if we have the chance to go there again), we plan to get a hotel near the subway.

3)      A guided trip is another option worth looking into. We planned our trip according to our preferences: places to visit; food to eat and stuff that we wanted to buy. So we ended up planning the mode of transportation to use or having last minute adjustments or change of plans because of unexpected circumstances. While there are numerous advantages of having your own trip planned, I think a guided trip would be beneficial as well with a guide, transportation, and the like – all taken cared of.

4)      Walking is therapeutic. During this trip, I’ve walked so great a distance than I have ever walked in my entire life. I’m not complaining, the exercise did me a lot of good. But aside from all that walk-out (er work out), walking is a form of therapy for me. While walking, I had the chance to reflect and meditate on things; on life. I also had the time to appreciate the surroundings which I did not have the time to do back in Manila because I was busy.

Walking in Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

5)    Always be ready with extra cash, otherwise, stick to the budget. One thing I learned from this trip is that it is very important to stick to the budget. Going to all the mall and markets can be really overwhelming most particularly when one sees various and numerous items which one wants to purchase. I have made some impulsive purchases but luckily I was still within my budget. It was a good thing too that I only purchased some stuff prior which I needed; so much so that when I made those on-the-spot purchases, I still had money left.

Korean Won, October 2010

6)      Have Fun. Traveling can be stressful and physically tiring (with all the physical exertions), but it is very essential to have fun and enjoy the moment. In the first place, the main objective of having a vacation is to rest, if this is not possible, then at least have fun – laugh, eat and engage in good and long talks with friends.

That ends my chronicles of my Korean escapade. Until my next adventure!

Korean Escapade 2010: My Fabulous Finds in Korea

While in Korea, I made two awesome purchases. One is the Beethoven Virus Original Soundtrack Special Edition. It was not a planned purchase but when a friend pointed this out to me, I immediately bought it. I know…I’m such an impulsive buyer!

BV OST Special Edition with the Box cover

3 CDs containing music from the series

Spreadsheet of Kang Mae (Kim Myung Min)

Back panels of the CD cover

The second one is the Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress. It is often characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. Although the term literally means “Korean clothing”, hanbok today often refers specifically to hanbok of Joseon Dynasty and is worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations. I so love my hanbok! But wearing it is really a challenge because it made me perspire more. And to think, I do not have the prescribed undergarments yet!

I'm wearing the hanbok which I bought from Korea

Intricate embroidery of my hanbok

Embroidered sleeve of my hanbok

Embroidered otkorum

Embroidered skirt

 

I would have loved to have the shoes and the headdress but budget was really really tight. Instead, I bought two accessories which can be used for the hanbok. Nice!

Hanbok accessories

I LOVE!

Korean Escapade 2010: Last day in Korea

October 25 was our last day in Korea. We left the hotel at around 9 in the morning and took the subway going to Ilsan. It took us more than an hour to get there. In Ilsan, we had a bit of difficulty looking for Misarang Pizza. We walked several blocks away from the subway station and after 30 minutes or so found what we’re looking for.

Establishments at Ilsan, South Korea, October 2010

When we finally got there, we decided to have lunch. We ordered chicken wings, bulgogi pizza and French fries.

Misarang Pizza, Ilsan, South Korea, October 2010

Bulgogi Pizza, Misarang Pizza, Ilsan, South Korea, October 2010

Then we decided to split up because some of us needed to buy some stuff to bring home to the Philippines. My friend and I went to a public market near our hotel to look for a hanbok (traditional Korean dress). It was our ultimate dream to own one.  However, we had a major problem. Even though, we studied basic Korean language, Hangul, we still had difficulty communicating with the locals. We had trouble understanding when they were speaking rapidly. It was a good thing that they had calculators to tell us the amount of an item.

In the first store that we visited, the hanbok is made to order and we cannot possibly wait because we are already leaving that night. In the second store, a hanbok costs 150,000 won. We decided to look deeper into the market. And so we visited a third, a fourth and a fifth store. And then we chanced upon this ajuhssi (uncle/mister) who was busy arranging his merchandise. We asked how much a hanbok costs and I literally jumped when I heard that it’s lower than 100,000 won. I forgot that I was to ask for a discount but…yeah, I was so excited that I found a hanbok that is within my budget. I would have loved a purple hanbok but the design that was there did not match my taste. I chose a hanbok which has bright colors – green and red. My friend was able to find a hanbok too – a red and blue one.

