Last Thursday, after my Korean language class, I finally went to a jimjilbang, a Korean spa/sauna, and oh boy it was awesome! Actually, it reminded me very much about the capsule hotels we tried during our trip to Japan. The concept in both facilities is basically the same: you go there to relax and possible to sleep as well. One could even say that the capsule hotels are just jimjilbangs with a sleeping capsule 🙂 In the place we went on Thursday, they had a few pools with different temperature (one of them was labelled “Event Pool”, but we couldn’t figure out the deeper meaning of that), a cold pool, a jacuzzi and two different saunas, a dry one (80c) and a moist one (60c). After soaking yourself in pools and relaxing in saunas, you can put on a robe and head to the common area, where you can continue relaxing by lying down on hot rocks, watching tv, sleeping or by trying out one of those massage chairs (the foot massage machine was surprisingly good!). They also had an igloo room with a temperature of 3 Celsius, in case you wanted to do some shock treatment 🙂 Oh, and they also had a restaurant where which served some delicious noodle soups and some other dishes. I think we spent some 3 hours there, and I can assure you that after coming home I slept like a baby!
On Saturday I attended a trip to the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, despite the overall bad feeling I was experiencing due to the long previous night that extended to the very morning (it turned out that some of us didn’t even make it to the bus ^^). I think it was really interesting to visit the DMZ since even though it’s only one hour bus ride from Seoul, you just don’t feel the presence of it from inside Seoul. Of course there is no ongoing warfare between the countries, but occasionally shots are fired between the troops of both sides, and the chances of turning the current armistice into an actual peace treaty seems very slim even in the long term.
Our tour bus took us to many spots inside the DMZ, but I think visiting the 3rd infiltration tunnel was perhaps the most exciting part of the trip. Roughly 70 meters underground, the North Korean troops tried to dig a tunnel from NK to Seoul so that they could make a surprise invasion there. Four tunnels have been discovered by SK troops so far, and the longest of them would have been 120km in length, if it would have been ever completed. I don’t even try to guess the number of hours the poor NK soldiers have had to spend in those dark tunnels making their way forward, meter by meter. But at least one can conclude that the want to attack the South has been extremely persistent in the northern side. Unfortunately taking pictures inside the tunnels was not allowed.
Generally, the possibilities to take photographs were limited, and usually in the places it was allowed there was absolutely nothing interesting to capture. One of the last stops on the tour was a place were you could actually see the North Korean villages inside the DMZ and the world’s tallest flagpole with the NK flag”waving” in the wind. Apparently there is also one South Korean village inside the DMZ, where the farmers earn some serious money because they get the land for free and also some government subsidies for residing there. The land is also virtually pollution free, and boasts a variety of wildlife not seen in other ares in Korea.
The temperature in Seoul has dropped dramatically in the recent weeks and the campus area is gorgeous with the foliage as the leaves are turning red and brown. We are planning to hide the Gwanak mountain under which the campus resides, and enjoy the piece of art offered by mother nature 🙂 I took some pictures of the places I usually walk by when going down to the Business School and I’ll upload a few of them here: