Thursday, February 15, 2018

Now that's a unique experience

The opportunity to cover the Olympics was something I thought would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. When it came about a second time, I couldn’t say no and I vowed to try and get a little more out of it this time around.
Don’t get me wrong, my experience in Sochi was unlike anything I had ever experienced before but it was almost completely an Olympic experience. My entire time in the country of Russia was dedicated to the Olympics. I think I got a lot out of it in that I saw every venue and many sports and for my first Olympics, that was probably the best thing to do.
The second time around I thought it might be good to take a few different opportunities to explore more than just the Olympic area. The good thing about PyeongChang is it offers that chance every single day.
In Sochi, the Olympics were kind of separated from the community as a whole, making it a bit more difficult to get out and explore the area around the Olympics. In PyeongChang and Gangneung, the Olympics are essentially part of the community. This is especially the case in the mountain cluster of PyeongChang, where the Main Press Center is actually part of the Alpensia Resort. The first day I was here, I walked all around the resort, checking out the many different restaurants and shops and just seeing what was available. I’ve made use of the convenience store and a gift shop and one of the restaurants already.
I also decided to do something even more unique, something I’m excited to write about (and will have a more detailed account). A local tour company offered a number of different tours to members of the media and one of the tours was to the DMZ, or the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea. I signed up for the trip and yesterday (Thursday) was the day.
I boarded a bus in PyeongChang just before 8:30 a.m. and we were on the road, traveling along the eastern coast of Korea while our tour guide discussed the history of Korea and how the two countries came to be separated. Our first stop was the DMZ Museum, which featured a lot of artifacts from days gone by, when the DMZ was much more restrictive than it is now. We then traveled a short distance to an observatory, where we were able to look out over the DMZ and the ocean and see right into North Korea.
It was a bit surreal, truth be told. Yes, it was just a normal coastline with beautiful beaches. But the fences that ran all along the coast told a different story. Given the present political situation, it certainly was a risk to make a journey closer to the border, but this was a once in a lifetime chance you just can’t pass up.
We also made a stop at a beautiful Buddhist temple on the way back to PyeongChang and spent some time wandering the grounds.
While it was just one day (and I had to miss the impressive Mikaela Shiffrin performance), it was worth it to take some time to explore just where I am in the world.
These are the experiences you just don’t forget.

The mountains behind me are in North Korea.

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