Panmunjom features prominently on most North Korea tours. The drive to Kaesong takes about 2 hours on a quiet highway. A rest stop lies half way with plenty of souvenirs on sale.
I encountered quite a few traffic jams in Pyongyang. But once you leave the city limits, you rarely come across another vehicle on the road.
We parked at the visitors' centre and were told not to photograph the military officers. So I looked for a propaganda poster instead.
Although still technically at war, the North Koreans I encountered did not appear to show animosity to their South Korean counterparts. The anger was particularly aimed at Americans.
A guide explained what to expect before heading into the truce village. We were just outside the gate on the right, while the buildings where negotiations take place are on the left where the blue and white buildings lie. Panmunjom is actually only 55km from Seoul, lodged within the Demilitarized Zone along the heavily-armed border.
The border runs through the buildings. On top is the South Korean side.
After the briefing, we boarded our tour bus and headed into a barbwire-lined road with traps that block it off in case invaders come this way. We stopped at a few buildings before reaching the truce village. The North Korea Peace Museum displays the armistice agreement with the UN flag in a display case.
Outside, you can see the 2 sides' flags set against the blue sky. We were told this part of the border area is active farmland. From the arrangement of the vegetation, it seemed a plausible explanation.
I recall from past visits to the DMZ on the south side that photographing the other side (north) was not allowed. Vice versa does not apply. We were free to photograph the buildings on the south side as we descended the steps to the border buildings.
South Korean and American soldiers were nowhere in sight today. With the bright sunshine and a carnival of Chinese tourists, this border didn't seem so tense after all.
The border actually runs through the building. It is marked by the concrete line on the below right. Only 1 side can occupy the building at any time. We could freely cross into the building's south side. 2 soldiers guarded the exit to South Korea. 1 of them was kind enough to advise a tourist who dropped his water onto the floor.
Yes, that is a Samsung air conditioner inside.
We then went up the observation building on the north side to see the wide view from their balcony.
Next stop would not be Seoul, but back to Pyongyang.