Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 1 2
Results 31 to 54 of 54

Thread: North Korea trip report

  1. #31
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    Quote Originally Posted by julia
    From the photos, it appears that NK streets and locales are so clean as to be almost surreal. Did you see any litter, anywhere?
    No doubt certain places are kept more clean than others but overall it was quite a clean country and there was no noticeable amount of litter. It does help littering when you lack everything and need to use everything to the last piece.

    In general the people also dresses surprisingly well but it's also common that when you have only a pair or two of clothes, you do keep as good care of them as possible.

  2. #32
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    North Korean iPad

    Well, this didn't happen during the trip but just saw this today:

    At the Pyongyang hotel there was a tailor shop and (again) with the swedes we decided to have some clothes made. The lady running the tailor shop was keen to sell us "a traditional north korean dress"

    It would have been bad taste to try to have an Kim Jong Il suit tailored for you but "traditional north korean outfit" was perfectly fine.

    We went for the jackets alone in navy blue. Something one might be able to use -- in the 80's or so.

    And talking of clothes, you may have seen those Kim Il Sung pins everyone in North Korea seems to wear. That's the old model, the new ones have both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il who died in December 2011. The pins are very personal and NK people receive them when they become teenagers (or something like that). It's really a precious thing and everyone looks after their. It would be really offensive to try to buy one from a north korean.

    Anyway the tailor shop was on second floor but the lift didn't stop there. For the first fitting (yes, it was tailor made!) I took some stairs and ended up in a dark room. There was some north korean guy sitting on the floor using a PC.

    So NK isn't totally "off the grid".
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #33
    andynap is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 43,934
    Do you have anymore pictures? LOL


  4. #34
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    A few more :)

  5. #35
    Dennis is online now
    Senior Insider Joined: Apr 2004 Austin, TX Posts: 9,555
    Keep posting.

    Great report!

  6. #36
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968

    En route to the DMZ/JSA we stayed one night in Kaesong, a small but old city near the border. Kaesong was the capital of Korea during the Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392) and it's one of the very few places where some old buildings in North Korea are left.

    Unlike the "modern" hotels we spent a night in a traditional Korean guesthouse. Not that there were any other guests but overall the place had very charming grounds. The facilities were pretty primitive so it was more about sleeping on the heated floor the traditional way and leaving the shower to the next possible moment. and easy with the toilet..

    The guesthouse had also an opportunity to try traditional korean dress for one euro. After a few beers, no trouble getting volunteers from Singapore and the Netherlands.

    A bottle of North Korean beer. This is actually superb, really excellent stuff. I believe the reason for such a good beer in the north is DDR (East Germany) and the country even has micro breweries.

    Some people say that unification would mean that South Korea would get better beer and better looking ladies.

    As always, the hotel premises had an extensive book shop with plenty of interesting material.

    Wondering off the limits was not encouraged but can't you see how inviting this gate is? And it was closed just a moment ago.

    That's one small step for a man, one giant leap to the north korean soil. As expected, the hotel premises were being taken care of. The police doesn't seem to mind. In fact he looks just curious.

    The small step off the hotel keeps an opportunity to see people from the more real North Korea, not the tourist sites, nor the "fancy Pyongyung capital".

    Considering how much we know about North Korea one cannot stop wondering what are these people, what are they doing, how are they daily lives spent.

    But back to the official programming. A visit to the Kim Il-Sung statue on a hill next to Kaesong. The statue was lit during the night and it was quite weird sight, even visible from the guest house.

    We actually got strict instructions how to photograph the Kim statues. Never from the back. Never just one part of the body. Never any disgraceful photographs of them. Very religious stuff.

    Kaesong city view. Unfortunately we were not allowed to wonder around the old town.

  7. #37
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968

    Some random scenery en route. In principal we were not allowed to take photographs of people but the guides didn't seem to mind us taking photos from the bus between places.

    The rules are simply that one should not take any photographs that put North Korea or North koreans into bad light. When you return back home, your photographs will be checked and you will need to delete everything that they ask you to. Obviously this meant that I took copies of everything on my laptop and put them on a hidden directory as well.

    I flew back to Beijing and nobody cared about my camera or photographs. Most of the group took the train back to Beijing and on that train the officials have several hours time to check through your things. What I heard from the swedes is that nothing was deleted and they had great fun looking through the pictures with the officials, laughing at some funny poses they did.

    Beginning of the Freedom Highway from Pyongyang to Seoul. Not exactly the sight you'd expect from the country's main highway, is it?

    What this country needs is some agricultural help. Potatoes and other similar food that is easy to grow, fit perfectly in the climate and feed the people.

    And some basic machinery. The amount of manual labour was just stunning, this was one of the rare sights where animals were used to help.

    Kids are always amazing. It's hard to think these kids were yet brainwashed to wave to foreigners or they'll be shot. It was more natural. The adults had much harder time to make any contact and usually just turned around if you tried to take a photo of them.