My hanbok which I bought in Korea

When we got to our hotel, our driver was already there to pick us up and drive us to the airport. On our way to the airport, I was fortunate enough to take this photo of a Korean sunset.

Sunset, South Korea, October 2010

Our flight was at 9:35 in the evening and so we had time to roam the shops. Moreover, I had the chance to see Kim Myung Min’s Oral B advertisement. Yay!

Kim Myung Min's Oral B Advertisement, Incheon Airport, October 2010

We left Seoul before 10 in the evening. Again, like in my previous travels, I had difficulty getting some sleep. I was more than relieved when we landed in Manila. I love Korea but there is no place like home.

Korean Escapade 2010: Everland, Time Out Gelato, Han River, Bulgogi and Beef!

October 24 was another fun-filled yet tiring day for us.  We went to Everland by riding Bus no. 5800 that came from Gangbyeon- Jamsil Station. We waited for the said bus infront of Lotte World. It was about 30-40 minutes travel from Seoul to Yong-in.

Halloween display, Everland, South Korea, October 2010

Big sea lion, Zootopia, Everland, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everland opened in 1976 and it is about 1,200,000yd2. It is ranked as the 4th theme park in the world by offering 5 main Festivals and exciting entertainments all year around, namely, Winter Story, Tulip Festival, Rose Festival, Summer Festival, Happy Halloween, and Christmas Fantasy. (www.everland.com)

Amazon Express, Everland, October 2010

Ferris Wheel, Everland, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with its main attractions, Everland also includes a zoo and a water park known as Caribbean Bay. Everland is operated by Samsung Everland, which is a subsidiary of the Samsung Group.

Four Seasons Garden, Everland, South Korea, October 2010

 

Since we went there on a Sunday, there was a multitude of people. We only had one chance to try one ride and this was the Amazon Express. All the other rides had long queues and so we just went around the park. We didn’t get to cover the whole area though because it was humungous! I particularly enjoyed the Four Seasons Garden where almost all types of flowers were in bloom. I had so much fun taking photos.

Spectacular flower display, Everland, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super duper flowers, Everland, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left Everland between 4:00-5:00 in the afternoon. The bus was so full that I had to stand up the whole time. We then proceeded to Apgujeong, where Time Out Gelato is located. I’ve always been partial to Choco-Mint, so I ordered it. But it’s quite expensive – around 4,500 won. 😛

Time Out Gelato, Apgujeong, South Korea, October 2010

Yumminess, Time Out Gelato, Apgujeong, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the last stop of the day, we planned on taking the Han River Cruise. However, we got a bit lost by getting off at a subway station a bit farther from the dock. So we ended up walking several blocks and missing the last ride of the river cruise. However, we did manage to pass by MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation), one of the largest broadcasting companies in Korea.

Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), South Korea, October 2010

We did manage to get to one side of the Han River. Yes! So, we took photos of whatever sceneries we could get that night. It’s better that nothing, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For dinner, we went back to the same restaurant in Dongdaemun where we first had dinner the first night. We were craving for beef. So aside from the usual padjeon (my favorite), bulgogi (my love), and the side dishes, we ordered beef instead of pork ribs. We ate it ala-sangyupsal style (wrap the beef with sauce and garlic in green leafy veggie and then presto!).

BEEF! Dongdaemun, October 2010

Padjeon, Dongdaemun, October 2010

My love - BULGOGi, Dongdaemun, October 2010

 

Korean Escapade 2010: Exploring Seoul in a Day (Part 2)

And the Seoul City Bus Tour continues…

Sixth Stop: Changdeok Palace was first built to support the main compound, Gyeongbok Palace. Both were destroyed in the Japanese Invasion (1592-1598), and Changdeok Palace was first to be rebuilt immediately after the war, making it the king’s primary residence until Gyeongbok Palace was rebuilt in the 19th century. It is called one of the “eastern palaces” because it lies east of Hanyang, capital city. (from brochure given at Changdeok Palace)

Changdeok Palace, South Korea, October 2010

Changdeok Palace, South Korea, October 2010

Seventh Stop: Gyeongbok Palace was the first palace compound to be built by the Joseon founder. Being the main palace, the compound was the largest of all the Joseon palaces. It served both as the residence for the king and his closest family members and as the place where affairs of the state were routinely conducted and foreign envoys were received.  (from brochure given at Gyeongbok Palace)

Gyeongbok Palace, South Korea, October 2010

Throne Room, Gyeongbok Palace, South Korea 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eighth Stop: National Folk Museum of Korea is located at the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace. The museum has three exhibition halls showing 1) History of the Korean People, 2) The Korean Way of Life and 3) Life Cycle of Koreans. In addition, there is a children’s museum and an open-air exhibition depicting village structures.

National Folk Museum of Korea, October 2010

Korean dresses, National Folk Museum of Korea, October 2010

Passed through Itaewon, which is one of the popular area for tourists, particularly Americans. There are many establishments here ranging from hotels, bars, and signature shops.

Itaewon (photo taken while on a bus), October 2010

Ninth Stop: Teddy Bear Museum at the Namsan Seoul Tower shows Seoul’s rich history and highlights some of its most exciting trends today with teddy bears, one of the most adored stuff toys. Exhibition Hall 1 focuses on the past – Hall of Historical Seoul while Exhibition Hall 1 emphasizes the present – Hall of Today’s Seoul.

Teddy Bear Museum, Exhibition Hall 1 (Past), October 2010

Teddy Bear Museum - Exhibition Hall 2 (Present), October 2010

Tenth Stop: Namsan Seoul Tower is an art and culture complex that offers visitors breathtaking views of Seoul, the mesmerizing beauty of Namsan forests throughout the seasons, and the wonders of artistic and cultural displays. It stands 479 meters above sea level. We were able to see Seoul with all its lights during the night that we went there.

Namsan Seoul Tower, October 2010

Panoramic view atop Namsan Tower, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last stop: Dinner at a Soju Tent at Namdaemun Market. We often see Koreans having dinner or having drinks of soju at a tent in those dramas or series. We wanted to get the same experience and so we had our dinner at one such tent at Namdaemun market. Again, we sampled Korea’s street food. It was another yummy experience! We didn’t get to drink soju though because we opted to try one type of rice wine that they have – makgeolli, a milky, off-white, sweet alcoholic beverage made from rice. It is also called takju or nongju (farmer’s wine).

 

Yummy Kimchijeon, Namdaemun market, October 2010

All-time favorite Padjeon, Namdaemun market, October 2010

Chicken barbeque, Namdaemun market, October 2010

Lucky for us, nobody got drunk. Otherwise, someone would have to be carried piggy-back style. 😀

Korean Escapade 2010: Exploring Seoul in a Day (Part 1)

October 23 was the day we went around Seoul. We left the hotel and took the subway going to Gwanghwamun station. There we walked towards the first stop for the day.

First Stop: Gwanghwamun Square was the one of my favorites during the city tour. The square was 557meter long, 34 meter wide. It is considered to be the “heart of Seoul with 600 years of history and was transformed into a human focused space that harmonizes with the beautiful sceneries of Gyeongbok Palace and Bukak-san, which completed the rebirth of Sejong-ro for historical and cultural experiences,” (http://www.lifeinkorea.com/travel2/448).

Gwanghwamun Square, South Korea, October 2010

I really loved the monument of King Sejong, or popularly known as the Great King Sejong, who reinforced Confucian policies and executed major legal amendments. He also used the creation of Hangul and the advancement of technology to expand his territory.

Great King Sejong, South Korea, October 2010

Another favorite is the statue of Admiral Lee Sun Shin/Yi Sun Shin, whom I consider as one of the greatest heroes of Korea. He was known for his 23 victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasion of Korea and was famous for his creative use of turtle ships against the enemies.

Admiral Yi Sun Shin, South Korea, October 2010

And then we took the Seoul City Bus Tour at the nearby Donghwa station to get to some of the tourist attractions located in the city. The Seoul City Bus Tour is the fastest and economical way to go around the city. We just hopped on the bus and then hopped off to our chosen destination. After which, we wait again for the next bus (there is a 30 minute interval) which would then lead us to our next destination. One ticket, which costs 10,000 won, will take tourists around Seoul. There are about 36 sites which tourists can visit.

Second Stop: Seoul Station is the major railway station in the city. We experienced the hustle and bustle of Seoul’s busy life.

