Tag Archives: adventure

Cheesetastic – Acting out for a Korean TV show

29 Oct

For any of you that read this blog regularly you’ll know that there is never a dull moment in my life in Korea. This week, yet again, has so far proved to be eventful…and it’s only Tuesday!! So yesterday evening my boss came bursting into the staff room and asked me and my colleagues if we would like to have a free traditional Korean meal in return for starring in a Korean TV programme. Of course we agreed immediately, without knowing any further details! Who are we to turn down a free meal.

An hour later we were informed it would be filmed the following evening in a 5 star restaurant in Incheon and that ideally they wanted 7 other foreigners to join us. Within an hour I had rounded up 7 friends who also work as English teachers in Paju, and we were all excited about our mini adventure the following evening.

Now, having just returned from Incheon minutes ago, I shall fill you in on what it’s like to be a “real life” actor! We all gathered outside my school at 8pm, and after some last-minute panic about not having a Korean translator with us, my boss managed to persuade 3 of my higher level students to join us. The fact that they would not have to attend their maths class that evening, would have an excuse not to do their homework, and would potentially get home after midnight was enough incentive for them to be our translators for the night!

The restaurant where our night of acting took place!

The restaurant where our night of acting took place!

20131029_210830

Top marks for presentation!

After a 40 minute ride to Incheon we arrived at the restaurant and I must say we were all VERY impressed at the sight of it. It looked more like a traditional Korean temple than a restaurant and we were all very excited to go inside. We were greeted by lots of traditionally dressed servers and from the MINUTE we entered the restaurant, the cameras were pointed at us, the fake smiles were put on standby and nervous laughter filled the air. This was a first for everyone and we really had no idea what was going on!!

We were led upstairs into a really beautiful traditional Honuk building where we were seated on the floor around beautifully laid tables of 4. Within minutes plate after plate  of carefully prepared  dishes arrived ranging from salads, spicy vegetable appetizers to whole fried fish, steak, grilled galbi meat, raw fish salad, seafood soup, noodles, flavoured rice, sweet rice cakes, and everything in between. It was a meal fit for royalty and as we were all starving we tucked in without delay. As we picked at and tried out all the various delicious spread out before us, a staff member approached us and put beautiful wooden necklaces around our necks as a “welcome gift”.

There wasn’t much time for relaxing though because soon we had an oversized camera shoved in our face, as the producer asked us to perform various tasks in front of the camera including; eat large chunks of meat and telling him how delicious it was; picking up over-sized portions of noodles with our chopsticks and making various sounds conveying pleasure; laughing and smiling at each other like we were having the time of our lives and repeatedly saying how delicious the food was and beautiful the restaurant was!

20131029_212519

The lovely man who gave us all a welcome gift!

Delicious Korean Food.

Delicious Korean Food.

He interviewed each of us individually asking what we thought of the restaurant, what we thought of the staff, if we liked the food, what was our favourite dish and much MUCH more…all of which had to be translated by our poor students as the producer didn’t speak a word of English!

The food really was some of the tastiest traditional Korean food I have ever tasted and I was proud of myself for trying everything even though I would not normally go near fish or seafood soup. We even tried dishes that were totally new to us and were oblivious to what on earth was inside them.

korean food

Fighting over the mouth watering fish!

20131029_215545

Being interviewed while eating!

Once the meal was over we were ushered downstairs where the group was dressed up in traditional Korean Hanbok, asked to parade around in a mini fashion show, while the producer recorded us taking pictures of each other, laughing hysterically, jumping and prancing around like idiots and again saying how wonderful the experience was and how we LOVED Korea so much. Don’t get me wrong…it was an amazing experience but it was SO tiring having to keep repeating things for the camera and to keep a smile on our faces for over 2 hours!