    Showing emotion publicly doesn't belong to the culture here anyway. The ancestors to Japanese people are from Korea and the japanese and koreans are basicly close cousins.

  8. #38
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    Juche Tower

    The Tower of Juche Idae is a 170 meter (560 fet) tower in Pyongyang, with 25500 blocks, one for each day of Kim Il Sung's life. The's modeled on the Washington Monument but it's slightly taller -- obviously.

    The Juche Idea is the political thesis of Kim Il Sung, based on belief that man is the master of everything and decides everything. Whatever, I don't know anything about it. One of the swedes bought a book on it, read it during the trip and said that it was all nonsense. As with every religion we humans have a weird need to believe something.

    The tower is on a nice square with relevant statues and water features.

    And nice views towards the city as well over the river.

    And from the tower there are great views across the city.

    Our hotel on the island.

  9. #39
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,985
    In other news:

    North Korean army minister 'executed with mortar round'
    A North Korean army minister was executed with a mortar round for reportedly drinking and carousing during the official mourning period after Kim Jong-il's death.

    Mortar Photo: ALAMY
    By Julian Ryall, Tokyo1:55PM BST 24 Oct 2012

    Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was taken into custody earlier this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed the leadership after the death of his father in December.
    On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave "no trace of him behind, down to his hair," according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and "obliterated."
    The execution of Kim Chol is just one example of a purge of members of the North Korean military or party who threatened the fledgling regime of Kim Jong-un.
    So far this year, 14 senior officials have fallen victim to the purges, according to intelligence data provided to Yoon Sang-hyun, a member of the South Korean Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.
    Those that have fallen from favour include Ri Yong-ho, the head of the army and Ri Kwang-gon, the governor of the North Korean central bank.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party Memorial -- June 5, 2023

  10. #40
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    Pyongyang Airport

    One of my favourites places :)

    Tupolev TU-204 being repaired. This is the plane Air Koryo usually uses for the Beijing flight but we were lucky and didn't fly it as it feels about the same as a modern Airbus or Boeing.

    Tupolev TU-134 behind it.

    Iljushin Il-62M ready for boarding.

    Antonov An-24 being boarded. These are used for domestic flights in North Korea.

    An-24 ready for take-off.

    Tupolev Tu-154b-2 pulled across the airfield.

    Iljushin Il-76MD duo. I wonder if these are still flying?

    The old Pyongyang terminal being demolished.

    Tupolev Tu-204-300.

    They actually arrange aviation enthusiasts tours in North Korea were the trip includes several trips around the country using these "modern classics".

    For example the IL-62M we had from Beijing to Pyongyang from the 60's is flown only Cubana in Cuba, Deta and Trust Air in Kazakhstan, Rossiya on Russia, Ukraine Air Enterprise in Ukraine and Air Koryo. Not exactly the easiest plane to catch :) Back in the golden days even Air France was flying it!

  11. #41
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    Back to China

    A proper Air Koryo boarding pass.

    The check-in process at Pyongyang was a bit upside down. First they check your passport and papers. Then you have security control and customs. And then you collect your mobile phone and do the check-in.

    The paperwork was breeze, nothing special there. At the security check the man wanted to go through by baggage, just the bag I was going to have checked. He started going through my toiletry bag. Sunscreen. "Not allowed". Hand sanitizer. "Not allowed". He scent my parfum and declared, "not allowed". I had a bottle of beer wrapped in the bag and he asked what it was. Beer. Not interesting.

    He eventually found a bottle water at the side pocket which I had forgotten there. He asked where I was from, what was my name and if I had enjoyed the trip. A nice fellow in general. He got a bottle of sunscreen (asians don't like tan), a bottle of hand sanitizer, and some nice Gucci parfum.

    The water bottle? Of course I was allowed to keep it.

    I didn't have any trouble getting my mobile phone back. I tried to turn it on and it was able to find the KORYOLINK network. Unfortunately my carrier had no roaming agreement with this north korean carrier so I couldn't text back home. Both our guides had mobile phones and used them all around the trip, even in the countryside. The KORYOLINK 3G network is 75% owned by built by Egypt's Orascom.

    On the flight from Beijing to Pyongyang while boarding I sit next to swiss guy from Beijing who was going to visit the Swiss embassy in Pyongyang. He was going there to work on the VPN Internet connection for the embassy.

    Nice view of the plane while boarding. Some passengers got rap for taking photographs :)

    What a luck, Iljushin plane from the 70's for both flights!

    The flipping seats are great for leg room. Too bad the plane turned out to be fully booked. That's the water bottle from the security check.

    No fancy magazines on the return flight I'm afraid.

    In case you need to refuse.

    These modern Iljushin planes fly so stable that the overhead lockers don't need hatches. And they did.

    And what would be more appropriate meal on this flight from North Korea than a nice, juicy cheeseburger. I did it eat.

    This is the photo they didn't like. The stewardess noticed I was taking a photo and came to ask me to delete it. I deleted it but she checked the camera for other photos as well and deleted all the photos that were of north korean people. She was quite comfortable with the camera and friendly as such. (I swapped the memory cards right away and rescued the photos back at home)

    While waiting for deboarding she came to chat with us, asking we we had been and if we had enjoyed the trip. Still very friendly and charming but I couldn't help thinking about all the spy stuff :)

    One of the moments when landing to China feels like returning to western world.

  12. #42
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968

    North Korean authorities may fine or arrest you for unauthorized currency transactions, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners.

    The currency for everything was chinese renminbi or euros. Rmb was slightly easier as a single euro coin would buy you a lot. NK was not a very expensive country as such.

    I bought three water bottles the first night and they didn't have change for my one euro coin. Instead I got a cigarette lighter.

    I don't smoke so I left the lighter at the hotel. En route back we stayed at the same hotel, everyone got the same hotel room, and the lighter was still there.

    At the shop I asked to get local currency and they didn't have any trouble "selling" them. For one euro I got a bunch of these pristine 50 north korean won notes. 50 KPW is worth about 5 eurocents. I don't have a clue what 50 KPW might buy you on the street.

    The swedes wanted notes in all different sized. "We will have them tomorrow morning". They took the train back so they had time to collect the notes the next morning. NK is one of those places were things can be made to happen. Want to smoke in a restaurant? Ask for an ashtray. Want to drink your own bottle of whiskey at the bar. Just ask for ice and a glass.

  13. #43
    BBT is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2008 Posts: 11,049
    Petri, thanks for sharing something we have so little access to.
    "St. Bart's is Crack for Vacations." Credit given to EDW

  14. #44
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    Our group included
    - two senior people from Poland (who didn't like it, too much memories from communist era)
    - a east-west-german couple (the girl was too young to remember much from the DDR-era)
    - a dutch lawyer living in Shanghai, and his mother from the Netherlands
    - a dutch 747 pilot, formerly from Dutch Air Force, living in Hong Kong
    - two swedes, both living in Singapore
    - a frenchman living in Singapore (or was it Kuala Lumpur)
    - a singaporean-spanish couple (travel bloggers)
    - an australian guy (turned out to be writer for Lonely Planet)
    - a canadian guy who has been living quite a while in Japan and China, he wanted to visit every country in Asia before returning to North America
    - an american woman who was travelling in Asia

    A british guy from the travel agency in Beijing (lives there as well) was also with us for the most part. He has seen the sights some 100+ times so he was mostly arranging things for the future trips. They've managed to arrange a few bicycling trips, too.

    For americans the only difference is that they have to return by plane, train is not allowed.

  15. #45
    Grey is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jun 2009 New York Posts: 2,009
    Petri, I'm late to this but thank you for your trip report. It was fascinating. I'm looking forward to hearing about your next adventure.

  16. #46
    BBT is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2008 Posts: 11,049
    BTW Was there a Samsung store there
    "St. Bart's is Crack for Vacations." Credit given to EDW

  17. #47
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    The air-co unit for the blue house on the border was from Samsung -- on the north korean side.

  18. #48
    JohnC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Newport, RI Posts: 556
    Great report. I was mesmerized. I felt like I was there.
    You have set a new standard for greatness in "Trip Reports".
    I consider this report the "gold standard" of trip reporting.
    It was all the more interested because my brother in law faught in the Korean War and recently returned at the request of the South Korean government to be honored. He has pictures of the DMZ from the other side.

  19. #49
    Earl is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jun 2003 Moneta, VA Posts: 4,593
    Very interesting stuff...thanks, always nice to get a peek under the curtain.
    Still Alive and Kickin'!!!

  20. #50
    DaveM is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Jul 2007 Posts: 233
    Wow!!! . . . what a trip and report, Petri.

    So fascinating; super thanks!

  21. #51
    Petri is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2004 Helsinki, Finland Posts: 7,968
    Whoops.. back on North Korean soil. Now with a proper escort, though, and UNCMAC badge.


    Sorry, no way of doing the Coke thing this time.

    More to report from another perspective to North Korea later.

  22. #52
    amyb is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 26,492
    Informative and a great read. Thanks, Petri.
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  23. #53
    elgreaux is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Saint Barth Posts: 10,632
    great report, must have been an extremely interesting trip...

  24. #54
    rivertrash is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Aug 2005 Tyler, Texas and Beaver Creek, Colorado Posts: 4,618
    Thanks, Petri, for letting us share this fascinating journey. I thought it was striking for the lack of crowds, cars, etc. No photos of inside the cities or of busy highways and everyone looking so sharp and well-dressed. It really did look like, for the most part, scripted and posed scenes. Just fascinating!
    To the optimist the glass is half full.
    To the pessimist the glass is half empty.
    To the engineer the glass is simply too big.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts