Apr. 27th, 2018 – I’ll never forget the day when I was strolling through Itaewon on my way to the club when I ran into a group of Korean guys who were pouring beer in plastic cups and passing them out to random people on the street. Not wanting to be rude, I happily accepted one and drank it with them. I noticed one of the guys in their group was dressed up in body armor made of cardboard and duct tape while the others playfully gave him commands. Since this was only my 2nd time in Korea, I wasn’t sure if this was something normal or a special occasion. Fortunately some of guys spoke English and informed me what was going on—this was a bachelor’s party. A very casual and spontaneous one, apparently. And I was invited! Lucky me~
Since I left America when I was 21 years old, I never had the chance to partake in any wedding parties since I wasn’t old enough to drink. Not many of my friends were mature enough to get married at that age either. Who would have guessed that my first time attending one would be in Korea with a bunch of guys I just met? I had booked a tour to the DMZ the next day, but I figured I could drink and relax for a few hours since it was my first night in town. And this would historically be a night to remember, because the very next day North Korea and South Korea agree to end war. But we wouldn’t know that until the next day…
After hanging out on the street and making conversation with random people, we moved to Awesome Lounge where they had reserved a VIP table. I had been to a number of bars and clubs in Itaewon before, but this was my very first time here. Everyone was extremely friendly and I was honestly having the time of my life. Perhaps too much fun. I remember drinking 1/3 of a bottle of champagne, pole dancing near the side of the VIP area, and losing my pocket wifi out of my purse which later cost me $60. Fortunately I woke up with my wallet and passport the next day though. The club was loud and dark enough so it was the perfect atmosphere to get belligerently intoxicated. South Korea is a very safe country so you really don’t have to worry as long as you can make it back to your hotel. I vaguely remember us going somewhere to get sashimi after the club. It was one of the largest sashimi platters that I had ever seen in my life and man it was amazing! I was happy that I took a picture so I could remember it.
After we finished eating it was near 2am so we happily parted ways. I made sure to thank them for the most lit night in Itaewon ever and wish the cardboard armor guy good luck in his future marriage. If this was just the bachelor’s party, I could only imagine how crazy the wedding party was going to be.
I drunkenly walked back to my hostel called Guesthouse Yacht. Not only is it insanely cheap, but it’s on a hill just over the main street with all the bars and pubs. The perfection combo.
Apr. 28th, 2018 – I woke up hungover but in an extremely elevated mood. I couldn’t believe how crazy my first night out had started. I was missing my pocket wifi, but I figured all the crazy memories from the previous night were more than worth it. I had successfully attended my first bachelor’s party (even though I was a girl) and lived to tell the tale. How often do you get to live out experiences like that?
Anyway, it was time to resurface to reality. I had booked a tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Klook for $45. This tour will take you to the borders of North and South Korea, and you can climb through a tunnel to technically be inside the North Korean border. You can only come here if you book a tour as entry into North Korea is extremely restricted and there is a checkpoint in Paju. However, the tours are completely safe and you will be with an English-speaking guide at all times. Learning about the Cold War and seeing the Four Infiltration Tunnels (that were dug between the borders for a surprise attack) is a rare experience and I was grateful I got the chance to climb through them. The views of North Korea that you can see from the DMZ border are surreal.
My tour group was one of the first to visit after peace was made between the North and the South. I had only figured this out shortly before my tour bus came to pick me up as the news was announced early this day. I had planned this trip during my Golden Week vacation a month in advance and had no idea this was happening. Everyone was in extremely high spirits and it was a great time to be in Korea!
Here are some pictures I took of North Korea. It was neat to see it with my own eyes. With all of the stories of it circulating online you often don’t know what to believe. It looks like there’s an extremely forested area nearby from the border. You wouldn’t even guess that it was North Korea at first:
North Korea is apparently famous for its chocolate soybean candy. Or at least that’s what they want you to think. I tried some at the souvenir shop and it wasn’t my favorite chocolate, but it definitely had a unique taste to it:
Here is a picture of my location within the border to prove I was in North Korea. What’s ironic is North Korea supports Google Maps but South Korea doesn’t. How crazy is that?
Next we visited Dorasan Station (which leads to the capital of North Korea):
Dorasan Station connects the railway between North and South Korea. It is located within the DMZ and has been out of use for years, but serves as a symbol of hope that unification may be possible in the future. You can walk inside it and take pictures, but even though peace was made it will be quite a while before civilians can use it. Apparently goods are transferred through it now, but limited information in English is available.
I was very moved by this tour. Though North Korea has a dangerous reputation, I don’t want to believe that all of its people are bad. I met one Australian girl on my Herb Island Tour later who said she had volunteered there. I can’t remember the details of what she did, but she spent about a week there learning about the culture. Since I am American, I know it is dangerous (and likely still impossible) for me to go, but when it becomes more safe I would really like to do a volunteer program there. I hope in the future it continues to open its borders, as South Korea is a wonderful country that I hold dearly in my heart.