It really was one of the most bizarre Tuesday nights I have had in quite some time. The TV programme will be aired on KBS at 6pm this Friday, and I personally am going to be mortified to see my face on camera. Oh well, no regrets eh?! 

hanbok korea clothes

hanbok fashion show

20131029_222151

 

20131029_222413

Samsung SOS Island – Win a private island!

2 Sep SAMSUNG SOS ISLAND

Fancy winning your own private island in the Carribean? Fancy spending a few weeks in paradise, battling it out with 16 other contestants and learning survival techniques from ‘SurvivorMan Les Stroud? Oh, and you also get a Samsung Galaxy S4 and and an amazing Samsung Zoom Camera!

Below is my somewhat rushed attempt to put together a video for the second round of the competition, and while I do cringe a little seeing myself on camera, and wish it wasn’t so dark at times, I think it’s not a bad entry at the end of the day! You can view my competitors by searching “Samsung SOS island” in YouTube!

What are you waiting for?? This is the LAST day you can enter. GO, GO , GO!!


Races to Remember – Music, Glow Sticks and Color Bombs

27 Aug

I have been trying to think of fun things to fill up my free time while living in Korea and I think I have finally found the answer! I am gong to make the most of all the wacky short distance runs that this wonderful country has to offer, 3 of these wonderful races I have detailed in this post. If I come across more, I promise to post information about them too…and of course lots of great photos from the event!

First on my schedule of fun is the Color Me Rad 5km run in Ilsan on September 14th. These have been happening all over the world over the summer and everyone that I know that has participated has had a fantastic time. The race involves running a 5km fun course while spectators or volunteers throw packets of colored powder at you until you look like a multi-colored ball of fun!

Entry is 40,000 Won,which while a little steep, is still affordable and includes a pair of funky neon sunglasses, a Color Me Rad t-shirt and color bombs. I am doing this race with a group of other English teachers in my area and we have come up with the wonderful team name of “Paju Prancers”. As long as we finish the race before sunset we will be happy, no sprinting to the finish line for us!! If you would like to sign up just click HERE.

Next up is the Puma Night Run in Seoul Grand Park. What makes this fun? Well, it’s a 7km run at night! Which in Korea means A LOT considering how hot and sweaty it can be in the day time with temperatures reaching 35 degrees celsius. What makes it even better?? It’s in a ZOO!! That’s right, this 7km night run is in Seoul Zoo so you will have all the night owls, curious cats (ahem lions) and many other exotic animals to keep you company and cheer you on!

The race starts at 7pm on September 29th so it’s not at a totally ridiculous hour.  It seems pretty well-organized and there and 4 different stages of the course including a Glow Course, a cheering course and an energy course so it’s set to be a great, alcohol-free night out with the animals! You can find more information HERE.

Third up is a race I just found out about yesterday called the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) 5km Run. To me, this looks like the most fun out of all 3 races, probably thanks to my love of glow sticks, silent discos and the fact that dancing my way around a 5km course sounds WAY better than running! While they have yet to set a date or a time (simply ‘Fall 2013′) they have sent this message out to attract people to the race, a message which I think is pretty darn awesome!

“Dear Foreigners living in Korea,
You’ve lived in Korea for how long now? Been out to karaoke bars, clubs, and bars…doesn’t it just seem like every night event requires a drink or one or two or three??
Yes! This is the country that brought you Gangnam Style…but where’s your music video, your fun, your night to remember? I’ll tell you where, It’s at the EDM 5K RUN, and it’s happening this fall!
Come party with us and 10,000 other EDM lovers and lose your mind without one drop of alcohol!”

For updates keep an eye on their wik\cked facebook page - HERE.

If you know of any other fun runs coming to Korea…PLEASE leave a comment! Thank You and happy running! :)

Royal Tombs of Joseon Dynasty

16 Aug

While exploring Paju yesterday, we came across s sign in Korean that pointed us in the direction of some the Samneung Royal Tombs. We had already admired views of North Korea from the Odusan Unification Observatory, payed our respects at the tomb of Jeong Yeon, and enjoyed a delicious Dak-Galbi lunch so we were up for some more adventure!

On arrival we were impressed to see a stone plaque that revealed the tombs as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and were keen to explore this somewhat secluded and rarely visited tourist location. However as we tried to enter we discovered the entrance gate was closed and there was pad lock hanging from it. Perseverance can go a long way sometimes, so I check to see if the lock was in fact LOCKED. Much to our delight it wan’t so we decided there would be no harm opening the gate and taking a stroll through the wooden farm land that lay ahead.

The first thing that hit us was how beautiful this whole area was. There were fields or incredible green rice paddies to our left and dense forrest to our right. There was no traffic, no multi story apartment buildings and no noise to interrupt the peace bar the incessant buzzing of hundreds of Cicadas.

Stop 1: Tomb of Jeong Yeon

Stop 1: Tomb of Jeong Yeon

royal tombs of joseon dynasty

UNESCO World Heritage Site

After a 5-10 minute walk we turned to the right and saw what looked like the Samneung tombs. However it was lear they were all under construction and there really wasn’t a whole lot to see. As we were aware that we were not really supposed to be in here, and the construction workers were giving us funny looks, we turned back a little disappointed. However just around the corner, less than a 5 minute walk, we discovered something 10 times better than the Samneung Tombs!

We had stumbled across something truly amazing…. Royal Tombs from the Joseon Dynasty! The whole area was immaculate, with an area the size of a football pitch covered in perfectly manicured grass. In the middle stood a tall, red, spiked entrance arch, the same arch which Royalty on horseback would have walked through 100′s of years ago! At the end of the “worship road” there was a T-shaped Shrine surrounded by some other huts which would have been the royal kitchen and a guard house.

Walking to the Tombs

Walking to the Tombs

Doorway at Samneung Tombs, Paju

Doorway at Samneung Tombs, Paju

Excited to get a little closer to take some photographs, we stepped on to the grass and took a few steps forward until suddenly loads of alarm bells starting ringing, scaring the life out of us. It wasn’t until we back tracked a few steps that the alarms stopped and we caught our breath. We looked around the perimeter to discover cameras everywhere. Every entrance, exit, tunnel, grass, tree and archway was covered by CCTV.

We couldn’t understand why a top tourist attraction would want to detract attention and visitors but not wanting to get in trouble we took some pictures from a distance and headed back to the car, making sure to leave the gate closed behind us.

The ALARMED archway to the tombs

The ALARMED archway to the tombs

Jangneung Fish Eye Lense

Jangneung Tombs (Fish Eye Lens)

Jangneung Tombs, Paju

Jangneung Tombs, Paju

When I get home I did a little research on the tombs and and came across this notice, “For preservation reasons, this royal tomb is not open to the general public. This is the mausoleum of King Injo (1595-1649, reign 1623-1649), the 16th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, and Queen Illyeol. “

Whoops…breaking and entering into a tourist site is one thing but breaking and entering into  site of the Mausoleum of King Injo is something else! I’m looking forward to where my next Korean adventure will take me. 

Finding Nemo – The Life Aquatic

5 Aug

Some of my favorite photos from my snorkeling trips in Bali and Malaysia. (All taken on my GoPro camera!)

snorkeling gopro

finding nemo

 

turtle snorkeling malaysia

turtle

 

turtle photo

clown fish nemo

clown fish nemo

trigger fish malaysia

food time fish

look up fish

DCIM103GOPRO

snorkeling gopro

Dreaming of Bali

4 Aug

Bali, in case you didn’t already know, is a beautiful tropical island in Indonesia, famed for its relaxed atmosphere, rich cultural diversity and world-class waves which attract adventure seekers from near and far. It is a place I have always dreamed about, and one which elicits  images of long lines of palm trees swaying in the wind, lazy days spent reading “Eat, Pray, Love” while lounging in a hammock, and smelling the sweet scent of spices and incense which lingers in the air. Often when you have such high expectations of a place the reality can be a bit disappointing, but I feel I can honestly say that for me Bali totally lived up to my outrageously high, dreamy expectations and at certain times, it even went over and above this imaginary line and simply blew me away. That said, there are definitely two sides to Bali and in order to write an honest review which will help rather than hinder future visitors, I will try to write about the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let me start with the ugly to get it out-of-the-way as quickly as possible. For me, arriving in the tourist hub of Kuta having spent 19+ hours on an airplane, was one of the biggest let-downs of my traveling life thus far. All my images of Bali were shattered instantaneously as I felt I was stepping out of the plane and on to the set of “Benidorm“. Heck, if I wanted to walk around in hot pants and a boob tube with my love handles sticking out for all to see while drunkenly stumbling from a shitty tourist infested bar to an overpriced, over crowded, run of the mill night club full of drunk, rowdy and disgustingly pervvy  package holiday tourists, I could have spent 50 Euro on a one way ticket to Lanzarote. To say I hated Kuta and that I recommend everyone to avoid it like the plague would be a fair statement. Unless, of course, you are a 19-year-old gap year student from Britain or a mid-20′s Aussie on a Package holiday from Perth…in that case Kuta is your place, make yourself at home!

My idea of paradise

Heaven on earth

DSC03871

After just 1 day and 1 night in Kuta, my traveling buddy Ann-Marie and I were on the first boat to the Gili Islands. This group of 3 islands (Gili T, Gili Air and Gili Meno) are not technically part of Bali, but as most visitors here come via Bali and return via Bali, I’m including them in this post!! For me, arriving on Gili T was like arriving in Paradise.  There is no other way to describe it…the water was so clear, half of it an amazing blue, the other half turquoise, and the sand was so incredibly white. This is what I had been looking forward to, THIS is what I had worked so hard and saved so hard for. We knew on arrival we would never want to leave. We were meant to stay only 5 days but I ended up staying a whole week, and if it wasn’t for time constraints I definitely would have stayed longer.

We snorkeled with Turtles and all sorts of tropical fish, we went to a full moon beach party under the biggest moon I have ever seen, we stayed in both a hostel and these funky little bungalows, we found the most un-irish looking Irish bar made of bamboo and we watched the most beautiful sunsets day after day. It really was an incredible experience.

Bintang Beers at Sunset

DSC04243

DSC03608

Speaking of experiences…I also experienced my first earthquake!! One moment I was lying on the beach joking with newly made friends and the next the whole beach, the whole island started shaking vigorously, the whole earth moving. It was such a surreal moment and then everyone started running from the beach, looking scared. But there was nowhere to go as the island was flat. I just looked at the locals who didn’t seem too worried, then sat back down on my bean bag on the beach and took another sip from my beer! :P

Admittedly, not everyone has such raving reviews of Gili T. Being the bigger and most developed of the 3 islands, it is clear that tourism has left its mark. The beach is sometimes dirty and full of litter, and as there are 3 HUGE parties each week this mean there are plenty of passed out bodies to be spotted along the beach on any given day.  Booming, over-played pop and reggae songs can be heard throughout the day and night which must really annoy those who arrived on the island for peace and tranquility. While the food choice wasn’t great, it also wasn’t that bad, with a pretty good selection depending on how much money you were willing to pay! I found most things pretty cheap, which probably makes up for the extremely, painstakingly slow service! While Gili T may not be ideal for many, for me it was pretty darn awesome.

gili islands water

Snorkeling trip with new friends!

