Tag Archives: South Korea

Hiking Under Surveillance along Seoul Fortress Wall

Trekking the Seoul Fortress Wall is one of those “naturey” things you can do without leaving the city. The stone wall goes in a large loop and connects the four mountains surrounding the center of Seoul: Bugak-san to the north, Nak-san to the east, Nam-san to the south, and Inwang-san to the west. It was built back in 1396 and runs for more than 18km. We hiked the stretch from Waryong Park to Changuimun Gate, heading westward for probably 3km.

If you remember, we hiked another wall back in April, at Namhansanseong Fortress. Aside from the fact that they’re both fortress walls, I wouldn’t even compare the two experiences.

Seoul Fortress Wall, for one thing, offers really great views of the city. The weather was perfect that day, sunny and clear skies. Everything was green now, too. This path is also better maintained and mostly paved. Sure, there are some stretches of dirt you can walk along if you prefer, but if your goal is to walk along the wall itself, you’ll mainly be climbing concrete and wooden steps. Namhansanseong felt more woodsy and natural.

Probably the biggest difference is that this particular stretch of the hike took us “behind” — north of — the presidential Blue House of South Korea, located at the base of Bugak-san (as you can see below).

IMG_3158 Continue reading Hiking Under Surveillance along Seoul Fortress Wall

Crossing the Border: Our Tour of the DMZ & JSA

You often hear news of foreigners being imprisoned by North Korea. But did you know there’s a place where you can safely cross the border? (Mostly safely.) I’ll get to that later.

After months of living in Seoul, I finally got to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and JSA (Joint Security Area) in Panmunjom. I shouldn’t be surprised that Koreans have made the DMZ a tourist attraction, but it’s still amusing to me that they allow steady streams of tourists into such a highly sensitive and politically charged area. In fact, our tour guide noted that, despite its name, the DMZ is the most militarized area in the country.

We booked a full-day tour that took us to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, the Dora Observatory, the Dorasan Station, the Freedom Bridge, the JSA and famous MAC Conference Room, and the Bridge of No Return. (Will had already been to the DMZ, but he hadn’t done the full tour, so some of this was new to him, too.) Here’s our spiffy tour bus.

Tour bus FTW!

The DMZ is only about an hour away from Seoul. At a certain point during the drive up, I started noticing barbed wire fencing and guard posts along the Hangang (Han) River. If you look across the river, you can see the mountains in North Korea, which our tour guide said are bare because they still use wood for a lot of construction. She also said they believe the dark green patches are places where the North Koreans are hiding weapons.

Barbed wire fencing and guard houses along the Han River

First views of North Korea

Another guard house Continue reading Crossing the Border: Our Tour of the DMZ & JSA