A Peek of North Korea from Ganghwa Island

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in Destinations, Food, Korea, Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 25 comments

Ganghwa Island

This past weekend I headed out to Ganghwa Island to be fascinated by a bit of history, and a peek at North Korea from the Ganghwa Peace Observation Deck. Welcome to week 300 (11/3/2016) of Travel Photo Thursday.  Yes, we’ve reached another milestone. Hard to believe that this link-up has been around since late 2009. If I weren’t so busy correcting midterm essays, I would have baked a cake! 🙂 Join me this week as we have a pleasant lunch in rural Ganghwa Island, and a look into North Korea.

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Traditional Korean Food

The Ganghwa Peace Observation Deck with its birds-eye view of North Korea was the last stop on our full day itinerary.  Before we headed to the northernmost part of the island, and the closest that a person can get to the North while still being in South Korea, we stopped for lunch in a rural village.

The food in Koreas small towns is the best! If you are ever traveling in Korea, be sure to get out of Seoul and into the countryside to sample some Korean fare. This was our gorgeous Korean food spread.  I want to call the egg dish in the middle pajeon, which is Korean pancake. I think this was a bit of a variation on traditional pajeon, and more like an egg frittata. Cooked to perfection and filled with veggies, mainly green onion and red peppers, it was a delight to the taste buds. The pancake itself is not spicy, and if you look to the left, you will see a dish with red sauce. If you like spicy, dip your pajeon in, and voila! You’ve got hot!

The banchan (side dishes) include the three green veggies, harvested from the nearby forest. There is also a bit of radish kimchi and grilled fish. The last small dish on the left is green chili peppers with red chili sauce! These are tongue numbing hot! To the right of the pajeon is a dish made from acorns. The consistency is rather mushy, and not to my liking. It’s one of the few Korean side dishes that I don’t eat. We were also treated to some perfectly aged dongdongju, a Korean rice wine, and made by the restaurant owners.

 

Ganghwa Island

I’m sure that the red chili’s this old lady is drying in the sun will be used in this falls kimchi making.

 

Red Pepper Lady, Ganghwa Island

 

Walking through the village we found this huge cabbage patch, and like the chilis, these cabbages will be used in the upcoming autumn Kimchi making.

 

Ganghwa Island

 

Ganghwa Peace Observation Deck

Our stroll through the village took us to our waiting bus, and we headed off to the Ganghwa Peace Observation Deck, the northernmost most point in South Korea.

From the official brochure:“The Ganghwa Peace Observation Deck enables tourists to glimpse the living environment of North Koreans from the nearest point in South Korea. The Observation Deck, built for cultural and tourism purposes, is expected to broaden mutual understanding between the two Koreas and reform ethnic homogeneity, thereby laying a foundation for peaceful reunification.”

 

Ganghwa Island

North Korea

From these photos everything looks neat and orderly, there aren’t very many people around. I was able to view the North Korea side through a high power telescope. I saw a few people on bicycles riding along unpaved roads. Nobody was working in the fields, and there was no farm equipment visible. I could also see several small “suburbs” of lovely white homes. I did see one man driving towards one on his bicycle. There were no cars. The entire scene looks surreal, and I’m sure is staged for the tourist’s eyes.

 

View of North Korea from Ganghwa Island

 

The whole area is surrounded by barb wire, and there are sentries. We learned that there are many sentries on the North Korean side also, but hidden from view. I’m not sure why. That’s how it is.

View of North Korea from Ganghwa Island

View of North Korea from Ganghwa Island

 

As you can see, it’s a beautiful area. Until last Sunday, I didn’t know that Ganghwa Island existed, and although I was aware that Seoul is not far from North Korea I hadn’t realized that the distance is less than two hours driving. I do hope that the North continues to keep their guns and weaponry on their side, and not decide to unleash anything on Seoul for the foreseeable future, if ever.

I made my way to Ganghwa Island on a tour offered through the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS). The Society offers numerous tours, and I highly recommend them if you are visiting Seoul, and want to experience life outside of Seoul, and quite often a little off the beaten track. Tours leave from Seoul between 8 am, and 9 am and return the same day. There are some overnight trips as well. You don’t have to be a RAS member to join a tour.

Please welcome our co-hosts this week:  Ruth from Tanama Tales  Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations

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25 Comments

  1. Gangwha Island looks beautiful and not what I would expect of Korea. Such a contrast of cultures between North and South Korea and hopefully the north will keep their weaponry to themselves.

    • Hi, Kathy. Yes, it’s hard to believe that they were once one country.

  2. So glad you shared this – looks like a fantastic tour especially for one who wants to get outside of Seoul, like me. The views of North Korea look so placid and idyllic but I guess that is how they want it to look.

    • Hi, Jill. I think this is propaganda at its finest. However, it seems that at least a few people in the North are leading comfortable lives. I think you’ll enjoy the Korean countryside, and I am a big fan of the Royal Asiatic Tours. I’ve managed to see many places here that would have been tough to get to on my own.

  3. I can’t stand it when you post food photos!! You make me salivate! I am only having my coffee!

    North Korea looks a little surreal.

    • Hi, Jackie! Haha, sorry about that 🙂 Yes, it is dressed up for the tourists peeking in from South Korea!

  4. What an interesting experience! It’s so beneficial to have a personal connection to actual places and things that you constantly hear about in the international news. I’d love to make a trip there someday.

    • Hi, CT. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and Korea can be an interesting place to visit. For Westerners, it is an off the beaten path destination, and I think for many that makes it more appealing.

  5. That Korean pancake looks delicious! I didn’t realize you were that close to N Korea either! This was such an interesting tour for you. I would have loved visiting the small villages but even a glimpse into North Korea is worth it. The whole area looks beautiful!

    • Hi, Mary. The pancake was fantastic! Gangwha Island is beautiful, and it’s always nice to get outside of Seoul, and its frantic non-stop pace.

  6. Wow! I had no idea about this place. It gives an interesting glimpse into a secretive country. Congratulations on the linky’s milestone. It has been around before I started my blog. Hope it continues inspiring adventures for many more years.

    • Hi, Ruth. Thanks! I never thought about the linky going for this long when I originally started it back then. It’s fun, so I’ll keep it going for as long as there’s interest. 🙂

  7. What a thrill to actually get a glimpse of North Korea although it must have been a bit unsettling too. Loved your photos of the countryside and especially the pic of the woman spreading out her chilis for drying – the colors really pop! It’s fun to see life in South Korea’s small villages but (just sayin’!) it was your description of the food that really caught my interest. 🙂

    • Hi, Anita. It’s usually the food that gets me too! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. The countryside here is such a contrast to Seoul. Makes for some interesting photo opportunities.

    • Hi, Anita. That was a delicious lunch! I’d go back again just to eat. 🙂

  8. How awesome you got to see North-Korea with your own eyes without acctually visiting! I didn’t even know about this opportunity, but if I should ever go to Seoul and South-Korea, I will definitely follow your guidelines. Btw, how are prices there?

    • Hi, Kreete! Accommodation can be quite expensive. As long as you eat in small local restaurants, food is affordable. However, be sure to take a walk through a large grocery store, and you will be astounded at how expensive food is here. Excellent, cheap subway system. Transportation is probably one of the most reasonable things in Korea. Thanks for linking up this week! #TPThursday

  9. This story about seeing North Korea from Ganghwa Island reminds me of our fascinating trip up to the border. It’s all pretty creepy, isn’t it, how both sides watch each other so suspiciously.

    • Hi, Rachel! I agree, creepy indeed. The South tends not to hide their lookouts but no so in the case of the North Korean lookouts facing Ganghwa Island.

  10. Have never been to Korea. Thx for sharing this post about North Korea with us, Nancie. It does indeed look like a fascinating destination.

    • Hi, Doreen! If you ever have the opportunity drop over. 🙂 Many flights from North America do a stop over in Seoul on their way to other Asian destinations.

  11. I’ve never been to Korea but you certainly showed the interesting contrasts to from the North and South. I have to admit that I’d love to try the food looks pretty tasty.

    • Hi, Sue! I think you would enjoy traditional Korean food. Korea offers some interesting and tasty dishes not found anywhere else.

  12. Nice pictures, and I was glad to be reminded of the pajeon egg dish – a favorite discovery when we were there earlier this year. Thanks.

  13. This is the first I’ve heard of Gangwha Island in Korea. Looks like an interesting place to visit.

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