snorkeling gili islands

After the Gili islands, I got the boat back to Bali then caught a bus to Ubud, the cultural centre of the island known for traditional dancing and handicrafts but also a good base for surrounding attractions such as the rice paddies, numerous temples, Mount Batur Volcano and the monkey forest. It was a lot cooler and wetter here…which was a welcome break from all the sun and heat. I did an amazing full day cycling tour from Mount Batur Volcano down through Central Bali, which included cycling through insanely green rice paddies and past HUNDREDS of small temples, exploring a traditional Balinese home where a huge, but non-poisonous, spider decided to drop down on me  and time spent learning about sacred trees and local customs. I also went to the Sacred Monkey Forest where, despite what the brochure may indicate, these are not cute little friendly monkeys. They are greedy little menaces who will try steal everything from you! On arrival, one jumped on me and started unzipping my handbag…I had push it off me and run away. Another guy got his cigarettes taken while some poor/stupid woman got her 300  euro Gucci sunglasses stolen! You have been warned.

Local Rice farmer near Ubud

Breakfast with a view of Mount Batur and the crater lake

ubud cycling tour

One of the things I loved most about Ubud, and Bali in general, was the beautiful hand-woven offerings that lined the pavements. Everywhere you walked, from my guesthouse, to the local store, at the bus stop, or outside an exclusive up-market shoe store, you would have to look down to avoid trampling on these beautiful little carafes of flowers, offered up to please the various Hindu Gods. Many of these would have small incense sticks peeking out from below the petals, so everywhere I walked seem to smell just the way I always dreamed it would.

Lastly, I simply must give a quick mention to Balinese massages. It would be a crime not to considering how many I treated myself to. These sensational massages, while some times slightly painful, were also delightfully cheap. From a full body massage to a half hour foot massage, a sensual head massage to the aptly named “sun burn massage”, the variety is wide, the quality is high and best of all…the prices are ridiculously low.

Old meets new

Old meets new

Playing with spiders in Ubud!

Playing with spiders in Ubud!

So there you have it, in a nutshell; my memorable ten-day balinese experience. One that I’m sure never to forget. If I do go back, the one thing I would do differently, and what I would recommend others do as well, is to splash out a little but more money on accommodation. Sometimes a backpackers hostel just doesn’t cut it.

Paradise has its faults – The Perhentian Islands

30 Jul

Having spent the last 5 weeks traveling around Indonesia and Malaysia, posting numerous positive social media updates and uploading photos of tropical beaches that would make just about anyone and everyone jealous, I feel I have some confessions to make. The first and most important one I will outline in this blog post. Just because a photograph looks “postcard perfect”, does not mean the destination is absolute paradise. Up until this trip I always thought I could define paradise. I thought that any beach with beautiful white sand, crystal clear waters, rows of hammocks swinging from palm trees and with a sprinkling of friendly beach boys selling Pina Coladas out of fresh coconuts was my idea of ABSOLUTE PARADISE.

On a recent trip to The Perhentian Islands off the East coast of Malaysia, I had to pause and re-evaluate my idea of paradise. Before my travels, everyone I had met who had travelled South East Asia said I simply MUST go to the Perhentian Islands.  (Both The Perhentian Islands and The Gilis (in Indonesia) seemed to be high up on everyones lists so I decided I needed to visit both!) One friend, Jessica, told me it was the best place she had ever been snorkelling in her life – that the water was unbelievably clear and the place was paradise. My friend Jeni told me that if she could go on her Honeymoon again, she would go back to the Perhentian Islands. In my mind, this place was going to be absolute paradise.

Is this paradise?

Is this paradise?

View of Coral Bay - the nicest part of the small island

View of Coral Bay – the nicest part of the small island

Praise aside, I had also done some research and knew not to have my expectations TOO high. These were remote islands, after all, with only a few hours of electricity a day and no roads, no cars and not even a donkey and carts like the Gili Islands. So, I’m sure you are waiting to hear what could possibly make me think this place was not perfect, so let me explain.

On the boat to the island I was pretty mesmerized.  Everyone had been right about the colour of the water…it was like NOTHING I had ever seen before. Taking into account I have now visited 43 countries, that is a seriously big deal. The water around these islands was so amazing that it almost looked fake, as if you were whizzing through the worlds largest swimming pool.

