Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Break 2011-2012!

It's finally here! It's a few days before my Winter Vacation and I've compiled a list of things I want to do. So now I ask--What would you do in these locations?

So close...


  • December 21, Kokura-Osaka
  • December 22, Osaka-Manila
  • December 27, Manila-Boracay
  • December 30, Boracay-Manila
  • January 2, Manila-Macau
  • January 3, Macau-Hong Kong
  • January 8, Hong Kong-Seoul
  • January 9, Seoul-Fukuoka
Things to do:
  • Show off my Japanese to my friend in Osaka
  • Eat lechon
  • Go to at least 2 restaurants as seen on No Reservations (Travel Channel)
  • Scuba Dive in Boracay (2 dives)
  • Surf in Boracay (waves permitting)
  • Get a cheap massage on the beach
  • Find the smiling horse on a Red Horse
  • Order food in Tagalog
  • Gamble at the largest casino in the world, The Venetian, Macau
  • Eat dim sum
  • Eat until I'm full and keep eating
  • Chow Fun, Roast Duck... did I mention dim sum?
  • Get a "real" American Pizza (Pizza Hut or better)

The real reason I'm going to the Philippines...

What am I missing?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

At the 38th Parallel

I don't think words can really describe the tense atmosphere. While there is undeniably a touristy feel, you notice a stark contrast that separates visiting the DMZ from a usual tour. Even after, I haven't been able to adequately put into words the feelings I had while visiting the area. So instead of delaying this post any longer, I've decided to present the 5 pictures that best portray my experience of visiting the Demilitarized Zone from the South Korean side.

Such heavy surveillance. Don't they realize they can just go look on Facebook?

This is the actual border in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the DMZ. Notice the 3 Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers standing at attention. The 2 at half profile are both protecting themselves so they're a harder target and giving themselves the ability to signal behind them if needed. In the front, there is our US Army sponsored tour guide. The two blue buildings are conference rooms where negotiations can (and have) taken place. In between the two blue buildings, you see a concrete line--that's the border itself. If you look way off in the distance, you can seen directly facing us a North Korean (Korean People's Army) soldier. He is watching our every movement through binoculars.

Apparently, the microphones are left on to record everything in the room. I'm sure we gave someone a few fun things to listen to.

Here's a view from the center of one of the rooms. The microphones on the table represent the border separating North from South Korea. This is along the same parallel as the concrete line just outside. Note that this photo is still within the South Korean border.

How childish. I mean, not like that'd stop us, but still.

And of course, we had to do the typical tourist pose inside the conference room, standing at attention with an ROK soldier. Both of us are technically in North Korean territory since the building is split in the center and we're on the other side of the line. As my travel partner pointed out, though, no passport stamp for crossing this border...

When I'm back, I hope it's as a passenger.

Right next to the JSA is Dorasan Station. If and when North and South Korea are reunited, it will serve as the connection between Seoul and Pyongyang. But perhaps more importantly, once operational, it will also connect the Trans Siberian Railway line to South Korea. In other words, you could take a train from London all the way to Busan, or the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula! But as of now, it sits unused, and overland travel via train from the rest of Asia to South Korea remains but a distant dream.

Not going to lie--playing on railroad tracks is a lot of fun anywhere in the world

And lastly, here we are on the tracks to Pyongyang. Next time...