I had found the discount tickets for the low cost carrier Peach Airlines, and everyone was able to select a round-trip seat for less than $200. However, we learned a few things flying on the cheapest airline we could find. We had to take a bus from the airy domestic terminal at the Naha airport to an unfinished terminal surrounded by warehouses that housed the lower cost airlines. Matt and I only had carry-on bags, but security weighed them to make sure nobody went over 10 kilograms. We had to stop and move some items from Matt's backpack to mine in order to fit that requirement. We were then ushered to a waiting area with no food options and one drink vending machine. Fortunately we had already packed snacks since we knew the airline did not even offer free water to passengers. The plane was delayed about an hour, and when we finally boarded we had to exit the building and walk up the stairs on the tarmac. It was worth the time delayed and lack of luxury to us in order to save money for our next vacation, but anyone flying Peach airlines in the future should be prepared to wait in a bare terminal.
The next day David had arranged for an early morning bus tour to visit the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone around the border between North and South Korea). The bus driver gave us the history of the Korean War as we traveled North, and it was fascinating to hear about the war from a South Korean's point of view. I don't believe the Korean War was covered in very much detail in high school history class, so I really did learn a good bit about the causes of the war. We listened to the tour guide as he led us through a museum, looked through high-powered binoculars into North Korea, and toured a train station that was completed to connect the two countries before North Korea refused to allow the trains to run.
The high point of the tour is when we were given the opportunity to walk through the third tunnel that was built for North Korean soldiers to invade South Korea. North Korea has denied that they built it (of course), and had coated the walls with coal to make it look like a mining tunnel (although coal is not found in that area). We were given hard hats and walked down a steep, long slope to get to the tunnel that is 240 feet below ground. We thought the hard hats were just a silly precaution for tourists, but the long walk down the tunnel was punctuated by the sound of my taller companions repeatedly hitting their heads on rocks and knocking their helmets askew. Apparently I am the proper size for a North Korean soldier as I barely had to crane my neck at all. The long walk back to the surface was even more painful than the walk down, and as a result I had to take aspirin for my sore legs the remainder of the trip.
The low point of the tour was the last stop where, instead of allowing us to end the tour and buy lunch, we were ushered to a ginseng center. We were guided through a museum that assured us that ginseng prevents cancer and into a closed room where people in suits attempted to sell us various ginseng products. It was very mafia-like and unrelated to the DMZ and I was HUNGRY. I was happy when we were allowed back onto the bus and dropped off near the hotel to find food.