The water was CRYSTAL CLEAR

The water was CRYSTAL CLEAR

View of the beach from the jungle interior

View of the beach from the jungle interior

It wasn’t until we arrived on the island that the real trouble started. First of all, the ferry/speed boat will not take you the whole way to the shore. They stop about 200 metres from the beach and insist you pay a local beach boy 2 dollars to take you the rest of the way. Not very much money, but it’s the principal! Plus, can you imagine trying to maneuver yourself, your backpack and your suitcase from a ferry onto a teeny tiny unstable speed boat as they pull up side my side?! NOT AN EASY FEAT!!

On arrival on the actual beach you feel relieved to have landed safely, and dry, with all your possessions  But you can’t chill for more than 2 minutes as the race is on. As everyone piles off the little speed boats there is panic as people start running up the beaches to the various accommodation choices, searching for a place to stay. Why? There simply is not enough supply to meet the demand. Every few hours tourists arrive and they are continuously told by lodging after lodging that they are fully booked, despite telling us over the phone that they “don’t take bookings”. We went to over 10 places, and were turned away from every single one. We finally found some chalets at the end of the beach – ‘D Rock Garden’ that had a spare cabin for 3 nights. Regardless of price, service or what it even looked like we said yes and were relieved that we would not have to spend the night sleeping on the beach!

We spent 20 minutes trying to find the cabin as nobody would help us. To say the staff were unhelpful would be the understatement of the century, They were appalling. We eventually found it, and discovered our “en-suite” bathroom was totally flooded with who knows what covering the ground! We complained and they didn’t seem to care. We complained again the next day and they said they would “maybe look at it”. Wow, so helpful. I wouldn’t mind so much but we were actually paying quite a lot for this cabin, not that we had much choice. As we had paid for a room for 3 people, but were given only ONE bed, we asked for an extra mattress. We, miraculously got this, but they didn’t even put it in our room. They just left it outside our door, with no sheets, no extra pillow…nothing!

Here's your mattress, as requested!

Here’s your mattress, as requested!

Friendly signs everywhere!

Friendly signs everywhere!

We moved to a cheaper place next door on day 3, which was about 1/3 of the price and seemed a lot more simpler. We were greeted with a sign on arrival that said, “stay at least 2 nights. If you wish to extend, it depends on how generous you are. E.g if you book our snorkeling trip, but our breakfast etc. If not, forget about it. Thank you.” What a lovely way to welcome guests to your accommodation!!

Next, let’s talk about the food. Or lack there of. There is 3 choices on long beach – the blue plastic chairs, the red plastic chairs, and the yellow plastic chairs. The “western” food they serve, thats right they pretty much all serve the same menu, is some of the worst food I have ever tasted in my life. While the local food isn’t too bad, waiting between 1 and 2 hours for a bowl of noodles is pure ridiculous. The they tend to forget about you, or forget your order, which doubles your frustration.

Let’s talk about the beach, which Lonely Planet says is “the most popular backpacker destination in Malaysia”. Maybe this is true but heaven knows why! The beach is dirty, with cigarette butts and empty beer cans floating in the water and stuffed in the sand. There were even used sanitary pads floating in the water, which was seriously disgusting. There were so many beach boys speeding around in their boats all day that your “perfect view” was pretty much ruined.

While the snorkeling was one of the best experiences I had while on the island, swimming with turtles, Clown fish, trigger fish and hundreds more, it also made me quite sad. Nearly all the coral was dead, due to tourists stepping on it and the lack of experienced guides. The guides also didn’t seem to care about tourists touching the turtles and even dived in and tried to encourage then to come up above the water. These people are so busy trying to make a quick buck they really don’t care about their beautiful environment, something which surely won’t last forever the way they are treating it.

Amazing snorkeling wIth NEMO!

Amazing snorkeling wIth NEMO!

