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Catching up...

March 28th, 2009 (10:21 pm)
current location: Busan, South Korea
current song: Katt Williams Comedy DVD

Sasabo, Japan was too short a visit to begin with. Having a working port for those three days made it even shorter. Made the best of what little time I had though.

After pulling in to Sasabo I was pretty excited to get out and enjoy the sites. This had to take a back burner to the fact that one of my shipmates needed to have a liberty buddy in order to hit the base's barbershop. The line chewed up a couple hours of our limited time left that day but we did finally manage to explore the base itself, during which I managed to find a weird multi-colored kangaroo to sit and have my picture taken on.  The fun was taken down a couple notches though, while getting some food at the food court I noticed some news about my home state. Seems that a plane had crashed there in an area close to my home, so this made me a little worried. Found the liberty center soon after and proceeded to email family. Soon after I found out the plane had been over loaded and that had most likely caused the crash.  After enjoying the liberty center a little more we both decided to call it a day.

The next day I went out with a couple of people that wanted to do some exploring. Unfortunately this exploration didn't include several of the trails that were nearby that had caches on them but we did have fun. There is a covered street that we went through looking at the shops and restaurants until coming to its end and finding a noodle place to eat at called RARARA. We each tried various types of noodle bowls while discussing the history of the Coca cola bottle...hehehe, anything to keep from discussing shop I guess. Making our way back to base we hit a pachinko parlor and had fun watching as one of our number tried their luck. By the time this was over it was time to head back to the base and get back to the ship. The next day saw me on duty but with the bonus of knowing that the next day would be liberty in Busan, South Korea.

First day in Busan (also known as Pusan) was interesting. The bus dropped us off in front of Texas Street, the hairs on the back of my neck were already tingling, and as my liberty buddy and I made our way through my premonitions bore fruit in the form of various hawk shops and other forms of separating sailors from their money and nothing to show for it. Flipped on the gps and decided to show my shipmate a better view other then the squalor that was currently in front of us.

A couple flights of stairs had us at the entrance to a hiking trail and the liberty buddy was already professing doubts to wanting to go further... The reason, he grew up in Chicago and was firmly grounded in the city life, coming out of it made him uncomfortable. I promised him that when we were finished he would thank me, so we went on up the trail. The ground was well traveled but broken so that made progress slow as I allowed him to come into his own rhythm on the trail as we proceeded farther up the hill. As we rounded a bend I compared the point on my gps with what I was seeing around me and I pointed at our destination. Not much sound came from him but I knew that going up to a little pavilion wasn't high on the list of the things he'd rather be doing.

The end of our endeavor drew close and I became pretty focused on getting to the top. I believe the words my shipmate used were "possessed Billy goat" as I scrambled over the rocks and loose dirt to finally reach the top. A short pause to enjoy the view of nearly the entire city of Busan followed before homing in on the object that brought us to the place. The cache was large enough to have random items like key chains and pins so that was cool but after signing the log and putting it back we had to return to the main reason the cache was even placed up where it was. The view was awesome; "This is awesome and I despise you at the same time" came from my cohort as we took pictures of the surrounding area and then made our way down to find something to eat before returning to the ship. Dinner was Chinese, surprisingly, my dish was a noodle bowl with pork with a side of Chinese hot rolls. My shipmate had some noodles with beef in black bean paste. Afterwards we made a stop at a Dunk'en Donuts before going back to the ship.

*If you received the email detailing the Kyongju tour, most of the information is the same with additional information provided due to more time available for typing :D*

The second day was the Kyongju Cultural Tour where we visited Bulguksa Temple, Tumulus Park and The South Korean National Museum. The city itself is incredibly old, having a history going back to 57 BC. Going there and visiting some of the sites was like going back in time. Our tour group was fairly small so that made it rather easy to quickly get the information we needed then go about our own to explore the areas.

Our first stop was at the Tumulus park where multiple kings from the Silla Kingdom had been buried. The tombs themselves ranged from nearly two stories to seven feet in height. From the outside it looked like a natural hill but the entire construction of stone and dirt was piled on top of the wooden caskets and various items they placed as tribute. It was pretty interesting to see how detailed the artifacts from such an ancient kingdom were, it boggled the mind how much time the spent putting some of the pieced together. I also managed to find a geocache in the area before we had to leave. Luckily I was able to peel off from the main group early and hit the cache while the main herd of tourists was going through the main tomb. Grabbing the cache wasn’t hard and I took some pictures of it and the Traveler I had with me before I tried to place it back, it was a little difficult due to the multitude of people arriving in bus after bus for tours and the gate being nearly right in front of the cache.

Second stop was the South Korean National Museum. The grounds had hundreds of statues and pillars depicting everything from people, deities, animals and zodiac signs. The artifacts inside consisted of mainly religious icons of the Buddist faith but there were a lot of historical artifacts as well such as everyday items like bowls, jewelry, tiles, and containers to constructed items like a wooden boat, and examples of framework for buildings. Again the detail of the many of the items was fantastic, made me wonder how long some things took to complete when they depicted details like feathers and scales.

Before our last stop we had a meal at a Korean buffet. The choices were numerous, fish, chicken, beef; noodles of various types, rice, and vegetables were put together in various ways cooked, uncooked, and fried. After filling my plate I sat down with some of the tour group as we discussed our plan of attack on each of our own plates. I managed to down nearly everything except for some freshly cut fish that seemed to be nothing but spinal columns. As I headed outside I caught site of some windmills and snapped some quick pictures before heading onto the bus for our next destination.

The last stop was at the Bulguksa temple were we walked through the gates and were greeted by the four huge statues that were supposed to depict deities for each of the cardinal directions. Inside the gate the colors and pictures painted on the buildings were awesome because the artwork seemed to fill every nook and cranny available. Inside the shrines themselves the statues that depicted Buddha in each of his forms were brightly polished and stood about nine feet tall. It was pretty interesting to get to the end of the tour and see one of the buildings nearly surrounded by hundreds of little pillars of rocks; I thought it was amusing even as a Japanese girl and her boyfriend tried to make their own.

 Now for the main event…

Last time we were in Donghae I was unable to attend the DMZ trip due to being on duty. This year I was very dismayed to find out that I would have duty again on the same day. The cards seemed already stacked against me, people from the ship had mis-used their watch stander liberty and there was a crackdown going against it and a change of command was going to be going on onboard a nearby ship that the duty section was most likely going to help out with. All of this and the fact that having such a short notice that we were even going to have this port made routing the proper paper work to go on the trip a dicey deal at best.

All I can say is a miracle happened, the planets aligned, hell froze over, and my request was approved for the DMZ tour. I have to say that this was one of the times that my command chain worked and it was fantastic…I know  your probably wondering how the trip was so I’ll get on with it.

After getting back from the Kyongju Cultural Tour and being shocked by the fact that my chit had made it through I hurriedly packed my back pack in anticipation for the next day and tried to get some sleep. Excitement had me tossing and turning from eight till ten and with the tour leaving at three the next morning I was glad to get to sleep soon after ten and woke up with a spring in my step at two am.

The bus rumbled off a little after three am and we made our first stop at a quick stop at five. Give a Geocacher ten minutes and we will find a cache somewhere…and I did. Managed to make the find with three minutes to spare and got back on the bus to head farther up North. The second stop we made was to get breakfast at seven. I’m really not a cooked food type of person in the morning unless it is to prepair for a long day so I snagged a bag of chips and some coffee.

We made it to Camp Bonifas at nine O’clock. We had arrived a little early so we had to sit and wait for another bus. This gave us an opportunity to watch a helicopter come right over the bus and land about forty feet away before our security escort came on the bus and cleared us to enter the base. Getting briefed about the DMZ was an educational experience and it was done well by our security escort despite his being ill. After filling out the forms saying we didn’t mind getting shot at and possibly dying while on the tour we were on our way.

*Note to self, do not let mother know I filled out that form…*

We passed by the one hole golf course that was surrounded by three sides by live mine fields and proceeded to pull up to the family reunification center. Ironically named due to the fact the North Korea stopped letting its people go to the South anymore. We were able to walk through and step out on the back steps and take pictures of the South Korean side of the military demarcation line. The air was pretty tense with some Joint Security guards on either side of use and more in front of us. On the South Korean Side we just saw one guard outside the building but you still could see activity through the windows and a huge pair of binoculars watching us as well.

After the pictures we went into the meeting hall between the reunion center and the South Korean post. More guards were in there with us but they allowed us to stand by them and take pictures. Afterwards we piled into the bus and made a slow circle around the park where a Soviet defector made a mad dash for freedom, causing one of the more noticeable incidents at the Joint Security Area.

We drove up to a guard houses that is surrounded on three sides by South Korea and we were able to see how all of the trees had been cut down on the Northern side and jamming towers put up. It is amazing that a country would do so much to prevent its own citizen’s access beyond its own boarders.

After going to take a closer look at the “Bridge of no Return” and the memorial put up to honor the people killed in the axe murder incident, of which the camp also received it’s name, we made our way back out of the JSA to one of the tunnels dug by the North to invade the south. Even someone with very limited knowledge of what a coal mine is would have recognized that the coal smears over the granite in the tunnel was a pretty thin lie to convince the South that it was a coal mine instead of an invasion route.

Our next two stops covered another observation point where people could use binoculars to look into the North and a train station that was built in the hope that the two Korea’s come together again in the future. Leaving you could almost feel the tension finally ebbing away as we finally headed back to Busan.

Will do my best to get some pictures up soon.


Posted by: boiler1 (boiler1)
Posted at: March 28th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)

there are a lot of things we should not tell our mothers

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