DMZ Tour Part 12: Korean Souvenirs

DMZ Tour Part 12: Korean Souvenirs

As an atlas freak and a travel nomad, I have picked up a total addiction for collecting souvenirs. Not even in a normal way I’m afraid. For example, I keep a plastic flimsy (folder/poly pocket) for EVERY new place I visit, whether it be a country, city or even just a tour. If there’s enough memorabilia to fill a flimsy then I will.

From almost every location I go, I send my kid brother Danny a postcard (he only just turned 18 on the 7th April 2012 – and his collection of cards from my travels dates back to 2003) for a start. Here’s the collection…

So in essence this is a postcard with a photo of the place I was at, a stamp, a story and a journey. Epic. I’m pretty surprised my postcards from places such as Paraguay, Antarctica and Hualien made it back to Bangor, Northern Ireland.

Over the years I have collected everything from football programmes, keyrings, badges, postcards, stamps, coins, banknotes, travel books, travel guides, receipts, entry tickets and any random souvenir really. Though in recent times, I’ve been a lightweight traveller, preferring not to carry a big bag.

However the DMZ was a once in a lifetime trip for me, rather like Antarctica or Machu Picchu so souvenirs were the forte.

A ticket for station entry at Dorasan…next train to Pyongyang please.

A passport stamp from Dorasan, heading over the border to North Korea?

Well, for show at least. I did venture north of the border of course, but not by train. The line doesn’t actually cross the border. The souvenir shop there probably makes a hell of a lot of money from gullible tourists. Of which I’m one.

DMZ Chocolates.

Many souvenirs from the first proper souvenir shop of the day – inside Dorasan Station.

Our stop at Imjingak proved the most interesting souvenir wise, with a huge range of North Korean alcohol available. I couldn’t find my longed for NK beer, which I had also promised a tin for Neil, they didn’t have any. So I settled for a bottle of authentic North Korean Blueberry Wine. More on that later…

North Korean food. This was so surreal – like a throwback to communist USSR or Poland. Is this for real?? Who really knows! Nice souvenir to have, but I didn’t buy any.

In it’s green box, Korean writing only, and no elaborate promotion gimmicks or anything…this was my bottle of Paektusan Blueberry Wine, all the way from North Korea. At least I could give Neil a shot of it to make up for the lack of beer – I later shared it at a house party in Seoul…

It was gorgeous I have to say and I regretted not buying a few bottles of the stuff! Would definitely recommend it. Next stop will be to try North Korean beer or a Guinness on the border.

This is me on the tour bus to Panmunjom pretending to drink the North Korean wine.

The elusive North Korean banknotes. Didn’t pick up any coins though, and have a few old stamps already. As far as I know, it is illegal for any tourist or foreigner to spend these or remove these from North Korean. Currency for foreigners there I’m led to believe is the dreaded Euro for some reason…the weirdest thing about these banknotes for me was that I bought them using South Korean Won. Yes, I paid South Korean Won to buy North Korean Won. Something odd about that transaction but as a collector, I got on with it…

Plenty of souvenirs on sale at this stand on Freedom Bridge, where I picked up the banknotes.

Paying South Korean Won for North Korean Won…

North Korean Won. No idea how much it’s worth…

There was also a massive souvenir shop at the JSA – which included flags of all the United Nations. North Korea and Northern Ireland flags were missing.

Nice ceramic/clay models at the JSA.

More military badges. I actually collect badges/iron on patches for a green Northern Ireland fleece and I sew or iron them on as I go. I managed to buy 3 of these here, plus my North Korea one…

North Korea flag – iron on patch.

My green Northern Ireland fleece and badges.

More North Korean spirits including a whiskey. These were on sale at the JSA souvenir shop. Again the North Korean beer eluded me, which was highly disappointing.

In the week and wake of Kim Jong Il’s death, it was great to pick up some old notes too – no longer in circulation these ones. One from 1978.

Shop at the JSA.

We each had to wear a UNCMAC Guest tag at all times on the Camp Bonifas, JSA and Panmunjom part of the tour. As much as I wanted to keep it as a souvenir, they had to be handed back in…:-(

I also wouldn’t have minded one of these to hang up behind the bar I build someday. Nice wee souvenir that – a blue hard hat from The Third Tunnel. But I handed mine back in of course.

South Korean Won, which I used to buy North Korean Won with…

I also love collecting T-shirts so I bought a DMZ one – love it.

I kept my underground ticket for that day too. This was for Seoul to get from the hostel to the start of the tour.

And I kept my tour coupon as well of course. A ticket to North Korea!

On board the bus with my Lonely Planet book on the North Korea page and reading the wee booklet they give you…

My souvenirs and keepsakes from the DMZ tour in their entirety!! And this was only from 1 day of travelling. Keep collecting. Keep travelling!

All my other North Korea Articles can be found here: Backpacking North Korea

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