Snorkelling with Trigger fish

Snorkelling with Trigger fish

Let’s summarize – the accommodation is limited and you have to fight hard or run fast to actual find a place to sleep. The staff are unfriendly and rude. The food is bad and the waiting times awful. The beach and water can be quite dirty and the view isn’t even that great, and all the coral is dead due to lack of care. 

Now comes the question that is really bothering me. Are the Perhentians still viewed as “paradise” to some people?? Have I been too spoiled throughout my travels with beautiful beaches, friendly people, delicious food and stunning scenery that I can no longer see appreciate paradise when it is staring me in the face? Have I have gotten so old that I can no longer see the fun in staying in the dingey backpacker haunts I used once frequent?! Or am I right in thinking that tourism may have ruined the islands, as the rate of tourists visiting them has grown faster than the locals could handle?

What do you think, what is YOUR idea of paradise?

 

Petronas Towers – Kuala Lumpur

21 Jul

You can’t visit Kuala Lumpur and not visit the iconic Petronas Towers, which were the tallest towers in the world until Taiwan stole the crown and built Taipei 101 in 2010. While we didn’t go up to the top to get a birds eye view of Kuala Lumpur (we had enough great views from rooftop cocktail bars and Helipads!!) we did get some fun pictures at the bottom.

Yes you have probably seen the same type of picture 1,000 times as every visitor to the city attempts the same “unique” photo, but I’m sharing with you anyway as it was lots of fun and I think we got some pretty great shots. What do you think? :)

patronas towers jumping

patronas towers kuala lumpur

patronas towers

DSC05003

The Scariest Place on Earth

8 Apr

With all the recent talk about North and South Korea, I thought I would share this post with you. This time 2 years ago I was living and working in Munsan, a town of about 100,000 only a few KMs from the border with North Korea. Here’s what I had to say about it at the time….

Sometimes as I lie in my new bed, in my new room in a brand spanking new apartment block, it’s easy to forget where I am. From the minute You step outside the door of your 21 storey apartment complex you are gently reminded EXACTLY where in the world I am. I have become so used to seeing soldiers everywhere that I have simply forgotten to write about them in my blog.

I am living in Munsan, which is a city only 20 minutes from the boarder with North Korea. Munsan is the last stop on the train line. If you go any further, and as far as I know only freight trains do, you will find yourself in the depths of a ravaged nation. A country that has been totally cut off from the outside world, has a secretive government and a nation that has been struck down with famine. Today, due to the government’s secretive nature and its reluctance to allow in foreigners, North Korea is considered the world’s most isolated country.

ers on the Train line that operates from the North Korean city of Kaesong, to Munsan, in the South.

ers on the Train line that operates from the North Korean city of Kaesong, to Munsan, in the South.

Soldiers are everywhere in Korea. At the moment I am sitting in a PC Bang, which is like an internet cafe except I’m the only person actually online, everyone else is playing computer games. I am also the only girl and the only perosn not in camoflage uniform! There are probably about 20 soldiers in here, as always.

When I walk down the street in Munsan, you see soldiers everywhere, just going about everyday life. As we are so near to North Korea, there are lots of high fences with barbed wire and look out posts, a lot of which it must be said are no longer in use. But the soldiers remain.

A South Korean Soldier checking the barrier, just north of Munsan.

A South Korean Soldier checking the barrier, just north of Munsan.

Of the three tunnels between North and South that were discovered in the last 30 years, one of them, the third infiltration tunnel, ends only 12km North of Munsan. I’m hoping to do a tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) next weekend, where you actually get to go down into the tunnels and experience it first hand. The tunnel is about 1,600 m long and about 150 m below ground. It is apparently designed for a surprise attack on Seoul from North Korea, and can easily accommodate 30,000 men per hour along with light weapons!! Eeeep.

Don’t ask me how or why exactly, but on Friday the other Munsan teachers and I ended up in a place Bill Clinton famously called, “The scariest place on Earth.” Anyone who knows me and knows my keen thirst for adventure will know I do not turn down offers to go to crazy places, in fact I LOOK for them.

