The Cold Northerly Winds – The Last Frontier of the Cold War

My visit to Korea was full of surprises (sprained knee included). I have included photos of my trip there in the gallery section of my blog, so you can have a look there. To cut a long short, I will first write about my visit to the de-militarized zone (DMZ). (By the way, the pictures you see here are not in chronological order. You can check out more photos under my photo gallery. You can access it via the navigation bar above.)

Panmunjom, the village near the DMZ, is located some 56 kilometers from Seoul.

The Cold War had always intrigued me. In fact, knowing full well of the potential danger that lies ahead of me, curiosity got the better of me, and after much thinking, I decided that it was somehow worth the risk, to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to see the last frontier of the cold war.

Unifying a divided country. It takes two hands to clap

Just how risky you may ask? It depends. Firstly, the two Koreas are still at war, technically. Secondly, you may be asked to sign an indemnity form, to indemnify the United Nations Armistice Committee and the US Army against anything tragic that might happen (touch wood) to you, if you decide to visit Panmunjom and the United Nations Joint Security Area (JSA).

Mount Dora Station. The last station in South Korea, connecting to North Korea.

A visit to the DMZ is not complete without a tour guide, as a guide can be quite informative. What about going alone? Nope, getting about on your own is just not possible, due to the inherent danger that lurks ahead. Mines are scattered all over the place in the millions. Barbed wire fences, machine gun turrets. Anti-tank explosives. Well, you get the idea.

Prayers for a peaceful reunification of the two Koreas.

Sounds serious enough to deter you from ever visiting the place? It shouldn’t. A visit to the DMZ is basically divided into two parts, depending on the tour you are following. The first part is the ‘normal’ tour, which takes you to several places of interest near the DMZ (more on that later). The second part, is the one you should prepare for in advance. The second part involves a visit right into the heart of the DMZ. Yes, right into the no-man’s-land, the 4 kilometer wide buffer zone that separates the two Koreas. People were killed there before, so do behave yourself! The tour bus will stop at one of the checkpoints and an American GI will do a security check on everyone in the bus before you are allowed to disembark the bus and head for Camp Bonifas. The place is, at least from first impressions, quite tourist friendly, and you can’t be faulted for thinking that the place is a tad bit too touristy to be a war zone, but the JSA authorities have done much to make you feel right at home over there. Nonetheless, the element of danger still lurks, and the threat of an invasion from the north is very real. You have been warned.

The JSA Visitor Center, Camp Bonifas.

If you do intend to actually get into the JSA, it is paramount that you prepare your passport. Be informed that citizens from Malaysia and Singapore, among other countries, will need to submit scan-outs of their passports at least one week in advance to the Panmunjom Tour Office at the Lotte Hotel near the Korea Tourism Organization office. The background check is necessary as this is a high-risk zone and I suppose you can’t have someone with malicious intent going there to start an second Korean War. Jokes aside.

The Joint Security Area.

¬†The JSA area (as seen above) is the real deal. That white building you see up ahead from where the blue conference buildings stand is the Panmungak, the North Korean JSA office. You you observe carefully, there is this pesky North Korean officer scrutinizing us through his binoculars. Makes us look like museum exhibits or wild animals in cages. Sheesh…

Photography in the JSA is limited to certain areas as they can’t afford to have photos of the site leak to the North Koreans which can prove to be strategically advantageous to them.

I could go on writing¬† but I think I’ll stop here. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own.

Want to go to Pyongyang?

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Blogger’s New Look – Inteface Done Right

Since Eric Schidmt stepped down as CEO of Google, there have been some incredible changes in the way Google works. Among these sweeping changes include a ‘beefing up’ of the user experience overall, of Google’s services, notably, Blogger and Google Photos. Seems like Google is finding an avenue to retire their Picasa Web services, but that is just a wild guess.

Having been blogging for these couple of years, I had for some time been deliberating as to whether or not I should make a switch for WordPress. However, the changes made to Google’s blogging platform has seen a more user-friendly interface, making heavy use of AJAX and HTML 5.

As a result, saving your drafts and posting them can be done in a flash. No waiting for whole pages to reload. Yay!

Happy blogging everyone!

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Switch is switching!

Pardon the rather uninspiring title. I was given the privilege to cover the event for the day, and what might be that big happening for that day you might ask?

Switch in Kuching is now an Apple Premium Reseller. Yay!

Switch, an Apple Premium Reseller (no, they don’t sell fruits) traces its humble origins to Gelugor, Penang, West Malaysia. Following Apple Inc’s phenomenal comeback, Switch has expanded its presence through the entire country and has recently made inroads into our beloved Hornbill state of Sarawak.

Switch was, until very recently, only an ‘authorised reseller’, meaning they were limited to selling only certain Apple products, but now being a premium reseller, you now have access to Apple’s full range of premium products. Not bad for a first in East Malaysia.

Compared to their old corner lot, the new lot they currently occupy is HUGE, at least as far as floor space is concerned. The store does seem a bit sparse, but then, every measurement is made to Apple’s standard, so it could be a requirement for the store layout and design.

iPad2..wheee..

The new store is adorned with Apple’s trademark colours of white and black. iPads, iPods and iPhones lined up neatly on white display stands.

Participant participating in a Fruit Ninja competition. Winners walked away with a goodie bag!

It was a very busy day for the Switchers (Switch’s staff are called ‘Switchers’, at least that is what their T-shirts tell us). The day was packed with activities ranging from a Fruit Ninja competition during which winners walked away with a goodie bag each. Prize allocation was based on who is able to score the highest. I could barely make it past the 170 mark!

It was unfortunate that I had to leave early, but all things being equal, we now know where to get the latest Apple gadgetry. Long live Switch!

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