Seoul Station, South Korea, October 2010

Third Stop: National Museum of Korea covers137,201 square meters (1,480,000 sq ft) and is considered to be the sixth largest museum in the world. The first level houses relics from the prehistoric, ancient, medieval, and early modern periods. The second level, in turn, showcases the calligraphy and painting galleries while the third level has the sculpture, crafts and Asia galleries. Visiting museums is one activity that I really love. I wanted to spend the whole day exploring the place but I did not have the chance to do that due to lack of time.

National Museum of Korea, October 2010

Headdress used in Shilla period, NMOK, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passed through: Korean War Memorial Hall. We just passed through this monument and was able to take a photo from the bus.

Korean War Memorial, South Korea, October 2010

Fourth Stop: Namsangol Traditional Hanok Village is a “Korean village located in the area of Pil-dong neighborhood in Jung-gu, a central district of Seoul, South Korea where hanok or Korean traditional houses have been restored to preserve the original atmosphere of the area. The Namsangol Hanok Village offers one the opportunity to experience a wide cross-section of Joseon-era citizenry and activities, from royalty to commoners. A great effort has been made to accurately furnish each dwelling with appropriate era and social status appointments.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namsangol_Hanok_Village). We were lucky to have witnessed a presentation by children who were in their costumes and were dancing some of the traditional dances.

Performance at Namsangol Hanok Village, October 2010

LUNCH: Korean food is really awesome even though some of it are too spicy for me. As I have written earlier, DIET was a forgotten word during this Korean trip. Korean food is really YUMMY!

Lunch at a Korean Resto, October 2010

Another yummy dish at a Korean resto, October 2010

Fifth Stop: Changgyeong Palace was the third palace compound built in the Joseon era. It was built next to Changdeok Palace to serve three queen dowagers (who had been queen during the reigns of Sejo, Deokjeong and Yejong). It is also referred to as one of the “eastern palaces,” along with Changdeok Palace. (from brochure given at Changgyeong Palace)

A live performance at Changgyeong Palace, October 2010

Changgyeong Palace, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

Korean Escapade 2010: Of Bulgogis, Malls, Markets and Shopping

Lunch was a continuing love affair with bulgogi. I fell hard. Really hard with this dish.  The side dishes were also amazing. During this trip to Korea, I forgot that I am on a diet. Usually, my meals consist of no rice but I really forgot about it. Oh well, it is good food so I have no regrets.

Bulgogi Lunch, South Korea, October 2010

 

Yummy bulgogi, South Korea, October 2010

After lunch, we went to a Korean Ginseng shop. Unfortunately, picture taking was not allowed. We got to know the different kinds of ginseng. I bought one bottle of ginseng concentrate for my Mom. I hope that she drinks it. I also bought a bag of rice crispies for pasalubong. We also went to the amethyst store and there we were shown different products made of amethyst. Amethyst is a stone known to bring healing. I didn’t get to buy because it’s really expensive.

Next stop was Namdaemun Market. We only had one hour to tour the place and buy stuff that we needed to buy. Namdaemun reminded me of our very own Divisoria. I did not get to roam the place much for fear that I would get lost. However, I was able to buy some shirts with Korea printed in it for a reasonable price. It was such a good deal.

 

Namdaemun Market, South Korea, October 2010

Merchandise, Namdaemun Market, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our trip to Namdaemun, Kuya Hong brought us back to the hotel. Our guided trip has come to an end. We were fortunate that we had him as our guide. We would love to have him in our next guided tour.

We rested for a bit and then proceeded to COEX Mall for some shopping. I did not buy anything from there..again.  I was just content to see and explore the place. Using the subway, we went to Myeondong, another shopping district. However, I was surprised to see billboards of Kim Myung Min in his LIG advertisements. I had to take a photo.

 

Kim Myung Min Advertisements in a subway, October 2010

At Myeongdong, I was just amazed with how Koreans buy stuff. I would see ladies buy several bags of cosmetics, apparel and the like. I was not planning on buying anything but when I saw a special edition of Beethoven Virus Original Soundtrack, I immediately bought it. So much for self control, eh?

Rolling store at Myeongdong, South Korea, October 2010

 

Myeongdong, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was almost midnight when we decided to go home. We were all dead tired and another busy day is waiting for us so we need all the rest that we can get.

Next stop: Seoul City Tour

Korean Escapade 2010: If you survived the tunnel, you’ll survive anything!

October 22 was another adventure. We started the day early because we had a guided tour that would take us to DMZ or DeMilitarized Zone. Our guide was really early and we were surprised that he knows a bit of Tagalog. Kuya Hong, as he preferred to be called, went to the Philippines to study English a few years ago. Furthermore, he has visited the country a couple of times together with his family. He also maintained friendships with his Filipino classmates.

Kuya Hong informed us that we would be traveling for about 40 minutes or so just to get to Imjingak Park in Paju. At Imjingak Park, we saw the Bell of Peace, which represents the aspiration for peace of humankind and the unification of the Korean nation for the new millennium.  To commemorate the 21st century, the bell weights 21 tons and has 21 stairs.

 

Bell of Peace, Imjingak, Paju, Korea, October 2010

 

The Bridge of Freedom or Freedom Bridge lies in the area as well. It is the only bridge crossing the Imjin River and the only bridge which connects North and South Korea. It is said that about 13,000 war captives crossed this bridge crying “hurrah for freedom,” which gave the bridge its present name. (from www.koreadmztour.com)

 

Freedom Bridge, Imjingak, Paju, Korea, October 2010

 

The steam locomotive, which was partially blown up during the Korean War, was also a sight to behold. There were bullet holes in it and of course, blast marks. It sat outside the Jangdan station in the DMZ for about 56 years after the Korean War and was preserved as a cultural heritage by the South Korean government.

 

Steam locomotive, Imjingak, Paju Korea, October 2010

 

There were numerous ribbons hanging on the wires in the area. The ribbons contain messages from Koreans or visitors. The content of the messages? I have no idea. I didn’t have the chance to ask Kuya Hong about it. But my guess is – it may be aspirations for unification.

 

Imjingak, Paju, Korea, October 2010

We then boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to the DMZ.

 

Paju, Korea, October 2010

 

The DeMilitarized Zone or DMZ a strip of land running across the Korean peninsula, serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. The most heavily armed border in the world, the DMZ extends 248 km/155 miles long and approximately 4 km/2.5 miles wide (from www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone).

Since there were lots of tourists that day, we proceeded to the Third Infiltration Tunnel. The third tunnel was discovered at the point of just 52 km away from Seoul, in the administrative district of Paju in 1978. The tunnel is 1,635 meters in length, 2 meters in width, and 2 meters in height. It is said that it is as large in scale as an army of 30,000 fully-armed North Korean soldiers to pass through within an hour.

A drawing of the 3rd tunnel, DMZ, October 2010

We got our protective hats on and then walked down the walkway which would lead us to the third tunnel. The walkway measures 358 meters, sloping downward. Going downward, I felt my knees and muscles in the lower part of my body protest with the exertion. Reaching the bottom, we then proceeded to walk the Third Tunnel which spans 265 meters. We were only allowed to walk until the third blockade and so we turned back and walked again another 265 meters. The real challenge was going up the walkway (which is 358 meters again!).  Going up, I felt my body getting pushed and pulled in different directions. My breathing was getting rapid and strained. I thought I would have an asthma attack but thank God, I didn’t.  We rested for a bit and then we went to watch a short audio-visual presentation about DMZ.

After the AVP, we returned to our bus and we continued on to Dora Observatory where we viewed North Korea from the observatory platform using a telescope. We were prohibited to take photos in some areas of the observatory. I had mixed feelings when I saw the highest flagpole in the world bearing the North Korean flag and felt that this was the closest I can get to North Korea, eh?

A portion of Dora Observatory, DMZ, October 2010

We only had 10-15 minutes at the Dora Observatory and then we returned to our bus to proceed to Dorasan Station. It is the last station in South Korea before the North Korean border. Its railway is located in Gyeongu line. However, this station has not functioned ever.

Dorasan Station, DMZ, October 2010

To Pyeongyang, Dorasan Station, October 2010

After our stop at the station, we boarded our bus to return to Imjingak Park. Kuya Hong then drove us to restaurant for lunch.

The DMZ tour was one eye-opener of an adventure for me. I cannot imagine the pain of those South Koreans who have families in the North or vice versa and not be able to see them for a very, very long time. Very tragic!  But the most striking and unforgettable part of this trip was the TUNNEL! The tunnel experience was one-helluvan adventure. Among my travel buddies, we now share a joke, if you’ve survived the tunnel, you can survive anything! It was that challenging!