Third infiltration tunnel, DMZ near Munsan, South Korea

Third infiltration tunnel, DMZ near Munsan, South Korea

We had befriended some US military soldiers who happened to live in the JSA (Joint Security Area) situated about 15 minutes north of Munsan and about 5 minutes south of North Korea!! The JSA is the only area in the country controlled by both North and South Korea. It is known to be one of the most isolated places on the planet, with stories of shootings and kidnappings rife. One of my friends said that she heard a story recently of someone’s grandmother who had been kidnapped for 5 days ‘just for fun’. This is no place to mess around in.

So off we went on our little adventure to what was once one of the most terrifying war zones on earth and a place still covered in secrecy and armed forces. The journey there was weird enough. We first had to cross the ‘Bridge of No Return’, a bridge lined with explosives so if any attacks or intrusions were to take place, the military could delay their progress by blowing up the only entrance into South Korea. We had to pass many checkpoints and often show our I.D cards.

We were given a mini tour of the army base, were bought a free breakfast and as the tour buses passed by (with each passenger paying 150 bucks each!) they waved at us as if we were animals in a Zoo or celebrities..it was very bizarre and we felt very out of place. We were been watched at all times, and that we weren’t allowed to take any pictures (Ooops!). It is a weird place, surrounded by mountains and green fields, and one of the first places I have witnessed birdsong and wildlife amoungst the army bunkers and look-out points.

Soldier in the JSA, North / South Korea

Soldier in the JSA, North / South Korea

On exiting one building we heard gun shots and looked at each other with frightened glances. Thank-fully we were told it was just the shooting range/practice range, but it was still somewhat scary. The guys flicked laminated pieces of paper at us, their “licences to kill’. These were no joke, they were real life licences to kill. They also showed us their guns, unloaded of course. A serious reminder of where we were.

We got to observe the army first hand, the rank system, how ‘higher ranks’ could smoke the junior privates and how their was a huge amount of respect to be found. It was quite a culture shock to us carefree teachers I must say and I was happy to head back to Munsan and my life as a teacher!

ONE FIT MUCKER!!

5 Mar

Guess what? I have set up a new blog by the brilliant name of ONE FIT MUCKER. Don’t worry…I’ll still be posting about my travels here, but posts about my new mission to get fit and have fun doing it will be posted on my new blog with lots of great photographs from each event.

The challenge : To participate in as many wild and wacky adventures before the end of 2013, with the goal of having as much fun as possible while increasing levels of fitness at the same time.

This will not be your average fitness blog.

This is not about running. Not about marathons. Not simpply about getting fit. It’s about getting down and dirty on crazy adventure courses, spending more time outdoors rather than in the pub (although there might be a bit of that too!) and strengthening friendships through day time excursions rather than night time sessions!

By the end of the year I’m going to be… ONE FIT MUCKER!! Check it out now.

one fit mucker banner

fisticuffsandshenanigans

It was all fun and games, until the fisticuffs and shenanigans... -Deutschmarc

Kendall Kessler Art

Original Art by Award Winning Artist Kendall Kessler

When will things happen?

like how I want them to be...

TOMMY SHAW TRAVELS...

Growing through Travel, one country at a time...

코리아 번

Welcome home, burners!

Live, Learn, Travel, Teach

To live will be an awfully great adventure!

Where the Sun Rises

Adventure Into the Great Unknown

The Dogs' Bucket

Mostly rants

Tey-Marie Astudillo

Multimedia Journalist. Writer. Explorer.

Mirna's Blog

My Life, My Story

DEPDC / GMS

25 Years of Prevention and Protection of Children from Human Trafficking in Northern Thailand

madnessaroundtheworld

When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead. ~Hemingway

titantales

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

nextgenerationhope

Just another WordPress.com site

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,102 other followers

%d bloggers like this: